Guide to Buying a Second Hand Car

Buying your first car is a monumental moment in life. You’ve worked hard to get this far and now you’re ready to have your own set of wheels. The sense of freedom is so exciting for first-time owners but it’s important to take your time and consider a number of factors before making a purchase. We’ve created a guide to buying your first car to help. Follow these steps to purchase the right vehicle for you in the most secure way:

1. Figure out your budget and decide what you can afford to spend on a car

Most people shopping for a car will decide on a budget figure and shop around based on that amount. Think about what you can afford and explore the different loan options available but avoid over borrowing - the cost of the car is just one expense, you still need to pay for tax, insurance and running costs.

Tip: Older vehicles might be cheaper to buy but they are usually more expensive to insure and tax. Get quotes for car insurance and figure out the tax costs for any potential cars.

2. Decide what kind of car/engine size you need  

If you are a learner driver or a young driver with not a lot of experience you are better off buying a vehicle with a smaller engine size. With that in mind, consider the type of driving you will be doing - will you be driving long distances every day, commuting to work in city traffic or mostly using the car to drive locally outside work hours? These factors will greatly influence the kind of car that you need.

3. Consider buying a used car rather than a new car

When a new car leaves the dealership, it depreciates by approximately 11% of its value. The car will continue to depreciate every year by 15% to 25% and after 5 years the car will be worth just 37% of the original price paid. When purchasing a used car, the vehicle has already depreciated. You can save a lot of money by buying a car that is 2- or 3-years old.

4. Shop around for a car

Once you’ve decided what kind of car you’re looking for and what your price limit is it’s time to start shopping around for your first car. Cars can be bought from dealerships, websites, classified ads and private sellers. It’s good to seek the advice of an experienced car owner while you’re in the shopping phase as they will be able to spot things that you might not think of such as mileage of a used car. Ideally you need to watch out for:

  • Whether the car is fit for purpose
  • If the description matches the car you’re viewing
  • What the mileage is
  • If things such as windows, locks, seatbelts, radio and heat / air con are fully functional
  • That all vitals such as brakes, clutch and wheels are in working order
  • That the car has a valid NCT (if needed)
  • That the car has been serviced
  • How many previous owners the car has had
  • Any visible damage on the car

5. Try to buy from a dealer rather than a private seller 

Most people would agree that buying a car from a car dealership is a safer option than buying from a private seller. 

Reasons to buy from a car dealership

  • There’s more legal protection from a dealer than from a private seller
  • More transparency and accountability when buying from a dealership
  • Dealerships are more responsible sellers
  • Dealerships should offer a guarantee with the vehicle that you purchase
  • Extra elements such as valid NCT, recent servicing, new tyres etc usually included with dealership purchases
  • The dealer will handle all paperwork such as change of ownership etc.
  • Some dealers offer finance options
  • Dealers can usually provide you with a short-term warranty

6. Take the car for a test drive

When you’ve found a car that you’re happy with and would like to purchase it’s important to take it for a test drive. Make sure that you are insured to do this. If you’re test driving a vehicle from a dealership you might be covered by their motor trade policy. If you are not insured to test drive a vehicle you should ask a parent or family member to complete a test drive for you.

While completing a test drive, the following things should be considered:

  • Is the clutch biting correctly?
  • How is the acceleration?
  • Does the vehicle turn around corners correctly?
  • Are there any odd sounds or vibrations?
  • Are the brakes responsive? How much pressure is needed to apply the brakes?
  • Is the transition between gears smooth?
  • Are there any noticeable problems?

7. Get Car Insurance  

Car insurance is a legal requirement to drive in Ireland. Use our guide to getting your first car insurance policy to decide the level of car insurance you need and obtain an online car insurance quote in minutes. At AIG we have tailor made policies for young drivers including our telematics insurance which could save you money on your car insurance. 


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