Buying a Car

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Car Sales man


Buying a car is often one of the largest transactions consumers make.  Apart from the significant purchase price, there are also additional long-term expenses such as insurance, NCT, road tax, servicing, repairs, spare parts, fuel and, if the car is imported, payment of VRT and VAT.

Consumers should be cautious and follow these simple tips to avoid unnecessary complications afterwards.


Before Purchase

  • Do your research and ask plenty of questions. Whether bought privately, or through a dealer, you should always check the number of previous owners, whether there is any outstanding finance owing on the car, etc. It is highly advisable to check the car before purchase or get a qualified person to do so. (This service is available for a fee from various reputable motoring associations).
  • Consider using a ‘history check’ service. These agencies will carry out a thorough check on the history of the car which can help avoid problems.
  • If you are buying a car abroad with the intention of bringing it into Ireland, you should be aware that the law of the country in which you bought the car will apply. Therefore, it is advisable to deal with a reputable motor dealer (look for membership of an accredited motor industry association).
  • Be aware that consumer legislation does not apply to private sales so you should exercise extreme caution if buying privately. If there is a subsequent problem, your options are very limited. If you are dealing with a private seller, ensure that you have as much details as possible, including all contact details.
  • By law, under the Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees Directive 99/44/EC a car must be of satisfactory quality, as described, and be fit for the purpose normally used. A higher standard of ‘quality’ will apply to a new car compared to a second-hand car. Your rights are the same when buying a second-hand car from a dealer, but the law recognises that a second-hand vehicle may not be completely free from fault. However, it must be fit to be used on the road, in a condition which reflects its age and price, and reasonably reliable and safe. These are your statutory rights, which apply automatically even if you have no additional ‘guarantee’ or ‘warranty’.
  • A ‘guarantee’ or ‘warranty’ is an additional safeguard, sometimes offered by the seller. If there is a car warranty, check its terms carefully beforehand. Sometimes the terms of the warranty will vary from country to country. You should ask whether the after sales service can extend to your country of residence and if something goes wrong, if local garage can fix it at the seller’s expense rather than having to bring the car back to the seller.
  • Get all details of the sale in writing before you purchase – do not rely on the verbal representations of the seller.

Problems after purchase

  • If you have a warranty, you should check its terms to ensure that the problem encountered falls within its scope. If so, you should contact the seller to seek a remedy.
  • If something does go wrong with a car you have bought from a dealer, you are protected by consumer legislation. Under the Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees Directive 99/44/EC a car must be of satisfactory quality, as described, and be fit for purpose. This legislation will apply whether or not you have a guarantee or warranty. Contact the seller to seek a remedy.
  • If something goes wrong with a car you bought privately, your options are very limited; consumer law does not apply. If the seller will not agree to remedy the problem, you could take a private legal action against him/her but this is difficult and expensive in a cross-border sale.



Unfortunately if you are buying or selling a car you may encounter fraudsters.

  • If you are selling a car, beware of companies contacting you claiming to provide a service matching car buyers with sellers. They will tell you that they have buyers in your area looking for your model of car and prepared to pay your asking price and, in return for a one off fee, the company will offer to match you with the buyer or to keep matching the vehicle with potential buyers until it is sold. Terms like “guaranteed to sell” are used by the company in the phone conversation. Many consumers pay this fee only to discover that there is no buyer for their car. When they contact the company to ask for a refund they are referred to the terms and conditions on the company’s website which clearly state that they do not guarantee a buyer, which is in direct conflict with the promises made over the phone.
  • Cheque Over-payment Scam – overseas buyer pays by cheque (which will take up to 10 working days for the bank to verify) adding extra amount to cover the cost of shipping the car. Seller will then lodge the extra amount to the shipping company. The cheque bounces and shipping company disappears with the money.
  • Escrow Company Scams – buyer will be asked to pay the money to an intermediary company who will only pay it out to the seller after consumer confirms that he is happy with the car. The intermediary (escrow) company disappears with the money.
  • Payments by Western Union – money transfer service is a great way to send money only to people you know and trust (relatives) as otherwise you risk losing your money. It will not be possible to trace it back once lost. Western Union Warning

CostEuro Notes with calculator and magnifier

If you are thinking of buying a car from abroad, calculate the cost of getting the car to Ireland, in terms of travel, accommodation and insurance expenses as well as any VRT and VAT costs.

  • New cars: If you import a new car from another EU state, you will have to pay VAT (Value Added Tax) and VRT (Vehicle Registration Tax) in Ireland. For rules, and details see
  •  Second-hand cars: If you buy a second-hand car in another EU state, and bring it into Ireland, you will have to pay VRT only. The VAT has been paid in the country of purchase. For rules, and details on rates applicable, see:


Useful Information

ECC’s Ireland’s Car Buyer’s Guide 

Consumer Guide August 2018 A Car Buyers Guide

ECC-Net report on cross-border car purchases 

ECC Net Report On Cross Border Car Purchases

Buying a car – practical car purchase advice for consumers:


Buying a car from the UK

Country Fact Sheets Purchase FINAL UK

Registering a car in Ireland

FICHES PAYS Country Of Registration Final IE

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