If we lived in a perfect world, you would be able to buy a used car without having to be sceptical about whether the seller is trying to rip you off. But unfortunately, the world isn't perfect, and sometimes, dishonest people try to sell used cars without being up-front about what's wrong with the car. While there are plenty of used cars that are in good working order, there are lemons on the market that can end up being a huge headache to deal with. Even though South African used car buyers are protected by the Consumer Protection Act, the process of spending money on and eventually returning a damaged used car is a waste of time. It's easier to just make sure the car is in good condition and is fairly priced before any money changes hands. That's why a used car appraisal is an important part of the used car buying process.
The Appraisal Process
There are two points that need to be addressed in appraising a used car, and they both require action from the buyer. One point is to appraise the car's value based on trusted commercial valuation sources such as TransUnion. The other point is to have the car inspected and evaluated by a trusted mechanic. Using this two-part approach, you can make sure that you're paying a good price and that you aren't purchasing something that has major mechanical problems. Having both pieces of information is important. Just knowing the car's suggested retail value will not help you know whether the car is in good condition, and just knowing that the car is in good condition will not help you have an informed opinion about the fairness of the asking price. Having both pieces of information can help you negotiate a fair price or know when to walk away from a transaction.
Online Value Research
You probably already know that the seller's asking price isn't necessarily the best price. You don't have to end up paying an unfair price, unless a seller is totally opposed to bargaining, but in order to participate in fair bargaining, you need to do some research and understand what the accepted value of the car is based on its age. There are several sources for car valuation in South Africa; these online tools include value calculators and lookups. You'll need to know the car's make, model and model year. Most of the time, you'll simply be given a general valuation for the car. Some searches ask for the car's vehicle identification number, or VIN. This type of research can reveal specific things about the car's history, such as whether it's been in any accidents and whether it's stolen. You may want to use a few different such tools to get a complete picture of what might be a fair price for the car you're looking at.
Used cars can have serious problems, even if they look nice on the outside. That old saying that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover applies to used cars. You can have a bright, shiny car with an immaculately clean interior that is about five miles away from needing serious (and expensive) mechanical repairs. Unless you're a car mechanics expert yourself, you will have no idea whether the car you are looking at is in good shape unless you have someone take a thorough look at the car, including looking under the bonnet and assessing the car's frame and interior condition as well. Find a mechanic who performs used car appraisals. Research online to make sure the mechanic has a good reputation. This appraisal will require payment, but if it saves you from making an expensive purchasing mistake in the long run, it will be money well spent. If the seller doesn't want to let you have the car appraised, that's a major warning sign that you shouldn't do business with that person.
We don't live in a perfect world, so you need to protect yourself when buying a used car by having the car appraised. Both the car's value and physical condition need to be assessed. Ultimately, you, as the buyer, are responsible for making sure these checks are performed. Some commercial sellers may provide appraisal services, but only trust this appraisal if it comes from a third party. Be sceptical and understand that a certain degree of aggressiveness is appropriate in this situation. Don't go to a mechanic just because the seller suggested him or her. Don't blindly trust the seller and take everything the seller says as the truth. Perform your own independent research to make sure you aren't being taken advantage of. This research needs to take place both online and through trusted professional sources. Even if you really need a new car, it doesn't make sense to rush the appraisal process.