Thinking of buying a second-hand car?

October 14, 2022

After a home, a car is often the second most expensive thing you will buy. If you’re thinking of buying a used car, there are a few checks you should do before you buy. Remember, C-A-R.

C – Checks

Check the history of the car. There are companies who can do this for a small fee. When you get the report, you will be able to see:

  • if the car was ever written-off
  • the true mileage of the car
  • the number of previous owners
  • if there is outstanding finance on it
  • if the car has been imported

You can also use our car buyers checklist to help you.

Top Tip

You should check the car has all the features you want before you buy. Not all cars have features you may think come as standard, such as alarms and immobilisers. This is often the case with imported cars.

A – Amount

Make sure you are happy with the cost of the car. If you choose to finance it, make sure you understand the total cost. Some of the options that might be available include:

  • Personal loan
    You may choose to get a personal loan to pay for your car. Always check the total cost of credit. For example, a personal loan of €10,000 over three years would cost over €1,500 at an interest rate of 10%. You can use our personal loan Money Tool to compare interest rates.
  • Hire Purchase
    Hire purchase (HP) may be offered by the car dealer. Under a HP agreement, you hire the car and pay monthly repayments. At the end of the agreement, after you have made the final payment, you become the legal owner of the car. When comparing HP to a loan make sure to compare the total cost and not just the monthly repayments. HP agreements often have setup fees and repayment fees which can make them more costly than a loan with the same repayments.
  • Personal Contract Plans
    Personal Contract Plans (PCP) are similar to HP, however at the end of the agreement a lump sum (balloon payment) is due. This means the monthly payments are often lower, but you will have to prepare for the balloon payment at the end if you want to own the car. These are complex financial products. You should make sure you understand them before taking one out.

Read more about how to pay for a car.

R – Rights

When you buy from a dealer, the car should be:

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

It is an offence for a dealer to provide misleading information about a car. A dealer also cannot withhold information when selling a car.

If you buy a car from a private seller you do not have any consumer rights, as they are not selling it as part of their business. This means if you discover a problem after you buy privately, there may be little you can do. For that reason, you should be very careful when buying from a private seller. Always have the car checked by a mechanic before you buy.

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