Buying a vehicle is likely to be the biggest outlay a person makes after a house, and we rightly deserve to have the best we can afford. A tough economic climate has forced many consumers to reconsider their spending patterns, which has led to many motorists looking to buy used vehicles rather than new. A good second-hand deal via a website such as Gumtree makes a lot of sense. However, buyers must be savvy.‘While buying a second-hand vehicle is a good option for many, consumers need to be aware that there are also pitfalls: There may be mechanical problems, body damage, replacement parts that will be harder to source and warranty benefits that expire sooner. Buyers should not rush into the first good deal they come across,’ advises the Automobile Association (AA).
It is essential for a buyer to accurately define their specific needs. ‘Just because you like the colour of a vehicle, or because it has sleek lines and fancy add-ons, doesn’t mean it is the right car for you. It is important to first consider what the vehicle will be used for, who will use it, and what your budget is,’ the AA recommends. If you need finance, determine how much you can afford to repay and, vitally, do not deviate from this.
‘The most difficult part of many car-buying journeys is establishing a realistic budget. Most vehicle financiers offer handy online repayment calculators to help determine monthly payments, but it’s important to remember vehicle repayments aren’t the only expense a buyer will face during the term,’ says Mark Dommisse, Chairperson of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA). ‘It’s also necessary to research running costs, such as expected fuel bills, servicing and maintenance, insurance,
and sometimes garaging.’ Consider the differences between manual and automatic transmissions, as well as between petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric vehicles. Also check the safety features, such as ABS brakes, airbags and, if children are to be transported, ISOFIX mountings.
Once you’ve decided on the best type, size and mechanical layout of the vehicle for your requirements, you need to do some thorough research through manufacturers’ and car-dealership websites, classified advertisements such as Gumtree, buyer’s guides, road tests, reviews from reliable media (for instance, Motor), and visiting car lots. Narrow down your choice to a handful of options, then shop around to compare prices of the makes and models you are interested in. Always aim to do business with recognised establishments. Dealers who are members of the Retail Motor Industry (RMI) are always a good place to start. As Dommisse points out, ‘The advantages of buying a vehicle from a franchised environment often include formal factory-approved used-car programmes that meet factory standards before it can be sold. The consumer will not be provided with this when buying a vehicle from non-franchised environments.’
Further advantages of purchasing from a recognised franchised dealer is that standard safety checks will already have been carried out by the dealership in order to ensure that the vehicle is roadworthy, and the manufacturer’s customer-care infrastructure will apply when it comes to accountability.
When buying from non-franchised dealerships, the AA warns that a roadworthy certificate (RWC) is not a guarantee that the vehicle is problem-free. It is a document that simply states that the vehicle meets the minimum statutory requirements in terms of safety when it comes to brakes, suspension and lights. A vehicle could have an RWC and still have a mechanical problem.‘Look at the vehicle in daylight, inspect every inch of it and, if possible, have someone with mechanical insight take a look at the engine. Look for other problem signs, such as irregular tyre wear. Take it for a test drive, because this is the only way to obtain a solid impression of a vehicle’s condition,’ says the AA. ‘Turn off the radio and listen for any unusual noises and signs of overheating. heck for steering vibrations, sudden direction changes under braking and any other concerns. Make notes on each vehicle you drive, so that you can do a proper comparison between them afterwards. For additional peace of mind, buyers can take the car to their nearest AA Quality Assured dealer or Dekra centre for a bumper-to-bumper inspection before they make their final decision.’
‘While it’s not always possible to uncover everything about a used vehicle’s history, building as complete a picture as possible can help minimise risks,’ adds Ghana Msibi, WesBank’s Executive Head for Sales and Marketing. ‘The details help determine the vehicle’s market value.’
But a word of warning: ‘Buyers should exercise extreme caution when confronted with a vehicle that is listed as ‘Code 3’ on its registration papers,’ says Msibi. ‘This is a term used to denote a vehicle that has previously been ‘written off’ by an insurance company or that has been stolen and recovered. Regardless of the background history for a car being classified as a Code 3, WesBank will not finance these vehicles.’