Buying a car

Please note that these guides do not constitute legal advice and any information provided in the guides should not be construed as legal advice or legal interpretation. We do not accept any liability for any loss caused by your reliance on this guide.

The DoneDeal guide to buying a car

Check list for car buyers

  • Does the name and address of the seller match the details on the VRC? Yes/No
  • When viewing, is the car located at the address on the VRC? Yes/No
  • Do the VRC details match the vehicle's physical description? Yes/No
  • Does the VIN on the vehicle match the VRC details? Yes/No
  • Does the registration number on the vehicle correspond to details on the tax/insurance/NCT discs? Yes/No
  • Is the seller going to register the change of ownership? Yes/No

Research before you buy

  • Be prepared. Savvy DoneDealers do their homework.
  • Look online at makes and models you like that will suit your needs.
  • Talk to family and friends about the make of car you want. They may own something similar.


  • There is a greater risk of problems, breakdowns, or wear and tear with a used car.
  • All cars over four years old must undergo their first NCT. It’s the law.
  • Your consumer rights are stronger if you buy a used car from a trader or dealer than from a private seller or at an auction.

Buying from a dealer

  • When you buy from a dealer you are protected by the 1980 Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act. You have the same consumer rights whether you’re buying brand new or second hand.
  • If you find a fault with the car after you buy it the dealer is responsible for repairs.


  • There is no regulation of motor dealers or garages in Ireland, but the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) represents motor dealers throughout the country.
  • Members of SIMI have a set of ethical standards when dealing with customers.
  • SIMI members display their logo at their premises.
  • SIMI runs a free Consumer Complaints Service.


  • Visit the auction house. See how the process works. You can’t test drive a car that is about to be auctioned.
  • You will generally not get a guarantee or warranty like you would from a dealer (unless the manufacturer warranty period is still valid).
  • You should at least have the right to reject a car if you find a major fault within a short period after the sale.
  • Bidding at auction means you comply with the auctioneer’s terms and conditions. Find out what they are.
  • Be diligent and vigilant. Check the car over.

Private seller or rogue trader?

  • Some unscrupulous traders use classified ads to sell cars – often ‘problem cars’. They know you have no redress or comeback by private sale.
  • Catch these rogue traders out by asking them about ‘the car’.
  • If they have to ask which car you’re talking about, then chances are they are traders.

Private seller obligations

  • It is illegal to sell a car which is not roadworthy.
  • Private sellers must give accurate and truthful answers to any questions asked of them.
  • A private seller does not have to provide information that is not requested.

Ownership check

  • See if the car’s registration number is on the picture in the ad. If you can’t see it, ask the seller for it.
  • The website has a service that can show you if the car has changed hands in the last three months.
  • There may be a genuine reason for owning a car for such a short period of time, but there’s also a chance that the car has faults.

History check

  • Before you make a decision to purchase a vehicle, we recommend that you buy a car history check.
  • A car history check can tell if the car’s registration number matches the chassis number, if the car is stolen or if there’s outstanding finance on it.
  • Car history checks can also indicate if a car has been crashed or written-off, is taxed, has a valid NCT or has been used as a taxi.

Prepare questions

  • Private sellers often describe their cars poorly. Think about what you need to know.
  • Ask the questions that will tell you everything you need to know about the car.

Ask the seller

  • Is he/she the registered owner of the car?
  • Is his/her name on the vehicle registration document? If not, why not?
  • For details such as the number of previous owners, mileage, reasons for selling, if it’s insured/taxed/and NCT certified.
  • For a documented service history.
  • Always do your own car history check before viewing the vehicle.
  • If what the seller tells you is different from the car history check, be wary.
  • Never hand over any money before doing a background check.

Imported cars

  • DoneDealer drivers have a good chance of finding used cars for sale that were first registered in the UK.
  • Check that the seller is the registered owner; ask to see the UK vehicle registration document (Form V5).
  • Make sure the VRT (Vehicle Registration Tax) has been paid on the car.
  • Remember that the speedometer reading on UK-registered vehicles will show miles NOT kilometres. You can do an MOT History check here
  • Some media reports have suggested that Ireland is being used as a 'dumping ground' for dodgy or crashed cars from the UK.
  • Do the same car history checks as you would for an Irish car.

Viewing the car

  • Once you have contacted the seller to arrange a viewing, both AA Ireland and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) strongly recommend that you try to arrange for it to take place during the day.
  • Viewing in daylight will give you a better idea of the car's condition, particularly the paintwork.
  • If only a night-time viewing is available, don’t do it when it’s raining or wet – this will make you rush the inspection.
  • Bring along a mechanically-minded friend, or even pay your local mechanic, to inspect it for you.
  • Bring a good torch.
  • Meet a private seller at their home address. Make sure it’s not a dealer trying to disguise a sale.
  • Consider arranging a pre-purchase inspection with our trusted partner Autoguru

On the outside

  • Registration plates: do they look newer than the vehicle? Are there extra screw holes on the plate?
  • If so, ask if they were removed at any stage.
  • Windows: are there numbers etched onto the windows? These should match either the registration number or the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of the vehicle.
  • Check for visible signs of damage: around door locks, general dents and scrapes, panels not matching up evenly, etc.
  • Look for evidence of repainting, such as 'overspray' on window rubbers or inconsistency in the paintwork, as this could indicate a previous crash.
  • Check for uneven tyre-wear.
  • Check for rust under the sills or wheel arches.
  • Do the wipers, water jets, sunroof and all other electrical equipment work?

On the inside

  • Look out for extremely worn, or very new/replacement, pedal rubbers and/or carpet.
  • Look for a smooth/worn steering wheel, or signs of heavy wear on the driver’s seat.
  • Does the car have a working security alarm/immobiliser?
  • Does one key open all doors and boot and start the car? Is there a spare?
  • Check the displayed mileage. Is it in miles or kilometres? Know the right mileage before you buy.
  • When examining the boot, check under mats for anything untoward like leaks or holes in the floor, which could indicate that a tow bar was present at one time.

Under the bonnet

  • Check the 17-digit VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) stamped onto the engine. Does it match the registration details? Does it show signs of interference?
  • Check the dipstick for clean oil.
  • Ask if the timing belt has been changed.
  • Any sign of spray paint in the engine bay? Again, this overspray could point to a previously crashed car.

Test drive

  • Before a test drive, make sure the car is cold. If it’s still warm the seller may have warmed it up to mask any cold starting issues.
  • Listen for any strange sounds like a noisy exhaust or knocking from the engine as it ticks over.
  • Check that the steering wheel doesn’t vibrate and that the gears engage without grinding.
  • Take it for a good spin over as varied a route as you can.
  • Look in the rear view mirror for any blue or white smoke from the exhaust on hard acceleration. Blue smoke means engine wear or burning oil; excessive white smoke can mean a head gasket failure.
  • Apply the brakes hard and make sure they’re responsive.

Doing the DoneDeal

  • Do your homework – is the price of the car way below its current value? Be careful of a bargain that seems too good to be true.
  • Once you’ve agreed a price, most private sellers will gladly accept cash or a bank draft.
  • If you pay cash, you may have no way of contacting the seller if something goes wrong – especially if you didn’t verify where they live.
  • Be wary of the seller who insists on cash for various reasons. Never feel pressurised into buying.
  • Always try to get a landline number for the seller, as well as their address.
  • A bank draft creates a paper trail.
  • If you pay a deposit, get a signed receipt.