How to Buy a Car from Northern Ireland

How to Buy a Car from Northern Ireland [Case Study]

How to Buy a Car from Northern Ireland - SmallSo you have Seen a car you like the look of, but quickly realised the car is in Northern Ireland, now you’re wondering what you would need to do to get it back to England and if it’s even worth it.

So How do you buy a car from Northern Ireland?

Being part of the UK we can freely move Cars between both Countries, however, there are a few minor quirks and logistical issues which we overcame, and this article will show you how we did it.

Let’s Talk about this in more detail.

Why Buy a car From Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland sits at a population of around 2 million people and is the smallest country in the United Kingdom. If we look at this from a car perspective it means there are fewer people to buy Cars from and fewer people to sell cars to.  

How Can we use this to our advantage?

Northern Ireland is Statistically proven to be one of the cheapest regions to buy a car in the UK, which is great news for Car Flippers like us or even people looking to pick up a car to keep for a while, there are potentially thousands of pounds worth of savings to be had shopping in Northern Ireland

So Why Don’t People Buy Cars From Northern Ireland

The primary reason is that logistically it’s not the easiest of things to do and take takes time to organise your schedule. The process almost always includes having to fly, use public transport and then once the car is purchased bringing it back on a ferry. The trip will at minimum take the majority of at least one whole day and doing a 1200-1500 mile round trip is not unusual.

Simply put the majority of people cannot be ‘ bothered’ to do this, however, this is great news for people who can and means there is less competition for deals.

Another reason which puts people off buying a car from Northern Ireland is the misconceptions that there are some kind of import costs or permits required to transfer vehicles across, this is not the truth, whilst there may be companies that charge you to do this service for you, cars can be moved freely around the UK.

Northern Irish number plates are valid to be used in England and although you can re-register them if you wish, there is no obligation for you to do so. Many people end up keeping the NI plates due to their ability to be able to hide the age of a car.

Having talked about this there a few things unique to Northern Ireland which you must be aware of.

How to Buy a Car from Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland is not hooked up to the MOT Database used in England, Scotland and Wales. There is an obvious downside to this meaning we cannot examine a car’s complete MOT history online.  Cars that have started out life in the other UK countries and taken over to Northern Ireland will still show up on the MOT database but will display gaps in the history where manual NI MOT’s have been carried out

In Northern Ireland, a car’s first MOT is required after four years which is different than the other UK countries where the requirement for a car’s first MOT is after three years.


You may find there are plenty of cars in Northern Ireland that were initially registered in either England, Scotland and Wales, in which case all of the paperwork you need to complete is exactly the same as you would when purchasing a car here.

If the car is a registered NI car then the paperwork will be slightly different however the same principles will apply, you can read our post on what paperwork you need to check when buying a new car. Once you have returned from Northern Ireland with your NI registered car, you can easily have the paperwork converted back to the standard UK V5C by contacting the DVLA.

You will have a choice to change the plates to standard UK plates or keep the NI Plates if you wish.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Car From Northern Ireland

Pre Purchase Inspection (PPI)

We recommend a PPI When buying a car from Northern Ireland.

This involves you paying a qualified mechanic a small fee (£50-£100) to visit the seller on your behalf and examine the car for you. This saves you the nightmare of travelling all the way to Northern Ireland only to realise the car is an absolute shed and you have wasted your time and money.

The mechanic will provide you with a full report which will list any faults if discovered and give you an opinion on the car, use this to base your decision on whether to travel or not.

We recommend using to request your PPI checks, however, we have been informed that they do not cover the entirety of NI (especially the more remote regions). In which case you will have to manually find a mechanic in the area your car is located and pay them for the PPI, a simple Google search will help you with this.

Plan and pay for your travel in advance

It’s cheaper to book flights, Ferry and accommodation in advance, plan out your journey as meticulous as possible and prepare for any things that may be out of your control such as flight delays. Depending on where you are going in Northern Ireland to buy the car, the trip will take the majority of one day. Consider if this is possible for you or if you will need to book overnight accommodation

Heck, why not make a day out of it!

Don’t carry Cash

Especially a large sum of money, agree with the seller that you will be paying via bank transfer once you are happy with everything on arrival.

Case Study: How We Purchased a Once £55,000 Sports Car For 63% OFF From Northern Ireland.

How to Buy a Car from Northern Ireland

We noticed for a sale on Gumtree, a beautiful looking 2013 Audi S4 Black Edition

The car was in a striking Estoril Blue which upon a bit of research we discovered was now a discontinued colour by Audi making this car a little rare.

The car sat at 42,000 miles which were slightly below the average for a car of this age (check out our guide on how to determine if the mileage on a car is genuine) and being the black edition was well optioned including all of the desirable features.

The car appeared well maintained and had a number of owners and was priced at £24,000

The only slight issue was that the car was located in Dungannon, Northern Ireland. To go and buy this car would have been a 1200 mile round trip.

Using our how to value a car formula we made the seller an offer of £20,000, which was right around trade value for the car.

The cost of the travel and the cost of bringing the car back were all factored into the offer.

The seller initially declined the offer, however, we left the channel of communication open with him and informed him the offer would remain on the table should anything change.

Around a week later we had contact from the seller stating he would now accept our offer as he was having difficulties finding a buyer in Northern Ireland. We then set the wheels in motion and did the following things in this order

  • Requested full details of the car from the owners, including photos of the service book and the MOT papers
  • Arranged a Pre Purchase Inspection and paid a local mechanic £75 to visit the address of the seller and examine the car and test drive it on our behalf. The mechanic provided a report stating the car was in perfect Condition with only minimal cosmetic wear and tear (Had the car failed this stage then it would have been the end of the deal depending on what was wrong with it or potentially a further discount negotiated)
  • Completed all our pre-car checks, including a HPI check, mileage verification checks and checks on the seller. We discovered the car still had outstanding finance. This was confirmed with the seller who stated the finance would be cleared upon sale and he would happily provide proof of this to us – Great.

We booked our travel one week in advance of leaving to get the cheapest price possible, we decided not to stay and collect and bring the car back home on the same day, this how we booked the schedule to look like

  • Flight from Birmingham to George Best Airport £99
  • Arranged to meet the seller at the airport and travel back to his house to complete paperwork
  • Drive to Dublin, Ireland with the new Car
  • Get on a Ferry from Dublin with the Car and Travel to Holyhead Port, Wales – Cost of Ferry £119
  • Drive from Holyhead back to Birmingham  – Cost of fuel – £50

Total Costs of all travel = £ 268

The deal went without a hitch, on arrival we paid the money via bank transfer and managed to return back to Birmingham in the late evening. Luckily the car was a previously a car registered in Scotland so all the paperwork was virtually the same.

Total Costs of Car

  • Purchase Price £20,000
  • Travel £ 268
  • Total £20.268

We kept this car for 11 months which is perhaps longer then we should have and covered an enjoyable 5K miles in it.

The car was sold for £20,250 via Autotrader in November 2017

Yes for the eagle-eyed reader this was a LOSS of £18!

We did not profit on the vehicle, however, here at car flipping 101, our ethos is to drive cars for FUN & profit.

Let’s Look at it This Way

How to Buy a Car from Northern Ireland [Case Study]

We drove a beautiful head-turning Audi Sportscar which packed 333 BHP as standard for a full 11 months and covered 5k miles in it.

  • We purchased it for 63% off the original sticker price
  • We spent nothing on maintenance of the car.
  • If you take into account the £18 loss it cost us £1.63 per month to drive this car

Would you pay £1.63 per month to drive an Audi S4?

We recouped the majority of the money we paid for the car because we purchased the correctly at the right price and were the only ones who could be ‘bothered’ to do the 1200 mile round trip to pick the car up.


How to Buy a Car from Northern Ireland

There some amazing deals to be had in Northern Ireland, don’t be afraid to be able to do the Journey if the deal is right! The jet takeaway is to make sure the car is mechanically sound before you set off via doing a PPI check, be sure to use our other guides on how to value the car correctly so you don’t pay over the odds.

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