Buying a used car
Your consumer rights
It is often much cheaper to buy a second-hand or used car. You can buy a used car:
- From a garage or car dealer
- At a car auction
- Through a newspaper advert or online marketplace
If you buy a used car from a trader (a garage, car dealer, or a business selling on an online marketplace), you have similar consumer rights as when buying a new car.
You can expect the car to meet the certain conditions of quality and durability and match what was set out in the contract. While you can’t expect a used car to be the same standard as a new one, the quality should reflect the price you paid.
You may be entitled to certain remedies if something goes wrong after you buy. Remedies could be a repair, replacement, refund or price reduction. Read more about your consumer rights and problems with faulty goods.
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 consumer 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 to make a decision based on facts. You can read more about your consumer rights.
Find out if the trader has a good reputation by asking other people or by checking online reviews. You can check if the trader is a member of an association such as the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI). Members must follow the SIMI code of ethics. 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.
- 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 should ask for a National Car Test (NCT) Certificate (if the car is over 4 years old) and a 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
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 advertise used cars through third-party auction websites, online marketplaces or in the small ads section of newspapers and car magazines.
If you buy from a private seller, you have very few legal rights. 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.
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:
- 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. Don't send money by bank or wire transfer. If you pay securely, you may be able to use chargeback in cases of scams or other fraud.
You should be aware of scams. Unlike a trader, a private seller has no legal duty to give you information you have not asked for.
SIMI has more advice about buying a car.
When you buy a new or used car in Ireland, or import it, you must meet the legal requirements below.
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 must make sure that procedures for change of ownership registration are completed.
Some motor dealers may be approved to provide completed change of ownership documentation to the Department of Transport on motortrans.ie.
You are buying a used car
If you are buying from a private seller or a dealer, both you and the seller must complete and sign forms to complete the transfer of ownership:
- Cars registered after 1 April 2004: you complete the Vehicle Registration Certificate and send it to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
- Cars 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
- Cars registered before 1 January 1993: you complete an RF200 form (pdf) and submit the form and the vehicle’s log book to your local tax office
As the buyer, you will receive a new copy of the Vehicle Licencing Certificate or the Vehicle Registration Certificate with updated details.
You are selling or trading in your old car
If you are selling 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. 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 and signed by both parties.
The way it is done depends on when the car was first registered:
- Vehicles 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
- Vehicles first registered on or before 1 January 1993: the change of ownership must be registered at your local motor tax office
You can find out more about change of vehicle ownership.
By law, you must pay motor tax for your vehicle. You can pay motor tax for a new vehicle:
The cost will depend on the type of car. Find out more about motor tax.
By law, you must have motor insurance before you can drive in a public place and you must display the insurance disc on the windscreen. It is a serious offence to drive without insurance. If you do, you could be fined, have penalty points put on your driving licence, or be disqualified from driving. Find out more about motor insurance.
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.
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).