Consider these things when buying a used vehicle


The pandemic has most certainly changed how we do business in general.

Zululand Observer reports that currently, there’s still much uncertainty as well as a lack of stock, so the trend is for owners to extend ownership of their cars rather than buying a new one.

Alternatively, if they do buy, the preference seems to be towards good quality pre-owned vehicles. Buying preowned (privately or from a dealer) does present some risks because it is not always possible to judge the real mechanical condition of any vehicle.

The risk can, however, be limited, if not eliminated, by having the vehicle inspected by a trusted independent service provider.

One such independent organisation is the Automobile Association (AA), which can assist with a bumper-to-bumper inspection report on the vehicle.

The alternative would be for you to insist that the seller provide a DEKRA roadworthy certificate. DEKRA is a global company specialising in vehicle inspections, with 40 branches across SA.

Should the seller not be willing to have the vehicle inspected, walking away from the deal would probably be wise. And just for good measure, roadworthy certificates can be ‘bought’ these days, so be careful even of provided certificates.

It would also be good to use the vehicle’s VIN number to check via NaTIS if the seller is the legitimate owner, and also to be sure that the vehicle does not show up as stolen.

Next, research the trade-in and retail value of the car. Again, a company like TransUnion can help with the latter. This information is important in that it will enable you to negotiate a fair price.

However, remember that in tough trading conditions like the current, the demand for a particular vehicle or brand often dictates higher prices even than what TransUnion may indicate. Here are some money-saving tips when buying a used car:

  • Walk around the car and do a thorough visual inspection, checking all body damage and scratches – door panels, bonnet, fenders and boot lid alignment – bumpers and paint differences.
  • Carry out an inspection of the underside of the car – check for oil leaks – wear-and-tear, and possible structural damage. Inquire and investigate anything that does not seem right.
  • Do a thorough inspection of the boot and the engine bay. A dirty engine and, for example, dirty battery terminals, may be a tell-tale sign of a careless owner.
  • Check all the lights.
  • Start the engine – watch for exhaust smoke at start up, as well as during driving. Listen carefully for any strange engine/gearbox and diff noises. If any present, investigate…
  • Check the condition of all the tyres – uneven wear-and-tear may be the result of suspension damage, wheel alignment or wheel balance issues.
  • When inspecting the interior – torn material and seemingly unnecessary wear on things like carpets, the rubber boots on the brake and clutch pedals, even on the steering wheel may show up inconsistencies when comparing the year model and odometer reading of the car.
  • All good? Radio off? Now go for a drive. Once again, listen for any strange noises – be mindful of the handling of the car and drive far enough to check for any signs of overheating.
  • If you are comfortable with the aforementioned – negotiate the price, but don’t give in to undue pressure and if this persists, again it may be wise to just walk away.
  • Once agreed upon though – ensure you have all the required paperwork and, if possible, the service history.
  • Make payment and take charge of your new/old wheels.

Zululand Observer / Val van der Walt