Buying a second-hand car

Mo is about to buy a second-hand car and wants to know the following:

What should the seller bring apart from the car?
What should I bring apart from the cheque?
Where does the roadworthy, etc. come in and can anyone give me an idea of the costs attached?
Are there people I can pay to do this for me?

Maya replies: When you are buying a car privately, especially from a stranger, you need to take some precautions.

Financial precautions
Gary Ronald from the AA says before you go any further contact Auto Check on 0861 601 601/012 365 9510 to find out if there is any outstanding finance on the car or whether it has been stolen.

You can do a preliminary check to make sure that the registration number matches the number on the license disk.


Ask to see the original registration papers. Ronald says you need to check on document who the title holder is. If it is the bank then there is still finance on the car and this must be settled before you take transfer.

Ronald says there are a lot of reported cases where people sell a car with outstanding finance and then report it stolen to the bank. Because the bank is still owed money the bank has the right to repossess even if you have bought the car — so beware!

If the finance has been settled, the seller must provide a letter from the bank stating that it has transferred full ownership to the seller.

There is always the difficulty of the time between paying and taking ownership of the car. If, for example, you want to do an electronic transfer, ask the owner for the registration papers before you pay, with the agreement that once the funds reflect in the account you will take possession of the car.

Alternatively pay with a bank-guaranteed cheque. Don’t hand this over unless you have the registration documents as well as the signed transfer documents, which the seller can get from the local licensing department.

The condition of the car
Take a close look at the general condition of the car — make sure the parts match the age of the car. A newish looking bonnet for example could suggest the car has been in an accident.

Once you have seen a car you are keen on, ideally you should run it through something like an AA test, which also provides a roadworthy certificate. You can make this a condition of sale.

If you are seller of a second-hand car, having roadworthy done in advance improves your chances of selling the car and Ronald says you can add about R5 000 to the selling price.

A roadworthy test needs to be done before transfer. The seller can do it to make it easier for the buyer as it is valid for up to six months. A general roadworthy costs about R300 and there is a cost of R69 to register the car.

Ronald says the bottom line is that you need to use your common sense. If something does not seem right walk away — there are plenty of cars out there.

Paying for service:
You can buy or sell a car through AA AutoBay, which facilitates the transaction and handles all the annoying admin.

There are many companies like Don’t Q, for example, which will roadworthy and license your car. You need to do the maths to see if what you pay is worth the time saved.

One last tip — make sure your insurance is in place before you take ownership.

Read more news, blogs, tips and Q&As in our Smart Money section. Post questions on the site for independent and researched information.

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Maya Fisher French
Guest Author
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