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Irish eyes for British used cars

Ireland’s car dealers are fighting a losing battle against used imports, most of which originate in Britain. As a result, some are linking up with British dealers to import cars themselves.

Already more expensive because of the country’s high Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT), Irish cars are generally serviced less frequently, are less well maintained and have a lower equipment specification than their UK counterparts. This has resulted in a growing number of Irish buyers and dealers crossing the water to buy premium used cars.

British dealers are now teaming up with Irish partners. TVD, a newly established Dublin-based car auction and import company, is in negotiations with several large UK dealers to import and sell quality used cars to the Irish trade.

Ray Garland, a consultant for TVD, says: “Demand is continuing to grow for higher-spec cars.

Even with the cost of shipping from the UK, cars can generally be sourced for a few thousand euros less than in Ireland.”

The average value of an imported used car last year was around £7,300 and the average engine size was 1,800cc, but there is a growing trend towards more expensive premium German marques.

BMW Group Ireland says that almost as many used BMWs were imported from Britain last year as the total number of new models its dealers managed to sell.

Demand is also being driven by Ireland’s burgeoning car parc. There are 1.6m cars on Irish roads, 39.4 cars per 100 people.

The EU average is 47.6 cars per 100 people and the UK average is closer to 50.

But Ireland is catching up. Over the last six years, the Irish car parc has grown by 26%, fuelled by the prosperous economy, a growing population and an influx of foreign workers.

A growing number of Irish buyers – over 57,000 last year – are making substantial savings by choosing to buy their car from the UK. This is a rise of 50% over the number exported from the UK in 2005, which itself was up 40% on 2004.

While individual buyers and small independent dealers currently make up the bulk of those importing cars into Ireland, the door remains ajar for UK used car sellers to capitalize on this up-and-coming market.

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