What you need to know when buying a used car

April 19, 2022

Buying a used car is becoming more costly, and with used cars now 53% more expensive than pre-pandemic levels, it might be tempting to find a deal and go for the cheapest option. However, last month alone 280 consumers contacted the CCPC for information on how to deal with issues they were having with used cars.

To ensure a used car doesn’t end up costing you more in the long run, here are some things to consider before you buy. Your consumer rights depend on who you bought the car from so it’s important to establish who is selling you the car.

Buying from a car dealer

Car traders are often called “dealers” and sell cars as part of their business. If you buy a used car from a dealer you have rights under consumer law.

The car should be:

  • of merchantable quality – it should be of reasonable, acceptable quality given the age, cost and history of the car
  • fit for the purpose intended and roadworthy
  • as described – it should match the description given verbally, in an advert or on a website

It is an offence for a dealer to provide misleading information about the car, including its history, specification and any repair work needed.

Buying from a private seller

Private sellers generally have only one car to sell and are selling it in a personal capacity, not as part of their business. If you buy from a private seller, you do not have the same consumer rights. This is because the person selling the car is not selling it as part of their business. If you discover a problem after buying from a private seller, your only option could be taking a civil case through the courts.

Top Tip

Watch out for disguised traders. These are people who pose as private sellers, but in fact make a living from selling cars, usually online. Some marketplace websites show how many ads a seller has placed on that site. If someone is selling a number of cars at once, this could indicate they are a disguised trader and not a private seller.

What to look out for

Here are a few tips to remember when buying a used car:

Check the history

Carry out a car history check. There are many websites that offer this service for a fee. You should find out:

  • previous recorded odometer readings
  • details of any insurance claims
  • if the car was used as a taxi
  • details of any crashes

You can also check if a car has changed hands within the last three months on motortax.ie.

Check the condition

You should examine the car and take it for a test drive if possible. Get the car checked by your own mechanic. If you are buying from a car dealer, you should ask for a warranty. If the car is only a few years old and the garage is not willing to give you a warranty, this could be a cause for concern.

Check if it’s a crashed or clocked car

Under consumer law, it is an offence for a trader to give false, misleading or deceptive information about the history of a car. For example, if a car was previously crashed or if it has been clocked.

If you suspect that the car you bought has been previously crashed, get a mechanic or an independent assessor to check out the car and its history. You should also report it to us as soon as possible.

‘Clocking’ means changing the genuine odometer reading of the car in order to make the car look like it has been driven less than it actually has. If you suspect your car is clocked, act quickly and report it to us as soon as possible.

Car buyer’s checklist

Whether you buy from a dealer or a private seller, protect yourself and use our car buyer’s checklist , and find out what to do if things go wrong.

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