Buy a new or a used car?

BRIAN BAS­SETT in­ves­ti­gates the dilemma of the SA mo­torist in a de­pressed econ­omy

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

A RE­LI­ABLE mo­tor ve­hi­cle is a ne­ces­sity in a coun­try like South Africa where pub­lic trans­port is of­ten un­re­li­able and ex­pen­sive.

The re­cent mas­sive de­cline in the pur­chas­ing power of the rand is driv­ing up the price of new ve­hi­cles.

De­pend­ing on their coun­try of ori­gin, costs have risen be­tween 2,5 and 17%; and there is lit­tle im­porters can do about th­ese rises.

Car pur­chases have fur­ther been com­pli­cated fi­nan­cially by in­ter­est rate rises and I read this week in a re­li­able fi­nan­cial mag­a­zine that the coun­try can ex­pect a fur­ther two or three in­ter­est rate hikes this year. In the case of mo­torists, who have fi­nanced mo­tor ve­hi­cles, it is pos­si­ble that their re­pay­ments will rise with the in­ter­est rate.

All mo­torists should check on this with their banks.


We all love a new car. It has not been driven by any­one else, it comes with a guar­an­tee and deal­er­ship staff at­tend to your ev­ery need, while telling you what a good choice you have made.

As you drive off with your bas­ket filled with cham­pagne and sweets, the sales­man who sold you the car gives a sigh of re­lief.

He can now pay his chil­dren’s school fees. You, un­for­tu­nately, have just lost a quite con­sid­era- ble amount of money in de­pre­ci­a­tion and the longer you keep the car the less it will be worth.

If you re­tain the car for a long pe­riod of time, say 10 years or more, it will have paid for it­self and so you will be able to live with the small trade- in price you will get for it.

Most of us, how­ever, get bored with the cars we drive, we lust af­ter the tur­bocharged, newer model with leather seats and built- in GPS and we end up at the deal­ers, beg­ging for a bet­ter trade in and hop­ing for a dis­count or, as they say th­ese days, trade in as­sis­tance; and the cy­cle starts again.


The only op­tion to buy­ing new is buy­ing used and in bad eco­nomic time’s car buy­ers will inevitably turn to the used car mar­ket, as new ve­hi­cles be­come less af­ford­able.

Ray­mond Loewy, ar­guably the great­est in­dus­trial de­signer of the 20th cen­tury, once said that buy­ing a used car was like buy­ing a sec­ond­hand snake.

This has not been my ex­pe­ri­ence, but I have al­ways bought from re­li­able deal­ers who have been around a long while and have a rep­u­ta­tion for in­tegrity and fair deal­ing.

I looked around in Peter­mar­itzburg and found Metro Car Sales, who are cel­e­brat­ing their 40th year in busi­ness in the city.

They came highly rec­om­mended by a num­ber of friends, who have done re­peat busi­ness with Metro over a num­ber of years.

I spent about an hour- and- ahalf with Elvis Naidoo, their sales man­ager and learned how cus­tomer care has re­sulted in a busi­ness that de­rives 85% of its new busi­ness from re­fer­rals and re­peat busi­ness.

Metro buy only se­lected ve­hi­cles of ex­cel­lent qual­ity.

Forty per­cent of the stock come from the man in the street and the rest from auc­tions and sites like OLX and Gumtree.

Ve­hi­cles are thor­oughly checked and re­ferred to the Metro work­shop if nec­es­sary.

Ve­hi­cles of­ten have ex­tras like air con­di­tion­ers, canopies, mag wheels and leather seats, which are all part of the deal.

Used car buy­ers do not pay VAT and a used car lot has a wide va­ri­ety of ve­hi­cles al­low­ing a more choice, but Elvis says peo­ple buy with their hearts and not their heads.

It is even dif­fi­cult to get cus­tomers to test drive the car they want to buy.

The Metro sales team is fo­cused as much on ser­vice as on sales and they try to match the cus­tomer with the car.

There are many cash buy­ers, but where fi­nance is re­quired, cus­tomers can se­lect any bank, as the deal­er­ship is recog­nised by all of them.

Cus­tomers who pur­chase ve- hi­cles out of war­ranty are en­cour­aged to buy a two- year war­ranty ex­ten­sion, which adds about R7 000 and peace of mind to the deal

Once the cus­tomer leaves with his new, used car Metro re­tain con­tact and build re­la­tion­ships by send­ing its buy­ers a thank you card once a year and en­cour­ag­ing them to visit the deal­er­ship to dis­cuss nig­gles or prob­lems.

I was very im­pressed by the whole cus­tomer- ori­en­tated feel of the busi­ness. But what would I get for my money?

So I was given a 2014 Volk­swa­gen Polo auto in glo­ri­ous red to drive for the week­end.

The car had had its 17 500 km mileage thor­oughly checked and with my dealer num­ber plate dis­played in the win­dow I drove away.

Once home I checked the bodywork thor­oughly and there was noth­ing amiss.

The ex­te­rior and in­te­rior were like new and the car per­formed well both in town and on the N3.

This was a ve­hi­cle I would be proud to own and at R165 000, it rep­re­sented a sig­nif­i­cant sav­ing on the cost of a sim­i­lar new ve­hi­cle.


Buy­ing used can be a good op­tion at any time, but you need to shop around, see what is avail­able.

Be hon­est with your­self as to af­ford­abil­ity and al­low for ris­ing in­ter­est rates and in­sur­ance costs. Buy the ad­di­tional war­ranty and test drive the car be­fore you buy and dis­cuss any prob­lems with your sales­per­son. You take the ini­tia­tive. Do not get pushed into a deal. Re­mem­ber, you are also pro­tected by the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act and you should get to know it as it ap­plies to all your pur­chases.


Metro Cars’ Elvis Naidoo ( left) puts a pre- loved Polo through a 50- point check­list with Brian Bas­sett who ad­vises buy­ing used cars from a rep­utable dealer is a sound fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion, but do get the ad­di­tional war­ranty and dis­cuss any prob­lems with the sales staff.


Buy­ers of used cars are best ad­vised to en­sure the seller shows the vechiel us­ing a 50- point check list.

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