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If you are looking to buy a new (or new-to-you) car, being savvy with your shopping can go a long way towards ensuring you end up with a vehicle that is right for you and your lifestyle.

From researching to dealing with the dealers, negotiating to driving away your dream car, there’s a lot to consider. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Whether you are at the browsing stage or have narrowed down your choices, we are here to offer you some guidance with our top tips for buying a car in Ireland.


The best way to do this is to make a list which will help you to decide on the basics first.

  1. Do you want a petrol, diesel, electric, hybrid or plug-in hybrid?
  2. Do you want a manual or automatic transmission?
  3. How many seats and doors would you like?

Then you make a list of the extras that you would love to have but aren’t necessarily dealbreakers. For example, Bluetooth, sat-nav, reversing camera, leather seats, etc.

Budgeting to buy a car


When it comes to budgeting for your car, you need to decide how much you have to spend on the car itself as well as how much you can afford to spend on running costs e.g. tax and insurance each year, the NCT and fuel.

If you are paying cash and buying secondhand, then buying an older car might cost less but they can be more expensive to tax and insure.

If the car is four years or older but less than 10 years old, you have to factor in the cost of an NCT every two years. If the car is over ten years old but less than 30 years old, you have to factor in the cost of a yearly NCT.

If the car was registered before 2008, then the tax is on the old by-engine-capacity taxation system. If the car was registered after 2008, then the tax is on the CO2-based
system. You can check out the Irish motor tax rates here.

To get an idea of insurance costs, you can put the registration number of the car you are thinking of buying into an online insurance database. These will give you a rough quote.

However, as a rough guide, the smaller the engine the cheaper the insurance, although plenty of other factors are taken into consideration when it comes to insurance premiums.

So, whilst a ten-year-old car for €4000 might seem to be a bargain, a seven-year-old car for €4500 might work out cheaper in the long run.


The best place to search is using the Sweep app, obviously. It is a great way to narrow down your options.

To make the most of the Sweep app, adjust the ‘advanced filter’ settings so you can really focus your search and just look for the cars that match all your requirements. You can search by Make, Model, Fuel Type, Engine Size, Transmission and a lot more. When you have narrowed down your search just ‘like’ the ones that appeal to you.

Apart from online, you can also look at noticeboards in your local supermarket and library and newspapers also carry for sale adverts.

Viewing a car before buying


When you have found a car you like, contact the seller and arrange a viewing. Always arrange a viewing during daylight hours. This is not only for safety but you can see scrapes and damage to the bodywork a lot better. If you have to view the car at night, bring a torch.

If you can, take someone with you when you go to look at the car. If they know about cars all the better, but try to bring someone whose opinion you trust.

When viewing the car make sure you check it out thoroughly.

  • Check the outside and underneath for signs of rust, dents or any other signs that the car may have been in an accident.
  • Check that all windows, door handles, locks and external lights are working.
  • Check under the bonnet for rust.
  • Check the condition of the tyres, any uneven wear could mean that the wheels aren’t correctly aligned.
  • Check the inside for mould, lift up car mats and carpet to look for rust and holes, check all the seatbelts and interior lights work.
  • Start the car and make sure all the dash lights work and most importantly, that no warning lights come on.
  • Check the electrics, air-con, wipers, radio, USB ports and other connection points.
  • Check that the seats adjust and that the steering wheel does too. Try to adjust both so you can find a comfortable driving position.
  • Make a note if the visibility is good out front, back and from the sides. You need to feel comfortable but still be able to find a safe driving position.
  • You should also check the tax disc, NCT details and the VRC (Vehicle Registration Certification) logbook.
  • Make a note of the VRC serial number, the NCT number and the VIN/Chassis number, which you will find on the driver side door frame, dash, and the front of the engine block. You can match these later when you get a car history check.
  • Make a note of the mileage on the odometer, again this should match the NCT cert and the car history check report.

A word on mileage

The average mileage of a regular, privately-owned passenger car in Ireland is roughly 17,000km (10,500 miles in old money).

It can be a little higher for diesel-powered cars that have been used for business (salesman not taxi driver). The mileage for these could be as high as 24,000km/15,000 miles. So if you are looking at a ten-year-old petrol car expect the mileage to be around 170,000km. But don’t be put off by a car with high mileage.

However, if the car you are viewing has much lower mileage for its age and looks like it has been well-driven – heavy wear and tear on the driving seat, pedals, gear selector, steering wheel – be wary and check it out.

Test drive on Galway road

Test driving

You should always test drive the car. Make sure you are insured to drive the car before you go for the viewing. Ask your insurer if your policy covers you to drive another car (this is known as Driving Other Cars (DOC) cover. If not, you can ask your insurance company to add temporary cover. Bring the documents with you to the viewing. If the seller, for whatever reason, won’t let you take the car for a test drive, then walk away.

Test drive the car for around thirty minutes and drive at different speeds and note how the steering, gears and brakes feel. Listen out for any strange noises and check for blue
smoke coming from the exhaust.

Car history check

If you are happy with the visual checks and test drive, the next step is to do a bit of digging to make sure everything is kosher.  A quick car history check will tell you some helpful basics. You just add the car registration number into the website and it will tell you the correct make, model, a brief description and the engine capacity.

You can also pay for a more in-depth check which will carry out a finance check, tell you what the milage should be and the number of owners. We always recommend paying for a more in-depth report.

Agreeing the deal on a car


If you are buying a used car from a private seller use any dents, scrapes, wear and tear as bargaining tools to ask for some money off.

If you are buying a new car from a dealer, you can save some money by buying an ex-demo car, buying a run-out model or buying at the end of the month.

For more ways on how to save money when buying a car in Ireland, have a read of our money-saving tips blog post.


We would advise you to pay with a bank draft or bank transfer and not with cash. If you leave a deposit, make sure you get a receipt and make sure the seller signs it.

When you have paid for the car in full, you and the seller both need to sign the change of ownership section on the VRC and put it in the post asap.

Driving away

When you have paperwork all sorted and the keys in your hand, you can drive away your new car provided it is taxed, insured and has a valid NCT. If it doesn’t you can always tow it away.