Skip to Content
Road Users

Advice on buying a used (second-hand) car

Things to consider when buying a used (second-hand) car.

This content is for general information only. It does not, and is not intended to, provide legal or technical advice or to represent a legal interpretation of the matters it addresses.

Frequently asked questions

Yes. Never, ever, buy a used car or vehicle without at least:

a) getting a qualified mechanic to independently inspect it,

b) carrying out a comprehensive history check through online websites and

c) asking the trader or seller for service records.

No. A roadworthiness cert is a basic safety check on a vehicle every year or two years depending on age and vehicle type. Cars need to be serviced approximately every six months or earlier depending on mileage. Further guidance on the servicing intervals should be done in accordance with the vehicle manufacturer's maintenance manual. The NCT or CVRT centres do not dismantle a vehicle so only parts that can be seen and are accessible can be inspected as part of the test. Also, there is no guarantee that the vehicle has not been crashed or that components have not become excessively worn since its last test. There is also the risk that an NCT or CVRT cert is fake.

You can log onto the following websites:

  • NCT certs at and entering the vehicle registration number and
  • CVRT certs for commercial vehicles at cvrt and entering registration number. This is free and shows the expiry date of the vehicle’s last roadworthiness cert issued.

While a history check may tell you if a vehicle has ever been written off, clocked, or even stolen, it will not tell you whether the tyres are safe or whether certain or critical components are just about to fail.

A qualified mechanic should be able to identify worn or dangerous parts.

Also check the vehicle’s service history for regular maintenance.

You can get an indication if a car has been clocked or written off by carrying out a comprehensive history check online.

You may also view our FAQs on written off vehicles and clocked vehicles.

We still recommend getting a car independently checked. If possible, get a warranty for the car and ask the garage to write the current odometer reading on the receipt. If the dealer is not willing to offer this, consider walking away from the sale. If warranty is offered check the terms and conditions to see what it says about the seller’s obligations. Always carry out some research on the garage or trader and always ask to see the vehicle registration certificate.

  • If you buy a used car from a garage or dealer you have a certain level of protection under consumer legislation if things go wrong.
  • If you buy privately you have very little if any rights and therefore could end up losing all your money.

For more information on your consumer rights when buying a used car log onto Competition and Consumer Protection Commission ( CCPC).

You can find a vehicle’s original NCAP rating on our Euro NCAP look up feature. Older vehicles normally do not have the same safety rating or safety features that would offer extra crash prevention or occupant protection, e.g., airbags, anti-lock braking systems, electronic stability control etc.

Related pages


FAQs on passenger cars, e-Call, safety features, buying used and imported cars, electric cars, clocked cars.