This has a lot of excellent information including a Buyers Checklist.
By Robby Roberts- posted 4/06
So - You want to get rid of a couple of hundred thousand Rand on a good 4x4
and you don't know where to begin. You've heard a Toyota Landcruiser is
heavy on fuel, but the best off-road vehicle there is. You want one anyway.
Where do you start?
Let's start by talking about resale values.
Some vehicles, like Mercedes & Toyota for example, have excellent resale
values. But yet other vehicles in the same category of those makes do not
hold their value as well. Why?
It is a mixture of product quality, public perception and my all time
favourite (which few people understand fully) SUPPLY AND DEMAND. I will talk
extensively on this as we work through this article. Remember S&D - It is
the primary driving force in every free market economy. It will ultimately
override any 'guide' or government intervention, price fixing, etc.
Nobody understands the public's frustrations and mistrust of dealers more
than I do. I have been in this industry my whole life and am intimate with
it. The complexities of establishing vehicle market value overcomes the
average consumer, banker and insurance agent. Thus was born the idea of a
book to guide the non-professionals through the morass of valuating
We have all heard about "book value" - What exactly is it? Who decides on
the values? Why do some dealers offer below book for vehicles and other
Who determines that a Toyota should have high resale value?
You do. An item is worth what someone is willing to pay. What resale values
reflect, is the demand for a particular vehicle. This is why "minimum wage"
is such a contentious issue - where the state intervenes with the natural
laws of supply and demand. Ask yourself which is better for a nation: To
have 90% people employed at R500 pm or 35% employed at R 3000 pm? I won't
bother answering that one!
The book in question is called the "Mead & McGrouther Auto Dealers Guide" -
hereinafter referred to as the AAD or just the 'book'. Let's start by
erasing some well established paradigms:
Firstly: The Mead and McGrouther Digests are published monthly. The values
(as a rule) fall monthly. In certain rare instances they remain static and
sometimes even increase. The latter happens when the economy is going
through an inflationary cycle. (i.e.New car prices rising too fast.)
Secondly: It is true, to a point, that the values are determined by the
public (supply and demand). However, many hundreds of dealers all over SA
(including myself) send in monthly sales returns of vehicles, which are
averaged by M&M, and then a formula is applied to those national figures in
order to produce a viable set of book values.
Thirdly: It is a fair and reasonable method to arrive at a market value, but
it must be borne in mind that the M&M values are only a GUIDE - and nothing
For example: For a very unpopular vehicle (eg. Korando) I would offer about
50% less than the Trade (lower) book value, as I know that in order to
resell this vehicle, my selling price must be highly competitive. At the
other end of the scale, the resale values of the Toyota Landcruiser are
incorrect as well. I have paid up to 30% more than the book Retail (higher)
value for a low mileage Landcruiser. The older the vehicle gets, the more it
comes into demand (price range) up to the point of about 8 to 10 years old,
when most cars are fairly tired anyway, at which point values fall off
dramatically. The ability to finance a vehicle greatly enhances it's value.
Therefore vehicles older than 8 years lose value rapidly. In the same breath
let me add, that there are a handful of vehicles that completely defy these
laws and rules. One of them is the Toyota Landcruiser. Others include
Porsche and some Mercedes models. The dangerous segment of the market is one
to two year old vehicles. If the new car franchise decides to run a 'special
offer' on the product you have purchased, it could ruin the resale value of
your one year 'baby' as it would make the two prices too close to each
other. There has to be a considerable gap between the lowest, discounted new
price and the book retail value of a one year old vehicle to entice a buyer
into buying used and not new.
There is a general misunderstanding of what the columns of figures in the
The Trade/Retail values in the 'book' are meant to indicate the following:
TRADE: This is the approximate price the book suggests a dealer should pay
for a vehicle as a trade-in, subject to the vehicle having average mileage
(these averages can be found on the last page of the book) and then any
amounts for reconditioning to get the vehicle into showroom condition must
still be deducted. Plus allowances must be made for local/regional
fluctuations in popularity and supply/demand variations.
RETAIL: This is the suggested price a dealer should sell a vehicle for,
subject to mileage and condition, supply and demand, local fluctuations etc.
There are a further two columns on each page: H,L, No.
These figures indicate the following:
H = The highest price achieved nationally on this specific product
L = The lowest price achieved nationally on this specific product
No: The number of units sold nationally of this specific product.
This helps to establish desirability and trends.
The column on the extreme left of the page is the original new price for
that product in that year. This helps to determine how fast/slowly resale
values have taken place.
Wakey, wakey --- Are you still with me?
Then we get to the infamous time lag:
The supply/demand law takes about 6 months to become effective in the Auto
Dealer Digest (M&M). That is the realistic time lag. As dealers, we have to
think ahead of the current market and attempt to forecast buyer patterns a
half year ahead. It's an inaccurate science, but exactly like playing the
stock market. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don't. There are no
absolutes, no guarantees.
Finance companies and insurance companies tend to use the digest as a
"bible" rather than a guide. When we try to obtain finance for a client on a
Landcruiser for example,(which is always over book), the banks are not in
touch with the reality of the market place and consequently often decline
such applications. To correct the equity factor, the buyer has to put down
an appropriately larger deposit.
The M&M Auto Dealer Digest is confidential to the subscriber. It is meant to
be a tool used in the motor trade. It can (and often is) used foolishly by
well meaning, but ignorant people in an attempt to value their, or other's,
vehicles. It is a very expensive publication costing approximately R92 per
month! Like working with a complicated piece of machinery, one needs
training, experience and expertise before handling these books. Treat with
caution and even better - leave it to the pro's.
A dealer will obviously try to utilize/manipulate book values to get stock
at a better price to increase his margins. He is, after all, in business to
make a profit. There are many variables in determining desirability of a
particular vehicle. Demand for a vehicle can also change rapidly. For
example, the Hyundai range of cars' resale value collapsed when that company
went under in 1990 or thereabouts. It recovered to some extent, but never to
the levels prior to the event. When there is a big fuel price hike, most
cars that are considered gas guzzlers will see their resale values taking a
dive. BUT the prime driving force is always supply and demand.
I know what the next question will be. "What is MY 4x4 worth?" That I cannot
answer as demand/supply can vary from city to city and region to region;
condition and mileage. Just don't be so naive as to believe that your 4x4 is
worth book. It might be worth a lot less or a lot more. Most South African
vehicle owners are actually well read and clued up and not easily duped into
selling their vehicles for less than what they are worth. I check the
private ads on a daily basis and most private sellers ask dealer retail
prices and frequently, even higher. When the phone doesn't ring, the
advertiser realises that his asking price is too high. There are only two
reasons a vehicle doesn't sell. One is PRICE - the other is CONDITION. So,
if you are selling your "baby" and you know it is immaculate in every way,
and no-one answers your advert, you are asking too much (on that given day).
Try again tomorrow. Next week. But if, after three weeks, it is still
unsold, and you are still convinced that CONDITION is not an issue, it is
time to drop the price. The buyers out there are sharp and wily. They are
watching and waiting for a good buy. Perhaps it is also worth mentioning
that someone who has a quarter of a million bucks in his back pocket is
nobody's fool. He will have done his homework; know what to look for; be
familiar with the product and looking for the best possible deal. The maxim:
"There is a fool born every minute" does not apply to buyers in this price
If you really want to know what the trade value of your vehicle is worth in
your area, take it to four or five different dealers for valuation. Average
it out and that's the value. You will find that the values will be in a
fairly tight band. Those dealers will all know what they are doing. If you
have a Landrover Freelander, for example, expect that value to be far below
If you think the dealer will make an unfair markup on your car, advertise it
yourself in the open market.
DEFINITION: THE MARKET VALUE OF ANY PRODUCT OR SERVICE IS HOW MUCH YOU CAN
GET FOR IT IN CASH ON ANY GIVEN DAY.
To illustrate this definition, we could say that a vehicle might sell for
more towards the end of the month, when people have been paid, than after
the first week of the month. Likewise, it would probably fetch more in
December than in June. It would fetch more 3 weeks before school holidays. A
cabriolet is worth 30% more in summer than in winter. Capiche?
The dealer is under no obligation to offer you book for your vehicle. It is
merely a guide. Tip: Shop around. There are about 6000 used car dealers in
SA to choose from and triple that number of private sellers on a daily
basis. Stay informed. Watch the papers. Check these forums. Don't rush into
One word of consolation: It is quite allright to buy a 4x4 far behind the
book value, but don't expect to get book or over book for it when you want
to resell your "bargain" - If you buy behind book, you sell behind book as
well. The converse applies as well. Common sense and logic shall prevail.
Someone asked me how the book values are reached. All sorts of external
factors come to play. Let's say, for example, VW are experiencing low sales
in the Audi range. What they do is sell a whole stack of them at lower than
dealer billing to their new car franchise dealers, who license them as
demo's, and immediately resell them at used car values. However, there are
no values for cars of the current year model in the book, so how do they
establish what to sell them for? Three guesses: Supply and demand! You got
it! It's a fine line.
Those statistics, when done on a national basis, are often inflated to
maintain a high resale value of a specific product. How would the guys at
Mead and McGrouther ever know this? The bottom line is, no matter what
wonderful formula's and dealer returns (and believe me nearly all the new
car dealers inflate their sales returns) are sent in to the publishers of
the 'books', those figures remain only a guide to the uninformed. The
manufacturers are fiercely competitive in their desire to maintain high
resale value of their products. They would all love to have Mercedes' long
standing reputation for high resale value, so they inflate their sales
figures in an effort to close the gap. It doesn't really work though, as the
public are the people who buy the products - and what they decide, is the
final authority on the matter.
Used car dealers know exactly what is happening in the market. They have to,
otherwise they will be out of business very quickly. Most used car dealers
are so intimate with car prices, that they seldom even bother referring to
I cringe when I see a potential client arriving at my business driving
something like a Kia (which unfortunately does not hold it's value) and
clutching a dog-eared copy of the 'book' that someone turfed out the year
before, and yes, he expects 'book value' Well, that deal is dead in the
water. We have to be very diplomatic, as one can imagine. Even that Kia
owner, thinks his car is worth 'book'.
My advice to all of you looking for maximum resale value from your vehicles.
Be sensible and realistic. In general the resale values of most 4x4's
dropped when the beach ban was made law. Some models resisted that and
continued to steadily sustain very high demand (Landcruiser, Gelandewagen).
At the risk of making a thousand enemies, I am going to attempt to list all
the 4WD's here with what % I think they are worth above and below book
RETAIL value. This is based on Cape Town market prices at today's date AND
assuming average mileage and showroom condition. Any vehicle with below
average mileage is worth more than average price. The converse applies as
well. BUT ..There are always exceptions to the rule.
BMW X5 -20%
DAIHATSU TERIOS/ROCKY -15%
FORD COURIER -15%
FORD RANGER -15%
HONDA CRV +5%
HYUNDAI TERRACAN -30%
ISUZU DIESEL 0%
ISUZU PETROL -5%
JEEP WRANGLER/CHEROKEE ETC -25%
KIA SPORTAGE -15%
LAND ROVER FREELANDER -50%
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY -40%
LAND ROVER DEFENDER -35%
MAZDA B SERIES -15%
MERCEDES ML SERIES -20%
NISSAN BAKKIE -15%
NISSAN PATROL -20%
SSANGYONG KORANDO -50%
TOYOTA HILUX/RAIDER +10%
TOYOTA RAV +10%
TOYOTA PRADO +10%
TOYOTA LANDCRUISER LDV +30%
TOYOTA LANDCRUISER SW +30%
VW SYNCHRO -30%
VW TOUAREG -20%
In general petrol models will hold better resale value than diesel models,
with one or two exceptions - Isuzu is one of them.
Older models (3 to 7 years) are more desirable than newer models (1-2 years)
In the sub categories (model variants) one has to be careful as well, as in
the case of the Prado's (as an example) the petrol engined Prado carries a
better resale value than the diesel. Same rule for the Landcruiser range.
I have not listed some of the 4WD SW's like Volvo and Subaru as they are not
really off road vehicles. For those of you with plusses on the left of your
percentages, you probably paid more than book value for your cars and those
of you with minuses, I hope you paid less than book value.
This is the current trend. Fuel prices, legislation, and new car trends all
play a role in the popularity of individual marques. They can all be
different in a month or a year from now, or maybe even stay the same. Use
your common-sense. Ask around before taking the plunge and learn from
others. There is so much free information and advice on the internet. It is
not necessary to make mistakes with your purchase.
I find it odd that anyone can be offended by the law of supply and demand.
(I made this comment after a forum reader expressed dismay that this is the
rule by which values are determined and that the public are being
"ripped-off") It is certainly not the dealers, nor the manufacturers who
decide these things. It is YOU!
The raw basics of how supply/demand works:
I am keeping this simple, so that everyone can keep their feet on the ground
and fully understand the concept.....
It started thousands and thousands of years when one guy had too many sheep
and wanted some vegetables. The other guy had too many veggies and wanted
some meat. So there it was: Supply and demand! Between them they figured out
how many pumpkins and beans (A) had to pay to (B) for one of his sheep.
Supply and demand is the cornerstone of a free market economy. The laws are
amazingly simple. As soon as a product/service is in over-supply, the price
comes down. Why do you think M/Benz keep their new cars in short supply? It
is done specifically to create high demand. The current waiting list for a
new C Class is longer than 8 months. Clever? Nope, just good basic economic
practice. And they have been doing it for 50 years!
Then take the Zim Dollar which is in over-supply...........I rest my case.
Hopefully all the forum readers understand what makes our market tick and
that the M&M Guide is merely a tool and not the law. Have a look at the Auto
Trader and see how many Landcruisers are for sale vs. the other 4x4's. Once
again: Short supply = high demand.
Most private sellers (a common practise in SA for the last 40 years) put
their cars on the market at roughly halfway between Trade and Retail book
values. The logic behind this is that the private seller is unable to offer
facilities the dealer can, such as finance, after-sales service, warranties,
AA tests etc.
A trend I have noticed over the last 3 years when we were in a sellers
market, was that private sellers have been asking much higher than Retail
for their cars, and often getting those prices on the more popular models.
Over the last 6 months with the boom in new car sales, it has now become a
buyers market and there has been a significant drop in used car demand. The
result is (*of course) that prices have started falling. The law of supply
and demand will dictate that used car prices are too close to new car prices
at present and the gap has to increase in our free market economy. There
will no doubt, be many casualties along the way, including amongst our forum
readers. It's what I euphemistically call: School Fees.
Whilst on the subject of resale values, let me give everyone on this forum
this bit of useful/useless information:
All those thousands and thousands of Rands you spend on all those 'must
have' extras are basically going to add nothing to your vehicles' resale
value. A stock standard Landcruiser will hold the same (or maybe even more)
resale value than one with an OME suspension, JTM bumpers, Packing system;
fridge, etc. People are peculiar in that they prefer to modify their
vehicles themselves. It's what I call the "virgin factor"
So, when it comes to the time to resell and upgrade, rather take all your
extra's off and transfer them to your next vehicle (if they will fit) - it
will save you a fortune
A forum reader complained that the sales people at the dealerships always
work the book figures in their own favour. This was my response:
Luckily the good man above blessed most of us with a brain to distinguish
between being sold a pup or getting a good deal with back-up service.
Remember, it's the salesman's job to sell. That's how he feeds his family.
The more money/profit he can add to the vehicle, the better his pay cheque
will be. We can't blame him for that.
What we, as consumers, can do, is keep ourselves informed - And we do that
by means of forums like this one. Now isn't that wonderful?
Next time you talk to that sales chappie, you can tell him: "The extra's
have no value. Go check the Landcruiser Forum"
This was a response to a forum reader's complaint about being ripped-off
[RR]: "A lot of people get caught by unscrupulous sellers - some are dealers
and some are private sellers. It's a minefield out there. Like I said
earlier, ask around and word of mouth recommendations are usually the right
ones. Check the service books carefully, ask for an AA report, get an expert
to check the vehicle before you buy. If one is going to fork out a quarter
of a million bucks, one may as well be thorough."
"A fool and his money are soon parted"
And this forum reader was unhappy that a dealer had made a large profit on
[RR]: "Making a profit is not a sin. No business can survive without making
a profit. Before we all start using words like "rip-off" etc. let's be
realistic about it all.
If you buy any brand new vehicle, the moment you register that car on your
name, you lose a good portion of money. Probably in the region of R 20,000
to R 30,000 on a price range vehicle of around R 200,000. Dont fancy losing
that money? Then you buy a used vehicle, or a demo. A much smarter idea, but
you don't have the benefit of having driven away in a brand new car with
that nice new car smell.
Very few vehicles are an investment, but they do exist. For most of us, we
lose money on our vehicles. Of course, we forget completely that the vehicle
has carted us around faithfully for a few years and we have driven it hard,
on and off road, and then we still expect to get our money back. It's not
going to happen.
The bigger the dealer, the bigger his markup must be to carry and pay for
all those massive overheads. Sometimes it's worthwhile looking at the
smaller dealerships as well. Many a good deal is to be found. Word of mouth
(recommendation) is a good way to find out who the ethical businesses are
"The bigger the dealer, the lesser of a good deal you will get. And
certainly less personalized."
This was written by a forum reader and represents very sound thinking:
"I prefer to go to a smaller dealership, firstly, you will get more for your
trade-in and the vehicles on his floor will also be in a better condition.
Secondly, the aftersales service is so much better as he has a good name to
protect. I will also only make use of dealerships who have been in the
market for a number of years."
Another forum reader wrote of his bad experience where the sales person did
not even bother to have a look at his car. He just asked some questions and
referred to the 'book'.
This was my response:....
"I meant to comment on your dealer experience described above. You were at
the wrong dealer. Not a professional, but a rookie who doesn't have a clue
how to value a car. Start worrying when the valuator walks out with the
little book in his hand. He is guessing! You will usually find this with a
younger employee in a large corporation.
Every industry has it's baddies. I am ashamed when I hear sales people
behaving like this. All I can say is, you can do better (a whole lot better)
elsewhere. It reminds me of an old Jewish boss of mine many years back, who
used to have a plaque on his office wall which read:
"As the rooster said to the hen, when he showed her an ostrich egg......I am
not being disparaging, nor critical. I am merely bringing to your attention
what can and is currently being done elsewhere!"
Business goes and stays where it's made to feel welcome.
When making an offer you can always come up, but you can never go down.
Remember these pearls of wisdom. They don't come cheap.
Be careful of paradigms and making generalisations. The law of supply and
demand will always rule supreme.
How to buy a used vehicle....and avoid some pitfalls.
In the first section, we looked at how resale values are established and the
principle of supply and demand. Armed with this knowledge, we can now look
at the actual examination of a vehicle before we take the plunge and write
out the big cheque.
Let's start with odometers. How on earth do we know if the reading is
accurate? Why do some people turn the mileages back (what is commonly known
as a "haircut" or being sent to "the fountain of youth" )
I have been in this business for 35 years and there are many honourable
dealers who would never even think of turning back an odo, and then there
are those who have no conscience or qualms about doing it. It usually
doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who the bad guys are.
If there aren't service books AND a contactable previous owner, just walk
away and take your business elsewhere. In all the years I have been in this
business, I have rarely heard a genuine case of the books being missing. 99%
of the stories (mainly from the public !!!!) are pure horse dwang. I can
look at a steering wheel, upholstery and foot pedals and tell you within
10,000kms accuracy what the actual mileage of any vehicle is.
Here is a list of the usual reasons people give me for not having service
1. They broke into my car and stole my service books (Yeah, right!)
2. I packed them away in a box when I moved house and can't find them now,
but I'm sure they are there somewhere. (Who would pack service books in a
3. The dealer who serviced my car last, did not put the books back. (Highly
4. They were there last week. I can't believe this! (Yeah, right again!)
5. The books are in Jhb. They are being posted down to me next week (which
Ja, ja......and so on.
In the very rare event that one of these stories might just be true, at
least one should be able to contact the previous owner and confirm some
level of truth.
The reality is, that there are enough used cars in SA to NOT have to buy one
without service books.
Even digital odometers are being turned back. I saw a large ad in the Cape
Ads last week where someone is advertising that he "repairs" and "corrects"
Be careful guys and girls. Have a standard and stick to it. No books - no
buy. It's not that difficult.
A forum reader sent in this comment whilst he was verifying the mileage on a
"Interesting situation which I picked up was that one should also check the
elapsed date intervals between services. I was interested in a low km LC
where the 10000 km services were done more or less 6 to 8 months apart,
exept for the last service which was done 14 months after the previous
service. In this last period, the same owner all of a sudden only averaged
700 kms per month, while in the preceeding 6 years he averaged 1600 kms per
My suspicion was that the speedometer was disconnected during those last
months. Maybe, maybe not, but I felt uncomfortable, especially after the
owner became upset when I asked him about it."
This story is all too common. The new owner analyzed the mileage and time
intervals correctly. Eventually, logic must tell you that something is amiss
(or allright). Only problem is, he did this AFTER the sale - Long after the
horse has bolted. When buying from a private seller the consumer has little
or no recourse in a case like this. The buyer would have to prove in a court
of law that the seller had disconnected the odometer with the specific
intent to defraud. It is an almost impossible task.
A tell tale sign to look for is the the little service sticker that garages
paste on the inside of the drivers door support column. The one that tells
you when your next service is due. Many people forget to remove that and it
is common for me to catch a potential fraudster out like that. (Just compare
mileages and dates on the sticker). The clever guys will pull this sticker
off - and when I see that, I immediately know the odo reading has been
doctored. So if you have a scenario of 'books missing + service sticker
removed' you can take poison on it - it's had a haircut!
Another test is the steering wheel wear. This takes a little more skill and
experience. The different manufacturers use different materials for their
steering wheels. Opel, for example, use a recycled material, as does Ford
and Mazda, which wears out much faster than Toyota or Mercedes. Let's take
Toyota as an example: If a Toyota's steering wheel is shiny and smooth from
wear, the car will have done anything from 180,000kms upwards. It's a
learning process to know and understand the different wear characteristics
of every car's steering wheel, but it's still the best way for me to quickly
confirm what the odometer shows. It's what I euphemistically call a QBE
degree - Qualified By Experience
It's a process. Finally, if I am satisfied that the car I am buying is a
genuine one, I do an HPi check, BEFORE writing out the cheque. The HPi check
is a national vehicle database run by the AA. It will tell you whether there
are any outstanding ISA's (Instalment sale Agreement) on the car; whether
the car has ever had a major insurance claim; been written off; been
scrapped; or been stolen; or stolen and recovered. The cost of this check is
about R 100 and available from the AA.
Regardless of how certain I am of a good buy, I still do this check. It
gives me peace of mind and helps me to sleep well at night.
Here is my buying check list:
Starting with a telephonic inquiry:
1. What is the year model, mileage, colour, extra's etc.?
2. Are you the original owner? If not, how many owners has it had?
3. From whom did you buy the vehicle?
4. How long have you owned it?
5. Have you had any mechanical problems?
6. Do you have service records?
7. Has it been in any accidents? Major or minor?
8. Where has the vehicle been domiciled? (Areas like Saldanha, Sea Point etc
would indicate rust probabilities; areas in the platteland would indicate
9. Do you have a settlement?
The answers to these questions are important and you should pay careful
attention and listen out for evasiveness or hesitation. The area code of the
sellers telephone number will give a clue as to which area he is from. There
are certain prefixes in the Cape that I avoid like the plague and in the
interests of a long and healthy life, I will not mention them here!!
If the vehicle is not currently registered in the owners name, be
ultra-careful. Or if the present owner has only owned it for a short period
(anything less than six months) you should be very cautious. A short period
of ownership will normally indicate spec buying/profit taking. These are all
signs of a possible accident-damaged/insurance company sell-off spec sale.
Once you are satisfied with the above questions and have now proceeded to
the next phase which is viewing the vehicle:
1 Never look at a vehicle when it is wet or in bad light (in a parking
garage or after dark - especially if it is a metallic colour)
2. Get the vehicle into good light and look at all the panels from an obtuse
angle (not from 90 degrees). This will show up any file marks or orange peel
effect under the paint. A small magnet is useful to locate body putty
(magnet won't stick). Best light is neon for finding signs of prior body
repairs. There will be very few cars 5 years or older 100% original. Be
reasonable about "PicknPay rash" - small scrapes and scratches that have
Check all the headlights/tail lights and glass incl windscreen for cracks
and chips. Feel carpeting for signs of water leaks. Vehicles older than 8
years often have leaking radiator heaters. This requires the removal of the
dashboard to repair in most cases and is expensive.
3. Open the boot and the bonnet. In the engine bay look for signs of body
repair. Compare the left side to the right side for originality. If you see
any signs of repair work around the shock mountings etc. - leave the
purchase immediately. Also check for original stickers and aluminium makers
plates. Look for damage to the radiator core or check to see if the radiator
has been replaced recently (sure sign of a front end prang).
Check the firewall for signs of rust and/or damage.
Check the engine for cleanliness and oil leaks. On older vehicles it is a
good idea to open the air cleaner and check the air cleaner for signs of oil
Check the oil level on the dipstick as well as the colour of the oil. Black
and thick oil will indicate a long time since it's previous service. A mily
white colour will indicate a blown head cylinder gasket (water in the sump
In the boot, lift the carpets/mats and check for signs of repair/fresh
paintwork/water leaks and the condition of the spare and presence of
standard tools and jack. The condition of the boot will often be a tell tale
sign of the rest of the vehicle. Careful owners, have neat boots.
4. Get on your knees and look under the vehicle. You dont need to be an
expert. You are looking for signs of damage/welding/accident repairs.
Panelbeaters will always neglect a section which is out of the line of
sight. At the same time, look for oil leaks from the engine, gearbox and
diff(s). If there is thick black fresh underbody spray on the chassis area,
be very, very careful as it is often used to disguise accident damage.
5. Test drive: Never buy without driving it. One can normally feel the
general drive of a vehicle in a few blocks, but go for a decent drive over a
variety of terrains. Test all the gears as well as reverse. With automatic
boxes test the kickdown as well as the overdrive. With 4x4's if you cannot
get onto gravel, engage Low Range or/or HR and drive it in both ratios in a
straight line on a tar road. It wont do any harm.
When the engine is cold, check the oil pressure and again when hot. Look at
the colour of the oil on the dipstick - it will tell a whole story. Listen
for engine knocks, tappet noise etc. Rev the engine (petrol) to 4000rpm and
hold it there for 15 seconds, then give it a sharp rev and check the exhaust
for signs of smoke. Foir diesel engines, take it to an engineer for a proper
compression test. If you make a mistake with a diesel engine, it can cost
you a very large sum of money to rectify.
Now, tell the seller you will get back to him in 24 hours and if necessary,
ask him for an option. If he refuses, it usually means he has another buyer
lined up. Go home and think about it overnight. DO NOT MAKE A QUICK
At this point, if you are feeling uneasy about some specific point regarding
the sale - a sixth sense - this is the time to listen to your instincts. Try
to distinguish between nervousness about spending a lot of money and an
The next day, if you are satisfied, make your offer and make it subject to
an AA report. A genuine seller should have no problem with that. If the
owner baulks at the suggestion, be concerned! Also be willing to pay for the
AA test yourself, whether you buy or not.
BEFORE buying, ask to see the registration certificate. First thing you
check is the year of first registration. I can't tell you how many people
falsely believe (wittingly or unwittingly) that their vehicles are newer
than they actually are. It is imperative that the year of 1st reg. matches
that which the owner has advertised it as. (Funny thing is it never works
the other way round - where you score a year!)
BTW - This qualifies under the definition of fraud.
Next thing to check is the Code a few lines lower on the Reg. cert.
It will read one of the following: NEW/USED/REBUILT
SOMETIMES, DEPENDING ON THE PROVINCE AND THE AGE OF THE VEHICLE THESE COULD
ALSO READ: CODE1/CODE2/CODE3
Private sellers sometimes get away with selling a Code3 (rebuilt) vehicle to
an unsuspecting client. Dealers may not sell a Code 3 unless it is for cash
and then they have to declare it up front. A Code 3 vehicle may not be
financed. Insurers also sometimes refuse to insure a Code 3. Watch out for
adverts where a shrewd seller uses subtle phrases like "coded vehicle" which
makes it sound like it is colour coded. There are certain segments/elements
of our population usually limited to specific residential areas and easily
identifiable names who are fond of this illegal practice.
The final check on the reg.cert. is the Owner/Title Holder status. If the
vehicle is fully paid and unfinanced, the name of the owner must be the same
as the Title Holder. Occassionaly a finance company's name will appear as
Title Holder even though the vehicle is fully paid. In such a case, there
must be a letter from the Fin.Co, confirming full settlement. (This MUST be
an ORIGINAL letter). Do not accept the documents like this. Insist that the
owner registers the vehicle in his name as owner and Title Holder. Otherwise
you will be sitting with a registration nightmare and hours in long queues.
In the event that there is still an outstanding balance on the vehicle to a
fin.co. - insist that it should be settled first, before you pay for the
vehicle. In most cases the owner does not have the cash flow to do that. In
the latter case, you should settle the fin.co. yourself (never pay the owner
in full so that he can settle the bank - this is when the sh*t hits the fan
every single time) and only after you have collected the original reg. cert.
from the fin.co., should you pay any balance to the owner.
Ignore these rules at your own peril.