Buying a car and getting insurance in Ireland for immigrants can be an expensive hassle, so it pays to do your homework and be as prepared as you can be, before you start shopping.
First of all, let’s talk a bit about buying a car. The easiest way would seem to do what we did, when we arrived. Do a quick tour of the dealerships in and around Dublin and buy a car that looked to be suitable and not too expensive. On hindsight that turned out to be a very expensive mistake.
First off, cars in and around Dublin are fair expensive. Setting a price range and shopping around in counties further afield can save you a LOT of money and potentially bag you a real bargain. So take your time and don’t hesitate to travel to get to a better deal. Don’t discount private sales either. I bought a lovely car privately, negotiated on the price a bit and ended up getting a good car at way less than I expected to and was prepared to pay. Look and look and look some more before you buy.
Secondly, once you find a car you like, before you buy, check if the vehicle has an up-to-date NCT, road tax paid up etc. If not, and it’s often the case, these requirements would add to the cost and hassle (getting an appointment for an NCT test usually takes a few weeks, add to that the pre-NCT check at a garage and inevitable minor repairs needed). Check the disks and ask the dealer/seller. The tax disc states the annual amount payable and expiry/due date.
Secondly, let’s have a look at car insurance. This, in Ireland, is a sore point, with premiums high and increases over the last 2 years hitting cash strapped motorists hard.
TIP: Before you buy a car, contact a few car insurance companies and/or an insurance broker and find out what their restrictions are. Ask them about any restrictions on vehicles, your licence, your driving and insurance history etc and buy a car accordingly.
If you buy a vehicle on a foreign driving licence be prepared to be turned down by a few companies. I spoke to a few that will not, for any amount of money, insure you on anything other than a full Irish or preliminary licence. One company told us they will insure a foreign licence holder for a month only, another said they will not insure a vehicle older than 10 years for a foreign licence holder. Another company told me they will only insure foreign drivers holding licences from the UK, other EU countries and “possibly” Australia.
Some companies now refuse to insure cars older than 10 years and one told me today they will not insure cars older than 17 years (currently 2000 model), so find out of your chosen company has a restriction on car age etc before you buy one. Or just play it safe and buy a car no older than around 9 years.
Insurance companies keep changing their regulations, so phone around and ask questions, or go through an insurance broker and let them do it for you.
Something that is required by some insurance companies and will save you a small fortune with all of them is what they call a “no claims bonus”. This means providing paperwork proving that you have had previous insurance for a car or other vehicle in your country of origin and even better, no claims. Ask your insurance company to write you a letter detailing your insurance history with them and present this to the company you contact for a quote in Ireland. It will save you a LOT of money! If you are from a country where insurance is not compulsory (like South Africa) and have no insurance history and/or was not named on a car insurance policy in the last one to two years, be prepared to fork out an exorbitant fee for your first year’s insurance in Ireland. And be prepared to be turned down by some companies for lack of experience.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate position, your cheapest option would be Third Party Insurance, if you can get it, which is the minimum legal requirement and will generally insure you for claims resulting from any third parties due to damage caused by your car. This includes damage to the third parties car, their property and personal injury. This level of insurance will not cover damage to or theft on your car though, so if you are in an accident you will have to pay the damages and repairs sustained by your car yourself. The first year’s fee for this cover however could still set you back a substantial amount of money and finding a company that is willing to insure you may take some effort, so find out before you buy a car and when you do, buy a car with a low market value, until you have some “history” with your insurance company and can get better rates.
Also see my post about Driving In Ireland