Shopping for a car online can be daunting but with the right preparation you could be well on your way to finding a new set of wheels.
No matter what you are looking for, chances are you will find it online. Classified sites have thousands of used cars, 4x4s, bikes and spare parts on offer and you can easily browse for the specifications you’re seeking for from the comfort of your own home.
Great bargains are available on classified sites but be aware of scams.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Do your homework and scout the internet for similar models and prices to make an informed decision. Take someone who is knowledgeable about cars with when inspecting the car as it always helps to get a trusted second opinion.
Here are ten pointers if you’re using online classified sites for the first time to buy a used car:
1 Know your budget
Do you require a car that is fuel efficient as you’re often travelling for work? Do you need a car that is spacious enough for a large family? Consider the car you have in mind and whether it will suit your needs.
Other factors to consider are the features you need as well as the cost of replacement parts including tyres, service plan, insurance and registration of the vehicle.
2 Ask lots of questions
When making contact with the owner or dealership for the first time, ask lots of questions to enable you to make an informed decision. Questions should include why they are selling the car, what they used it for, average kilometres travelled in a month. Other important details you should find out is whether the vehicle was involved in a crash, has it been repaired and when were the tyres replaced.
3 View the car in a safe place
Never meet at your house but rather choose a public spot such a fuel station, shopping centre parking area or at your place of work. Ask the seller to present their ID so that you can identify them. Make sure to take someone with you.
4 Check the service history
A service history will give you an indication of the repairs and maintenance and will provide you with a good idea of the vehicle’s condition. Make sure that the car’s service history is up to date and if it isn’t, query this with the owner/dealer.
5 Check the kilometres
It’s important to check the kilometres on the odometer, as this determines the car’s true age.
6 Inspect the bodywork and interior
Inspect the bodywork for dents and rust as this can indicate whether the car has been looked after or not.
With age a car’s body will deteriorate but make sure all the panels line-up properly and that the doors and windows operate properly. If the car has an on-board computer, make sure that the aircon, power windows and other electronics are fully functional.
7 Inspect the engine
The engine is a critical component of the car. Check that there are no leaks or corrosion and that the gaskets, brake fluid, reservoir and belts don’t look deteriorated, as this could mean possible replacement in the future.
8 Test drive
Compile a shortlist of cars you want to experience. Take the vehicle for a test drive to test the brakes, the clutch and the smoothness of the gearbox. You will get a good indication of what state the shocks are in and whether the suspension is operational.
9 Independent inspection
Have the car independently inspected to help you identify flaws and make an informed decision when buying a second-hand car. A Roadworthy Test must be conducted every time a vehicle changes ownership. The test is a legal requirement and ensures that the vehicle meets the safety standards defined by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). DEKRA test centres in association with the AA conduct roadworthy tests. Additional tests that will give you extra peace of mind include a Multi-Point check visual inspection, a Technical Inspection and a Safety Check.
10. Be a neutral buyer
Show interest in the car, but don’t be too enthusiastic. Negotiate on the price if you notice some faults that are acceptable and that won’t compromise the car’s performance. Don’t make hasty, irrational decisions. Be patient and be prepared to walk away if the seller is unwilling to negotiate on the price or if the car shows signs of having been in an accident.
If you’re buying a car voetstoots, when it is sold as is with its defects, make sure that the service manual is up to date, that the most recent service did happen and that the seller has disclosed all the defects as required by the Consumer Protection Act.
Ensure that you have all the information you need to make the right decision and always get a second opinion from a trusted friend.