Used car shopping in Cape Town, not for the inexperienced!
This weekend I spent an afternoon doing something that I have not done in quite a while, I went shopping for a used car in Cape Town
. It’s not really something that I enjoy, and it’s also not something that I do too often either, but my dear wife committed to helping someone less fortunate purchase a small family car. Of course she knows very little about buying used cars, so I was implicated by default (and because I’m a man (who knows about cars)). So after browsing a few websites (including Gumtree cars
) that offer cars for sale in Cape Town
, a few phone calls later, we are on our way to see two used cars that have low mileage and were only 3 years old. They were private sellers and therefore the price was a bit lower and seeing that we were looking at helping someone else buy a car, I thought it only fair to find the best priced car. Ordinarily, I would have gone to a car dealer, purchased a used car that comes with a warranty and driven away knowing that I have a good solid purchase. But budget didn’t allow for the small premium that dealers charge on providing warranties and road worthies and all the things that make buying a used car less painful.
So after a few wrong turns, and ending up on the wrong side of Freedom Park, a township near Milnerton, we finally arrive at the house of the man who has promised me several times that there is nothing wrong with the car and that the only reason he is selling it, is because he has to leave the country again quite soon, to return to Congo. OK, so I can work with that, and it sounds like a reasonable explanation for selling his car. At this point, it’s late Saturday afternoon, I’m a little flustered and the wind is pumping like only the South Eater in Cape Town can. The townships is heaving and as mentioned, we took a few too many right turns (townships have lots of little winding roads to nowhere) but soon enough I’m greeting the friendly man and his girlfriend who are selling this “perfect” car. I walk around, starting at the back and peep into the boot – First problem: no spare wheel. “Where my good man, is the spare wheel?” “Oh, yes – that’s in the other car (we have another car) and I can get it for you soon – but it’s not here right now”. Hmmm, I continue my inspection and notice a not so small dent on the back, and a bit of rust. 2nd problem, it’s not terrible, but the cars certainly not “perfect” anymore. Then we head over into the driver’s seat, all looks quite clean and neat, but I’m then informed that the radio in the car, is not the one that’s for sale - let me guess, it’s in the other car! Correct!
I’m feeling less than certain about the integrity of this seller now – he did after all inform me that the car was in mint condition and would go fast. So now I start to dig a little deeper, and decide to pop the hood. I peep under the bonnet and everything is quite clean – no oil leaks, no dirt – but something’s not quite right. When I opened the bonnet, the front right grill had some paint damage – but I had already opened the hood so could not check the bonnet from miss-alignment. I checked around the battery mounting, and again something was not right – the paint colour was different under the battery – but just slightly. The red flag was up! I dropped my head down into the tiny engine compartment as far as it would go, now in full “Inspector Clueso mode”, and made a very exciting discovery: welding marks on the inside chassis! The car had been in an accident and the front right section had been cut out and replaced. So much for “perfect” – and very disappointing that I have made the effort for an accident damaged car. A time waster, and a dishonest seller – not the first person to try and sell an accident damaged car and probably not the last...
"Goodbye, and enjoy your trip back to Congo, I will not be buying your car".
I have one other car to see, this time a little further out, a car in Parow. So back in the car and a 20 minutes later I meet the second seller, who had the decency to tell me that the car has had the front fender re-sprayed because it was scratched in a small accident. I can handle a small dent and if the job was repaired well then it’s no problem, accident do after all happen!
So this second car did not present as well as the first car initially – it was red and already a bit sun faded, especially for a 3 year old car. The hub caps were a mismatched and the resprayed front bumper was not done all that well, plus it was a bit dirty. I then decided to check under the bonnet, and this time all’s in order, not too clean and not too dirty. No odd colour paint job and no hidden welding, so I shut the hood and look around the car a bit. Then I see the problem – the passenger door is inset, and upon closer inspection, quite skew! There must be a 10mm gap at the top of the door where there should have been a 3mm gap. Obviously this car was involved in more than just a small fender scrape, and the door looked to have absorbed quite a bit of the impact. So, another used car seen and rejected because the seller had not disclosed the full extent of the damage.
So all in all, my precious Saturday afternoon in Cape Town was wasted by two private sellers who thought that they could pull a fast one and sell accident damaged cars without disclosing that the cars were in some sort of a collision. How very disappointing to have your whole afternoon wasted and to still not find a suitable used car. As mentioned, if I were buying a car for myself, I would not have bothered with private sellers, I would have gone straight to dealerships selling used cars in Cape Town
and had a far more fruitful day. It’s not to say that I would have found the perfect car straight away, but at least I would not have had my time wasted by looking at accident damaged vehicles.