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10 things to do when car-buying online

2015-02-13 10:12

CAR-BUYING GUIDE: Before purchasing any vehicle, make sure you research the car, ask questions and take it for a test drive. Image: Shutterstock


Shopping for a car online can be convenient and has several advantages.

South African websites offer thousands of new and used vehicles and you're able to browse according to brand, model, region and price.

It can be daunting however as unlike showroom-hopping, you aren't physically interacting with a potential new vehicle.


Product and marketing manager for Auto Mart, Francois Labuschagne, said: "Online browsing enables you to compare what is currently available in the market and at what price without you having to waste time and money driving to multiple dealerships and several private sellers searching for your dream car.

“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 his 10 tips for buying car online:

1 Know your budget
Consider the car you have in mind and whether it will service your needs - do you require a car that is fuel efficient as considering how often you travel? Do you need ample space for your family?

Other factors to consider are features and spare parts, including tyres, the cost of a service plan, insurance and registration of the vehicle. The factors will determine whether you can afford the vehicle.

2 Ask lots of questions
When making contact with the owner or dealer, whether by phone or email, ask lots of questions to enable you to make an informed decision. Questions can include why they are selling the car, what the vehicle was used for, how often was it driven and the average kilometres travelled a month. Inquire whether the car was in a crash, whether it received repairs and when its tyres were replaced.

3 View the car in a safe place
Never meet at your house. Choose a public spot such a fuel station, shopping centre parking area or at your place of work. Ask the seller to bring along their ID so that you can identify them and 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 that have been done to the vehicle and it 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.

5 Check the kilometres
It’s important to check the odometer as this determines the car’s "true age". If its price and mileage seem high for a new model then it’s probably not advisable to spend a lot of money on that specific car.

6 Inspect the bodywork and interior
Inspect the bodywork for dents and rust as this can indicate whether the car has been well maintained or not. With age a vehicle's chassis will deteriorate. Make sure all its panels line-up and that the doors and windows open and close properly.

Make sure that the aircon, power windows and other electronics are functional.

7 Inspect the engine
The engine is the most important part of the car. Check that there are no leaks or corrosion and that the gaskets, brake fluid, reservoir and belts are not deteriorated, as this could mean possible replacement in the near future.

8 Test drive
Compile a shortlist of cars you want to inspect and test drive. Take the car for a test drive and make sure its brakes, clutch, engine and gearbox operate properly. Take plenty of bends and corners to get an indication of what state the shocks and its suspension is in.

9 Independent inspection
Have the car independently inspected to help you identify flaws and make an informed decision when purchasing 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). Test centres in association with the AA can 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 a 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 its most recent service had in fact occured and that the seller has disclosed all the defects as required by the Consumer Protection Act.

Labuschagne said: "Ensure that you have all the information you need to make the right decision and always get a second opinion from a trusted friend."


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