File picture: Paulo Whitaker / Reuters.
Johannesburg - We've all heard our share of horror stories about buying and selling cars privately. Like the guy who bought a gorgeous luxury car for a bargain, only to find it was the front and back of two wrecked cars that had been cut in half and welded back together.

Or the people who pay big deposits on cars they haven’t seen, and are then ghosted by the seller when they want to take delivery of the car. Or the numerous people whose shiny new wheels turn out to be stolen

It’s a jungle out there. But for many of us, the cost and convenience of buying a car privately outweighs the potential pitfalls, so we do the obvious. We check online car sales sites. We meet the buyer or seller in a public place. We take a petrolhead mate along to ask the right questions. We ask for a service history. We check the bodywork. In the end, though, many people end up buying a car on faith and a handshake.

What if private buyers and sellers could access the same kind of information that’s been reserved for car dealers, banks and insurance companies, like the book value, its history and its status? There’s an app for that - and it’s going to make a huge difference to the way people buy and sell cars.

The FirstCheck app, which is powered by TransUnion, gives private buyers and sellers the information they need to make more informed decisions. You’re able to put a fair price on the car and also less likely to fall victim to fraudsters. The app offers two major pieces of information. The valuation report provides trade and retail values to ensure the price reflects the market value. This also helps make sure you’re paying the correct insurance premiums, and show how much the vehicle has depreciated over the past 12 months, and future values.

The verification report provides original manufacturer information, including vehicle identification number (VIN), engine number and vehicle colour. The second part follows the vehicle through its lifecycle, with full financing information, legal status and mileage at certain points.

The verification report also tells a purchaser if a car has been “microdotted” - where a car is marked with thousands of dots. If so, potential buyers can use a microdot scanner to check if body panels and engine parts have been replaced.

The app links into bank and SAPS databases to check if a car is being financed or flagged as stolen. It allows consumers to check their creditworthiness by purchasing their credit report.

You can visit the www.firstcheck.co.za website, or download the app (iOS and Android), to buy a Car Value Report (Valuation), a Car Check Report (Verification), or check your credit score. The Car Value Report costs R19, and the full Car Check Report R99.

Drive360