Thinking of Buying a Car in the UK - Is it for me?

Earlier this month we looked at whether or not it was worth buying a car in the UK. The topic was debated widely given the statistics we released around cars that have been written off in the UK and subsequently registered in Ireland. The latest information shows us that imports are up 25% when compared with last year and we expect that figure to grow as time goes on. So if you're in the market - is buying a car in the UK a viable option?
But before we get into the nitty gritty of how you actually go about the process, let's take a look at your own personal circumstances and decide whether this is something you should consider doing at all. In fact, you could argue that this is the most critical question of the whole process. Forget which car, which model and how much you want to spend, what you really need to do is take a good, long, hard look at the process and decide if this really is something you want to get involved in.
After all, buying a car in Ireland is logistically easy. There are hundreds of car dealers here and all you have to do is go to one of them, slap a bundle of cash down on the table and say “I want that one...” You’ll be home with your new car within the hour, give or take.

Can buying a car in the UK be considered 'Bargain Hunting'?

It is of course, not that simple and there is still a huge temptation to look to the UK for better bargains and a bigger choice of cars. It’s rather like choosing to shop at the Kwik-E-Mart on the corner or the huge Ultramarket that’s a half-hour’s drive away. One is handier, but the other is cheaper and has shinier stuff on the shelves.
So, let’s take stock and see if you’re up for this. In fact, I think it might be rather a good time for a checklist. So...

  1. Do you want the simplest purchasing process possible?
  2. Are you at all concerned about warranties or after-sales care?
  3. Do you hate flying Ryanair?
  4. Are you at all nervous or stressed when it comes to making major purchases?
  5. Do you fear the wrath of Revenue when it comes to VRT calculations?

If you answered yes to all of the above, then I don’t think you are really ready for buying a car in the UK. What you might be ready for is an approach to an Irish-based dealer and get them to bring in a car for you. This a viable option if it’s not really a bargain price you’re after, but a specific car. A dealer here isn’t going to waive their profit margin just because a car is coming in from the UK but you could still get a decent deal when compared to prices for similar cars here at home.


No, if you want the real savings (yes, even net of ferries, flights etc) you have to be prepared to put in the legwork (both virtual and real) and get out there and start looking.
Paul Brady is a user who’s purchased several cars, almost all of them Fords, in the UK in the past, so it’s worth having a read of his experiences. If what follows sounds to you like good fun, and worth the effort, then you’re ready for UK shopping.

For me it comes down to price first, and then that the selection in the UK is so much better, it’s a different world. In the Irish market the selection just isn’t as good, and the spec would often be worse too. The exchange rate has often been helpful in the past too, when Sterling was weak, so it’s worth bearing that in mind.

I’ve bought five cars in the UK so far, and often, if you sell the car on after a year or so, you can find that you’ll actually break even, such is the saving you can make on the initial price.

You have to do your homework. You have to do your research. Look at all the websites, compare all the models you’re interested in, compare the prices between the UK and Ireland, and then factor in all your other costs like ferry, flights, a bit of food. That all goes towards the price you’re paying for the car. The only time you should hit the ground in the UK is really just to collect the keys and bring the car back. Get everything straight before you leave.

It could take weeks, it could even take months to find the car you want, but it’s worth talking to the dealers in the UK as they’re all mostly used to buyers calling from Ireland now, and they’ll give you the best price over the phone, because they know you can’t be there on the forecourt. Make sure you deal with reputable dealers, and get a history check on the vehicle. You’re just buying with less risk that way.

None of this is actually all that difficult. None of it is especially hard, or taxing either in the literal or figurative sense. It just requires plenty of careful planning and attention to detail. If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, or something you have the time and energy to devote to, then you’re on to a winner. If not, perhaps it’s best to just shop locally.
Next time we'll be looking at the best websites to browse to find your ideal motor and what strategy you should employ when making contact with the seller.