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Do I buy petrol or diesel ; New or used/preowned ? How to get the best price... How to approach the test drive... Where to buy  and how to check the paperwork. How to check out the car... What to do if things go wrong ? Features and specifications. Calculate repayments, Safety features ,Road test reports and Determine Running costs.

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 Buying & Selling

What to look out for when buying a car:

1.  Roadworthy certificate

A statutory equipment for re-registration. The cost of this test is R200 and covers all safety critical items as required by SABS 047.

2.  Licence and registration documents

Make sure that the licence and registration are valid and that they have not expired. Vehicle registration documents can be forged or obtained by fraud. But there are telltale signs to look out for. Ask to see the vehicle registration document which the Seller should be able to produce if there is no outstanding finance on the car.

3.  Vehicle identity

All cars have three main identifying features:
The vehicle registration mark (the number plate)
The vehicle identification number (VIN) - this can be found on a metal VIN plate, usually in the engine compartment and stamped into the bodywork under the bonnet. As a security measure some cars have the VIN etched on their windows or lamps.
The engine number. This is found on the registration document. The number on the car should be the same as that on the registration document. Check that these numbers have not been tampered with. Another clue is whether the Seller can show you the insurance policy for the vehicle.

4.  Mechanical status of the vehicle

Assess the car in daylight and always take a test drive. It is often wise to take a friend with you. If a car has been in an accident, it may be unsafe. Sometimes two damaged cars are welded together, these are known as 'Code 3'. If the vehicle is a ‘Code 3’ then it should be indicated as such on the licence disc.
If you suspect a car has been involved in an accident it's a good idea to have the vehicle examined by an AA Test and Drive technical examiner.

5.  Vehicle inspection

Choosing the right kind of car requires much more than just a keen eye. Make sure it is as good as it looks, by booking a technical examination through AA Test and Drive, before you part with your money. A qualified independent vehicle inspector will carry out a full bumper- to-bumper inspection, a thorough road test, and issue you with a detailed report.
To arrange a vehicle inspection or roadworthy test simply book the vehicle into your local AA Test and Drive test station.

6.  Stolen vehicles

If you buy a stolen car, the police can take it from you and return it to the original owner or to the insurance company if a claim has been paid. You will not get any compensation even though you bought the car in good faith.

Police clearance means that the engine/chassis numbers indicate that the vehicles has not been reported as stolen. It does not mean that the vehicle is free of any encumbrance to a bank or other person. You can sue the Seller for your losses but this might be difficult. If you bought the car on credit you may still have to repay the loan. If bought through a Dealer approved by the major finance houses you should have recourse through the Dealer. It can be hard to tell whether a car is stolen. Its identity may have been changed. For example, the identity number and number plate of a legitimate car may be transferred to a stolen one. If the Seller can't produce this document be suspicious. Check for spelling mistakes and ask for proof of identity and address such as a driving license, passport, recent water and electricity bill. Check that same name and address is given on the registration document.

7.  Ownership

A car bought on hire purchase or conditional sale belongs to the bank or finance company until the payments have been completed. If you buy such a car and there is outstanding finance on it, the lender can take it back. You can sue whoever sold you the car - if you can find them. Check with AA Autocheck (0861-601-601). They keep databases of information about cars. They can tell you whether the one you want is clear of any outstanding finance. If you are buying from a Dealer, ask whether this check has already been carried out. To arrange a vehicle check, simply contact AA Autocheck on 0861-601-601.

When calling this number please have the following at hand:
The vehicle identification number (V.I.N ) (17 digit chassis number).
The engine number.
Your credit/debit card or banking details

8.  Service history

Try to find about the history of the car. Roadworthy certificates and service documentation will show kilometre readings taken when the vehicle was assessed. It may be worth contacting previous owners whose names appear on the registration document which will be available from the vehicle licensing department, to ask what the kilometre reading was when they sold the car. You could also ask what the vehicle was used for, for example, short trips or regular motorway driving.

9.  Buying From a Dealer

This is the safest way of buying as you get the maximum protection of the law. Look for an established firm with a good reputation. It is also a good idea to choose a Dealer approved by the major Finance Houses.

A trade association sign may mean that the firm follows a code of practice. The Motor Industries Federation (MIF) can tell you which local dealers are subscribers to this code. Look for a garage whose cars have been inspected by AA Test and Drive. Ask to see the report on the car you want to buy.

When buying from a Dealer the law says that a car must be of satisfactory quality

It must meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as acceptable, bearing in mind the way it was described, how much it cost and any other relevant circumstances. For example this would cover the appearance and finish of the car, its safety and its durability. The car must be free from defects, except those that were pointed out to you by the Seller (there will be normal wear and tear when a car is second hand) and those which should have been uncovered by an inspection.

The car should be as described, i.e.

A car said to have 'one careful lady owner' shouldn't turn out to have three previous owners all male under 22. It should be reasonably fit for any normal purpose - it should get you from A to B - and for any other purpose that you specify to the Seller - for example towing a caravan. These rights are not affected by any mechanical breakdown insurance (often sold by Sellers if the manufacturers warranty has run out), guarantee or warranty giving additional protection. It's a good idea to get a description of the vehicles condition from the Dealer.
It is a good idea to ask for an AA Test and Drive pre-purchase Technical examination

10.  Buying privately

This should be cheaper than buying from a Dealer, but can carry certain risks.
You have fewer legal rights if you buy privately. The car must be as described but the other rules don't apply. If a private Seller lies about the condition of a car, you can sue for your losses - if you can find the Seller.

Unscrupulous dealers may pretend to be private Sellers to avoid their legal obligations and to get rid of faulty or overpriced cars. Look out for those who advertise alongside genuine private sellers.

Signs to look out for include:

Ads which give only a mobile phone number or specify a time to call. It may be a public phone box, not the Seller's home;
The same phone number appears in several ads;
When you phone about the car the Seller asks 'which one'.
The Seller wants to bring the car to you or meet you somewhere, rather than you going to the Seller's home.

11.  What to do if things go wrong

Go back to the Seller right away, explain the problem and say what you want done.
If you bought the car from a Dealer who is a member of one of the trade associations listed below they may be able to help. There is a code of practice for dealing with complaints:

You can go to court or use a trade association conciliation/arbitration scheme. A consumer adviser/solicitor can explain the procedure.

12.  Useful contact details

The Motor Industries Federation represents all member businesses which operate in the "automotive aftermarket" of the retail motor industry. There are 12 separate associations which constitute the M.I.F. including: NADA- the franchised retail motor dealers selling new and used vehicles, as well as selected independent used car operations, F.R.A. - The Fuel Retailers Association which represents service stations and M.I.W.A. - The Motor Industry Workshop Association which represents workshops countrywide.

For complaints about member businesses on the automotive aftermarket, contact:-

M.I.F National Office
303 Surrey Avenue, Femciale Box 2940, Randburg, 2125 Tel. (011) 789-2542

For complaints relating to insurance claims contact the
Insurance Ombudsman
Tel (011) 337-6525

The Golden Rules of Selling::

   Safety First

Selling a vehicle through Auto Trader is no more risky than any other publication, but you do need to take sensible precautions:  

  • Meet a potential buyer on your terms not theirs at a place of your choice
  • Get the buyer to provide a contact number - a cell number alone is not sufficient
  • Do not take your registration papers with you
  • Insist that the route for a test drive is yours. Get someone to follow you.
  • If a deal doesn't go through make sure the vehicle is secure at all times
  • You must ensure funds have been cleared before releasing a vehicle. Rather risk losing the buyer than losing your vehicle
Getting Ready to Sell Your Vehicle  
  • Get your vehicles cleaned - a full valet is usually well worth the investment.
  • Prepare the service history - even if you haven't used the same company or done some of it yourself, be honest with a potential buyer.
  • Make sure you are available once your ad starts to appear.
  • Proof of ownership is your responsibility - have all necessary documentation ready, but only provide copies, not originals.

 Writing your advertisement
When describing your vehicle always state the features whether extras or standard. People buy a vehicle for many different reasons, so try to paint a word picture of value for money. Check through Auto Trader to help you define a fair price.

Handling responses
It is not unusual for someone to sell their vehicle on the first day of advertising in Auto Trader - make sure you are ready for the response. Buyers will call at any time. Try to be obliging, but do not give out unnecessary information until you are sure of the legitimacy of the caller. Agree on a time when there is more than one person in the house. Do not give unnecessary information over the phone. Get proof before you pay third parties offering you ready buyers in return for a fee. Auto Trader is not connected to them.

Negotiating Price
It is human nature for the prospective buyer to want to pay a lower price. Remember to keep the mood pleasant. Derogatory remarks to lure you into lowering the price should be taken lightheartedly. Be polite and take all offers seriously. Consider your first offer carefully - you may get a better one as the day / week progresses.

Viewing / Allowing a Test Drive

A test drive is a reasonable request. Decide when, where and how, only after having given it some thought. Viewers should come to you. For safety reasons it is not recommended that you go to them or meet them half way. Avoid seeing callers on your own. Keep hold of the keys at all times and when allowing a test drive, make sure you are in the vehicle (preferably with a friend) and the person driving the vehicle is insured and has a valid driver's license. Make sure the vehicle is fully insured until the sale is complete.

Show Receipts, Bills and Service history
A lease is an agreement between a buyer and a financial institution. It may not be transferred and any existing lease must be settled in full prior to a vehicle being transferred to another party. A service history and receipts for any recent parts will show the vehicle has been cared for. Vehicles without a vehicle identification number (VIN) and/or engine number may be virtually unusable. Also remember the onus is on you, the seller, to inform the licensing authorities when you have sold your vehicle.

Obtaining Payment
Always ask for cash first. A deposit followed by a bank guaranteed cheque is the next thing. A deposit slip from the purchaser does not necessarily mean that the payment has been cleared by the bank or that the amount stated on the slip matches the amount claimed to be deposited. We suggest you go to the bank with the purchaser to make the deposit.

When accepting cheques from the purchaser it also makes good sense to arrange a special clearance with your bank. This can only be done at the time of the deposit - it can not be done afterwards. Cheques drawn on banks in Lesotho and Swaziland should be treated with caution. If in doubt, speak to your bank manager up front to seek advice. Do not release you vehicle until you are certain you have full payment.


  • Do not accept faxed copies of deposit slips.
  • Check the authenticity of bank deposits with your bank.
  • Request your bank to confirm this in writing.
  • " If accepting a bank cheque, check with the bank concerned that the cheque isn't stolen. 'Sufficient Funds' means nothing if the cheque has been stolen.

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