The financial pressures created by the twin forces of Covid-19 and Brexit have seen more Irish consumers gambling when it comes to buying a car and the search for the best value could be putting lives on the line, the State’s consumer watchdog has warned.

As many as 20 per cent of people who buy second-hand cars in Ireland carry out no checks and are at risk of losing substantial sums or putting their lives at danger as a result, according to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).

Research published on Wednesday morning also found that just under a quarter of car buyers buy from private sellers, which means they have no protection under consumer law if things go wrong.

The results show that 44 per cent Irish consumers have bought a used car in the last five years with 23 per cent buying from a a private seller. All told 45 per cent reported checking if the vehicle had been previously crashed or seriously damaged before purchasing while 20 per cent admitted they did not carry out any checks before buying.

The data suggests that 42 per cent of women are likely to check crash or serious damage history before buying compared with 48 per cent of men.

Every year the CCPC receives more than a thousand calls from consumers reporting issues with used cars, including those who have unknowingly bought crashed or clocked cars.

When compared with a similar study carried out by the CCPC in 2016, the percentage of consumers who had a mechanic check their car before buying has fallen from 49 per cent in 2016 to 36 per cent in 2021. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of consumers who bought a used car without carrying out any checks at all, from 17 per cent in 2016 to 20 per cent in 2021.

“Buying a car is one of the most important purchases a consumer can make,” said CCPC spokeswoman Grainne Griffin. “Not only is it a substantial financial investment, but buying an unsafe car can have tragic consequences.”

She said that since March, the CCPC has seen an increase in the number of consumers making contact because they have unknowingly purchased a crashed car.

“The Irish used car market has been significantly impacted in recent months by both Covid-19 and Brexit. Consumers in some cases are taking increased risks by buying cars from private, or less reputable sellers without checking the car history,” she said.

“Brexit has had an impact on the cost of used cars and consumers may be tempted to cut corners to get a lower price. We are strongly advising consumers to use our car buyer’s checklist if they are buying a used car and always independently check the vehicle history.”


The Irish Times

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