The Used Car Cheat Sheet

You’ve identified an ideal vehicle and you, Vince McMahon, strut into the dealership with your shoulders high. Shortly you are approached by a sales executive who greets you with their best Colgate smile. Upon inspection, certain areas of the vehicle are rushed through, worn/damaged components are given the “we’ll fix that ... “, panels are misaligned, paint work isn’t consistent, four different tires on all wheels, a splatter of blood in the centre console etc. Alas, your tummy knots because wow you found your Tinder match in vehicle form – RED FLAGS! You have been cat fished, hoodwinked & led astray!!

The semiconductor shortage has rocked the new and used car market to astronomical levels, and in some instances the pricing in both spheres makes absolutely no sense coupled with the intensity of the specialist vehicle market. At a 15%-20% additional markup over the retail figures of used cars, we can officially say that dinner has been skipped. 

So what do you do? First and foremost, if you can afford a brand-new vehicle, please buy it. However, if you cannot there are means to protecting yourself amid the shark infested waters of the used vehicle market.

Some practical questions to begin with after identifying a vehicle you have taken interest in:

  1. Is there a DEKRA Technical Inspection report available?
  2. Is a roadworthy certificate available?
  3. May I test drive the vehicle?
  4. Has the vehicle had any repairs done? If so, who was the service provider?
    - May I please see the service book?
  5. May I please be provided the VIN? I’d like to finding a bit more about this vehicle’s history
  6. Can I register the vehicle on my own? I am not comfortable paying on-road fees and shouldn’t have to.
  7. Why are you selling this vehicle (a seemingly innocent question… until you find drugs in the boot)
  8. Was this car used in any of the past Fast & Furious movies (this is an optional question)

Pay attention to responses, deviations from direct answers and promises that comes from the interaction.


Thorough documentation of the vehicle’s current state; supported images, measurements, commentary by an independent experienced technician would highlight everything that isn’t functioning on the vehicle. Dealers often only offer a roadworthy inspection which tells you absolutely nothing beyond the requirements for a vehicle to qualify as roadworthy.

Why is this important? Badly repaired vehicles from auction lots make their way back to dealerships to be resold and are often unroadworthy and dangerous to drive.



“Do you have a hook up my bru?” Vehicles fail roadworthy test runs and are still being sold in the hopes that an overly eager consumer would plunge headfirst. It provides the bare minimum requirement for legal parameters without zero data to inform a potential buyer on what may be on its way to fail or worse, a falsified road worthy certificate altogether.

NB: A roadworthy certificate and multipoint inspection report don’t serve as a detailed technical inspection report. The Dekra technical inspection report is not included in the dealership administration fees. You should discuss with the dealership who will incur the costs for the technical inspection.

Reports Pricing:

Dekra technical inspection R2365

Dekra multipoint inspection R725

Dekra roadworthy inspection R720


Do NOT be rushed during the test drive, if the salesperson is pushing you to maintain a strict route that’s within a 1km-2km radius, you will not have driven long enough to detect any defects. Take your time; allow the vehicle to reach optimal operating temperature on both the motor and gearbox, it is in that condition you will be able to feel about what the car is like. Map out a route that tests in city and highway conditions for a comprehensive experience of what you looking to commit to. That said, no you cannot drive from Gauteng to Cape Town!


Repairs prior to the vehicle being on the floor is the difference maker. Badly repaired flips are everywhere, don’t end up with vehicle that’s been worked by an infamous service provider known for sketchy work.


A well documented vehicle is the money shot. More specifically, whose stamp is in that book. Full service history from an OEM is hot currency. If full service by a non-franchise is recorded, consider asking those in your community to testify to former work done and how disputes were resolved.


Perhaps not discussed enough is running the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) through a dealership database and investigate comments that may have been made on the vehicle, dates of recalls, timelines pertaining to when service was performed and details of major accidents.


Secondly, have the VIN run at a testing centre and investigate whether the vehicle has a rebuild or stolen status. Last thing you want is having your newly purchased vehicle confiscated by SAPS pending a criminal investigation.


Research, research, and research! Give yourself 3-6months gathering data and building a network of your own. Join various communities focused on specific vehicle makes and ask as many questions as possible and observe what owners experience. The objective should always be to obtain a vehicle has been well kept and avoid the lemons. That said, if you have any queries feel free to the Banker X handle we have industry advisors revert back to you with practical solutions.

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