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How to avoid buying a pre-owned vehicle that has been scrapped or written off

Inside one of WeBuyCars showrooms

Inside one of WeBuyCars showrooms

Published May 3, 2021


JOHANNESBURG – Buying a pre-owned or second-hand vehicle is a good option, and one that is growing in popularity due to value-for-money and cost-effectiveness, yet buyers need to be aware that there can be drawbacks.

It is imperative that potential buyers do their research, including compare pricing, before purchasing a vehicle.

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One drawback, however, and something that is probably not the first thing a buyer looks out for, is whether the vehicle was written off, and then rebuilt for resale. This is particularly challenging if you are interested in a vehicle that is listed as a private sale.

Faan van der Walt, the chief executive of WeBuyCars, says this is key challenge in the used-vehicle market (for both businesses and individuals). WeBuyCars has dedicated resources to ensure that every vehicle the company buys and lists for sale has not been written off or scrapped.

“All necessary research and price comparisons are done prior to a vehicle being listed for sale, leaving our buyers with peace of mind when buying a second-hand vehicle.”

Using technology to confirm vehicle status before buying

“Trust and transparency are absolute imperatives for us, which is one of the reasons we have invested heavily in technology to identify rebuilt and scrapped vehicles as part of our buying process,” Van der Walt says.

“Identifying these vehicles is important as we focus on providing buyers with information about every vehicle’s condition to ensure they make an informed decision about the vehicle they are buying.”

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WeBuyCars’ technology allows them to scan any vehicle’s licence disk to verify the vehicle’s NaTIS status and identify potential admin/stolen marks registered against the vehicle.

“We have our own vehicle inspection process that we put each vehicle through before purchasing it. After purchasing the vehicle, Dekra then performs a full independent vehicle condition inspection and issues a report. The information is made available to our customers as part of our philosophy of transparency,” he says.

It is advised to deal with reputable dealerships when buying a pre-owned vehicle

High number of previously written-off cars on SA roads

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According to WeBuyCars’ data, there are more vehicles on the road that have been scrapped for parts or rebuilt after being written off than most people realise. It is because of this that having registration papers for a vehicle is so important as it shows proof of vehicle ownership.

The “Certificate of Registration in Respect of Motor Vehicle”, known as the car’s ownership papers or green document, is issued by the National Traffic Information System (NaTIS). This document is received when a vehicle is purchased and includes the vehicle’s certification code.

This certificate is even more important for a second-hand car dealership to see before purchasing a vehicle as scrapped or rebuilt cars are identified on the “vehicle status” field.

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Van der Walt says there are four vehicle status indicators in the NaTIS system that a consumer should know about when buying a second-hand vehicle:

A code 1 status identifies a new vehicle.

A code 2 status identifies a used vehicle.

A code 3 and 4 marking is what you should be looking out for as this indicates that the vehicle has been rebuilt (code 3), or scrapped (code 4).

Do your research or at least deal with reputable dealerships

Buying a vehicle, either new or used, is a big financial commitment, which is why it is critical for consumers to be educated about what to look out for. While the vehicle might look good on the outside, it is your right to request certification and look deeper into what the vehicle offers before deciding to buy it.

“Just because a car looks good on the outside doesn’t mean the vehicle is in an overall good condition,” Van der Walt says.

“One of the things we pride ourselves in our business is that we ask all the necessary questions and do critical research beforehand to ensure our customers are informed about the vehicle they are interested in buying. We address any ownership issues during our buying and selling process, giving consumers peace of mind when purchasing a vehicle.”

If you’re interested in buying a pre-owned, stick to reputable used car dealerships and franchises. However if you have found a sweet deal in the private market you can research a vehicle’s code status as well as its history through the TransUnion website.