Archive for the ‘advice’ Category

I have been using the Internet for years now, and for as long as I can remember I have been pricing cars on line and in the last few years you can even buy a car from places like ebay, but the basic premise of buying a car hasn’t changed much in Ireland, we still find a car on a dealer web site and then go along to a showroom where we are coaxed into buying a car. Well things are changing, imagine if you could go online to see over 70 pictures of the car you like, put down a fully refundable 99 euro deposit, go to a warehouse to test drive the car and then drive it home when you pay the balance, no pressure.

Thats what you can do on, I came across the web site one night when I was looking for a price of a car and it seemed to me as an interesting idea, auto direct take ex-lease cars and sell them to retail buyers at knock down prices.

For those that don’t know, leasing companies buy job lots of cars and lease them to medium and large business as fleet cars. For the most part these cars are really well looked after, only being used by sales and management as company cars. They tend to be serviced on schedule and sold off after a couple of years. The leasing companies sell the cars on and buy new ones, it’s at this point when auto direct get involved, they are effectively middle men between you and the leasing companies, so you get a young, well serviced car for a knock down price. This seemed too good to be true so I decided to visit the warehouse where the cars are stored for viewing.

Normally you would go into a big glass showroom and meet lots of people in suits but there’s little of that here. The idea is you see every aspect of the car online, even down to the tyre condition before you visit the showroom, this is an e-commerce solution at it’s best. It’s much the same as buying anything else on the Internet, except it’s a car.

With all of the stock coming from ex-fleet and no trade in’s Autodirect are in a unique position to be able to cut the prices that they charge down to the bone, but that doesn’t mean cutting corners. All of the cars are inspected by the AA and get a report done.

After a quick tour of the offices I was let loose in the warehouse, there isn’t a big glass showroom, all the cars are kept indoors and they are spotlessly clean. There’s a car turntable and professional lighting at the end of the warehouse where a photographer takes hundreds of pictures that are put up live on the site, there’s no mechanics, oil or even dirt anywhere to be seen, the showroom in on the internet, where I’m standing is more of a handover room.

So what’s the cars like? I decided to take an Insignia out for a test drive, I noticed the Vauxhall logo on the front which means this is a UK car, there’s nothing wrong with that, really there isn’t a dealer in the country who hasn’t got a UK car sitting on his forecourt at the moment. The Insignia is like new, the valeting team done a great job, it’s a 2009 but there isn’t a mark on it. The warehouse is way down the back of the Toughers business park between Newbridge and Naas, they have a huge yard that leads out onto a wide open road where you can have a proper test drive without having to get into traffic. may have hit upon a new way of selling cars in Ireland, although the method has been in operation elsewhere for some time now. But it does give the Irish buyer a new way to buy a car, I can see no down side for the buyer, the cars are immaculate, cheap and readily available.

If your in the market for a change of car it will cost you nothing to have a look at the web site, compare some of the prices, you never know you might just get the bargain you’ve been hoping for.


Here’s the video of the Fiat 500c, we are very proud of this video, yes we’re getting better….enjoy!

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

A man drove a cement truck up to the gates of Leinster House this morning in protest over how the Irish government bailed out, and continues to bail out Anglo Irish bank. Twitter broke the news this morning with a person on site with a camera phone, he uploaded the pictures of the truck in a tweet before there were any of the main stream news-hounds on site.

I think this is a tragic situation, that a man has to resort to this kind of action to make himself heard. It says a lot about our kind of system that someone feels that much emotion that he has to drive a cement truck to government house. You have to ask why this man felt so enraged that he needed to carry out an action so drastic. If someone drove a truck up to the gates of the White house he would be shot before he got within a hundred yards.

What should we do? Ignore him? Help him? Protest until his release? Or maybe mark him down as yet another casualty of this recession.

I think the politicians should sit up and take notice, he is just one voice but he echos the voice of millions.

Bob Flavin

Kia motors have announced the prices and specs of the latest version of the Sportage. There are to be 3 models of the car which will be on offer late 2010 and early 2011, prices start with the €27,800 1.7D EX model, it develops 115bhp and is B rated for tax. 17” alloys, half leather, Bluetooth and a panoramic sunroof,

A step up from that is the GSE priced at €29,995 that gets you heated seats and full leather along with Xenon lights and climate control.

The first edition you’ll see in October is the 2.0D 136hp all wheel drive model priced at €31,495 features 18” alloy wheels an ECM rear view mirror with colour camera in its standard equipment. Of course there’s a 7 year warranty on the Sportage which puts them way ahead of the competition.

Citroen have been tinkering with their engines and have managed to drop the CO2 emmissions for the C4 Picasso , Grand C4 Picasso and C5 models it breaks down like this:

Engine C4 Picasso & Grand C4 Picasso

1.6HDi 110hp DPFS

C4 Picasso & Grand C4 Picasso

1.6HDi 110hp DPFS EGS

Urban Cycle 6.7 (42.2mpg) 6.2 (45.6mpg)
Extra Urban 4.5 (62.8mpg) 4.4 (64.2mpg)
Combined 5.3 (53.3mpg) 5.1 (55.4mpg)
CO2 emissions (g/km) 140 (Previously 145) 135 (Previously 140)
Engine C5 1.6HDi 110hp

(Saloon and Tourer)

Urban Cycle 6.4 (44.1mpg)
Extra Urban 4.2 (67.3mpg)
Combined 5.0 (56.5mpg)
CO2 emissions (g/km) 130 (Previously 140)
Engine C5 2.0HDi 160hp SALOON C5 2.0HDi 160hp TOURER
Urban Cycle 6.8 (41.5mpg) 6.8 (41.5mpg)
Extra Urban 4.4 (64.2mpg) 4.4 (64.2mpg)
Combined 5.3 (53.3mpg) 5.3 (53.3mpg)
CO2 emissions (g/km) 139 (Previously 147) 139 (Previously 149)

It’s good news as it shifts some of the cars into a lower tax band, you can check the tax rates here

Does the bank own your car?

Posted: September 21, 2010 by smokerspack in advice, Car news, old cars, Uncategorized, Videos
Tags: , ,

Last nights consumer show was interesting for the outstanding finance piece that was covered. There are so many cars out there that have finance on them I would be worried about buying any car without checking it’s history. If you’re a regular reader here you will know that I’m always banging on about doing a full history check on any car you’re about to buy, not just for finance but service and write off status.
There are two cases that I know of where there are repossession orders on cars that have outstanding finance. In one of those cases the current owner bought the car over twelve months ago in a private deal and has subsequently found out that the car has outstanding finance from two owners ago, now the car is the bone of contention. They bought it in good faith from an owner who owed nothing on it, the owner before his owed thousands on the car, I wouldn’t like to be the one to sort out that mess. The debt however is still on the car, now that the debt has been sold on either the car goes to service the debt or someone has to pay the loan off. The last owner is always the looser in these cases as there’s no getting a refund on the purchase, so the car goes as does anything spent on the car.
In a recent survey our friends at found that out of 100 cars 7 of them had finance outstanding.
It breaks down like this:
It found that of the 100 examined;
– 30% of the sample turned up positive for finance on the official records of the Irish Credit Bureau
– 21% of the sample were confirmed to have been on finance on the day they were advertised (verified by bank named on the record)
– 14% of the sample still have finance outstanding today (verified by the bank named on the record)

Of the 14% that were confirmed to be on finance;
– 2 were advertised by private sellers
– 5 were advertised by a member of the SIMI
– 7 were advertised by independent dealers and not affiliated with the SIMI

So you see that there are all walks selling cars with money owed on them. It’s common for dealers to sell a car with finance, they just pay off the loan when the car sells. But if they sell you car, don’t pay the loan and go out of business there is a real possibility that the bank may chase you for the outstanding balance on the car, or that your car gets repossessed.
Take my advice and do your checks folks.

Note: Finance checks can be performed on the website at a cost of €12 per check.
The above survey was used on RTE’s The Consumer Show last night on RTE1. To view the segment click here

Can you get a free NCT?

Posted: September 18, 2010 by smokerspack in advice, NCT
Tags: , , , , , ,

The National Car Test is a European directive; it is supposed to test all cars over four years old to see if they are fully roadworthy. The NCT certification is legally required for your car if it’s on the road in Ireland; you get 5 penalty points and a €1,500 fine if you don’t display one in the window of your car.

For the privilege of taking the test you must pay €50 on the day of testing whether you pass or fail. A re-test of underperforming parts costs €28. I believe the NCT does a good job of finding the rogue cars out there with bad brakes and bald tyres but there are a few problems.

My car is 4 years old this year so it was due its first NCT. I called the booking line in April and a lady told me that there were no slots open at my chosen centre, she asked if I would like to choose a different centre, when I refused that she said that a booking letter would come in the post that would tell me when I would have to take the test. At the time I thought nothing more of it. On the 5th of May the booking letter arrived, the date I received was the 5th of August for my test, a full three months wait. In the mean time I had a look around the internet and I came across a PDF of a booklet for the NCTS, in it there’s a “Standards of customer service” section and I read with some interest section 4, it reads:

“Ensure that an average leadtime for an appointment at an individual test centre is less than three weeks with a free test if this is greater than four weeks”

So to me that would mean a free test, I mean I have to wait 3 months for mine. On the 5th of August I presented my car for testing, before he would test the car I had to hand over €50, despite my arguing with the tester and even showing him the section in the pamphlet he still wouldn’t let me off the money. He told me that I had to apply for a refund so he printed me a full receipt and told me to get in touch with customer service.

I called them while I waited for my car to go through the tests, I talked to a woman who told me I would have to apply in writing for a refund, there was nothing she could do over the phone, even though she could see when the test was booked, they wanted to listen to the recording of the call just to make sure I didn’t request the booking for this date. I haven’t written a letter in years so I asked could I email it in, after a little arguing I was put through to a supervisor. She gave me the same answer but told me I could email . I sent in the receipt and a little note explaining my annoyance at being charged in the first place, I even sent a copy to Noel Dempsey the Minster for Transport.

After nearly 50 minutes my car was ready, it only took 50 minutes because of a tea break that happens around 10.30am, why they don’t finish the car they are working on before a tea break is beyond me, added to that, they all go together so there’s no one left working.

My car passed, I enquired from the tester if there were many people looking for free tests, he told me that there were “loads” of people, and that the NCTS want them to test two more cars a day there by putting more pressure on them. I wondered if it took 3 months to get my date and they add two more cars a day, just how long would it take to get a test date in the future, also how many free tests are performed by the NCTS because of the backlog?

After 4 phone calls and a number of emails I got a letter in the post from the NCT;

“Item 4 in our customer charter states “Ensure that and average lead time for an appointment at an individual test centre is less than three weeks with a free test if it is greater than four weeks” This refers to a situation where a customer requests a sooner appointment but where the NCT is unable to provide one.”

It doesn’t say that, item 4 makes no reference to me requesting a particular date, the letter went on…

“…I was unable to find your initial booking call; therefore we must ask you to provide us with the telephone number from which you made the booking call..”

It took 2 days for that letter to arrive and all he wanted was a phone number, he could have emailed or phoned me and got that. I decided to call them again, providing the phone number he wanted; I was told that “the matter will be investigated”

On the 11th of August I got another letter from the NCT which states the same thing;

“Item 4, <snip> this refers to a situation where a customer requests a sooner appointment but where the NCT is unable to provide one. Our records show that you were offered and accepted an appointment for the 5/8/2010.

Notwithstanding this, as a gesture of good will I would like to offer you a refund of the test fee. A cheque will be issued from our accounts department shortly.”

That means I should have asked for a sooner test, so I’m at fault but out of the goodness of their hearts they’ll refund my fee. I got a letter with a date on it, the date was more than 4 weeks so the test should be free. These people know their job, they know the dates, they should be offering me the soonest date available right? I wanted to find out just how many free tests are happening, on the Applus + web site it says that they carry out more than 1.4 million tests per year, so how many of them are done for free because of the lead time? I asked the RSA who is the responsible body for the NCT, they referred it onto Vehicle standards who came back with:

“The NCT service has been exceptionally busy this year and indeed the first quarter of 2010 has been the busiest since the NCT was established eleven years ago. There are a number of factors which contribute to this level of demand including the following:

· The decline in new vehicle sales in 2008 and 2009 has led to greater demand for testing of older vehicles.

· The large numbers of second hand imports in 2008, 2009 and 2010 has driven demand and is impossible to predict as sterling values and prices in Ireland drive this demand.

· The introduction of penalty points has increased drivers compliance and has brought almost 80,000 extra cars into the testing system and has generally led to drivers seeking tests mush[sic] earlier than had been the case in the past.

· The majority of new vehicles are registered in the first quarter and NCT falls due on the anniversary of registration. This means that the first quarter is the busiest period and demand rapidly falls away in May each year.

· We introduced a new NCT contractor on January 4th this year and had reduced capacity in the handover period. The new contractor has been awarded the contract for the next ten years.

Lead times for NCT vary from day to day.  Every week NCT releases test slots for customers who wish to make advance bookings up to 3 months ahead. However, the bulk of slots (approximately 2/3rds) are made available between 2 and 4 weeks in advance (28days) with a proportion of those retained for urgent bookings at two weeks lead-time.  For the vast majority of customers, therefore, lead times are around 14 – 28 days. At busy times, however, these slots are often used up very quickly and then the next slot available would be one of the advance slots opened to allow owners obtain firm test dates. Approximately one third of customers either request or voluntarily accept test dates further out. However, if such a slot is unsuitable for the customer, they are placed on the priority waiting list described above and they will generally be offered a slot within 28 days (or the test offered free of charge).

Trusting this clarifies the matter.

Kind Regards

Veronica Rowland

Vehicle Standards”

It is now as clear as mud, that’s just twisting words in the Customer charter to suit an answer. I didn’t get an answer to my question, how many free tests are being carried out each year?

In the mean time, Minster Dempsey had referred my email to Mr. Noel Brett, Chief executive of the R.S.A. Declan Naughton, Director of the R.S.A. came back to me with:

“I refer to your email dated 5 August 2010 to Mr Noel Dempsey, T.D., Minister for Transport in relation to a refund for your NCT Test and my subsequent email to you on 15 August last.

I have had the matter investigated with the National Car Testing Service who I understand have been in touch with you to clarify the matter and have made arrangements for a refund cheque to be issued directly to you.

I can only apologise for any inconvenience caused to you in this instance and I hope that this matter has now been resolved to your satisfaction.  I can assure you of the RSA’s continuing commitment to customer service which I know is shared by the contractor.

I trust this clarifies the situation for you.

Declan Naughton


The matter is clear; I am getting my refund, but how many refunds are being given out each year? No one would answer my question, either they don’t know or don’t want to say. Remember some of your tax pays for the NCT to exist, all those €50’s that you pay for your test pays the balance, but what happens when all that money starts being refunded or the tests are free?

To make matters worse for the NCT, from June 2011 cars that are over 10 years old have to be tested once a year, and from the 1st of September this year if you import a car you will have to present it to the NCT centre for inspection, this is not an NCT test, just is just to check that the car is as described, the VRT is cheaper for a basic model than the high spec version of the same car. The fee for this inspection can be deducted from the VRT for the car. In 2009 there was almost 50,000 cars imported into Ireland, from September on the NCT centres will have to examine that many more cars. How long will people have to wait before getting an appointment for an imported car? Can they drive the car in the period on foreign plates?

It seems that in Ireland there’s no joined up thinking, nothing seems to have been put in place for the extra volume of cars for testing, and the volumes are just going to rise, the solution seems to be give free tests until the backlog has cleared, but the backlog is just going to get bigger until they can test a bigger volume of cars.

I never got an answer to my question; it seems that no one knows how many tests are carried out in Ireland for free, 6 weeks have passed and I still haven’t gotten my cheque either.

Please comment below or email

Renault S.A. Logo

Image via Wikipedia

I wanted to find out if you can really achieve the figures that car makers put out with every new car, so I put one maker to the test, Renault…..

Don’t panic if you own one of the mentioned cars, there has been a reported problem with the power steering pump on certain models. In a press release Mazda said:

“Mazda is to offer a Special Service Programme (SSP) in Europe on certain Mazda3 and Mazda5 equipped with electro hydraulic power assist system (EHPAS). The service is offered free of charge to the customer.

Only a few specific models, produced between 2 April 2007 and 30 November 2008, could be affected: The first generation Mazda3, with either the 1.6 MZ-CD diesel engine or the 2.0 MZR gasoline engine, and the Mazda5 with either the 1.8 or 2.0 MZR gasoline engines. In Europe, this represents a total of 40,260 Mazda3 and 30,242 Mazda5 cars.
Owners of potentially affected vehicles in Europe will be notified by Mazda from October 2010 onwards and are kindly requested to contact their Mazda Authorised Repairer to make an appointment to undertake any necessary rework and parts replacement.”

Mazda monitors the entire fleet of cars and as a result this is a standard recall, there have been no reported injuries from this problem, at worst your steering will become heavy. Look out for a letter in the post from Mazda, remember if you’ve changed addresses please call your Mazda dealer if you think your car might be affected.

Just so you all know, this applies to VW, AUDI, SEAT and Skoda cars. If you got your brake pads changed recently by a non main dealer, or indeed you bought them yourself then you need to have your pads checked, there have been some fakes found.

Please don’t mess around with the pads yourself, get down to your local main dealer and have them checked, it will cost you nothing so get it done and be safe on the roads.

There has been so much news lately that I’m going to put it in one report, so here goes.

Nissan have opened the order books for the Leaf, “to make a reservation, customers simply need to go to and place their order. The quick and easy process requires a fully-refundable deposit of €232. These ‘early adopters’ will also be given an opportunity to test-drive Nissan LEAF thoroughly by December, at which point they will need to formally confirm their order.” There will also be a roadshow tour of Ireland where you can test drive the Leaf at the following locations:

–          Dundrum Shopping Centre, Dublin – Friday, 6th August 6th and Saturday 7th August

–          Mahon Point Shopping Centre, Cork – Friday 13th August

–          Headford Road Shopping Centre, Galway – Sunday 15th August

Come along and have a look, Smokerspack is trying to get their hands on one for review but we’ll let you know on that.

Volkswagen group have issued a warning over suspect brake pads, there has been a seizure of counterfeit pads, in a statement they said “An examination of the brake pads revealed that the potentially dangerous counterfeit parts failed to meet the required breaking friction levels. The test concluded that the fakes would not obtain R90 approval – the European legal standard for brake pads.”

There are some telltale signs to look out for if you’re buying pads in the near future:

The fake box label indicates that the product is a “Wasserpumpe” and not brake pads. Wasserpumpe is German for water pump

·         Printing error on fake box reads Fonnel Q but should read Formel Q

·         The backing plate of the fake pads are engraved with “TAXTE” or “TEXTA, whereas the genuine product are engraved with “TEXTAR”

·         No fitting instructions included in the box

·         Tamper proof box seal missing

·         The fake parts do not have a batch code and production date

·         The performance of the fake product is significantly lower than the genuine brake pads

If you think you might have gotten suspect brake pads then head to your local dealer and have them inspected, don’t take chances with brake pads folks, get them done properly.

Update on brake pad warning: It’s my understanding that your local VW/Audi/Skoda/Seat dealer will check your pads for free, this is unconfirmed by the press office but as soon as I hear anything I’ll let you all know.

Citroen have released pictures of their rally cars taking flight, the images are huge but worth a look, you’ll find them all here some great full size pictures for those of you who need a new desktop background.