Top tips for buying a used car

THE SALE of used cars in the first quarter of 2015 is up 15% on the same period last year. With so much choice on offer, it’s a good time to trade up or buy that first car.

A car is one of the biggest investments you will make in your life time so it is understandable to have concerns when buying second-hand.

It is worth doing your homework before signing on the bottom line to ensure you get a genuine. Here the AA gives its top 10 tips.


1. Avoid side-of-the-road deals

We would firmly advise against side-of-the-road deals and opt for SIMI dealers when purchasing second-hand. There are plenty of honest private sellers of course but there are also rogues, and even an honest seller will not be able to do much for you if something minor goes wrong.

A proper dealer will provide an after-sales service and SIMI dealers operate a complaints mechanism, which is sadly necessary as consumer protection law is fairly weak.

It’s also important to buy your second hand car in daylight. If it is dark it may be difficult to see any default in the bodywork, paint work, etc.

2. Check the car’s history

Check if the car is subject to a finance agreement, has previously been written off, been involved in a collision, mileage has been tampered with, is at high risk of fraud or theft and cross-references the authenticity of NCT and VRC. If a service history is available for the vehicle, the risks of buying another person’s problems are greatly

3. Get a vehicle inspection

Before any money is exchanged it is advised that you get your vehicle inspected.

The AA provides a Vehicle Inspection service complementing our Car Data Check. This will ensure full buying confidence as it offers an in-depth report containing the particulars on the performance, condition and driving characteristics of the used car. Our experienced engineers will perform a sweep of the interior, engine bay, bodywork, paintwork and under body systems. A reputable seller would expect this and take no issue with such a request.

4. Checked the keys?

Ensure all car keys operate in all locks, including the ignition and essentially start the vehicle. Some people think that fully functioning keys are a given but may be surprised to find that the key is not micro-chipped to work which can be the result of a dodgy key-cutting service.

5. Has your odometer been clocked?

Clocking is the illegal practice of tampering with the mileage reading. For every 1,000 miles eliminated it instantly increases the value of the vehicle. Top tip: this can be difficult to indicate without a reputable vehicle inspection service but an older steering wheel and/or worn pedals would be generally seen on a car that has a relatively high mileage count.

6. Imported used vehicles

If you are thinking of buying an imported car there are a few things to consider.

Look out for under body corrosion caused from road salts, which wouldn’t be as common as on Irish roads. Before signing on the bottom line, be sure to include the extra costs in your budget such as Vehicle Registrations Tax (VRT), Irish registration plates, NCT and Tax. While you may seem to be getting a steal at first, after adding all the extra costs it can sometimes equate to the price of buying an equivalent model from an Irish seller with the reduced risk of under body corrosion damage.

7. Fuel prices

When choosing a car, be sure to factor the cost of fuel into your long-term budget. Diesel is cheaper by the litre because there is slightly less tax on it.

Modern emission standards and tax rates mean that diesel is more popular than petrol at the moment especially for drivers who will do high mileages.

8. Know your budget

Know your absolute maximum budget and don’t allow nifty salespeople lure you into spending more than you anticipated. Take time to think about it. To bag yourself a great deal, it is essential to know the current value of your potential new set of wheels and commence negotiations at about 15-25% under the listed price.

9. Questions to ask the seller

  • Why are you selling the car?
  • How many owners has this car had?
  • Can you provide me with written evidence of when the timing belt was last replaced?
  • Has the car undergone any body repair or major mechanical work?

10. Other things to look out for…

  • Look out for uneven tyre wear.
  • Inconsistency in body lines.
  • Botched-up evidence of dodgy repaint jobs.
  • In the event that your car does suffer a break down the AA Membership offers roadside assistance 24/7, covering you and your family.
  • To get a quote for AA Membership check out or call them on 01-6179104.


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