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Buying A Used Car In South Africa

Bodywork

 

  • Does the car appear genuine; what are your general impressions?
  • Does the model badge match the specification on the registration documents? Adding a plastic letter to the model badge is a cheap way of pushing up the asking price.
  • Are the body panels consistent, is there any evidence of repaired accident damage?
  • Does the color and texture of the paintwork match all over?
  • Check the bodywork with a magnet to show up any dents touched up with body filler.
  • Check beneath the bonnet or under the boot for bad welds, untidy seams or any other evidence of accident repairs.
  • Check for rust and paint bubbles particularly on the sills, wheel arches, seams, door bottoms and suspension mountings.

 

Electrical - Make sure these are working

  • Check headlights, dashboard warning lights and other electrical equipment.
  • Electric window and central locking repairs can be expensive.
  • Remember to check the obvious things, such as the hazard lights, windscreen wipers and the horn.
  • If there is a stereo fitted make sure it is included in the sale and that it works.

 

Engine - Check under the bonnet

 

  • Look for oil leaks, defective or damaged hoses and drive belts.
  • The general condition of the engine can reveal the degree of care and attention the car has received.
  • Check oil and coolants for low levels or any sign of contamination.
  • If the engine is reconditioned, ask for evidence; a bill or preferably a warranty.

 

Interior - Take a look around

 

  • Make sure the seatbelts show no sign of damage or wear, check for loose buckles and faulty mountings.
  • Badly worn seats and pedals can suggest high mileage more accurately than an odometer reading, especially if there is no service history available.
  • Check door, window and sunroof seals for any sign of leaking. Damp patches in the carpet could mean a rusting floor panel.

 

Test drive - Try it out

 

  • Always take a drive that is long enough to test the car properly.
  • Try a route involving a variety of road conditions: hills, stop-start urban driving and open roads.
  • On the drive listen out for any odd noises from the engine and suspension.
  • Make the most of the opportunity to test the priorities: steering, brakes and clutch.
  • At the end, let the engine idle and check under the bonnet for oil or water leaks.

 

Tyres - Check the wheels

 

  • Check all tyres including the spare for tread depth and damage.
  • The grooves of the tread pattern must be at least 1.6mm throughout a continuous band comprising the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and round the entire outer circumference of the tyre.
  • Under-inflation not only shortens the life of the tyres, it can also mean higher fuel consumption, longer braking distances and a noisier ride.
  • The grooves of the tread pattern must be at least 1.6mm throughout a continuous band comprising the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and round the entire outer circumference of the tyre.
  • In addition, check for any bulges or cuts in the tyre wall which could lead to a blow-out at speed.

 

Additional Hints

 

  • Determine how much you wish to spend prior to going to buy a car - do not exceed this amount.
  • Decide which questions you will ask prior to going to buy the car.
  • Ask whether the vehicle has been involved in an accident or whether it is imported.
  • Check the car's mileage - does the condition of the car match the mileage?
  • Ask the buyer if the mileage is correct (it is an offence to alter the mileage of a vehicle).
  • Signs that the car may have been "clocked" (had the mileage altered) include misaligned digits on the odometer, or where the mileage that is not consistent with entries in the service history.
  • Check engine numbers/chassis numbers match the documentation provided with the vehicle.
  • Ask to test drive the car, but ensure that appropriate insurance is obtained.