Buying a used car


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

  • From a garage or car dealer
  • At a car auction
  • Through a small advertisement on the internet or in the papers

From a garage or car dealer

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 Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's website.

At a car auction

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.

Through a small advertisement

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.

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.


Importing a car to Ireland

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.

Change of Vehicle Ownership

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.

NCT Certificates

Since 2002 all cars over a certain age, with a few exceptions, must pass a test that ensures that cars are safe and roadworthy. This test is called the National Car Test (NCT) and all cars over 4 years of age need to be tested, they then need to be tested every 2 years after that. Cars over 10 years old are tested each year. Ensure that any used car that you buy has passed the test and has a valid certificate to prove it. You can read more about the NCT here.

Commercial vehicles

If you are buying a used commercial vehicle, check that the vehicle has a Certificate of Roadworthiness (CRW). The CRW disc should be displayed on the windscreen of trucks, buses, vans and jeeps, and as close as possible to the registration plate of goods trailers.

If a commercial vehicle does not have a CRW disc displayed, it may mean that the vehicle has not passed its annual commercial vehicle roadworthiness (CVR) test. The CVR test history remains with the vehicle regardless of change of ownership, therefore, if the vehicle has a poor test history, you may get a CRW with a short expiry date when it is next tested. You can find out when a vehicle is due its CVR test on the website by selecting ‘Check my CRW’.

Since 11 May 2016 the current odometer reading and up to 2 prior readings from the previous test dates are printed on the Certificate of Roadworthiness that comes with the CRW disc. You should request a copy of the CRW certificate from the seller to check the historic odometer readings.

Information on buying a used commercial vehicle is available on

Hire purchase on second hand vehicles

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.

Driving legally

To be able to drive the car in a public place the following is required:

How to apply

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 Competition and Consumer Protection Commission will give you information on what your rights are if you buy a faulty vehicle.

Where to apply

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

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 9am - 5.15pm
Tel: +353 (0)1 6761690
Fax: +353 (0)1 6619213
Page edited: 6 July 2016