It is often a lot cheaper to buy a second hand car (even if it is only one or two years old) as the value of a new car depreciates very quickly. There are many different ways to buy a second hand or used car – here are the three main ways
In this situation you, as a consumer, are protected by the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 as you are buying a car for your personal use from a person whose normal business it is to sell cars. As a consumer you have the same rights if you buy an item second hand as if it is new. In this case if you find a fault with the car after you have bought it the dealer is the person who must set matters right. If you buy a commercial vehicle or a tractor from a dealer you may not have the same protection under the law. If you are offered an extended warranty on a used car think about the cost of the warranty versus the cost of repairs that the car is likely to need.
Sellers have responsibilities such as giving accurate and truthful answers to the questions you ask. Information on a seller's responsibilities in car deals is available on the National Consumer Agency's website
Often you can find very good bargains at car auctions which are held quite frequently. However, the auctioneer cannot be held responsible for any defects found after you have bought the car. Auctioneers have terms and conditions for making sales and by bidding at an auction you are signifying that you accept these terms and conditions. Before you go into an auction ensure you know what these terms and conditions are and that you agree to them. It is important when buying at auction that you know what you are doing as there is little legal protection for the buyer of a car, or any other item, at auction.
Vehicles are often advertised by private individuals on the internet and in the ‘small ads’ section of newspapers. If you buy a car from a small advertisement or on the internet from a private individual you are generally not buying from a person whose normal business it is to sell cars (although sometimes used car dealers do advertise in this way). Again in this case you have very little legal protection if you find that the car that you have bought is faulty. It is therefore important when buying from a private seller to protect yourself from unscrupulous people. It may be worthwhile to employ the services of a trusted mechanic who may be able to advise you on the mechanical state of the car.
It is an offence under both road traffic legislation and the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 to sell a car which is not roadworthy. Also, the seller is required to give you accurate and truthful information in answer to any questions that you ask. However, a private seller does not have to provide information that is not requested. If you have a grievance after buying a car you should complain to the seller first. If you are not satisfied with the response you may be able to take legal action against the seller. Where the car you bought is unroadworthy, you could also refer the matter to the Garda Síochána.
You may have found a car that you would like to buy in another country. There are certain procedures to follow if you want to bring this car with you back to Ireland. You can find out more in our document on importing a car from another country.
If you sell or trade in your car you should register this change of ownership with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport or, if the car was originally registered on or before the 1st of January 1993 you should contact your local motor taxation office. You can read more about change of ownership of a vehicle here.
Since 2002 all cars in Ireland, with a few exceptions, must pass a test that ensures that cars are safe and roadworthy. This test is called the National Car Test and all cars over four years of age need to be tested, they then need to be tested every two years after that. Ensure that any used car that you buy has passed the test and has a valid certificate to prove it.
In all Hire Purchase agreements the car remains the property of the finance company and ownership of the items does not pass to the hire purchaser until the final instalment is paid. If you have found a used car that you like, before you buy it ask if it was previously bought on Hire Purchase. You should ensure that all Hire Purchase payments have been made on the car so the car belongs to the seller and not the finance company. It is possible to check if the car you are intending to buy is still under a Hire Purchase agreement - this service is offered by various companies online. It is also possible to check other aspects of the vehicle's history online, including taxation and NCT history and whether the car was previously written off.
Before you buy a used car you can check the vehicle's history online; there are a number of companies providing this service.
If you have a problem with a used car that you have bought you should, in the first instance, bring the car back to the garage or dealer who should be able to repair any problems that you have. If you have done this and are still dissatisfied you can then take your complaint further. If the dealer is a member of the Society of Irish Motor Industry you can use their Investigation and Complaints service. You need to contact the SIMI within three months of the fault becoming apparent.
The National Consumer Agency will give you information on what your rights are if you buy a faulty vehicle. It has also published A Guide to Buying a Car (pdf) for consumers purchasing new or second-hand cars which is available on its website or by phoning its helpline.
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If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.