Do’s and don’ts of buying a used car

File image.

File image.

Published Sep 26, 2022


Johannesburg – The Gauteng Office of Consumer Affairs (Goca) has urged consumers to do the necessary due diligence before purchasing second-hand cars.

“Buying a second-hand car is cost-effective and can offer you the best value for your money. However, the value you get from the car depends on many factors, such as the condition of the vehicle, its market value and service history,” said Milly Viljoen, the director of consumer education, awareness and stakeholder relations.

Viljoen warned consumers to approach used car dealerships with caution.

“Once you’ve decided on which make and model you’re going to buy and have found the one you are after, the checks begin,” she said.

“Consumers must do a needs analysis when buying a used vehicle.”

Viljoen suggested that consumers ask the following questions:

– Am I buying a car for business or personal use?

– Do I know what type of car matches my lifestyle and budget?”

“Once you have decided, make sure that you request a pre-agreement statement and quotation from car dealerships to compare costs such as delivery fee, roadworthy certificate fees, licence and registration fees, and other additional fees,” she said.

The consumer affairs office received multiple complaints about pre-owned vehicle purchases and these had a common denominator: buyers failed to inspect the conditions of the vehicles before purchase, it said.

As an example, the organisation shared a recently resolved complaint in which the complainant, Phumanampi Khumalo, neglected to examine the car for faults before transferring R93 000 into the supplier’s bank account.

The day after Khumalo took delivery of the vehicle the car’s gears failed to change and, later, the engine seized. He returned the car and lodged a case with Goca when the dealer refused to refund him or exchange the car for another one.

Consumers are warned to buy from a dealership that is reputable and compliant with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Consumers can verify this with the Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa (Miosa).

The consumer affairs office also advised consumers to make sure their rights were protected and respected by exercising the following tips when buying a used car:

– Ask for a Second-Hand Goods Act certificate. Used car dealerships must display a valid Second-Hand Goods Act certificate to show that they are certified/accredited to sell used vehicles. The certificate is valid for 5 years. Consumers should check with the SAPS to confirm the validity and/or renewal interval of the certificate.

– Inspect the condition of the engine. Check the following:

• Starting problems.

• Check for head gasket and oil leaks,

• The car has a noticeable power loss.

• The acceleration of the car seems slow and noisy.

• The car doesn't easily maintain high speed.

• There is smoke coming from the exhaust.

• The engine fault light on the dashboard is on.

– Insist on a current roadworthy certificate, which is valid for 60 days, and inspect the service history.

This will tell you a lot about the vehicle you are intending to buy. Has the car been maintained regularly? Did the previous owner use a recognised service centre? Has the vehicle been serviced as often as it should have? Has its handbook been stamped at an authorised workshop?

– Check the odometer reading. Generally, higher readouts mean the car has had a long, hard life. A high odometer reading is an indicator that the car should be avoided. Likewise, an older car with low mileage should be viewed with suspicion.

– Read and understand all the terms and conditions before signing any sale agreement. Know and understand your rights and responsibilities before you make any purchase. Do not sign until, you are sure. Demand contracts/agreements that are simple, easily understood and in plain language.

– Lodge a complaint if you are not satisfied with products and services received. Complain to the car dealership manager or person in charge of the business where you purchased the vehicle. If the matter is not resolved, then lodge a complaint to the Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa at [email protected].

– Alternatively, the complaint can be lodged at the Gauteng Office of Consumer Affairs by phoning 011 355 8006 or emailing [email protected]. Consumers can also visit a Goca office.