Buying a used car? Here are five things you absolutely need to know

By Brian Dillon

May 17, 2021 at 3:52pm


Buying a used car? Here are five things you absolutely need to know

No matter what kind of car you plan to buy, there is a certain amount of knowledge you should be armed with before making the purchase. That is perhaps even more important when you plan on buying a used car.

When you buy a used car, your consumer rights depend on whether you bought it from a dealer or a private individual. It's vital to make sure that you've asked the right questions and done all of the research.

Research carried out by and AA Ireland revealed that one in ten second-hand cars for sale in Ireland has been clocked, meaning its mileage recorder or odometer has been put back. So, there could be 200,000 cars being driven on roads with an incorrect odometer reading.

So, we're here to help with that. We have teamed up with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to bring you a comprehensive list of five things you absolutely need to know before buying a used car.

1. Vehicle history

First and foremost, has the car ever been crashed? There are a number of companies that can check the history of a car for you for a fee, all of which you can find with a quick online search. These companies will find any information that the seller may try to hide. For example, has the car ever been crashed? Has the car ever been written off and is the stated mileage correct?

You can also get the previously recorded odometer readings, details of any insurance claims and if the car has been used as a taxi. You can also check if the car has changed hands within the last three months on

2. There could be outstanding finance

If a car is under an existing finance agreement, there could still be money owed on it. And the last thing you want is to be hit with a bill you were unaware of. If this is the case, the person selling you the car may not actually have the right to do so as they do not own the vehicle.

Again, there are companies that keep records of cars subject to hire purchase and PCP agreements. For a fee, you will be able to check if they have details of the car you are looking at. If the car comes with outstanding finance, it's possible that it may be repossessed even after you have paid the seller for it, so it's crucial that you find out this information.

3. The seller should provide you with the paperwork

If they don't have access to this, then something is up. Ask them to show you the Vehicle Registration Certificate (VRC) if the car is Irish and the V5C if the car is imported from the UK.

These documents will have the owner's name on them as well as engine size, fuel type, date of registration and colour. If that doesn't correspond to the person selling you the car, then they do not have the right to sell it (so you may also need to ask for proof of identity).

Additionally, these documents will have a ten-digit number on the top right-hand corner of the first page which you can use when getting the car's history checked. If this number doesn't match the car, the documents could be forged or the car could even be stolen. Plus, the NCT Certificate now shows a car’s mileage history. Make sure all documents are originals and not photocopies.

4. It's important to get it checked by a mechanic

The car should always be examined before you purchase it and you can get the car independently checked by a mechanic. If you're buying the car from a garage, make sure to ask for a warranty. This could depend on the age and price of the car, but there should be no issues if it's a relatively new car.

Whoever is checking the car should check the odometer which will display the mileage. If you suspect this might have been tampered with, do not buy the car. Make sure to turn the ignition onto the first click to see if all lights that should come on do come on. If they don't, it may mean a bulb has been removed to hide an existing problem.

And of course, take the car for a test drive and listen out for any concerning sounds.

5. Do some research on the seller

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.

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. It’s also important to know that 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.

Knowledge is key when making any purchase, especially that of a used car. The more you know about the vehicle and the seller, the more you are protected against fraud, unexpected extra bills and even road accidents.

Luckily, CCPC provides us with the ultimate checklist to use before purchasing a used car, which you can find here.

Every second-hand car has a story to tell. Know the full story before you buy. Find out more at


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