Friday, 23 June 2017


There are armchair economists who use hem lengths and lipstick as barometers for the economy. The theory being that in good times skirts and stock markets rise in unison. 

By the way, there's also a men's underwear index: men and their wives spend less on underpants in a bad economy. 

I prefer the used car index for tough times and I can't remember when last a friend of mine bought a new vehicle. Gone are the days when middle class South Africans tended to upgrade to a new model every three years. (There were all those special deals and tips on why it made good financial sense.)  

Huge response
You may remember that my previous blog was about used cars, warranties and motor plans. What surprised me was the huge response to Noel de Robillard's advice that buyers of used vehicles should resort to a diagnostics test, get a full-service history and a warranty. The Motor Traders Organisation's marketing manager also urged prospective buyers to get hold of the previous owner even when buying from a dealer.

Obviously sound advice, but I was surprised at how many of you wanted to know more. Several readers, including my friend Gloria, felt it was an insult to ask the dealer for the previous owner's contact details. 

She's in the process of trading her beloved BMW 3Series in for a gleaming second-hand 118i S that she'd spotted on her local dealer's show room floor and gushes as much about the salesman- a bronzed triathlete who wears Carducci - as the car.

At least we know that, by law, the dealership must provide a warranty.

The village coffee shop
Some of you felt a dealer would be loath to provide the previous owner's details - a confidentiality thing. Well dolls, I found the solution in my village coffee shop. 

My Wi-Fi was down and I was researching info for this blog when I noticed that the guy at the table next to me was paging through a service book. (I kid you not). Besides I can sniff a petrolhead a mile away. I'd just read an Australian blog which advised that, armed with the VIN number you can trace the original dealer and original owner and I asked him if the same applied in South Africa.  Indeed, it does and you can find that all important number on your licence disc, in the car door frame or the engine compartment.

Ordering an espresso, he also shared how appalled he was by how often women are misled. Seems his adult daughter had just been told she needed a new gear box because her automatic shift was awfully sluggish. Dad knew better. What she really needed was to simply change her transmission oil.

As our petrolhead proudly finished his story, a woman at another table chirped, "You should Google the test a Stellenbosch magazine undertook several years ago. They snipped some wires in a car and sent a young woman to several garages to get a diagnosis and a quote. Only one gave her the genuine, inexpensive solution."

This reminded me of the queries about diagnostics. I remember an uncle, back in the late 60's, boasting that his Volkswagen had the world's first on-board computer system with scanning capability.

Oh boy, have we come a long way since then regarding computerised cars and the tools with which to diagnose their infirmities.

I learned that nowadays it's not only workshops that have the all-important tools, car owners are increasingly equipping themselves with simpler versions to keep their vehicles in good shape and to save money. Importantly, many diagnostic systems can be upgraded on line. In some models, they not only check current problems, but also prevent future ones.

However, methinks there's a limit to the DIY aspect and it must be important to ensure that your workshop's diagnostic equipment is compatible with your make and model.

Buyer beware
Mr Petrolhead at the coffee shop also showed me how to check the service history and warned me that the used car market is largely 'buyer beware'.  "Check that the workshop stamps in the service book are those of a reputable organisation and make sure the most recent kilometres tie in with the odometer. 

The latter may be a little higher but never lower because, all too often, an odometer is wound back. Also ensure that at least the manufacturer's compulsory services were undertaken.

"If you are buying an old car it's well worth getting the likes of the Automobile Association (AA) to check it for you."

On line shopping
I am also mindful that many SA motorist will be surfing the internet for their next car, Nikki, being a case in point. As she introduced me to her battered but much loved Opel Corsa, I was reminded of how much our cars mean in our lives. 

But now she wants something "reliable and a bit newer" and confesses to being a bit nervous, "As a woman it's easy to get screwed over. They see you coming a mile away, so I'll be taking a man with me. I obviously want something that hasn't been in an accident, not too expensive and, hopefully, has a motor plan etc." 

Scam artists

Having been caught in a recent puppy scam, I was also reminded of how important it is to check the seller out when shopping on line and to never meet strangers at your home.

Shop around
Meanwhile, the AA advises, "Shop around. Check car buyers' guides and the classified in your local newspaper to establish a fair price for the make, model a kilometres you want.

Take a good look. Make sure you see the vehicle in the daylight, take it for a test drive and get someone who nows about cars to look it over."

You will find useful pointers on how not to buy a lemon at

You can also check out reliable dealers through the Motor Traders Organisation 0861298009

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


Warranties and plans

If ever there was a case for reading the fine print, it's your vehicle warranty and maintenance plan. Yet, a recent MotorHappy survey revealed that 62% of all owners don't have a clue what is covered. The shock, horror - even tears - come later.

I've always thought of warranties as a "new car" thing. It's built into the purchase price and the finance plan. One tends to be so excited about driving out the showroom that the warranty agreement is just another piece of paper to sign.

It's a lot more complicated than that. These days you can extend the warranty or even invest in one when you buy a used car - if you are buying from a dealer it will most likely be built into the purchase price but you can get a monthly plan.

The average is about R250 pm to R380 pm but I did learn that, if you can afford it, an upfront payment costs less in the long run.

What's 'broken'?
Melisa at The Engine Room (Motorite) shared that the official definition of 'broken' is,
“Components which are physically and forcibly separated into pieces or cracked or split."

Demand proof
Mark at Warranty Solutions says when buying second hand vehicle always insist on proof that the manufacturer's service requirements have been met. Don't just take the seller's word for it, insist on proof. No validation, no warranty.

The next step is to check what the warranty covers, you may want to upgrade.  The terms and conditions are incredibly important. Here's one that blew my mind: although your policy may stipulate that it covers the engine up to R14 000, the gear box up to R9 000, and the differential up to R9 000. If they all go at the same time it is considered one claim so don't expect R32 000. Only the singe maximum figure is paid out ie. R14 000.

Service items, such as an oil change and wear and tear stuff like windscreen wipers, oil filters and tyres will not be found in a warranty plan even of you check it with a magnifying glass.

Why bother?

If you deal with an established warranty company that offers an option that suits your needs and pocket without any hidden agendas, expect great peace of mind. if your engine light flashes expensive parts won’t leave you broke.

The whole objective is to go through those options and ask questions before you decide. Do bear in mind, the person recommending the warranty option probably earns commission. That's okay but it does mean you need to take some responsibility - make an educated choice not a hasty guess driven by wishful thinking.

By law, dealers are supposed to offer you a variety of warranty products but some don't, so it's not a bad idea to contact the Motor Traders Organisation (MTO) for a list of reputable companies to deal with.

Don't just kick the tyres

By the way Noel De Robillard, MTO's marketing manager, shares Mark's mantra - read the fine print. He also says, "The basic rules are the same whether you buy from a private owner or a dealer: Get a full service history, contact the previous owner for a background history, get an independent diagnostic test done and get the car checked for any signs of a major accident. If the car is young enough, get a maintenance plan that includes a warranty."

What's the difference?
A car maintenance plan has all the elements of a service plan, includes a warranty against mechanical failures and it covers wear and tear items i.e. it's motor cover on steroids. 

Confession time

My car is just out of its original warranty and I've been having serious discussions about using our village backyard mechanic. After my research for this blog I'm sooo relieved I had the last service at a dealer. I will certainly be shopping for a monthly plan.