If you are a private seller engaging in a private sale to a private buyer, you do not necessarily have to disclose that your car has been in an accident. However, given the buyer protections that are in place thanks to South Africa's Consumer Protection Act, it is generally not a good idea to try to hide things from the buyer. Anything you don't disclose to the buyer could be used against you later, and major factual omissions could end up making the sales process a lot more difficult, a lot longer and much more costly for you. So, while there may not be a specific requirement that you list every accident event your car has been involved in, it's in your best interest to do so. The Consumer Protection Act generally makes it very hard to cheat and scam a buyer, and if you're the kind of person who prefers to deal honestly with other people, this isn't a bad thing.
The Consumer Protection Act
Smart private car sellers treat the Consumer Protection Act as a major guideline for how they approach the process of selling their cars. If you're trying to hide certain things from prospective buyers, such as the fact that the car has been in an accident, you may be thinking about doing an 'as is' or 'voetstoots' sale. Before the Consumer Protection Act, which was enacted in 2011, this may have been a quick way to get rid of a damaged car without having to disclose a lot about it. Now, buyers have a lot of protections thanks to the law, including the ability to return or demand repairs or a refund for damaged cars unloaded during a voetstoots sale. There is a way for sellers to protect themselves from having the buyer demand these forms of recourse: the seller must provide a detailed list of all the car's known flaws.
Why Disclosing Is a Good Idea
If you provide the buyer with a list of problems the car has, you are protecting yourself from having to pay back some or all of the money you got in the sale or use some of those proceeds to pay for repairs. Being thorough makes sense in this context. If you leave something out, such as a repair that was necessitated by damaged incurred in an accident, that leaves a loophole open. Every thing you fail to disclose leaves you vulnerable to future action by the buyer. Buyers also have recourse if there is proof that they have been mislead during the sale, and failure to disclose is certainly misleading. There are limits to the buyer's powers under the Consumer Protection Act. If you are honest and open about all of the car's problems, you are helping to defend yourself against future action that could end up putting you right back where you started, with no sales money and an old car you need to sell.
Other Reasons to Disclose the Truth
Failing to disclose problems with the car is a dishonest thing to do, but aside from a moral imperative for honesty, there are other reasons to avoid lying to prospective buyers. If the buyer gets the car's vehicle identification number (VIN), he may be able to perform an online search to check the car's accident history. If you ever reported an accident to local authorities, that information may be part of public record. Savvy buyers will perform this kind of check before agreeing to buy a car. If a buyer finds that you've lied, they are very unlikely to want to continue doing business with you, meaning you've wasted time on a deal that isn't going to go through. You can wait for the customer who isn't going to look into such information, but sellers aren't the only people in a car sales transaction who can be dishonest. Customers who seem entirely unconcerned with the vehicle's history and current condition may be planning a scheme of their own.
Accident Disclosure Requirements Summary
So, technically, you do not have to disclose that your car has been in an accident, strictly speaking. However, given the legal climate in which private car sales take place, it is not wise to try to hide things from the buyer. Not only does the Consumer Protection Act make lying to and hiding things from buyers a very bad idea, but smart buyers will do their research before agreeing to buy your car, and they could end up discovering that the car has been in an accident without you even telling them. Misleading the buyer is the wrong thing to do, not only from a moral standpoint but from a legal one as well. It is up to you to decide to disclose that your car has been in an accident, but given the consequences for not making this disclosure, it seems like an easy choice to make.