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17th May 2021

The key questions you NEED to ask when buying a used car

Ann Cronin

Brought to you by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Planning on buying a used car? You need to be asking the seller these questions.

Whether you’re buying your first ever car or swapping your current one in for a newer model, there’s a lot of hidden dangers that can arise when buying used vehicles.

You need to be aware of the common cons that buyers are often subject to, especially when it comes to purchasing a used car from a private seller.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) have a load of free resources to help you avoid any dishonest sellers’ tricks, but we’ve also compiled a couple of key questions you should always ask when buying a used car.

Has the car ever been crashed?

You need to be aware of the car’s history, especially if it’s been involved in any crashes. There are companies out there that, for a fee, will tell you if the car has ever been in a crash or been written off.

To check the overall condition of the car, you should do a test drive before buying, and listen out for any strange sounds. When you turn the ignition on, check that all the warning lights flicker on and go back off again. If they don’t come on, it could mean the bulb has been removed to try and hide a fault.

Is the mileage correct?

Have you ever considered that the vehicle you’re buying may have been clocked? When a car has been clocked, the mileage recorder or odometer has been put back or reduced so that a car appears to have less mileage than it actually has.

Past research has showed that 1 in 10 second-hand cars for sale in Ireland have been clocked, so you need to be able to spot when a vehicle has been tampered with. There are a number of companies that can check the car’s history for you, including its true mileage.

The car’s NCT Certificate also shows a car’s mileage history. It should show the mileage reading for the most recent and three prior NCTs, and the latest reading is recorded on the NCT disc that’s displayed on the car’s windscreen.

Is there any outstanding finance on the car?

You need to be sure the car is not under an existing finance agreement. If there’s outstanding finance on a car, there’s still money owed on it and you could find yourself liable for the outstanding amount.

There are companies that keep records of a car’s finance, so check if they have details on the car you are looking at. You will be charged a small fee for this, but you could end up liable for a lot more if you don’t check this out in advance.

Does the car belong to the person selling it?

You should always do a bit of background research on the seller.

If you buy a used car from a dealer, you have rights under consumer law.

But if you buy a car from a private seller, you do not have consumer rights. This is because they’re not selling the car as a trader. In this situation, the best precaution you can take is getting the car checked over by a mechanic to highlight any hidden issues it might have. 

If it’s a private sale, ask if the car belongs to the seller, or if they are selling it for someone else. If it is someone else’s car, then you need the name, address and contact details for that person so you can check with them to see if everything is in order.

Looking to buy a used car? There are a number of questions you should ask the seller before you buy a used car and a number of checks you should carry out. Use the CCPC car buyer’s checklist to know what to look out for. 

Every second-hand car has a story to tell. Know the full story before you buy. For more information, click here.

Brought to you by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission