Twelve tips for buying a used car privately

FNB and the Automobile Association (AA) offer these really helpful tips that could save you money in the long run.

  • Used cars have to pass a roadworthy test — ask for proof of roadworthiness.
  • All legitimate vehicles have three main identity numbers, the number plate, the VIN (chassis number) and the engine number. Make sure the vehicle has these.
  • Look for the service history to check if it had been serviced recently and whether it has a warranty.
  • Check licence and registration papers.
  • Find out if the car has been in an accident or not. Inspect the car for misaligned or differently coloured panels, ripples in the paint and cracks or chips.
  • Check the engine — if you don’t know what to look for, take someone along who does. You don’t want cracked, worn hoses, build-up in the battery terminals or cracks in the fan-belt. Make sure the engine isn’t leaking oil.
  • Test-drive the vehicle for at least 20 minutes, paying particular attention to brakes (try an emergency stop), vehicle handling (swerve the car from side to side to see how the car responds to your steering) and any unusual noises, creaks or clicks. Drive with the radio off and the windows open so you can hear properly. Also check if gear changes are smooth.
  • If you find any problems, list them and suggest the seller goes to the car manufacturer’s workshop to check how much it will cost to fix the problem. You may be able to re-negotiate the price of the vehicle, or insist the seller fixes existing problems before you purchase the car.
  • Avoid ads that specify a time to call or the same phone number appearing in several ads. Some dealers may pretend to be private sellers to avoid their legal obligations and get rid of faulty or over-priced vehicles.
  • Check previous owner history and proof of payment to be sure you’re not buying a stolen car.
  • Ask the seller for service receipts, bills and service history to make sure the mileage is correct. Does the mileage match the age of the car?
  • The private seller must describe the vehicle accurately. If he or she lies about the condition of the car, you can take legal action, so indicate that you are aware of this and ask for a full, detailed description.

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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