Who to buy from

For many motorists, buying a used motor vehicle goes beyond choosing the make and model that best suits their needs and budget, it’s also about who to purchase from. There are arguments for and against the three most popular options available and all have their potential risks. The secret is to try and reduce those risks and to help avoid future unpleasant surprises.

The three popular options are buying privately, buying from a licensed Motor Vehicle Trader or buying from an auction.

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Buying privately

By far the private to private sale is the most popular with many car buyers believing that is where they can negotiate the best deal price-wise. This option however is very much a buyer beware situation and gives the new owner virtually no warranties or guarantees.

The law does state a vehicle should have a Warrant of Fitness no older than one month old at the time of sale however, a sale can still proceed if the WoF is current or if there is no WoF at all. In this case the buyer needs to acknowledge this condition. Provided the vehicle was not deliberately misrepresented at the time of sale any mechanical defects going forward become the responsibility of the new owner. For this reason alone, a private sale should always be cheaper than buying from a licensed trader when like-for-like vehicles are being considered.

Buying from a licensed Motor Vehicle Trader

Anyone selling more than six vehicles a year must register as a Motor Vehicle Trader. Buying from a licensed Motor Vehicle Trader provides protection from money owing or a bad debt being registered against a vehicle.

The Motor Vehicle Sales Act states that a trader must by law sell an unencumbered motor vehicle. In addition the vehicle must be sold 'Fit for Purpose' and full details of the vehicle (age, engine size, distance travelled, number of owners and price) must be available on the Consumer Information Notice (CIN) attached as a window card and clearly visible to all potential buyers.

If there are any mechanical problems detected after purchase the purchaser does have the right to return the vehicle to the trader in the first instance for possible rectification. Some dealers will include a mechanical warranty either inclusive or additional to the sale price. In the event of a dispute, claims against a motor vehicle trader should be lodged with the Disputes Tribunal Office. Lodge your complaint at the District Court nearest to the dealer's premises.

You may well pay more, but there are definite advantages when using this sales channel particularly if a buyer has limited mechanical knowledge. Not all licensed traders are the same however, so some caution is recommended. If a buyer is unsure about the credibility of the trader, they should walk away.

Buying from an auction

Motor vehicle auctions have become very popular in recent years, for both for the seller and the buyer. Some prior homework on current market values is essential to avoid being caught up in the hype on auction day. Going head-to-head with another buyer and ending up paying too much is only ever a win to the auction company and vehicle owner.

While vehicles are available for inspection, only limited road tests are allowed prior to the auction and contrary to what many people believe, vehicles sold via auction currently have no warranty, so it’s very much 'buyer beware' similar to a private sale.

Auctions have also become a selling option for licensed traders trying to quit stock or for cars with mechanical issues that are too expensive for the seller to fix. Previous accident damage and poor repair standards cannot be ruled out either.

Without doubt there are more satisfied owners who have purchased via an auction than unhappy ones but caution is strongly recommended. Knowing exactly what you want and how much you are prepared to pay is essential.

Checking a car's history is a must when buying privately or via an auction. These reports ensure the seller is the legitimate owner, there is no financial institution with an interest on money owing and will detail a WoF, odometer and registration history.

It is also strongly recommended that a pre-purchase check be carried out before committing to purchase as a final confirmation the car has no obvious mechanical faults. This applies to all of the above options.

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