Buying a Car (Pitfalls and Tricks)

We would all like to believe in a state of utopia. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that there are people out there who will cheat you out of your last cent. The euphoria of getting your first car can never be replaced by anything. It is this state of mind that unscrupulous people exploit when selling you a vehicle.

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) states clearly that a dealer must declare everything about a vehicle before he/she sells it to a prospective client. This protects both the selling dealer and the client. Unfortunately, when a private sale takes place, the CPA does not apply. So, what may look like an awesome deal can leave you with a lemon.

So how do you get a car without getting ripped off. This is like trying to understand women….. The chance of no one ever getting ripped off is a fallacy, but I can try to help reduce the chance of that happening to you.

Let’s talk about buying a car from a dealership or second hand car dealer.

Some of the questions to ask

1)      Has the car been in an accident (if no, can you have that in writing)?

2)      Can you take the car for an independent test to DEKRA?

3)      Does the car come with a roadworthy certificate?

4)      Is the kilometre reading on the instrument cluster the true mileage (again in writing)?

5)      If the car is fairly new, can you run the VIN Number to check on the vehicle’s service history

6)      Can you have the vehicles original manuals and service book

7)      Does the car have a spare key (with the advent of keyless go, making your own spare key can be expensive)?

8)      Could you have the details of the previous owner to check if the car is as the dealer claims (CANNOT DO WITH THE NEW LAW)

9)      Can you have in writing the real cost of the vehicle including on road costs

10)   Do you get you six months unlimited mileage guarantee?

11)   Does this guarantee cover all components on the vehicle?

12)   Does the vehicle have a balance of maintenance / service plan if the vehicle is relatively new?

What are on road costs you say? Yes, these are costs claimed by the dealer for the vehicle’s registration and roadworthy plus whatever else they deem necessary. And yes, it is wrong in my opinion to charge you for something the dealer should be doing anyway to sell the vehicle. Just remember the on road costs, as with anything else, is negotiable. Can you imagine the dealer charging you extra to wash the car….?

When buying a vehicle privately, as in purchasing a vehicle from an individual and not a specified car sale, you have to be extra careful as you have no recourse after you hand over your hard earned cash.

The most important question to ask here is whether the vehicle has been settled in full, if it was on Hire Purchase, and can you see the vehicles registration papers. The rest of the questions are pretty much the same, except, you can never ask for a guarantee of any kind. Don’t carry any cash. Always do an EFT as there will be a paper trail if there are any queries later on. Never meet the seller at places you may feel uneasy in. Sometimes the money saved as compared to buying from a dealership is hardly worth the aggravation.

I hear you asking about auctions…….my answer to that is an emphatic no. You may think that you know about cars but after paying for a vehicle from the auction you also have absolutely no recourse no matter what the problem is with said vehicle. If you have no other option but to buy from an auction, take your trusted mechanic with or someone who is au fait with cars. If it is your first purchase never an auction.

The entire process of purchasing a vehicle these days comes down to doing your homework i.e., check all the websites out there in cyberspace and get an idea of what you can get with your budget. Then armed with this information go get your car. Never buy the first car you see. Shop around, ask people in the know, there are no stupid questions when it comes to parting with your hard earned cash. Ask family members that may want to get rid of a car that you know. On second thoughts…no buying from family….

So, when buying a vehicle, the car dealers seem to be the ideal place. Just ask the correct questions and ensure that any guarantees given are in writing. The dealer may try to sell you an aftermarket mechanical breakdown policy with the car. Ask the sales person what is covered by said policy and to what percentage. Also, which components are covered. On a second hand vehicle please don’t expect to get a new car maintenance contract for the R10000 to R15000 you may pay for the policy. Also check the length of the policy. Most of them are 2 years.

Sagie Moodley