Buy with your head, not your heart

With fuel on the increase and the cost of living always on the rise, many South Africans are looking at ways to decrease expenses. One of these ways is buying second-hand when it comes to cars. “It’s so important to buy with your head and not your heart,” warns Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI). “You don’t want to end up spending more in the long run because you have made a decision based on aesthetics, status or performance rather than the sound running of the vehicle.”


He says it doesn’t pay to get overly emotional over the vehicle you have in mind, as this could cause you to neglect doing the necessary research, checks and balances to ensure the purchase makes logical sense. “Keeping your wits about you may just prevent serious buyer’s remorse later on,” says Ranft.


One of the first warning signs you should look for in a used car is dirty oil. “Remove the dip-stick and take a look, if the oil is black, walk away. Yes, maybe the thought of owning this particular car makes your heart beat faster, but this is exactly the kind of emotional decision you want to avoid.”


“Take the car on a test drive too. If something feels off, have it checked again. It’s a good idea to break hard during your test drive. If the car swerves when you stop this could mean structural damage. Unless you are prepared to spend a lot of money fixing the vehicle, my advice once again would be to walk away.”


The reality is that consumers are often faced with problems after a purchase, which could have been identified and corrected upon proper scrutiny at the time they were buying the vehicle. These consequences then end up being the consumer’s responsibility.


“The RMI’s consumer affairs department has many cases on record where consumers have bought cars too hastily and only realise later that the checks and balances where not done. A common trend we have noted is youngsters buying high performance cars that are out of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and aftermarket warrantees, and then realising later that the running expenses far exceed their budgets,” he points out.


Here are some important and relevant checks to make before you buy your next car:


  • Service history authentication
  • Checking what guarantees and/or warrantees exist
  • If aftermarket warrantees/service plans do exist, taking time to read and understand the conditions.
  • Checking when was the last service done and when last the cambelt was changed
  • Combined fuel consumption stats
  • Accident records/checks
  • Finance agreement satisfaction
  • Interest rate
  • Understanding Balloon Payments and the terms of agreement
  • Being clear on the “extras” in the finance agreement
  • Investigating the general condition of the car, tyres, spare wheel, spare key etc.
  • Mileage verification


Ranft suggests that, if permissible, taking the car for a visual report and test by an accredited MIWA workshop. “Otherwise you’re free to contact MIWA ahead of making a commitment. We can provide the necessary tips to consumers ahead of making a purchase and help you to ask the right questions.”