Buying a used car

Introduction

When you are buying a car, it is often much cheaper to buy second hand as the value of a new car falls very quickly. There are various ways to buy a second-hand or used car. These include:

  • From a garage or car dealer
  • At a car auction
  • Through a newspaper advert or online car-buying marketplace

If you buy a used car from a trader (a garage or car dealer), you have the same rights under consumer protection legislation as when buying a new car.

This includes the right to expect the car to be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for any stated purpose. These rights are set out in the Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees Act 1980. If you find something wrong with the car after you bought it, you have the right to ask the seller to put the problem right (for example by repairing or replacing the car or refunding your money).

If you buy a used car from a private seller or at an auction, you have fewer legal rights.

Buying from a garage or car dealer

When you buy a used car from a trader, you have a number of rights under Irish and EU law. Garages and car dealers must treat you fairly, whether they are selling from a business premises or online. They must make sure the car is safe and must give you enough information for you to make a decision based on facts. You can read more in our document about your rights as consumer in Ireland.

You should find out if the trader has a good reputation by asking other people or by checking online reviews. You can also check if the trader is a member of an association such as the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI). Members have to follow the SIMI code of ethics and offer a high standard of customer service. This includes doing checks on second-hand vehicles and sorting out any issues that arise. You can check the online list of SIMI members.

Before you buy from a garage or a car dealer, you should:

  • Ask about the history of the car and the number of previous owners. Many dealers will provide a report on this.
  • Ask if a written warranty (or guarantee) is available. Find out more in our document about guarantees and warranties.
  • Check the car for wear and tear. For example, check the tyres, wheel arches, oil, seatbelts, lights and wipers. The trader should point out any defects or problems to you before you buy.
  • Get the necessary documents. You must be given a National Car Test (NCT) Certificate (if the car is over 4 years old) and Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) Certificate (if the car is imported). Ask for the car’s service book and the handbook or manual.
  • Check the odometer reading (the measure of distance travelled). Previous odometer readings are printed on the NCT certificate and the most recent NCT reading is shown on the NCT disc. Compare this with the reading that is currently on the car’s dashboard odometer. If the distance shown on the disc is higher than the one on the odometer, it may mean the odometer has been altered (clocked). The Road Safety Authority has more information on odometer readings and verification.
  • Ask for two sets of keys for the car and a signed receipt for payment.

Buying at a car auction

You may be able to find a bargain at a car auction. However, if you buy at an auction you don’t have the same rights if the car is ‘sold as seen’. You cannot hold the auctioneer responsible for any faults you find in the car after you bought it. By bidding at the auction, you agree to the auctioneer’s conditions of sale.

If the car is ‘sold as seen’ it is up to you to do the necessary checks by inspecting the car before bidding. It may be a good idea to get a mechanic to examine the car before you make a bid. Used cars bought at an auction, generally do not come with warranty (or guarantee) unless the car manufacturer’s warranty is still valid.

Buying from a private seller

Private sellers (and in some cases car dealers), advertise used cars on the internet through third-party auction websites or online marketplaces (such as DoneDeal, AutoTrader and Carzone). Sellers of used cars also advertise in the small ads section of newspapers and car magazines.

If you buy from a private seller, you have very few legal protections. Irish and EU consumer laws only apply to deals between a consumer (a person who buys a good or service for personal consumption) and a trader (a person acting for purposes related to their trade, business or profession). It does not apply when you buy from a private individual who is not a trader, for example, someone who is selling their own car to you but who does not sell cars as a profession.

Make sure to do your research before you buy

Before you buy from a private seller, make sure to ask if the car was bought under a hire purchase (HP) or Personal Contract Plan (PCP) agreement. If the current owner bought the car by HP or PCP, they do not own it until they have made the final payment to the finance company. Check that all payments have been made so that the car now belongs to the seller (not the finance company) and they have a right to sell it. Find out more about hire purchase.

Before you buy from a private seller, you should also:

  • Check the car’s history or ownership status through official records such as Motorcheck, Cartell, MyVehicle, or Carhistorycheck
  • Check the car, both inside and out, for any wear and tear. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has a car purchase checklist.
  • Get a mechanic, an auto engineer or a person with some knowledge of car mechanics to inspect the car
  • Shop around and ask questions before deciding to buy it
  • Make sure the car has been serviced regularly and the service book has been filled in
  • Pay using a secure method of payment, such as a credit or debit card or PayPal. Do not send money via bank or wire transfer. If you pay securely, you may be able to use chargeback in cases of scams or other fraud – see ‘If things go wrong’ below.

You should do your research thoroughly and beware of scams. Unlike a trader, a private seller has no legal duty to provide information you have not asked for.

SIMI has more advice about buying a car.

Legal requirements

When you buy a new or used car in Ireland, or import it, you must meet a number of legal requirements. These are:

  • VRT (Vehicle Registration Tax)
  • Change of ownership registration
  • Motor tax and insurance
  • NCT (National Car Test)

Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT)

You must pay VRT when you register a vehicle in Ireland. All vehicles, except those brought into Ireland temporarily by visitors, must be registered with Revenue.

If you are buying an imported car from a garage or dealer, you should check if the correct VRT has been paid and you must get the VRT registration certificate.

If you import a car from another country yourself, you are responsible for registering it at an NCTS (National Car Testing Service) centre. You must book an appointment with an NCTS centre within 7 days of the vehicle entering Ireland. You must pay VRT at the NCTS centre within 30 days of it arriving into Ireland. Find out more about importing a vehicle to Ireland.

The vehicle must be registered before it can be driven. It is an offence to drive an unregistered vehicle in Ireland.

Change of vehicle ownership

When a vehicle is sold or traded in, both the seller and the buyer have to make sure that procedures for change of ownership registration are completed.

If you are buying from a private seller or a dealer, both the seller and buyer must complete and sign forms to complete the transfer of ownership:

  • If the car was registered before 1 January 1993, you complete an RF200 form. This form and the vehicle’s log book must be submitted to your local tax office.
  • If the car was registered between 1 January 1993 and 31 March 2004, you must complete the Vehicle Licencing Certificate and send it to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
  • If the car was registered after 1 April 2004, you complete the Vehicle Registration Certificate and send it to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

As the buyer, you will receive a new copy of the Vehicle Licencing Certificate or the Vehicle Registration Certificate with updated details.

If you are selling your car to a dealer, or if you are trading your old car in for a new car, both you and the dealer will have to complete the RF200 form, the Vehicle Registration Certificate or the Vehicle Licencing Certificate, as appropriate. You will both also have to complete an RF105 form, which is a form to transfer the ownership of your old car to a dealer.

The seller must make sure that necessary documentation relating to the change of ownership is fully completed. This includes ensuring that it is signed by both parties. The way it is done depends on when the car was first registered:

  • If the vehicle was first registered on or before 1 January 1993, the change of ownership must be registered at your local motor tax office
  • If the vehicle was first registered after 1 January 1993, the change of ownership can be registered at either your local motor tax office or with the Vehicle Registration Unit at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

Some motor dealers may be approved to provide completed change of ownership documentation to the Department of Transport on motortrans.ie.

When the car is sold, the new owner should receive the vehicle’s registration papers. These are a:

  • Vehicle Registration Certificate and a Vehicle Licensing Certificate for vehicles first registered before April 2004
  • Revised Vehicle Registration Certificate for vehicles first registered after April 2004

If the change of ownership is not registered correctly, the seller’s name will remain on the record as the legal owner. This means that the seller is responsible for motor tax and any penalties such as parking fines or traffic violations (for example, speeding).

Some motor dealers may be approved to provide completed change of ownership documentation to the Department of Transport on motortrans.ie.

You can find out more about change of vehicle ownership.

Motor tax and insurance

By law, you must pay motor tax for your vehicle. The Government sets this charge and you pay it at the motor tax office of your local council (or online). The cost will depend on the type of car. You can find out more information in our document about motor tax.

By law, you must have motor insurance before you can drive in a public place. When paying for motor tax, you must provide vehicle insurance details. It is a serious offence to drive without insurance. If you do not have insurance, you could be fined, have penalty points put on your driving licence, or be disqualified from driving. Find out more in our document about motor insurance.

NCT certificate

All cars in Ireland must reach a certain standard of safety and must be roadworthy. Vehicles over 4 years old must be tested at an NCTS centre to show they meet the safety standards. If a car is between 4 and 9 years old, it must be tested at an NCTS centre every 2 years. When the car is 10 years old or older, it must be tested once a year.

When you buy a used car over 4 years old, make sure that it has passed the NCT test and has a valid certificate to prove it. You can find out more about the NCT test.

Commercial vehicles

If you are buying a used commercial vehicle (a vehicle primarily designed and constructed to carry goods or materials rather than people), check that it has a Certificate of Roadworthiness (CRW). The CRW disc should be displayed on the windscreen of commercial vehicles and as close as possible to the registration plate of goods trailers.

When a commercial vehicle is 1 year old it must pass a Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Vehicle Test (CVRT). Following this, it is tested annually. The CVR test history remains with the vehicle each time it is bought or sold. The CRW will show the current odometer reading (mileage covered) and up to 2 readings from previous tests. CVRT has an online service: Check my CRW.

If things go wrong

If you have a problem with a used car that you have bought, your rights will depend on how you bought it (for example, from a trader or from a private individual).

Find out more in our documents on problem with a used car and how to make a complaint.

Further information

You can see more information about buying a used car from the Road Safety Authority (RSA). The CCPC also has useful advice about buying cars.

You can read more in our document about buying a new car.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Bloom House
Railway Street
Dublin 1
D01 C576

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 9am - 6pm
Tel: (01) 402 5555 or 402 5500
Locall: 1890 432 432

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Bloom House
Railway Street
Dublin 1
D01 C576

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 9am - 6pm
Tel: (01) 402 5555 or 402 5500
Locall: 1890 432 432

The Society of the Irish Motor Industry

5 Upper Pembroke Street
Dublin 2
D02 EN22
Ireland

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 9am - 5.15pm
Tel: +353 (0)1 6761690
Fax: +353 (0)1 6619213

Road Safety Authority (RSA)

Moy Business Park
Primrose Hill
Ballina
Co Mayo
Ireland

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 8.30am - 5pm
Tel: 096 25800
Locall: 1890 406 040 (Note: rates charged for using lo-call numbers may vary
Fax: 096 25252

National Car Testing Services (NCTS) Ltd.

Lakedrive 3026
Citywest Business Campus
Naas Road
Dublin 24
Ireland

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 9am - 4pm Booking phonelines open Monday-Thursday, 8am-8pm and Friday, 8am-6pm
Tel: +353 1 413 5994, Bookings +353 1 4135992
Fax: +353 1 413 5996

Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Testing (CVRT)

Road Safety Authority

Clonfert House
Bride Street
Loughrea
Co Galway
H62 ET93

Tel: (091) 872 600
Locall: 1890 253 163
Page edited: 18 June 2020