Tips for Buying a Used Car

Where to Buy
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 National Consumer Agency’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. 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 and the Road Safety Authority.
(Source Citizens Information)

How to Buy
First decide what will you use the car for? How long do you plan to keep the car?

What’s your price range? If you need reliable transportation try not to buy anything more than 5 or 6 years old…. There are always exceptions but that is a good rule of thumb.

Do your research – Prices of used cars will vary depending on age, mileage and the condition of the car. Decide what you want, hatchback, saloon, estate and be realistic about what you want and what you can actually afford.

Consider after purchase costs, fuel type, age, mileage will all affect servicing and maintenance costs.

View the car at day time and in good light. Check for dents and marks everywhere and ensure all functions are working, lights, wipers, air conditioning, the radio etc. Check for consistency in paint work, repainted areas are signs of an accident.

Drive it, listen for any strange noise. Note how it accelerate and clutch feels. Check how high the handbrake lifts. Ask for a service record or regular maintenance records.

If you are still interested at this stage check to see if the vehicle is stolen, many websites offer this service. Get a professional mechanic to give it the once over.

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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