In the current economic environment, it is imperative that you know what you are getting yourself into when purchasing a new car. Recycled metal, so to put it, is the order of the day for unscrupulous car dealerships looking to cut corners, selling customers what appear to be brand new cars which end up being exactly the opposite.
It is imperative when buying a new or second hand car to ensure that all your bases are covered and that you are certain about the history and the current state of the car. The AA offers bumper-to-bumper examinations at an affordable cost which help you to ascertain the exact condition of your car before you buy it, just to make sure that this is the car you want before you buy it.
Firstly, have a look at the engine to make sure it is still in working condition. If the engine is dirty or shows signs of “frosting” around the battery terminals, this shows that the engine has not been carefully maintained. Listen for knocking or rumbling noises from the top or bottom of the engine when you start the car as well as thick blue smoke coming from the exhaust when you rev the engine as these could indicate expensive problems. Ensure that the water in the radiator is clean and oil free, as well as the oil in the engine – black oil on the dipstick suggests infrequent oil changes.
For second hand cars, small chips in the paint or on the windscreen do not necessarily indicate that the car has been in a major accident. Things to look out for are mismatched paint on adjacent body panels, unequal gaps between the body panels and edges that are uneven. Take a look at the wires in the engine compartment or behind the door or window rubbers to check for over spraying, which indicates accident damage. Check your tyres, uneven wearing of the tyres or “feathering” is a sign that the wheels are off-balance, the suspension is not aligned or the shock absorbers are worn.
Scrupulous inspection of the inside of your vehicle is also vitally important. Firstly, check that the speedometer digits are not crooked or scratched or that the screws have been tampered with. Wear and tear on the carpeting and rubber of the brake, clutch and accelerator pedals should be consistent with the age of the car. Check inside the bonnet, boot and doors for paint runs, hammer marks, rust bubbles and, again, over-spray. If you are feeling extra vigilant, you might wish you take a magnet along and sleuth about for patches of body putty.
Lastly, test-drive your car. Make sure your car travels and brakes in a straight line, keep an eye out for over-heating, ensure that the engine power is adequate for its size and make sure the steering wheel straightens itself out when you go around a corner.
Always ask to see all the car’s paperwork and check the service record, beware of dealers advertising as private sellers and always check that the registration document is the same as the address where you saw the car.
Remember to always negotiate a lower price, there are plenty of cars out there to choose from and great deals can be found on second hand cars. Knowing the right things to look out for by following this simple advice from the AA should ensure that you are not taken for a ride by dodgy dealerships.
A roadworthy certificate is not a guarantee that the car is problem-free. It is simply stating that the vehicle meets the minimum statutory requirements in terms of safety, such as brakes, suspension and lights at the time of the test.
Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
011 799 1180