While most second-hair cars offer reliability at an affordable price, there are pitfalls to be aware of. A small minority of vehicles may have been clocked or crashed, or may have outstanding finance arrangements on them, so it always pays to do a little research before you buy.
Use an online checking service
These trawl online databases to find out information about the vehicle. They will flag if a car has been crashed – some can legally be returned to the road, but must be repaired properly and signed off after meeting regulation levels. A good history check will also highlight if there is any outstanding finance on the vehicle – saving you purchasing the car in good faith, only to have it seized subsequently. These websites charge upwards of €10 for the service – depending on how thorough a check you would like – but spending that now might save you from making an expensive mistake in the future.
Buy from a dealer
Who you buy the car from will also affect your legal position if it has a hidden history. If you purchase from a dealer, the usual consumer protections apply, but this is not the case if you buy from a private seller. It’s also worth noting that insurance policies may be invalid if there are undisclosed issues against the car (such as previous damage), leaving purchasers in a difficult position through no fault of their own.
Research private sellers
It can be cheaper to purchase from a private seller but if you do, look for red flags by searching online for details about any previous sales they may have made. And beware – some traders illegally disguise themselves as private sellers.
Check the odometer
Make sure the mileage on the odometer reading matches the paperwork with the car – the NCT paperwork will list this. Lower mileage increases the price of a vehicle, so checking this out will save you paying over the odds. It’s also worth noting that higher mileage means more wear-and-tear (for example on the brakes) that you might not be anticipating.
Take an expert with you
Get an expert opinion and don’t be swayed by the lowest price. Take a mechanic or someone who knows about buying second-hand cars with you if you find a vehicle you are tempted to buy. They will be able to spot the difference between good value, and a car that has issues that might cost you more in the long run.
Understand the market
It’s important to do your research. Check car sales websites and magazines to find out the average price of the car you want, factoring mileage, specification and age.
Prepare questions to ask the seller
Find out as much information from the seller as you can. Has the car ever been crashed? Have there been bodywork modifications? Any major mechanical work? Is there outstanding finance on the vehicle or unpaid import duties? How many previous owners? Do they have recent service and NCT details?
Avoid paying cash
If you can, pay by debit or credit card so that the transaction is traceable.
Check the insurance costs
Be sure that any saving you make on the purchase price of a vehicle is not negated by higher insurance cost. Many factors – such as the make and engine size of the car, size of no claims bonus and the age of the driver – will impact the cost of insurance. The best way to shop the market and find the best car insurance is to use a broker such as Britton Insurance.