How to purchase a pre-owned vehicle with confidence
Buying a new or 2nd hand car is a big decision. This is especially true when buying a previously owned vehicle, where you get more value for money – but there is no guarantee your purchase won’t end up as a costly ‘lemon’.
Most used vehicle sales now take place online, where you can browse nationwide and buy a vehicle from anywhere in South Africa – and use the services of Screan to make sure your purchase goes smoothly.
This approach has certain great advantages over trawling used car lots in person.
It saves time and opens up a much larger pool of potential vehicles, increasing the likelihood that you will find exactly what you are looking for within your budget.
Some vehicle categories are slightly cheaper in different provinces and you can get more of certain vehicles in some places, such as bakkies in rural areas, which further reduces the average price.
Up country re-used vehicles are much less likely to have rust or corrosion than the coast or some very humid areas, although this effect is negligible on cars kept 15-20 km or so from the ocean.
Shopping for a 2nd hand car online
But how do you even start shopping for a car online and what is the best way to go about negotiating for a fair price of the vehicle with the seller?
This is where some practical steps on your behalf – and enlisting Screan to assist you – can be of immense benefit.
Shopping for a car online is like any form of ecommerce. Determine your budget, make a shortlist of your ideal vehicles, and begin your search.
It is important to make sure that the websites you use are reputable and provide adequate legal safeguards, but there are also several smaller websites and independent sellers where good deals might be found.
Research is the key. Shortlist a few vehicles and correspond with the agent or private seller to ask them a few basic questions about the vehicle before you make your final decision.
Find out about the vehicle’s driving and service history, whether it has been in any accidents, state of mechanics, bodywork and interior etc, before you take the next step.
Book vs Market Value
The seller of a used car will advertise it at its perceived ‘market value’ rather than its ‘book value’, which is an approximate value for trading and insurance purposes that is based on a car’s year, make, model and other specs.
Several other factors can influence the market price of a vehicle, including its colour, mileage, general condition, service history, accident history and location.
To determine the true value of a vehicle, ideally you would want to view it in person. However, this may not be possible due to your location, or not wanting to do so due to COVID-19 health concerns, or safety-related fears.
However, your Screaner will already know the vehicle’s book value and can confirm and find out more about the car’s history when they test drive and assess it on your behalf.
Screan’s 60-point Checklist
You Screaner will do everything possible to ensure the vehicle is thoroughly tested and vetted. First they will obtain the certificate of registration and check against the license disc and VIN number.
They will then ask the seller several questions about the car's service record, accident history and more. They will also find out who owns it – the bank or seller – and will find out whether it has valid warranties or guarantees, or will it be sold with roadworthy and registration.
The Screaner will examine the vehicle interior and exterior using a 60 point checklist, scrutinising the body for accident damage, panel alignment, whether doors close properly, rust, rust cover ups or mismatched paint etc.
They will also test the suspension and look for leaks, check the tyres, examine the exhaust and undercarriage for any damage or loose parts etc.
This will be followed by a thorough mechanical car inspection, including the transmission, brakes, suspension and electronics. Your Screaner will specifically check the oil level, look for signs of water in the oil, whether the engine is leaking, dirty or oily and is running well.
After inspecting and driving the used car, our Screaner will provide you with a detailed report, as well as a short video and some images of the vehicle.
At this point you can choose to negotiate with the seller on his asking price, though the Screaner can also negotiate with the seller for a better price on your behalf.
This has further advantages for buyers in that it protects you from fraudulent dealers, ensures you are not exposed to COVID and can remain safely at home during the whole process.
Tips for buying a used car online
If you choose to negotiate yourself, first research and be aware of scammers online. Many fraudsters copy details of legitimate car sales and pretend they are selling the same car to dupe you out of your money
Obtain as much information you can about the seller beforehand. Also, be wary of any upfront payments or unconventional costs the seller might ask for. Similarly, beware of outright bargains. If the vehicle price is too good to be true it is likely a scam.
Be especially wary of sellers who are evasive, in another country or unwilling to meet you in person. If you choose to travel to view, negotiate, or collect vehicles, be sure to meet the seller in a public place, such as a petrol station forecourt, and never go alone.
If you need to negotiate, settle on your ideal price based on your Screan report, and stick to it. Of course, if you really want the vehicle, by all means allow for a little wiggle room but don’t be scared to walk away from a negotiation if you feel like you are paying too much.
Remember – this vehicle will have been assessed by an expert Screaner, which should give you the confidence to negotiate for the best price with the seller.
Rest is up to you, good luck - there are plenty of good bargains to be found out there right now!
- Article by Masterson Communications.