By Emsie Martin
Very few people can afford a new vehicle nowadays, but buying a used vehicle sometimes comes with a nasty surprise. The true condition of a vehicle often comes to light after the sale with a clever smooth-talking salesman influencing you. Consumers should be wary when they buy a second-hand car.
What to watch out for
Do your homework on the vehicle you want to buy. Visit several dealers. Read reviews about the specific vehicle. This will quickly tell you whether the vehicle is prone to problems.
- Buy from a reliable dealer with a good record. If you buy privately, ask as many questions as possible to make sure you know what you are letting yourself in for.
- Check the odometer. Vehicles with a high kilometres could mean expensive repairs. The service record is of vital importance. Check whether the vehicle has undergone extensive repairs.
- A car with a full service record with agents or a good RMI-accredited service centre are generally better buys.
- Make sure that the vehicle’s registration documents are in order.
- Check whether the vehicle is a code 2 vehicle, i.e. a used vehicle.
- A code 3 vehicle is usually a rebuilt vehicle that was deregistered at some time. Such a vehicle could have been involved in a serious accident and has less value. It is more risky to buy such a vehicle. It would be wise to check the vehicle’s details such as the VIN number and engine number at the licence office for theft etc. before you buy.
- Ask for an accident and theft report. Use a background checking service such as vehiclecheck.co.za.
- Is the licence fee fully paid up? If not, it could cause a lot of frustration if you have to pay the arrears licence fees.
Exterior and bodywork
- The condition of a vehicle’s exterior can reveal a lot about whether it was taken good care of or not.
- Do all the doors, the boot and bonnet open and shut easily?
- Do the windows open and shut easily?
- Roll in under the vehicle and check for bumps and dents on the chassis.
- Is the vehicle dented or scratched?
- In what condition is the paintwork? Does it peal off in places? Is there a difference in tones that could indicate respraying in the past?
- How are the lights?
- What is the condition of the rubber beading around the windows and mirrors?
- In what condition are the tyres? New tyres could be a big expense for a new owner. Are the tyres smooth and unevenly worn?
- What does the interior look like?
- Are all the switches and buttons in place and in a working condition?
- What is the state of the upholstery?
- Is the interior clean and well maintained?
- What does the dashboard look like and does the cubby hole lid close properly?
- Check the seat belts and air bags.
- Test electric and electronic systems, lights, wipers, air-conditioning, etc.
- What does the rubber on the pedals look like? Is it worn a lot?
- The boot of a car usually gives a good idea of whether the previous owner took care of the car or misused it.
Check the engine
- Are there oil or other leakages?
- Is the wiring in the engine compartment neat?
- Does the battery look well cared for?
- Check the exhaust system.
Take the vehicle for a drive
- Does the vehicle feel solid on the road?
- Are there any undesirable noises?
- Does the vehicle brake evenly and easily?
- Do the gears change smoothly and easily?
- Do all the lights on the dashboard light up when the vehicle is switched on?
- Do all the lights go out when the engine starts?
- Does the engine temperature remain constant within an acceptable temperature range?
- The keys are also important. Are there any duplicate keys or not? Do all the buttons on the key work?
The best thing to do is to have a 101-point examination done by a reliable inspection company to make sure that the vehicle is in a good condition mechanically. Take out extended insurance, if necessary.
Build a good relationship with your mechanic, talk to him about your intention to buy another car and ask for his advice and opinion.
This is where to complain
If you experience any problems with buying a second-hand car, lodge a complaint on the Motor Industry Ombudsman’s website at www.miosa.co.za.