Buying

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Buying a vehicle

 

What vehicle to buy

For a helping hand through the maze of motoring options, read our buying guide which has some tips to help you decide. Whether it’s a hatchback or saloon, diesel, petrol or hybrid, we’ll fill you in on the things you need to consider when you're buying a vehicle, including vehicle inspections, warranties and vehicle crime.

Do your research

It's vital to research thoroughly before buying a used vehicle. Search our used vehicle ads online to find out what your model’s going price is. This can save you paying too much – but also beware if the price is too low.

It's also important to give yourself a budget, and include insurance, road tax and other running costs when you're doing your sums.
If you're applying for a loan, shop around for the most competitive rates.

Find the right vehicle for you

You can use our search to find the exact model you’re after. Simply select the specific features you want from the drop-down boxes and let the search do all the hard work for you. It’s completely free and quick to use.

Which Fuel?

Choosing the right fuel type is essential when buying a vehicle. So which one should you go for?

We look at the pros and cons of every fuel available today.
Petrol | Diesel | Biofuel | Electricity | Hybrids | Hydrogen | Solar power

Petrol

Pros:

  • Responsive
  • Quieter than diesel
  • Petrol engines are generally cheap to repair
  • Faster revving

Cons:

  • Petrol engines are less environmentally-friendly than their diesel counterparts
  • It’s non-renewable
  • Produces more CO2 than other fuel types

Each type of petrol has its own research octane rating (RON). The higher the number, the better performing the petrol is. It essentially falls into four main categories:

1. Unleaded:
The most common type of petrol, this has a RON of 95.

2. Super Unleaded
Much like unleaded, but with 98 RON it gives your vehicle better performance.

3. Leaded Four Star and Lead Replacement Petrol (LRP:)
Leaded fuel was removed from sale in 2000 and replaced by LRP. This fuel is basically 97 RON unleaded petrol with an additive to give the valve seat protection, which some older models need.
A valve seat is a surface inside a vehicle’s engine, which rests against the air intake or exhaust valve when the valve is closed. The LRP stops it from moving out of place and possibly reducing the engine’s efficiency.
LRP is generally only used for vintage vehicles and so is less common.

4. High Performance:
The difference between super unleaded and high performance fuels is marginal and more obviously noticed in super-vehicle and other high performance vehicles.

Summary:
Petrol is best for drivers who enjoy optimal performance and a smooth ride.

Diesel

Diesel is the most popular choice in today’s market, due to its efficiency benefits over petrol and its lower CO2 emissions.

Pros:

  • Stays in each gear longer, helping with acceleration and reducing the need for gear changing
  • High engine efficiency
  • Lower CO2 emissions
  • Some high performance fuels are available in diesel
  • Some eco-friendly models attract reduce road tax charges
  • Less expensive fuel than petrol*

Cons:

  • Diesel engines are louder than their petrol counterparts
  • Results in a less smooth ride
  • Higher Nitrogen Oxide (an air pollutant) emissions than petrol

Summary: Diesel is more environmentally friendly and more economical for long distance drivers.

*Average fuel prices May 2011 Petrol €149.9c and Diesel €139.9c (Source: www.pumps.ie)

Biofuels


Fast becoming an alternative to petrol and diesel, biofuel uses renewable energy sources to power vehicles. Some of these vehicles have flexi-fuel engines, which allow both bioethanol and petrol in the tank.

There are two types of biofuel:

Bioethanol
Produced from everyday farm crops, bioethanol is an environmentally-friendly fuel type with a high octane rating for better performance.

Pros:

  • Lower CO2 emissions
  • High RON
  • Low fuel consumption

Cons:

  • Not as widely available as leaded

Biodiesel
Made from animal fats, sugar beet and vegetable oils, biodiesel is less toxic than normal diesel and is swiftly growing in popularity with greener diesel drivers.

Pros:

  • Lower CO2 emissions
  • Lower engine wear
  • Can be used in most normal diesel vehicles

Cons:

  • May require engine modifications
  • Not as readily available as normal diesel

Summary: Good for long distance drivers who like both high performance and being environmentally friendly.

Electricity

These vehicles can be recharged at a charging station, in garages or at home. Charge time varies from one vehicle to another.

Pros:

  • No emissions from the vehicle
  • Very quiet
  • Good acceleration

Cons:

  • Need a lot of electricity
  • Indirect emissions from power station when charged
  • Many have a short range (approximately 50 miles)
  • Most have a lower top speed of around 40-50mph

Summary:
Electric vehicles are perfect for the inner city driver who makes short journeys at low speeds.

Hybrids

Hybrid vehicles combine a rechargeable electric system with a fuel-based engine. Usually the battery is recharged by the internal combustion engine or from kinetic energy absorbed when braking. This results in impressive fuel economy and better efficiency.

Pros:

  • Lower fuel consumption
  • Lower CO2 and other emissions
  • Quick acceleration
  • Quiet drive

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not as readily available as petrol and diesel vehicle

Summary:
Great for those who use both the city and the motorway - without the need for high performance.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen vehicles convert the chemical energy of hydrogen into mechanical energy to give a vehicle power.

Pros:

  • No CO2 or other pollutant emissions
  • Environmentally-friendly

Cons:

  • Hydrogen is highly flammable
  • Hydrogen fuel cells are fragile
  • Hard to obtain and store

Summary:
A good choice for the eco-conscious driver who thinks about the future and has some extra money to spend on it.

Solar power

This type of vehicle is a less common sight on the roads, due to high production costs.

Pros:

  • No CO2 or other pollutant emissions
  • Great renewable energy source makes them cheap to run
  • Very quiet

Cons:

  • Cloudy and rainy weather will affect their speed
  • Not ideal for night time driving
  • Good idea, but difficult to implement and obtain

Summary:
For anyone who lives in a bright sunny location and likes their vehicle covered in solar panels!

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Where to buy a vehicle

So you know what you want to buy! Fantastic! Now you need to know where to buy it. Check out the options below.

Buying a vehicle from a private seller

Many people choose to buy a vehicle from a private seller. The major benefit when choosing this route is that prices are generally cheaper.

If you choose to buy privately, you need to be aware that you have fewer legal comebacks than you do through a dealer, and the checks and guarantees that a dealer is compelled to make by law aren't a benefit in a private sale.

Preparing to buy a vehicle - phoning the seller

As private sellers are under no obligation to reveal a vehicle's history, or offer proof of any checks, the onus is very much on the buyer to determine a vehicle's past.

Buying privately can appear daunting for some, but as long as you make the right checks, buying a vehicle this way can be both satisfying and rewarding; it just takes a little more work.

The first stage of this process is conducted over the phone, and, if you get it right, it can save a lot of hassle and wasted time.

ALWAYS ask if "the vehicle" is still for sale. If the vendor asks "which one?" it’s likely this is a dealer trying to disguise that they are in the trade. Some unscrupulous traders sell dodgy vehicles to avoid

Questions you MUST ask the seller:

  • How long have they owned the vehicle?
  • Have they owned it from new?
  • If not how many previous owners?
  • Why are they selling it?
  • What is the mileage?
  • What features does the vehicle have?
  • In their opinion, what sort of condition is the vehicle in?
  • Does it have a service history?
  • Is there any outstanding finance or hire purchase agreement?
  • Does it have any tax or NCT?
  • Has it been involved in any accident, and if so, which parts were damaged?
  • Where was it repaired?
  • Have they replaced anything on it recently?
  • Has it been modified in any way?
  • Are the repairs guaranteed?
  • The price should be negotiable - are they open to reasonable and fair offers?

Viewing the vehicle

If you are meeting the seller at an agreed location, make sure it is one that is familiar to you always bring someone with you.
Take the original advert with you, plus the notes you made during your phone conversation will the seller. This will enable you to check details like mileage and tax are the same as you were told during the call.

Things to avoid:

  • NEVER meet the seller alone – take a friend with you.
  • NEVER carry large amounts of cash.
  • NEVER view a vehicle at night, as it makes the vehicle harder to examine.

Checking the vehicle

It’s imperative you check the vehicle thoroughly for any faults or damages.

Follow these steps to ensure everything is checked and covered:

  • Never check a vehicle in the dark or in the rain. It will make it very difficult to spot dents, scratches, rust, and a multitude of other defects.
  • If you can, take a look at the vehicle before you ring the doorbell. This will give you a chance to look at it without being distracted by the seller.
  • Always start the vehicle with a cold engine. This will make it easier to spot starting problems or excessive smoke.
  • Crouch down in front of each front wheel and look along the length of the vehicle. Both front wheels should be directly in front of the rear – if they're not, it could mean the vehicle has been in a crash with a slightly twisted chassis. This is known as crabbing.
  • Check the gaps between the body panels are equal – if they're not, the vehicle could have been refitted badly, or may have been in a crash.
  • Take a look at the tyres. Are they in good condition?
  • Check under the vehicle, beneath the bonnet and the carpet for rust, and, signs which may suggest the vehicle has been in a crash, such as welding marks.
  • When you're inside the vehicle, make sure the seatbelts work correctly and the steering wheel and dashboard are bolted on correctly. Also, make sure the front seats move about properly and all switches work.
  • Under the bonnet, look for signs of oil leaks on top of the engine, and underneath. Use the dipstick to check the amount of oil. If the level is low, the owner hasn’t been looking after the vehicle properly.
  • Look around the oil filler cap for a white mayonnaise-like substance - this is an indication of a damaged head gasket which can be very expensive to put right.

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Outside

Firstly, take a walk around the vehicle and take it all in. Unless you've been told otherwise, the vehicle should be in a driveable state.

You should always start the vehicle with a cold engine, as this is when it's easiest to spot starting problems or excessive smoke. Place a hand on the bonnet - if it's warm, it's been run recently, so let it cool for a few hours. If need be, come back later.

Let the seller show you the vehicle, but don't let them distract you from carrying out your own checks.

Crouch down in front of each front wheel and look along the length of the vehicle. Both front wheels should be directly in front of the rear – if they're not, it could mean the vehicle has been in a crash with a slightly twisted chassis. This is known as crabbing.

The wheels should sit neatly in the wheel arches, equally on both sides.

Check the gaps between the panels are equal. Run your finger along each to feel if the gap is bigger at one end than the other. Uneven panel gaps occur if a vehicle has been in a crash, or if panels have been refitted badly.

Look carefully at each panel for ripples or overspray – where excess paint has flecked onto other trim, such as window seals or bumpers.

Look closely at each tyre – including the spare. Watch for uneven wear, which could mean suspension damage, nicks and gouges. Tyres are expensive, so if they need replacing, use this as a bargaining tool.

The minimum tread depth is 1.6mm for the whole way around the tyre. Use a tread depth gauge to see how much is left – the more, the better.

Check under the vehicle, particularly at the front and back, under the bonnet and under the carpet in the boot for signs of crash damage. Panels should be flat, and free from signs of welding or patching up – if they're not, it's probably had a shunt.

Most shunts are minor, low-speed crashes, but you should take extra steps to be sure there aren't any more serious problems.

Obviously rust is a bad sign, so keep an eye out all the time, especially around the wheel arches where moisture, grime and winter road salt can increase the speed of deterioration.
Test the lights. Get the vendor to run through a check while you make sure all the lights work on the outside.

Inside

There are plenty of things to check inside, as well, most of which can be a good indication of mileage and the amount of care and attention it's had lavished on it.

Look around the cabin – a 50,000 mile vehicle shouldn't have a worn or sagging seat, or a steering wheel, gear knob or pedal covers, which have been worn by lots of use.

Make sure all the seatbelts work – they could indicate a previous crash or general neglect. They're a legal requirement too – if the vehicle is being sold with a new NCT or MOT certificate, alarm bells should be ringing as these should have been checked.

Look closely at the dashboard binnacle (the bit which houses the speedometer and other dials). If the vehicle has an older, mechanical-style milometer which turns as you drive, make sure all the barrels are aligned correctly – turning these back is the oldest trick in the book. If there are fingerprints in there, ask why – there could be an honest explanation.

This is harder to check on more modern models which have electronic milometers – the miles can be turned back simply by connecting a laptop and entering a new mileage.

Either way, make sure the mileage tallies with old NCT or MOT certificates and service history.

Make sure all the dashboard and steering column panels are bolted on correctly – they could point to a clocked vehicle, or one which has been stolen, particularly if there are glass fragments on the floor.

Don’t be too quick to reject a vehicle – it can be tricky to bolt a dash back together after changing a blown bulb in the instrument panel.

Make sure all the switches work – including the heater or air-con - and check the front seats move about properly.

Locate the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You'll find this riveted in the engine bay. There are few reasons why this should have been removed, so be suspicious if there are signs of tampering, you could be looking at a clone – a stolen vehicle given the identity of a write-off.

The VIN number will also be stamped in the floor beside the driver or passenger seat. A clone will have another number welded on, and are usually quite easy to swap.

Most modern vehicles also have the VIN recorded at the base of the windscreen.

Check all the numbers match the logbook and your vehicle history check documents – if they don't, walk away.

Under the bonnet


Next check under the bonnet – any problems you miss here could cost you a packet, so be thorough.

Check for signs of oil leaks around the top of the engine, but don’t forget to check underneath as this will be where it's most obvious. Road grime can stick to oil, making it even more noticeable.

Check the oil when the vehicle is parked on a level surface and the engine is cold. Remove the dipstick, wipe it with a cloth and replace for a couple of seconds. Pull it out again and look at the amount of oil – it should be near the top; if not, the owner hasn’t been looking after it.

The oil should be a golden colour – sludgy black oil is a sign the engine could be damaged.

Look around the oil filler cap for a white mayonnaise-like substance - this is an indication of a damaged head gasket which can be very expensive to put right.

We’d recommend you carry out a vehicle history check to find out whether it’s stolen, an insurance write-off or subject to outstanding finance.

Test Drive

You should never buy a vehicle without driving it first.

Ireland's Auto Trader lists the do's and don’ts of the test drive.

Before you view the vehicle, make sure you're fully insured, and take proof with you - most sellers will want to know you're covered in the event of an accident.

  • Start the vehicle - preferably when the engine is cold. It should start straight away - if it takes too long, it could mean trouble.
  • After you've started the vehicle, check the exhaust for excessive noise. If there are holes in it, there will be lots of noise - this is known as a 'blow'.
  • Have a look at the exhaust smoke - white, steam-like smoke is OK, unless there's a lot. Blue smoke can indicate an internal oil leak, which can be expensive to rectify.
  • Once the engine has been running for a while, the temperature gauge should sit around the halfway mark.
  • Before you set off, turn the steering wheel from one lock to the other. There should be no screeching, banging or knocking. It should also be smooth.
  • Test the handbrake by pulling it on and trying to drive off gently. If it fails to hold the vehicle back, it will need attention - although most handbrakes will still loose the battle with an engine.
  • On your test drive, you should drive on as many different kinds of roads and surfaces as possible. Use all the gears, and don't forget reverse.
  • On manual vehicles, the gear change should be slick and smooth, and the clutch pedal should 'bite' between the top and middle of the pedal's travel. If the clutch doesn't disengage until the pedal is on or near the floor, it needs adjusting or replacing - expensive.
  • If you're driving an automatic, there shouldn't be any slurring, whining or banging.
  • Accelerate hard, and watch for smoke from the exhaust, and after checking no one is behind, brake sharply. If you feel the vehicle pulling to one side or hear noises, the brakes will need examining.
  • Throughout your test drive, listen out for unusual noises and don't let the seller distract you by talking or turning up the radio.
  • The seller will usually suggest a route, but if it's not long enough tell them. But remember, don’t start abusing the vehicle - you haven’t bought it yet.

Haggling

Take a moment to remind yourself of any vehicle faults or work you think might need doing to the vehicle. Use this to negotiate the price with the seller.

Ask the seller what they realistically expect to get. Make a lower offer for the vehicle, then stay silent. This gives them two options – accept your offer, or make a counter offer.

When it looks like they’re about to accept your offer, move to shake their hand and confirm the deal.

The Paperwork

ALWAYS ensure you see all of the following:
1. The Vehicle Registration Certificate
2. The vehicle’s service history
3. NCT or MOT details
4. A valid tax disc (if the seller said tax is included)

Everything must be present and correct, or you should walk away from the deal. Make sure all the documents are original – don't accept photocopies.

Examine the logbook (Vehicle Registration Certificate) carefully. Check the seller is the recorded keeper in the Vehicle Registration Certificate. If not, they're not legally entitled to sell you the vehicle.

Lots of dealer stamps in the logbook means it's likely the vehicle is well maintained. It's always worth calling the garage to check they did carry out the work.

Before handing over the cash, a vehicle history check is highly recommended!
If you only do one piece of research, we recommend you do this. A vehicle history check is the smartest investment you'll make when buying a vehicle.

The check will reveal if the vehicle has been reported stolen, has outstanding finance on it (if so, it's technically still the property of the finance house), has been written-off or scrapped, and, what the full spec of the vehicle should be.

It will also tell you the price you should expect to pay for it.

You'll be able to see what the vehicle's identification number should be, so you can match it up to the numbers on the vehicle itself (commonly found on the chassis, on the windscreen or on the floor by the driver's seat).

A vehicle history check - 10 reasons why

A vehicle data check is the smartest investment you'll make when buying a vehicle. For the price of a tank of fuel you can find out if the vehicle you’re about to buy is recorded as stolen, has outstanding finance, or, a dodgy past.

1. Is the vehicle reported stolen?

Vehicles taken without the owner's consent are listed on the Garda National database. Getting a vehicle history check will find out if the vehicle has been listed as stolen - and potentially could save you thousands.

2. Outstanding finance

If a vehicle has outstanding finance it's legally still owned by the finance company. But it's not necessarily bad news - you can still come to an agreement with the finance company, and end up owning the vehicle.

3. Write-off

There are five different categories as to how badly a vehicle has been written off. A vehicle check will tell you if the vehicle has been written off, and into which category it falls.

4. Scrapped

A history check should unearth any potentially dodgy goings on with vehicles which have been sent for scrap, but have somehow returned to market. Another money saver!

5. Mileage anomalies

If the vehicle has had its mileage altered, a vehicle check will show up the discrepancy immediately. If the information is available, a vehicle check will reveal if the mileage has been wound back or if the vehicle is older than advertised.

6. Valuation

Every make and model of vehicle has a market value. The vehicle check will provide you with this, and show you if you're getting a good deal or are about to be ripped off.

7. Check the vehicle identification number

The vehicle's vehicle identification number (VIN) – otherwise known as the chassis number – should match the one on the vehicle registration certificate and the markings elsewhere on the vehicle (commonly on the windscreen or on the floor by the driver's seat). A data check will tell you what the vehicle's correct VIN should be.

8. See the full spec

Getting a history check will allow you to see the full spec (make, model, date of first registration, engine number, transmission etc.) of the vehicle you're about to buy. If there are any major differences between the spec and what has been advertised – walk away from the deal.

9. Check the number of previous owners

The history check will also tell you how many previous owners the vehicle has had. If the seller is advertising 'one previous owner' and the data check tells you there have been more, it should set the alarm bells ringing.

10. Get insured

Some services offer the prospective buyer free insurance if any of the data in the report turns out to be incorrect.

The Payment

Make sure you ask for a receipt when making any payment, especially if it’s cash. Get two copies signed - one for you and one for the seller. Make sure the seller's address and vehicle details are on both.

Buying from a Trade Dealer

Buying from a trade dealer has advantages for many: Ideally, any vehicle bought from a dealer should include a warranty. You may be able to part exchange your old vehicle. You will have ample opportunity to inspect and drive the vehicle prior to making your decision.

Reasons to buy from a dealer:

  • This is the safest option as you receive maximum protection from the law.
  • Signs of Trade Association may mean that the dealer follows a regulated code of practice.
  • The vehicle must be free of defects, except those pointed out to you at the point of sale.
  • The vehicle must be as described in any advertising material. The vehicle must be fit for purpose.

REMEMBER:
When buying from a dealer the law says that a vehicle must be of satisfactory quality!

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Buying a Used Approved Vehicle


If you’re looking for one of the safest options to buy a second hand vehicle, then choosing a used approved vehicle may be the right choice for you.

What is a Used Approved vehicle?


This means the vehicle has been used by a previous owner and then returned or sold to the original dealer, before being repaired, checked and approved by the same dealer.

Used approved vehicles are moved into a showroom, where they are made available to buyers again. This makes it easier for you to purchase a specific model with many of the assurances of buying new but without the cost.

The benefits of this option include peace of mind. Apart from good sales service and vehicle reliability, you can expect these strong points from a used approved vehicle:

  • No mechanical defects
  • Fully accredited history
  • Usually nearly new and well maintained
  • Good payment options; sometimes you can drive off before your money has gone through
  • Many come with free warranty, insurance and breakdown cover
  • Manufacturer guarantees and code of practice
  • You may even be able to part exchange your old vehicle

Where to buy a used approved vehicle?

Most vehicle manufacturers have their own used and approved schemes. These differ in price and service, but essentially remain the same in terms of what they offer: quality used vehicles.
It’s not only vehicle manufacturers which offer these schemes either – many motorcycle dealers offer them and you may find vans in some of the schemes too.
To look for a particular make or model, decide on what you’re looking for and then use our website to look for a model. Alternatively, search online for your preferred vehicle manufacturer and contact them directly.

Used approved checks and procedures

To qualify for used approved status, all vehicles must first go through a detailed pre-sales inspection, where any faults found are fixed. This makes the purchase a safe one.

The vehicle will also have its service history checked, as well as regular mechanical checks before being sold.

We contacted various vehicle manufacturers to see what tests are exactly made.

Details of what is checked and fixed:

Levels

All liquid-oriented components are checked – this includes the brake fluid, front and rear screen washers, shock absorbers, power steering, clutch fluid and coolants.

Electronics

Anything which runs off the vehicle battery is examined – things like all interior and exterior lights, clocks, door mirrors, radio, alarm, air conditioning, front and rear screen wipers, electric windows, and, the horn.

Safety features

All aspects of vehicle safety are scrutinized– including airbags, seat belts, fuel reserves, hazard warning lights, central locking and the handbrake.

Technical tests

Various detailed movement tests are carried out, to ensure everything still works correctly. Some of these checks include the simple task of opening and closing doors, adjusting the seats, winding down the windows and opening the sunroof, gear changes and the temperature gauge.

Object movement

Door hinges to be greased. Fuel tests are completed, spark plugs examined, the timing of the ignition is recorded and the front axle is greased too.

Visuals

The windscreen is analysed, as are various in-vehicle tools and the first aid kit. The interior is inspected and the vehicle specifications are measured and checked to make sure everything is the right size.

Road testing

The vehicle is extensively tested on-road, to make sure everything runs smoothly. The exhaust system is given a good run through its paces, as is the heating system, traction control, cruise control, brakes, steering, clutch and more.

After road

After the test drives comes even more series of tests – this time the paintwork is examined; service history is looked into and compared with the recent service test.

Tyres

Finally, the tyre condition is checked, from tread depth to make and type. Air pressure and other factors are taken into account, including the temperature of the tyres and more.

This full service including both interior and exterior checks is standard with most used and approved schemes – showing their reliability. Check with the individual dealer what their schemes cover before deciding on a model too rashly.

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How to buy a new vehicle


Buying a new vehicle is easy. But it could be the second biggest investment you ever make, so it pays to do everything you can to get the best possible deal.

We bring you the essential guide to buying new.

Why buy new?

There are many advantages to buying a new vehicle over a used one. You have the choice of any vehicle you want with the exact specification you want. And you can’t beat that new vehicle smell.

There's the opportunity to get consumer offers – cash back deals, free accessories, service packs, and, warranties, to give you peace of mind if something goes wrong.

There are tons of great deals to find, all you have to do is choose the best one for you.

Identify your needs

There is a huge range of new vehicle models to choose from. So where should you start?

Consider all your requirements. Ask yourself:

1. What will you use it for?
2. How long you expect to own it?
3. Are you looking for reliability?
4. How many miles do you plan to do?
5. Are you buying it for practicality, for fun, or perhaps a bit of both?
6. Do you want something luxurious or thrifty?
7. How much are you willing to spend (include other costs such as insurance, tax, services and fuel)?
8. What type of model and manufacturer are you leaning towards?

These questions will influence your purchasing decision and help reach a conclusion on what type of motor you choose to go for.

Phoning the dealer

Always confirm the details in the advert are correct. This could save you a wasted trip.

ALWAYS ask: Is the delivery included in the price?
How soon can the vehicle be delivered?
Is road tax included?
Are registration fees included?
Is there a service pack as part of the deal?

Visit the showroom


If you’re buying from a franchised dealer (who sells vehicle on behalf of a manufacturer), visit the showroom to view the vehicle to make sure you’re happy with it.

It’s best to take a look at the vehicle in the best conditions possible. Never view a vehicle in the dark or the rain - they can hide defects in the bodywork.

The Test Drive


ALWAYS test drive a vehicle before buying it as this will give you a feel for it and raise any concerns. For example, the vehicle might not be big enough for your needs, or the engine noise could be unbearable.

Make sure you’re fully insured to drive the vehicle, and take proof of this with you. Most dealers will let you drive with trade number plates, which should provide you with cover - but check this is the case.

Sit in the car and make sure there is enough room for you and that you can reach all the tools.
Use all the gears.
Drive on as many road surfaces as possible (e.g. tarmac, concrete) to make sure the ride is comfortable.
Get a feel for the vehicle & figure out its pros and cons, and how it will suit you.
Avoid being distracted by the dealer if he talks a lot, or turns up the radio.

Haggling

There’s still plenty of room for negotiation on the price of a new vehicle, and it’s always worth pushing for. Dealers will expect you to!
Why not try and get these extras thrown in?

  • Metallic paint
  • Protective coating for the paintwork and upholstery
  • A good deal on finance (dealers often work on commission)
  • A full tank of fuel – since new vehicle are often sold with very little fuel
  • Floor mats and mud flaps

You may be able to get a better deal towards the end of the month when salespeople are chasing their targets.

The paperwork

Make sure the registration on the vehicle tallies with the one in the logbook (Vehicle Registration Certificate), as well as the vehicle identification number.
Don't forget to make sure you receive the correct manuals and the codes for the radio and keys, if applicable.

Where the tax is not included in the price, you MAY have to purchase a tax disc before you drive off the forecourt.

The payment

Get a receipt for any payment you make, especially if you’re paying cash.
Make sure both your copy and the dealer’s copies are signed.
Your paperwork should also contain proof of service packs, warranties, etc.

What if it goes wrong?

If things go wrong with the deal – like the vehicle not turning up or not being the exact model you wanted - protest at the earliest opportunity.

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Other vehicle buying options

There are many options when buying a vehicle; dealers and private advertisers are just two of them. Here are a few other choices worth considering.

Auctions

Vehicle auctions used to be the preserve of traders. Bulk selling of anything from nearly new stock to rental fleets and unwanted trade-ins, can offer some serious bargains for private buyers who do their homework.

With little or no opportunity to test-drive the vehicle, or contact previous owners, it's a risky route, and there's little legal protection. Vehicles are sold as seen and the vehicle is yours as soon as the hammer goes down.

If you're new to auctions, it's always best to take along an experienced buyer or someone who knows about vehicles and do a dry run first. You need to pay the balance too, plus the auction fee on the night. Not for the faint-hearted.

Always speak to your insurer before buying from a vehicle auction. When you buy from an auction you may not be insured to drive home. Most motor traders have trade insurance which allows them to drive any vehicle but private buyers are subject to different laws.

Auction fees will vary from auction house to auction house but you may be required to pay as much as 15% of the hammer price.

Imports

New and used Japanese imports allow Irish buyers access to models not available on these shores. They may offer better specifications, but many models differ depending on where they are sold.

It is now much easier to buy from abroad and can be cheaper too. But remember, when you sell the vehicle, it will be worth less than an official model. Specifications on vehicle purchased abroad may vary slightly compared to Irish models.

Importing can be carried out in a number of ways, for example:

  • You can carry out the import yourself; or
  • Use an import broker.

When importing a vehicle into Ireland, vehicles MAY be subject to VRT or Vehicle Registration Tax. ALWAYS check with the importer that the price includes the VRT BEFORE you purchase the vehicle.

Buying from abroad can be cheaper but when you go to sell the vehicle on, it will have a lower residual value.

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Buying a caravan


Whether you're a first time buyer or a mobile home veteran, we can help you with your purchase
Are you buying privately or from a trader? New or used? Whether you're after a caravan, mobile home or something completely different, we can help you through the buying process.

Matching your vehicle to your caravan

Trailer weight

The Camping and Caravanning Club recommend that the loaded weight of your caravan should not exceed 85% of the kerb-weight of your vehicle. However, you should never exceed the kerb-weight given in the vehicle’s handbook.

Nose weight

Nose weight is the weight that you put on the tow ball of your vehicle and is typically between 50 and 100kg. For stability, the nose weight should not exceed this limit.

Payload

Payload is the weight of the items that you are allowed to carry in your caravan; you will find this in the handbook. Check the loading of your caravan periodically to make sure you aren't exceeding the total weight allowed. Manufacturers call this the gross weight

Safe on the Road

Before taking to the road, you should ensure that your vehicle and trailer combination is correctly matched and equipped. In order to continue safely, regular servicing is essential - some checks need carrying out every trip and a caravan certainly needs a main service once a year.
Some checks are simple enough, but others may require a bit of mechanical knowledge. If in doubt, leave it to the experts.

Tow Bar

A correctly fitted and maintained tow bar is vital for safety, as it is the only connection between vehicle and trailer. Make sure that all the bolts are tightened to the recommended torque figure and that there is no cracking or rusting around the mounting points.

Brakes

Brake maintenance is best left to properly trained engineers, but it’s worth keeping an eye on your brake mechanism and cables. If you have any doubts get them checked straight away.
Make sure the metal breakaway cable is in good condition. This cable is designed to pull on the caravan’s brakes, snap and allow the vehicle to run free of the braking caravan in the event that the caravan comes off the tow bar. Always connect this to a separate mounting point and not the tow ball.

Suspension

Check the condition of the suspension for both the vehicle and trailer, as it is important for safety, as well as comfort. When your caravan is attached to your vehicle, it should tow level or slightly nose down but NEVER nose up. If you find that the vehicle rear sags you may need some form of suspension aid. Get specialist advice on the type required for your vehicle from your vehicle dealer.

Tyres

Never mix cross ply tyres with radials on the same axle. Make sure you check the pressure and condition of the tyres before every trip - you will find correct pressures detailed in your handbook. Before setting out, check that the caravan wheel nuts are tight, ensure wheel trims are replaced securely and ALWAYS carry a spare wheel.

Electrics

The road lights on your trailer are operated from the tow vehicle through a 12N-type socket and plug. Check the caravan’s indicators and lights are working in unison with the vehicle each time you set off. A dashboard display or warning bleeper MUST be fitted inside the tow vehicle to show that the trailer’s lights are working.

Mirrors

It is vital to have a good view of the road behind you and along the sides of your caravan. This will usually mean attaching additional towing mirrors to your vehicle’s wing mirrors - make sure these are securely fixed and adjusted correctly

Caravan safety and security advice

There are hundreds of security devices on the market and some are better than others. None will make your caravan totally thief-proof, but they will make most thieves think twice about stealing your caravan.

Buy the best security you can afford and make sure the thief knows the device is fitted. Stickers are usually supplied with security items – so use them!

Hitch locks

Hitch locks provide a reasonable degree of protection from the opportunist thief. Get one that is manufactured from heavy steel to cover the tow socket fixing bolts and has a good lock.
Some hitch locks can lock the caravan to the vehicle but make sure it is unlocked when you are actually towing - use them ONLY on site or if you leave the caravan unattended. They don’t generally offer sufficient security for when the caravan is in storage, but they will make things much harder for a thief.

Wheel Clamps

There are many different kinds of wheel clamps on the market, but remember, generally speaking, the easier they are to put on, the easier they are for a thief to take off.
Buy a good clamp and check that it correctly fits your caravan’s wheel – if they don’t fit correctly, a thief can remove the wheel and the clamp with it.

Wheel Stands

If you think that wheel stands are the only way to keep hold of your caravan, think again - a determined thief will come prepared with a set of wheels. But wheel stands can be a deterrent; if you make sure they are locked in place.
Check your handbook as some chassis manufacturers recommend axle stands for winter storage.
Make sure you check with your insurers that they are happy to let you keep your caravan on wheel stands, as some insurance policies call for the caravan to be fitted with a wheel clamp at all times.

Security Posts

These are particularly useful for those who keep their caravan on the drive at home. They are cemented into the drive and physically block movement of the caravan. Some can be fitted with a tow bar on top of the post so that the caravan can be fixed with a hitch lock. Others are detachable or can fold down so that the caravan can be manoeuvred into position.

Make Crime Pay

If you have any information concerning caravan theft or disposal of stolen caravans, contact the confidential free phone Crimestoppers Line on 1 800 250 025. You can stay anonymous and you may be entitled to a reward.

Leaving your caravan

Storage sites are particularly popular with thieves - there are lots of caravans to choose from and often plenty of undisturbed time in which to work.
Thieves don't care if you are on holiday – they’ll steal caravans from lay-bys, motorway service stations and picnic sites. Even if you're just stopping for a cup of tea or to stretch your legs, make sure your caravan is secured.

Parking in your driveway or garden is no guarantee against theft either, so stay alert.

Towing your caravan

Vehicle Length

Towing a caravan is no more difficult than driving solo - providing that you are aware of the additional length. There is no reason why your trailer should not dutifully follow your vehicle but you will need to allow more time and space to stop safely, overtake and corner.

Corners

When turning, you will need to turn later and harder than you usually would as the trailer will not follow the exact path of your vehicle.

Braking

Braking distances, whilst towing a caravan, may increase by 20%, depending on the road conditions. Remember NEVER to slam on your brakes, as this can cause the trailer to jack-knife, so keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

Instability

Snaking is the most common form of instability and is often due to bad loading or excessive speed. However, even well matched units can snake due to air from passing lorries or coaches. Vertical instability is called pitching and can occur if you hit a pothole.
In either case DON’T apply your brakes hard - slow down gradually by easing off the accelerator. A stabiliser will help to avoid snaking and pitching, but it must not be a replacement for a good vehicle and caravan combination or weight distribution.

Marking your caravan

If your caravan is stolen the chances of getting it back can be dramatically improved by taking action now.

Photographs

Take photographs of your caravan, particularly any distinctive features. This can help identification should your caravan be stolen and subsequently recovered.

Roof Marking

Gardaí recommend that you put some distinctive mark on the roof of your caravan which can be seen by Gardaí helicopters. Vehicle kits are available, or you can paint your own.

Tracking

If you have a desirable caravan, it may be worth investing in a tracking system. These use global positioning satellite technology to pinpoint your caravan to a few metres, in the event that it is stolen.
They are not cheap to buy, and there is usually a monthly line rental, but this can be outweighed by possible insurance discounts.

Etching

Etch your caravan chassis number on all windows and in several hidden places inside the vehicle. You can use an ultra violet pen for this but a simple spirit based felt tipped pen mark inside a cupboard, or under beds, is almost impossible to remove.

Microchip

A number of companies can embed a small microchip into your caravan structure, making it harder for thieves to dispose of stolen 'vans and increasing the likelihood of stolen caravans being returned to their rightful owners

All caravans built since 1997 have a Radio Frequency Tagging chip (RFID) fitted at manufacture.

Records

Keep a note of your caravan chassis number and other important information. Keep these records safe and away from the caravan.

Selling

If you’re selling a caravan, never part with your caravan until the cheque has cleared. This includes building society cheques and bank drafts – they could be stolen or forged, leaving you without a caravan or money.

Buying

If you are buying a caravan, always meet at the seller’s house. If they insist they meet you in another location, such as a vehicle park or your house, be suspicious. Make sure that the house they claim to live in is actually theirs - sellers have been known to use the driveway of an empty house.

Check the caravan’s chassis number for signs of tampering. If it has been removed or altered, contact the Gardaí.

If the seller asks you to ring only at certain times, be wary. They may be using a public call box to cover their tracks.


Happy travelling!

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