Used-car sales have been on a steady climb in South Africa over the past few years, with a great number of consumers having to navigate the second-hand car market.
Although pre-owned car prices may be friendlier on the pocket, the vehicles may have undisclosed mechanical problems and body damage issues, cautions the Automobile Association (AA).
It has warned consumers looking into buying in this market to be savvier by taking heed of the following advice:
1. Look for a low-mileage demo model from a reputable car dealer
These cars are normally well looked after, well priced and almost new. An old car with high mileage can't be expected to be as good as a newer car with lower mileage.
Although there are no guarantees, reputable dealers are recommended over private sellers. According to financial services group Santam, you also have a better chance of having your car fixed at an established dealership if there are future issues.
2. Conduct a careful inspection of the vehicle
Check brake discs for uneven wear, the colour of the oil and the wear and tear of the tyres. Pay attention to the body colour of the car -- unevenness may suggest that replacement bodywork has been done and may indicate that the car was involved in a crash.
Also check all lights, electric windows, aircon, the sound system and windscreen wipers.
Take along someone who is more familiar with cars if you are not sure what to look out for.
3. Test drive the car
Listen to the running engine for funny noises -- turning the radio off may help identify strange sounds from the car. Test drive in an area where you can stop, accelerate and turn left and right. During the drive, make sure to test all the gears and the route you drive must include an incline.
After the drive, check if there are any leaks from the car.
4. Always insist on the car's service record and mileage logbook
This will give you a good idea of the car's history -- how it's been taken care of, and when and how far the car has travelled, especially if you buy from friends or family. You can also call the service centre to confirm if the service actually took place.
If you're buying privately, have the car tested for its roadworthiness at a reputable testing centre. Otherwise, you have to take the seller's word that it hasn't been involved in a major accident.
5. Always negotiate for a lower price
According to motoring expert Wilmer Müller, everything is negotiable. He cautions that buyers should not just buy the first car they like. He advises that if buying from a dealer, a buyer negotiates a price that includes all on-the-road costs.
This is not a definitive list, but could be a good starting point.
If you're not sure which car to buy, Gumtree recently released the finalists for its Gumtree Pre-owned Car Awards. This is a list of the best second-hand cars in the market at the moment. It covers a number of models, from budget to luxury models, and none of the cars are older than three years.