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What to look out for when importing a car from the UK

What to look out for when importing a car from the UK

It’s hard to avoid being even a little curious about all the talk relating to importing your next car from UK, including Northern Ireland. Daily updates about the value of Sterling and that neighbour of yours who has been telling everyone on the street recently about his new purchase from the UK, makes it all the harder to ignore.


So tell me, is there a risk?

Well, yes of course. Regardless of the model, age or specification of the car you are contemplating buying, it has spent some of its life in some aspect of anonymity if it’s been in the UK, including Northern Ireland. Many case studies show a high rate of cars being clocked (the mileage adjusted in favour of a lower reading and hence a higher price) or the car being damaged or written off, show that it can be quite the purchasing minefield. The UK uses a categorising system from A to D if a vehicle has been damaged at some stage through its life. “A” for a car that is beyond safe repair; the most seriously damaged vehicle, through to “D” for not very serious at all. This is actually helpful as there is a central database for recording these types of insurance repairs.


Ah I see. So how could I reduce the risk then?

Just like in Ireland, the more reputable the seller, the easier you’ll sleep at night. For example, buying off that guy with three phone numbers and who answers to four different names when you call through from the online ad showing that beautiful and under-priced car just outside London is pretty high-risk, let’s be fair. On the flip-side, a large franchised dealer (take Volkswagen for a simple example) will have their cars presented and prepared to the highest standard and will be required by their brands’ head office to have the highest level of checks carried out and in lots of cases that dealer will have done hours of research before taking the car off its previous owner, making sure it’s clear of finance, damage and any automotive themed skeletons in the closet. In this case, it’s in their best interest even before the next owner comes into the equation.

Furthermore, plenty of Irish companies will scan through finance and insurance databases to cross check the car’s history for a relatively small fee. Just take a look at motorcheck.ie or cartell.ie for a flavour of what you find out about a car’s history.


I did it! Just bought a UK car and I love it! So, day to day, what now?

Well, in recent years Irish car dealers have had to (significantly!) change their mind-set and business style to cater for people who have gone and bought a car elsewhere. So rather than give you plenty of reasons why they can’t or won’t get you in to their workshop to look at their car, the vast majority are more than happy to carry out what are called Vehicle Health Checks on that car you’ve just bought, to give you peace of mind. These dealers are keen to get a relationship built up so that if you have any issues after you import the car, they can be your first point of contact. They didn’t see you when you bought the car, now they definitely want to see you for anything else you need.

So a post-purchase check is important. Some dealers will do this for little or nothing (well, your email address and contact number isn’t a big ask!) and some may charge a nominal fee. Chances as there’ll be other people in the dealership on the same day doing the exact same thing. You see, a total change of perspective from car dealers.


Great idea. Based on your advice I went and did this; I learned loads!

I bet! So they probably spent some time going through the car and pointed out anything that needs attention afterwards. There’s a chance your car may have a recall outstanding (sounds alarming, usually isn’t!) due to the fact that manufacturers issues thousands of recalls per year and some letters aren’t exactly prioritised by the previous owners. In all cases, if there’s a recall on your car it will be carried out for free. If your car is going for its NCT, this is a great way to get an idea of the “health” of the car and what you may have to do to get it up to scratch for an NCT. In fact, brands like Audi and Skoda actually give you some discounts for booking online too. You see, car brands want to see you after you’ve imported your car!


There was actually an offer on a basic car service when I was here. I wasn’t too sure, so I got it serviced. Was it a good or bad idea do you think?

Firstly, there’s no obligation to go and spend anything other than what the car dealer may charge you for the checks. But getting a service is always a safe decision. In fact, we bet if you look at your insurance policy it will have an option to include roadside assistance or breakdown cover. Well in most cases, franchised car dealers (Audi and Volkswagen for sure, but the majority in fact) will add this for free when you have your car serviced. No point paying insurers for it then! See if you can get a little discount on your insurance by removing it.


I felt the guys in the dealership were pretty welcoming and I actually went back to get tyres and check an engine malfunction light a few months after too. All sorted quickly. I’m thinking of changing the car again next year though; what next?

Now you’ve built the relationship with the dealer you can see if they have any cars in stock that suit you. They could be interested in taking your car as a trade in and the fact you decided to have it serviced with them, maximises the chance of a good resale value. You gave the car full traceability during your ownership, an undeniably wise decision. Any future buyer will be impressed that the car was seen by a franchised dealer too and they’ll have an online and offline record of that to back it up.


I’m between a rock and a hard place; buy here and get a car that doesn’t quite check all the things on my wish list, or look to the UK again. Enlighten me!

As with any product where there’s lots of options and permutations, it can be hard to find precisely what you want. If you decide to import another, well you know exactly where to go for any checks or services for the next one. That dealer will be delighted to see your next car coming back again. Loyalty is a big factor for these guys. Do lots of research and see if the salesperson in that dealership where you had your car serviced can source something from another dealer in Ireland. Maybe they know of someone else who’s thinking of changing their car and it’s close (or exactly) what you want. Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for local knowledge.

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