The task of buying a new car can be a complicated and tricky process. First, you need to decide what vehicle to buy from a range of manufacturers and models. This, in itself, can be a hard decision. Next, you need to find the right seller. Do you buy from the dealer or do you go to a private seller?

One danger with buying a new or used vehicle from a private seller is the possibility of becoming a victim of a scam. Buying a vehicle online or through an unauthorised dealer leaves a lot of room for con artists looking to take your money.

According to a recent article published by The Sunday Times, there are about 20 000 vehicles that are illegally registered and sold in South Africa every year. Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming one of these scam victims.

Be vigilant about good deals

The first question you should always ask yourself when looking for a vehicle to buy is ‘does this sound too good to be true’? If the answer is yes, then it’s most likely a scam. If you find a vehicle offered at a much cheaper price than other similar vehicles, then it could be a scam.

The vehicle could be damaged or have accident history that the seller is hiding. Ensure that the seller has a valid email address, telephone number or address listed with the sale. Scammers will try to hide their personal details from buyers. Remember to never buy a vehicle without seeing it and driving it first.

Watch out for overseas bank accounts

Fraudsters will often ask buyers to pay the money into an offshore account. This makes it harder to trace. If the buyer asks you for full payment upfront, stay alert and never pay for a vehicle before you have the keys in-hand. Scammers will often ask for urgent payments or for private information that is not relevant to the sale – these are red flags for buyers who could be defrauded.

Do a proper history check and inspection

If you’re buying a car from a private seller, it is important to do some proper research before making the purchase. Do a history check by looking at the service booklet and insurance records. Find out if the car has ever been in an accident, been written-off or been flagged by police. The service booklet will also reveal any mileage discrepancies or changes to the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

If possible, ask for insurance records to see that the vehicle has never been stolen or repaired. These documents will also say whether the monthly insurance premiums have been paid. Authorised dealers will often be able to provide you with full service and insurance details.

Always test drive the car before paying

A vehicle can be in mint condition on the outside, but only once you drive it will you be able to tell what the internal and mechanical condition is like. Before going for a test drive, inspect the condition of the tyres, the wing mirrors, the lights and the indicators. 

Check the engine to see whether it is clean and well-maintained – a dirty engine bay with loose wires can be a sign that the vehicle has not been looked after. Take the car for a drive and listen for any funny sounds or rattles. Check that the wheel alignment is straight and that the steering wheel doesn’t judder when driving. 

Check the original paperwork

Ask the seller if you can see the original NATIS registration document and a road-worthy certificate. Without these documents, you will not be able to register your car with the licensing department. Ask for a full service history if there is no booklet in the vehicle. Ensure that all of these documents are the originals, not photocopies.

Authorised dealerships and manufacturers will be able to provide buyers with these original documents. If a private seller cannot show you original paperwork, then they are probably trying to scam you.

Always be vigilant when buying a new or used car. The process can be stressful and, therefore, easy to misjudge. Proper research and knowing what to look for will help you to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. 


Formex Industries is a metal forming and assembly company that supplies a variety of complex products to the local automotive industry and export market. The company is based in the Nelson Mandela Bay metropole, South Africa’s foremost region for automotive manufacturing and export.

Formex specialises in producing components for the catalytic converter industry, as well as metal components and assemblies for the various vehicles. Formex aims to become one of the foremost suppliers for the South African automotive industry by 2035, aligning itself with the South African Automotive Masterplan (SAAM) which takes effect in 2020.

Formex is a Level 2 B-BBEE supplier with over 80% black ownership, of which more than 40% are black women. The company is owned by Deneb Investments Limited – a subsidiary of Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited (HCI) – one of South Africa’s biggest true B-BBEE companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

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