Johannesburg - Buying a car can also hurt a consumer’s pocket when the right checks aren’t completed.

To this end, TransUnion and FirstCheck have partnered to launch a consumer-focused vehicle checking app in South Africa which contains information that was traditionally only available to dealers.

“Buying a car is one of the most important investments anyone makes, and if it goes wrong, it can have a devastating ripple effect on quality of life and finances,” said Kriben Reddy, head of TransUnion Auto in South Africa.

“A lack of knowledge of hidden faults, fraud or a suspect service book is generally caused by a lack of insight into the full history of a vehicle. We want to put the right information in the hands of consumers so they can make better, more informed decisions.”

One of the app’s key features is a valuation report, which can be easily accessed to learn the estimated value of the vehicle. A full vehicle verification report, meanwhile, covers the car’s full history which includes whether it has been stolen, and whether it’s being financed - another crucial piece of the puzzle as this is becoming a common way to defraud buyers.

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“Access to information is levelling the playing field and putting power back into the hands of the consumer,” says Reddy.

“A bank may still be holding finance on a car that has been sold - meaning that bank is for all intents and purposes the owner. People are then tricked by a fraudster into paying cash and they drive the car away only for the bank to report that car stolen. A lot of people are being caught out this way, with devastating consequences.”

The app also has a direct link into the SA Police Service database, so a would-be purchaser can check in real-time if a car has been reported stolen.

Price remains a common stumbling block for many, and the app provides both trade and retail values to ensure the price being offered on a car as a trade-in is its true market value.

“This assures a car buyer that the car they are interested in buying is being offered to them at a fair price.

“They are also able to monitor the car’s value on a monthly basis in order to ensure that their insurance premiums are always in line,” said Reddy.

Apart from notifying them if the car is stolen or not, the report also highlights any discrepancies from the manufacturing specifications.

FirstCheck matches the VIN and Engine number supplied to a manufacturer database and provides results based on the match.

The report also tells a purchaser if a car has been microdotted - this is a marking system where thousands of dots, invisible to the naked eye, act as an enhanced car theft deterrent.

The price of the service is as follows: One car value report is R19, 12 reports delivered monthly are R150, and a full verification report is R99.

It is available on the FirstCheck website or by downloading the FirstCheck mobile application.

Drive360