Tips to avoid problems when buying a used car


Buyer Beware – we look at the possible pitfalls when buying a used car include stolen vehicles, write-offs and outstanding finance, writes Geraldine Herbert

From buying a stolen car to a dangerous write-off you need to be aware of the possible pitfalls when buying a used car.

According to there are approximately 60-70,000 cars written off in Ireland annually. Of these about half (30,000) would be what is known as Category A or B write-offs that are too seriously damaged to repair. These cars are reported to the Department of Transport and put on the national vehicle database which means they cannot be sold, taxed or insured.

Of much more concern to Irish drivers are the other half, the economic write-offs. These are cars that have been damaged but although they could be repaired, the work needed would cost in excess of 60% of the total value of the car. It is estimated that approximately 40% of economic write-offs or approximately 12,000 vehicles per annum are returned to the road. The problem when you buy one of these cars is ensuring that the work needed to repair them has been done correctly. Often they are put back on the road without an insurance assessor verifying that they have been completely and competently repaired so if you suspect or indeed know that a car you are thinking of buying was involved in an accident you must get a motor engineer to assess it.

In 2015, of the 6,128 vehicles stolen almost 4,000 were recovered by the gardai, but where did the rest of them end up? Many are taken apart and sent abroad but of those that remain in the country many are offloaded online. Unfortunately if you buy a stolen car you will not only end up losing it but also the money you spent. So what can you do to avoid inadvertently buying a stolen car online? There are a number of checks you can do to establish the credentials of a car you may be interested in buying.

Firstly find out the location of the VIN number — this is a 17-digit number stamped into the body of the vehicle. Ask the seller for the vehicle’s registration certificate. Compare the VIN printed on the dashboard and visible through the windscreen with the VIN on the registration certificate. The numbers should be identical. If they’re not, don’t buy the car. You should also verify the identity of the seller. Ask for some formal identification such as a passport or driving license.

OUTSTANDING FINANCE: A new report by car-history website, published this week, shows that 29% of cars being offered for sale in the one-to-three-year age group have finance outstanding. Hire Purchase Information Ltd keeps records of cars subject to hire purchase agreements, so check if they have details of the car you are looking at.

For anyone tempted by what appears to be a bargain used car remember: if something looks too good to be true, it usually is so above all else get a history check on the car. Sites such as and provide a full report for just €35. A full check will tell you if the car has been stolen, has been written-off by an insurer or if it is subject to outstanding finance. A history check can identify if a car has been imported from the UK and supply MOT history and other information about the car.

You can listen back to Geraldine speaking to Newstalk Breakfast about buying a second hand car here ( about 30 mins from start) 


Geraldine Herbert

15th June, 2016



Author: Geraldine Herbert

Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen. Geraldine is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK) and to RTÉ Radio One, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1

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