Buying Your First Car in Ireland: Your Step-by-Step Guide

For new drivers in Ireland, the prospect of buying your first car is an exciting milestone. However, it can also be daunting, especially if you're unfamiliar with the process. This comprehensive guide will outline steps to buying a car for the first time to make your car-buying journey as smooth as possible, covering everything from determining your needs to the final purchase steps.

Step 1: Determine Your Needs

Before diving into the car market, it's crucial to assess your needs. Ask yourself:

  • Lifestyle Considerations: Do you need a compact car for city driving or something larger for long distances?
  • Engine Size and Type of Car: Consider the engine size, especially as it can impact your insurance premium. Would you consider and electric or hybrid car? Budget: How much can you afford, not just for the purchase but also for ongoing costs like fuel, insurance, and maintenance?

Step 2: Research Your Options

Now that you know what you're looking for, start researching. Read reviews, compare prices, and don’t hesitate to ask more experienced car owners for advice.

There is lots of information on the internet about all you need to know when in purchase mode. We even have an article that covers the best time of year to buy a car. Sites like DoneDeal have lots of information about used cars and put out quarterly reports on the state of the car market.

Step 3: Test Drive and Inspect the Car

A thorough test drive and inspection are critical. This is your opportunity to gauge the car's condition, how it feels to drive, and whether it suits your needs. Pre-test drive inspection, before you even start the engine, conduct a detailed visual inspection.

Be on the lookout for mileage data and repair history. Get a history check, this can reveal if the car has been in any major accidents or has any hidden history.

Ensure the National Car Test (NCT) is up to date. And take notice of the general condition, be on the lookout for any signs of damage or wear.

As part of your preparation, check for outstanding finance to ensure the car isn’t subject to an unpaid loan.

Step 4: Consider Additional Costs

Owning a car is more than just the purchase price. You need to factor in many things, such as insurance. As a young or learner driver, look into telematics car insurance, which can be more affordable. Learn more about first-time driver insurance.

Regular servicing is key to keeping your car in good shape. Budget for regular NCT checks if the car you are buying is older. Cars must undergo a roadworthiness test when they are four years old and every two years thereafter until their 10th anniversary. After that they need to be tested annually.

You must also budget for daily fuel costs, and it would be worth following our guide on how to save petrol the easy way.

Step 5: The Purchase Process

When you're ready to buy, you will need to go through the following processes:

Additional Tips for First-Time Car Buyers

Private Seller vs Dealer

When deciding between buying a car from a private seller versus a dealer, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of each option.

Purchasing from a dealer generally offers more security; dealers are obligated to meet certain legal standards and often provide warranties, making it a safer bet for first-time buyers.

Dealers also usually have a range of financing options and might accept your current car as a part-exchange, simplifying the process.

On the other hand, buying from a private seller can sometimes be more cost-effective. However, this route demands more diligence from the buyer – you'll need to conduct thorough checks on the car's condition and history, as private sales lack the consumer protections that dealerships offer. Understand the pros and cons of each.

Consider Telematics Car Insurance

Applying for your first car insurance policy can seem daunting, especially when you see the price. Opting for telematics insurance (also known as black box insurance) offers new drivers the opportunity to drive safely while potentially lowering insurance premiums.

Telematics insurance utilizes technology to track driving behaviour, including speed, acceleration, braking, and cornering.

For first-time drivers facing higher premiums, this technology provides valuable feedback, promotes safer driving, and can lead to discounts based on good driving behaviour.

After the Purchase

Keep your car in top condition by carrying out regular maintenance. You can do so by following our basic car maintenance checklist. And drive safely as this is the best way to ensure your car stays in top condition for longer. This is also especially important for new drivers.

Check out our tips to pass your driving test first time. Stay informed about important car related topics. Keep up with the latest automotive trends and changes to the NCT


Buying your first car in Ireland can be a thrilling adventure. When buying a car, don’t rush, take your time and do your research to avoid buyer's remorse. With the right preparation and knowledge, you can make informed decisions, leading to years of enjoyable driving.

Remember, this is just the beginning of your journey on the road, and staying informed, safe, and responsible is key to a rewarding driving experience. Happy motoring!

At AIG we have tailor made policies for young drivers including our telematics insurance which could save you money on your car insurance.