Buying a car, even a second-hand one, is a big financial commitment, and buyers need to know they are getting bang for their buck, along with all the things that they most desire in a car. Safety should always be a top priority but how certain can one be that your chosen vehicle has never been involved in a serious accident?
Jacques Viljoen, national director of the South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association (SAMBRA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says unfortunately this is one of the main reasons SAMBRA has been campaigning so hard for an open and transparent Vehicle Salvage Database (VSD) of all vehicles that have previously been “written off” by insurers.
“Since we started this drive, we have found a concerning number of vehicles that have been severely damaged in accidents often end up being repaired and returned to the road. To the untrained eye, these cars may look perfectly acceptable but upon closer inspection, one may be shocked at the quality of the repairs and the severity of the previous damage incurred,” says Viljoen.
Roadworthy not enough?
According to SAMBRA, when you buy a second-hand car, it comes with a roadworthy certificate. This certificate alone will not provide confirmation of material defects being present. “A roadworthy certificate is a legal requirement to complete the registration for transfer of ownership when one acquires a used motor vehicle, or for any vehicles carrying passengers for reward, like mini-busses, busses and heavy load vehicles.
A roadworthy test conducted by the vehicle examiner identifies visual defects with the electrical items, bodywork components, steering, suspension, interior seatbelts and an overview of the undercarriage. It ensures the vehicle is “roadworthy” but will NOT necessarily pick up if the vehicle has been involved in a collision and then repaired,” says Viljoen. Julian Pillay, national director of the Vehicle Testing Association agrees, saying there currently needs to be far more emphasis and discussion centred on vehicle inspection controls, particularly the periodic testing of vehicles. This will entail the re-testing of vehicles beyond a certain age, even if they do not change ownership, for roadworthiness.
Viljoen says until consumers can be 100% sure of the status of the second-hand vehicles they are purchasing, particularly if they have viewed them online, they are encouraged to educate themselves by taking the following steps and taking control of their car-buying journey.
- It is always advisable to physically view the car you intend buying. If you are at all concerned, seek out the assistance of an accredited SAMBRA motor-body repairer who has the expertise to spot hidden repairs and assess the structural integrity of the vehicle. Remember that it is always worth doing the extra checks as all RMI-accredited workshops and motor-body repair shops comply with the strictest standards and criteria to protect consumers.
- It is advisable to consider a comprehensive multipoint check on the car as there is a difference between a roadworthy test and a multipoint inspection. “Essentially, a roadworthy inspection reviews the safety items of the vehicles as specified in the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA) and relevant standards, whereas a Multipoint Inspection goes further and includes safety items as well as quality items. The multipoint inspection (MPI) covers a range of additional categories. It is conducted by a trained and qualified examiner of vehicles and will give you a far more comprehensive report on over 120 points of the vehicle. An MPI can be undertaken at several participating VTA members nationally. It would be best to call ahead to the nearest test station to ascertain if it provides the service.”
- If you are worried about a car’s service history, you can pop into any franchised dealership that is a member of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) and request them to check the service history of the car if you give them the VIN number. Any Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) accredited service workshop will also be able to tell you if there are any mechanical faults.
“Remember, with so many complex moving parts in modern vehicles, it’s not uncommon to have underlying problems you may be unaware of. To catch any issues before they turn into a safety hazard, it is advisable to get the experts involved and do a thorough inspection. Knowing the condition of a vehicle can help you to not only uncover potential issues but to address them before they lead to dangerous failures or costly repairs that ultimately devalue the asset you are buying.”