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Buying Used Cars - Part two

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Tina was in yesterday giving us tips on selling our used cars. Today Tina is in again this time giving us advice on how to buy a used car from a private vendor or a garage. Whether you are thinking of buying up North, travelling to the UK, maybe you're buying from a local buyer or a friend or private vendor. Tina will arm you with all the tips you need to buy your car safely, efficiently and without being conned.

Tina will also be doing a phone in so you can get your calls and texts in if you have any questions.

January is normally a booming time for car sales. With New Car Sales plummeting by 64% in the first week of 2009, the demand now seems to be on buying second hand cars.

Most of us will buy a second hand car more than once in our lives and hopefully will not have any problems. Now, as garages struggle to reach car sale targets there are many good offers out there. Here's what you need to know before you buy.

What type of car do I want?
This all may seem obvious but you should think of the use of the car (elderly or children); if you need to carry bulky items such as sports equipment; what sort of mileage you will do; environmental concerns regarding carbon omissions; cost etc.

Where should I buy it?
You might buy your car at the local garage, from a private seller or in the North but bear in mind the following:

? If you buy from a garage you are protected by EU consumer legislation (Directive 99/44) and the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980. This means that you are entitled to repair, replacement or refund if something goes wrong. You have the same legal protection whether you buy in the Republic, the North or in Great Britain. Do bear in mind of course, that a second hand car is not going to be in perfect condition.
? If you buy from a private seller it is not deemed to be a 'consumer' contract and you are, therefore, not protected by consumer law if something goes wrong. The only thing you could do if the seller wouldn't help would be to take civil action against the seller in the courts.
? When buying a car from a private advert ensure you identify the vendor. Beware of a mobile phone contact number. Is it traceable? Never meet a vendor at your home. Always meet a vendor at his/her home.
? At the moment you can find better deals in Northern Ireland and GB. Remember that the first two points above also apply. Also, if you buy from a garage, try to get an agreement in writing that if something goes wrong a local garage can repair at the seller's expense, rather than having to bring the car back to where you bought it.
? Also, many people buy the car in the UK over the phone, without seeing it and only on verbal assurances from the seller. NEVER do this, and also get details in writing before making a commitment to buy. Also if at all possible bring a mechanic or at least someone who knows about cars with you when making the trip to the garage.
What should I look out for before I buy it?
First of all always view the car in daylight, preferably in dry conditions so that you see any scrapes and scratches clearly. Also check for rust, tyres not of the same make and any sign of leaks, as well as functions such as lights, doors and wipers. There are many things you need to check in relation to the working of the vehicle so really you should get a mechanic to look over the car and take it for a road test.

Other things you need to look out for:

There are so many things to look out for so that you can be sure that everything that has been described to you about the car is true. The easiest way to do this is to pay for a service that searches for the car history on your behalf.

If buying a second hand car in Ireland go to or where for €30 you can get a full history, description and finance check or go to where you can also look up GB registered cars. A full check there costs €35. You can also get a car inspection or engineers report from these companies ranging in price from €100 to €300 depending on what service you choose.
If buying in the UK you can also go to A check here will cost you GB19.99.

The sort of things these checks look for:

Registration Certificate
Always check all vehicle paperwork thoroughly before proceeding with a purchase. Does the engine number on the vehicle match the entry on the certificate? Cross-reference the model, colour and year of registration with the certificate. Is the name and address of the current vendor the same as the details on the certificate? Ensure the appropriate sections of the certificate are completed before completing the purchase of the vehicle.

Chassis Number
Check that the Chassis Number (usually a 17 digits) on the vehicle matches the Chassis Number on the Registration Certificate. The Chassis Number is a unique number given to a vehicle by the manufacturer. It can be found at several locations throughout the vehicle, usually on the windscreen, engine bay or drivers door near the door lock. If the Chassis Number is absent or damaged exercise extreme caution as this could mean the vehicle is stolen. Roughly 11,000 cars are stolen in Ireland each year with 2,000 remaining un-recovered, so you have to be careful.

How many keys are available for the vehicle? There are usually two or three. Do all keys open all doors?

How many owners has there been? If there have been several over a short time frame, maybe this indicates that the car isn't that great.

Use the odometer readings on past NCT certificates and service history to verify that the mileage on the odometer is roughly consistent with what you would expect it to be. You have to be sure that the car hasn't been clocked i.e. the mileage / KM altered to a lower amount.

Service Details
If there are a lot of service receipts this may be indicative of persistent problems with the car. If there are no receipts at all, act with caution as it will be difficult to resell the car without any receipts.

As a reasonable amount of second hand cars would have received some form of body repair always ask the vendor if the car was crashed. If the car has had an accident ask for details of the accident and the car's repair on the invoice if you decide to proceed with the purchase. It is known that some cars that were crashed in the UK have found their way to the market here, so be careful.

Outstanding Finance
Outstanding finance is the biggest risk facing used car buyers, with up 15% of all cars checked by one car-check company still subject to a finance agreement. (the figure is 24% in the UK)! If the outstanding finance remains unpaid when you purchase the car, you may not actually own it, and it may be seized by the finance company. You can phone Hire Purchase Information on (01) 260 0905 and give them the registration number, they will check out the car's ownership for you for a fee.

Tina Leonard