Repossessed Cars in Ireland

One of the services which Used Car History Check experts Cartell make available to our customers is to inform whether a particular vehicle is the subject of a financial agreement – so you don’t inadvertently buy a car which is owned by a bank. If, however, you’ve not carried out a Cartell.ie Finance Check and you’ve already bought the vehicle – what happens next? Well, one of the things which might happen is the your vehicle may join the ranks of repossessed cars in Ireland.

Cartell.ie wanted to find out more about what happens when things go wrong: when a person simply can’t afford to repay the loan on their vehicle; or when a person inadvertently buys a vehicle which is already on finance.

Vehicle Repossessions in Ireland

Interested in this topic, a few years ago, we contacted the Dublin County Sheriffs Office and the Dublin City Sheriffs Office who look after the county and city districts in Dublin respectively. Both of these offices have a similar story to tell: officers act on foot of either court orders or revenue warrants made out against a particular person. This gives officers the right to seize property in the name of that individual – including motor vehicles. In short they have the legal right to repossess cars in Ireland.

Officers also have the right to seize vehicles designated as specific chattels by the courts – in other words when the court gives an order to seize a specific vehicle as opposed to simply the assets of an individual – but this is far less common.

However, officers are not entitled to seize vehicles which are the subject of a hire-purchase agreement on the basis that these vehicles remain the property of the banks until the loan is paid off in full. For that reason Sheriffs offices handle a relatively small amount of repossessions. Another factor in this is the value of the vehicle. Obviously a vehicle with a lower market value stands a lesser chance of being repossessed by officers who are intent on recouping money on foot of a court order or revenue warrant made out against an individual.

Let’s look at a real-world example of how cars are repossessed in Ireland. In a high profile case from 2010 the BMW Series 7 of developer Paddy Kelly was lifted from his house in Donnybrook on foot of a warrant to the Dublin City Sheriffs Office. The vehicle was subsequently returned the following day when it was found to be registered in the name of his wife. However it was re-seized in December after Mr. Kelly was presented with evidence that he was the ‘beneficial owner’ of the vehicle based on an interview he gave several years earlier.

Types of Repossessions

The majority of cases of repossessions are bank repossessions – where financial institutions seize their own property after individuals stop making payments on foot of a hire-purchase agreement. Often times the bank will hire a Repo Agent to carry out the task of lifting the vehicle. The bank may or may not need a court order to affect a repossession – it depends on how much money is outstanding on the agreement.

Generally speaking if the vehicle is subject to a personal loan, as opposed to a car loan, then the  bank is not entitled to repossess the car unless they hold a judgment against you for the amount that is due, and sought to have the car seized in order to discharge the judgment. This is the type of scenario which the Sheriffs office deal with – and there are not that many of these repossessions in a given year.

A hire purchase agreement is where a bank owns the vehicle – they have a lien (a right to possession) over the vehicle and legally the property remains in their name until the final payment is made.

However, usually, the finance company can repossess the car – without taking legal action – if less than one-third of the hire purchase price has been paid off and you are in arrears.

Finally, just to note, the half-rule says that where the customer has paid half the balance on the hire purchase agreement they can return the car and end the agreement, provided the repayments are up-to-date.

In any case you would be strongly advised to check if there is any finance outstanding on a used vehicle you intend purchasing as you could lose the vehicle if you become the registered owner. You can check the status of the financial status of the vehicle by purchasing a Cartell car history check.

Disclaimer: the information in this article does not constitute legal advice of any kind as it is intended to give general indication only. Please consult a solicitor or relevant banking institution if in any doubt about your exposure to repossession.

0 thoughts on “Repossessed Cars in Ireland

  • interesting. haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else. what about auction houses – do they take in repossessed vehicles??

  • Thanks for your comment Joe. We contacted Merlin Car Auctions and they tell us as many as 50% of the vehicles they auction are bank repossessions. Most of the banks send repossessed vehicles for auction by default but a minority choose to sell them elsewhere. At the moment, just to give you an idea, Merlin have as many as 100 cars for auction which are repossessed bank vehicles.

  • I have a van on finance since July 07 I am €1500 in arrears my payments are €490 per month I owe a balance of €7000 I am trying to work with finance company to pay €200 per month but they refused they sent me a note today saying if arrears are not paid in three days they will repossess the van can they do this after four years of payment, the finance company are Irish permanent finance

  • Tom, the short answer is yes. The finance house have title in the van until all the repayments are made. As you’re in arrears your options are more limited although we’re not sure why the finance house seem unwilling to accommodate your proposed repayment schedule – especially since you appear to have paid quite a significant amount already. Thanks for your detailed comment on this and we hope you find a work-around with the bank.

  • Tanya donnelly says:

    I had a cleaning business which I sold to a guy, I left the country to live in Australia and this guy who signed a contract to buy the business from me and buy the vans after 3 months is refusin to pay me for th business and is refusing to return my 2 vans. I am paying e400 per month to bank of Ireland financ for these. I’ve contacted the Garda and they tell e they will not get involved as it’s a civil matter, so what do I do?, stop paying the finance? The bank tell me if I stop paying he finance they will come after me for the money. Can I hand these vans back to the bank? I have paid over half the finance on them, it’s a personal loan I think and not a car loan. I called a recovery company and they won’t lift the vans they said they wont get involved even though I have the log books and I am the owner of the vans. Please advise

  • Tanya we can’t give you legal advice. However, it seems to us, from what you say, that there may well be a case of fraud if someone has appropriated your assets without paying for them. While we know it’s costly a solicitor may be the only route for you if the Gardai don’t want to get involved. Our understanding of the half rule is that it applies to Hire Purchase agreements (car loans) and not to personal loans. The bank, unfortunately in your case, are within their rights to look for your assets in compensation for any loss they make if you decline to pay the full agreement amount.

  • Banks do not want to reposess cars, however, if payment isnt forthcoming and you ignore the situation they can either write off the debt or reposess the vehicle. Its best if you engage with the lender and come to an arrangement that avoids tarnishing your credit rating.

  • Hi there

    I have approx 2000€ left to pay off a car loan but over last couple of months due to being
    Sick I’ve missed two payments. The bank is now saying that my only option is to sell the car
    Or hand it back to them. Is this right? It’s not a hire purchase but I’ve paid approx €6000 already
    So it seems very unfair.

  • Hi Jen, strictly speaking the bank are right – they hold title in the car until the last payment is made. However, sounds to us like it’s a bit harsh to force you to sell when you’ve missed two payments because you were sick. I would approach someone else at the bank, have your doctors certs to hand, and ask to have the loan period extended by the extra two payments. good luck

  • Good morning,
    Just looking for some advise here… A van of our was repossessed and now the finance company (Permanent TSB) are saying that the tools were not in the van when it was sold and they do not know where the tools are… There was approx 10K worth of tools in the van.. Can you give me any indication of what my rights are here??? Thanks

  • Sinead, this is a complicated one. Presumably the van was repossessed with the tools in it, and now they’re not accounted for. We couldn’t really give advice on that one I’m afraid – it sounds like an administrative issue somewhere. However, if the finance agreement was on the van then the tools in the van would not fall within the terms of the agreement – that would be our broad understanding of the situation. I presume you’ve documented the tools, listed them, and have an exact value set out for them? It’s very unlikely the van was sold unknowingly with tools in the back. If the amount owed was greater than the market value of the van then perhaps the tools could be brought within the remit of the agreement, but this would be made clear to you by the bank – and that doesn’t appear to have happened here.

  • We bough a van off a guy in kildare. we paid cash for this van. Now the banks are in contact with us apartently the guy who we bought the van off had a loan taken out from the bank, and hasnt it paid off. They have tried to call him and write to him but he wont answer them. The banks now say we are liable for his loan or else they want the van. Is there anyone out there who can advise us on this matter please.

  • hi Jamie. Unfortunately this is the typical scenario when someone buys a vehicle with outstanding finance. what’s worse is that the amount outstanding on the loan may be greater than the value of the vehicle meaning you’d have no choice but to hand back the van. obviously you can commence legal action against the person who sold it to you – but you’d have to be able to trace him.

  • Hi my boyfriend could not make his car repayments under his hire purchase agreement so he handed back the car 3 years ago. The car was sold by the company and he was notified by a letter. no further letters have been received requesting him to pay the balance of the loan. The loan company has subsequently gone bust and he received a letter from a new company who have taken over the debt. Are we at any legal advantage from the fact the company did not make any contact for 3years plus so he was unaware of the outstanding debt? (please note he did not have 50% of repayments made)

  • Cartell.ie says:

    hi lorna. sounds to us like the statute of limitations MAY apply. you’d need some legal advice to know for sure though

  • Hi, i bought a car from a one man dealer. the car is a repo from ptsb and i was aware of that when buying it. the problem i have is that 1 month after buying i have no change of ownership sorted, the dealer says he is waiting on the bank and when i contacted the guy in ptsb he says he is waiting on a replacement vlc from shannon befoire he can transfer online. when i rang shannon they have no record of any replacement vlc. who can i go to force the issue here ? i am getting worried that something is wrong. thanks . also does the fact that i am not the legal owner affect my insurance, thanks

  • hi, i have a car on hire purchase since may 2010, i missed one monthly payment of 350 euro in oct. 2010. Every other payment has been made and i now have half paid. I spent most of 2011 out of work due to injury and when i contacted the bank to reschedule the loan they gave me a form to fill out, which i did, but they never replied. In jan. 2012 i got a letter telling me they were going to repo the car. Can they take the car without telling me and can they take it from anywhere? All payments are up to date except that one. thanks in advance.

  • Cartell.ie says:

    hi eddie, we’re wondering whether the bank presumed you weren’t paying when you applied to reschedule the loan: we’re presuming you paid all your payments in 2011, even when you weren’t working? if it’s just the one payment you missed then that seems harsh. we suggest contacting the bank asap and sorting this out. to answer your question, yes, they can lift the car without your consent, and can do so anywhere

  • Cartell.ie says:

    hi liam, there’s probably nothing wrong (though you can’t be 100% sure) as we’re finding more and more issues with purchase of repo vehicles ranging from absence of official documentation to lack of service records. this is a reality in this particular sector of the market. resolving this issue will not be easy. we suggest getting (finding) a contact in ptsb to help you get in touch with the person/department in that bank that can assist. a simple communication between the bank and the department of transport might do wonders! good luck

  • regina o meara says:

    hi ya,

    i am just looking for some advice please… i bought my car on HP through GE Money a good few years ago and after a year and a half i gave it back of my own free will as my husband lost his job…they sold the 05 car for 2,300 and i had paid 16.500 the year and half before for it so they tell me now i owe 13.300 and i offered to pay a 50 a month and they refused this and sold the debt to cabot financial… i cant even pay my mortgage never mind for a car i dont have….what can they do to me now ….. would i better off going to court as at least a judge will see i have no money….. and is it my fault that they sold my car for such a crazy amount at the start of the recession…..


  • hi regina, we couldn’t comment on the specifics, especially because you’ve mentioned the name of the bank! generally speaking it doesn’t appear as though the half rule would apply unless you had paid half the debt and then handed the vehicle back. what we can’t understand is how a vehicle you bought for 16,500 could be sold for 2,300 such a short time later. was the original market value of the vehicle inflated or did the bank not realise the market value when they sold it at 2,300? this is an important point. i am afraid it sounds to us like its a complicated situation. perhaps seek independent free legal aid advice. a lot of good lawyers do free legal aid work – this might give you an idea where you stand. as mentioned, we can’t deal with a specific matter like this. good luck

  • would the bank allow me to sell the car privately, as i believe i have a better chance of getting a better price?

  • good question stephen. it depends on the bank. your best bet is ask them. you are right to treat the re-sale value seriously because some institutions have been known to sell below market value to “close a quick sale”

  • Hi,i bought my car in 2009 for just under 25k my repayments were 400 euro a month when i lost my job 2 years ago i contacted the bank and the agreed to lower the repayments to 300 euro i now owe them about 11k with 600 euro arrears i was just wondering could i give back the car with the half rule if i cleared the arrears (its a car loan i got)thanks very much

  • Hi there Paul, thanks for the question. While we aren’t 100% certain we think you could hand the car back, under the half-rule, provided the arrears are cleared. Obviously you need to check this with the bank, and we’re not in a position to provide legal advice.

    Hope this helps

  • I had Van on fiance in 2005 for a company i had, the company stopped trading in 2006 due to personal family problems. it was financed it my own name. The bank where calling me at time because i couldn make payments and kept telling me they where collecting van. I agreed with this and the van was parked at house waiting on collection. The van was stolen and crashed in 2007 without insurance cause i closed business. The bank collected van and i heard nothing apart from them telling me they sold van and i was liable for remainder of 16000 after selling the van. I explained i had other vehicles and debts from business and i tryed pay them and couldn keep it up. I have not heard from them since 2007 till now 2013 by letter from debt agency. Where do i stand is there time frame on fiance loans were no contact has been made and i’m still at same address and number. Thanks Alan

  • thanks Alan, it’s another interesting scenario. The Statute of Limitations may apply in a civil case such as this. No harm to consult with a lawyer, perhaps using some free legal service like the FLAC, to see if it might apply in your case. Sounds to us like there are other aspects which a lawyer would be interested to hear – the van was for company purposes and it was financed in your name. Presumably it was registered as a company vehicle. A lawyer on your behalf may be able to argue the van was, in fact, an asset of the company and as the company went into receivership then the debt outstanding should follow the company and not you personally. We can’t give legal advice, as you know, but perhaps no harm to have a chat with a legal professional.

Comments are closed.