Beware buying a “written off” second-hand car in South Africa – TopAuto
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Wednesday / 17 August 2022
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Beware buying a “written off” second-hand car in South Africa

South African car buyers must beware of dealerships selling poorly-repaired and dangerous-to-drive used vehicles.

This is according to a report by BusinessTech, which covered a recent ruling by the National Consumer Tribunal against a car dealership selling a defective second-hand vehicle.

The tribunal ruling against the dealership in the matter was supported by the South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association (SAMBRA).

Richard Green, director of the association, stated that even though the buyer in the matter received a certified guarantee when he bought the car, the certificate did not link to the vehicle in question.

It also did not contain a date, registration number, odometer reading, or client name.

“This should have been an immediate warning to the buyer at the time of purchase and was a serious omission by the dealership in question,” said Green.

Written off

Green said SAMBRA has also been pushing for “written off” vehicles to be blocked completely from finding their way into used car dealerships – and being sold to unsuspecting buyers.

They should be written off as scrap as they are beyond economical repair, said Green.

There are two major hurdles to ensuring this takes place, however.

The first is that to the average consumer, a car may look roadworthy despite not being repaired to a roadworthy standard.

Secondly, there is no publically-available national database of written-off vehicles.

“We have repeatedly appealed to the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) to make this information available for consumers and accredited and reputable dealers alike,” said Green.

“If SAIA would just agree to making write off information available on a public register where the VIN number of the vehicle can be checked and the buyer can then be properly informed prior to making a used car purchase, these types of problems could be avoided.”

He said the information required to build this database is forwarded to SAIA from all insurance companies. SAIA then creates a Vehicle Salvage Data system using this information.

What to watch out for

Green said consumers must be on the lookout for warning signs to avoid buying a defective second-hand vehicle.

He provided the following guidance:

  • If you are buying a second-hand car online, ensure you get an accredited repairer or dealer to provide you with an independent assessment.
  • If you are buying a car privately, ensure you get an independent assessor to check out the car.
  • Never accept a car without a full service record – and if you do receive a certificate, make sure it has all the necessary information regarding the car in question.


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