Consumers missing out on protection against car write-offs

Car write off
Posted by Michael Rochford on 12 May 2014 in Featured, Importing from the UK, Road Safety, Used Cars

Motorcheck.ie, Ireland’s leading vehicle history check service, is warning that Irish car buyers are missing out, with the announcement that Auto Trader in the UK is to put a write-off warning on all of its classified adverts. Irish consumers, in contrast, are missing out on protection against car write-offs.

With as many as 10 per cent of the cars we import from the UK being former write-offs, this is crucial information for anyone thinking of buying a second hand car. Car write offs fall into four distinct categories and Category C and D write-offs can be repaired and legally put back on the road. Categories A & B are much more serious and must be crushed, never again to appear on the road.

The initiative taken by Auto Trader in the UK will flag up a warning to anyone viewing an online advert for a car known to be previously written off. The consumer can then make an informed choice and either steer clear or investigate further.

Discovering that a vehicle is a Category C or D write off isn’t necessarily the end of the road for some people. Some brave souls choose to use this information to their advantage to haggle a better deal. The list price of a previous Category C or D write off in the UK is typically marked down by up to 25%.

Once prospective buyers can reassure themselves that repairs were made are to a high standard they have little to fear and could even go one step further to obtain a certificate of roadworthiness from an Automotive Engineer. There still remains the problem, however, of unscrupulous sellers circumventing the system and trying to sell cars which have had shoddy repairs or worse still should never have been repaired in the first place.

The UK Model

“Dealers are already required by law to declare category C or D cars to buyers, and many have approached us calling for this change,” said Jason Biffin, Auto Trader consumer marketplace director. “So we have worked closely with them to set up a fully automated process to make it as easy as possible. The prominent icon will also benefit consumers, delivering a message of caution, enabling them to make a fully informed decision about the vehicle they intend to buy.”

crushed-carsWhile this system is to be applauded, it still does not take into account the shady dealings of the less honest car traders. While they are a thankfully diminishing breed, they are certainly still out there and consumers must be on their guard against them.

15,000 cars were imported into Ireland in the first quarter of this year, which means that in and around 1,500 of them were previously written-off. That translates into approximately 4,000-5,000 UK write-offs being brought to Ireland every year. The majority of those will come under Category C & D and that’s fine – often, vehicles can be written off simply because the cost of even a relatively minor repair can be in excess of the overall value of the vehicle. But even a handful of Category A or B write-offs slipping through the net is too many. Entire families could well be putting themselves and other road users at risk because they are driving a car that has previously been so seriously damaged that it was destined for the crusher.

At Motorcheck, an analysis of our write off data has shown that the vast majority of Cat C and D write-offs are repaired and put back on the road. However, we were horrified to discover a small number of Cat A and B write offs, which should have been destined for the crusher, have made their way back on to Irish roads.

Impact on buyers importing UK cars

The fact that UK car buyers (and indeed Irish buyers looking to import from the UK) can now access car write off data within the advert for the car they are looking at is great news for consumers. It does however highlight the continuing issue of write-offs in the Irish market, which is still something of a mess. To this day, insurers in Ireland are not obliged to report Category C or D write-offs to the Department of Transport, a fact which leaves consumers and road users vulnerable to abuse by those who seek to make a fast profit selling an unroadworthy car. While the safety net of the NCT and destruction certificates is there, there are still too many gaps through which an unsafe vehicle can slip. We have gone to so many lengths in this country to reduce road deaths that it seems amazing that this loophole is still being left open.

car-body-repairWhilst Leo Varadkar’s Department has stated their intention to rectify the situation with legislative amendments in the not too distant future, right now people’s lives are being put at risk because readily available information on write-offs is being withheld.

It is shameful that Motorcheck.ie, and others in our industry, must gather data on Cat C and D write-offs without the support of the Government. We have worked tirelessly for years to ensure consumers are better informed of the vehicle history when buying a used car. The planned change in legislation cannot come too soon.

In the meantime, it is imperative that car buyers carefully examine the history of any vehicle they are considering, be it a UK Import or an Irish registered vehicle. An online car check is quick and relatively cheap to perform in contrast to the outlay on a used car, and it just might be the difference between motoring bliss and the unthinkable.

 

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