It used to be something close to a mantra. If you wanted better value, better spec or just, plain and simple, a better car, you had to get on the ferry. The UK was the only place to grab yourself a real bargain and learning how to import a car from the UK was a right of passage for us all.
It made nigh-on perfect sense. After all, compared to the best year ever in Irish car sales, way back in 2000 when we bought 247,000 new cars, the UK regularly sells close to two million cars annually. And because our British cousins don't have to pay the punitive Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) that we still meekly submit to, their cars are often of a higher specification. Legends of smoother roads keeping UK cars in better condition are probably just that – legends, but there's no doubt that maintenance standards are higher across the Irish Sea.
Import a car from the UK. Is it still worth it?
So does all this still hold true today? After all, the values of Sterling and the Euro has more or less stabilised, and it's the Euro that remains the (slightly) weaker currency. Since 2008, rates of VRT have fallen on the most popular cars, making them much more affordable and because many of our main vehicle importers are now more closely tied in with their UK or European HQs, standard specifications have improved significantly. Given that there's still an element of hassle and expense in getting to and from the UK when researching and making your purchase, is it still worth looking there for your next car?
Well it very much depends on the make or model of car you're looking for. The biggest problem we have in Ireland today is actually a shortage of supply, there's a lack of cars in the second hand market from 2009 onwards, so in some ways we're being forced to look towards the UK market.
Clearly it's still a popular option. People who have run the gauntlet and learned how to import a car from the UK this year are up 23 per cent on last year, we have had over 30,000 cars imported by both private buyers and dealers alike so far this year.
Which illustrates the point. You don't actually have to go to the UK to buy a UK car. Many Irish dealers are carrying UK-originated stock on their forecourts, simply because for those buyers seeking a car from 2009 onwards, there are very slim pickings to be had in terms of original Irish-reg cars.
Those dealers are, rather obviously, prepared to deal and there are bargains to be had. But putting in some homework hours and some wear and tear on the shoe leather can potentially lead to an even better bargain again.
Joe Diggins (a friend of the blog so to speak) recently bought his family wheels in the UK and he had this to say to us about the experience:
Even with my flight over, ferry back and the dreaded VRT, my car (a peugeot 5008 HDI) was cleared and taxed in my drive for under €20k. The cheapest Irish version I found with higher mileage and lower spec was asking €26k. I flew into heathrow in the morning to pick up the car and drove straight to the ferry same day, so my costs were low enough.
Joe had obviously done his research, and in fact had used a car searching agency, Palmdale, to help him find the right wheels. You may prefer to use your own contacts, or simply to rock up at the nearest dealership to the ferry port and take pot luck. Or buy a sheepskin jacket and a flat cap and take on the auction houses. Whichever route you choose, it seems there are genuine savings to be made.
Research first, travel later...
There's no doubt that it benefits somebody to do the legwork and homework at home, on the internet, before they go. You may not even have to go at all to view the car you want. If you're going the auction route, the likes of Mannheim Auctions and British Car Auctions have professional valuers who will inspect the cars and document any faults, so if you're feeling bullish about it, if that's the make and model of car you want and you're looking for the best possible price, then auctions could be the way to go. Warranties are pan-European now too...
Just keep in mind the dangers that exist in Ireland are present in the UK too. The insurance industry in the UK is very diligent about recording all of their write-off classifications from A to D so if a car has been involved in a serious accident and written off, you'll find that on a Motorcheck car check so obviously that's something we'd recommend you do. The same goes for stolen and cloned vehicles.
So, are you up for it? Does a car hunt on foreign soil sound like a fun adventure or fill you with dread? Will you score a bargain or be haunted by an awkward warranty claim, or stung by Revenue for a calamitous import bill?
Well, over the next few weeks and months here on Motorcheck.ie's blog, we're going to examine each and every aspect of buying in the UK, from where and how to start, through to finding a reliable vendor, to running the VRT gauntlet and dealing with any after-sales issues.
If you've had any experience, good, bad or middling, of buying a car from the UK, we'd love to hear from you and on the same note if you have any specific questions on the subject, do please get in touch.
In the meantime, happy hunting.....