Who doesn’t remember being a kid at Christmas? The excitement of waking up in the morning and finding a pile of beautifully wrapped boxes under the tree. You start picking out the ones with your name on, before you’ve even had breakfast and you’ve already spent the last week imagining all the cool things you might be getting. Buying a new car would usually create the same level of excitement in the adult version of yourself. Sadly the realities of buying your new car, and therefore selling your old wheels, are not quite the fairy tale Christmas story we all hope for.
I have recently had to go through this ordeal again, selling my wife’s old Corolla in order to upgrade her to her new pride and joy, an ix35 (review coming up in future). Buying new these days is almost silly if you consider what you can pick up on the second-hand market for FAR less money. You will only lose money on a new car, so minimize that loss by buying pre-owned and let someone else take the biggest value knock for you! I have bought and sold many many cars, both privately and to and from dealers, so here are some of my most valuable lessons learned when moving around in the used car market.
Unless you are buying your first car, chances are you are going to have a set of wheels that you need to sell before welcoming your new chariot into the garage. For ease, convenience and peace of mind, a lot of people opt to trade in their old car and buy the replacement from a dealer. Effective as this option is, it could end up costing you quite a bit of money. I have no problem with dealerships, but you have to remember that they are buying and selling cars to make a profit, which means they will offer you less for your old car than it’s worth, and most likely charge you more for the new car than you would pay if you had bought privately.
Selling your car privately can be a dangerous business though, especially if you haven’t got a little bit of experience in doing so. Scam artists spend all day every day on the internet looking for car ads and for people they can try to scam. Everyone has heard at least one horror story of someone who got their car stolen after someone replied to their gumree ad, or the poor sap who got taken for the ride of his life during a test drive and ended up at gunpoint in front of an ATM handing over money to a potential buyer they found on the interwebs. You really have to be careful who you invite into your life from a platform as broad as the internet.
Here are a couple of pointers that have served me well to separate the genuine buyers from scam artists.
- Never release the car or registration certificate before the money CLEARS in your account – Oldest trick in the book is to show you, or e-mail you a proof of payment for payment made into your account, but before the money clears in your account the payment is retracted, and by that time your car is gone. Sometimes the proof of payments aren’t even real, so you really have to make sure the money is there before giving up the keys and paperwork. A useful trick I always use is to have the buyer deposit the money into my Cheque account, and as soon as the balance is available, transfer it to another account, to which they obviously don’t have the details. That way you can be 100% certain that the money really is in your account before releasing the goods.
- Never deal with a 3rd party – Those calls where the buyer tells you they are buying your car, but will send a brother, or son or sister or whatever to collect the car are scams 9 times out of 10. Firstly, no-one buys a second hand car for its full asking price before they’ve even seen it. The usual way this scam works is that the person who calls you will tell you they are buying the car, but they will send a brother, or son or some other family member or friend to look at the car and buy it. They will show up with a proof of payment showing a payment made to your bank account and will usually arrive by Uber. With no lift back and an official looking proof of payment, a surprising number of people will actually hand over their cars based on a proof of payment before the money clears into their account. Of course the money never clears and the car is gone.
- If it sounds too good to be true – I had a call from a buyer offering to buy my wife’s car at several thousand rand more than my asking price in the ad. These kinds of offers are scams – guaranteed! Do not be seduced by the prospect of getting more money for the car and fall for these kinds of scams. Your asking price is ALWAYS more than what you expect to get for the car, and unless you have several buyers starting a bidding war with each other, everyone will make you an offer lower than your asking price – so if someone offers you more money out of the blue – walk away.
- Meet buyers in public places, or at the very least at home, on your terms – Never drive out to some dodgy warehouse to meet your buyer ‘at his work’. These meetings are almost always a trap. If you are meeting them in public, don’t go alone and make sure wherever the meeting is happening, there are lots of people around. No matter how nice a buyer sounds on the phone, always keep in mind that you do not know this person from a bar of soap, so trust no-one. When the buyer arrives, stay in the car until you can see how many people he/she has brought with them – if you are suddenly greatly outnumbered, get out of there QUICK.
- Beware the over-eager buyer – Buyers who are over-eager to get their hands on your car, can be an indication of someone who already has a ‘fence’ or buyer for your stolen car. This is especially true if your car is a normal run-about that is easy for them to move on the black market or something like a Toyota which can be quickly stripped for parts on a taxi. Not all over-eager buyers are scam artists, but be very careful when dealing with someone who seems more excited about buying a used car than they really should be.
- Always meet face-to-face – Never sell your car to someone who hasn’t seen it. Like I said before, no-one is going to buy a used car without having seen it, unless they are a dealer or scrapper buying it for a really cheap price. No-one is going to part with a large sum of money to buy a car when they don’t even know if the thing runs! Remember, as much as you don’t know the buyer and you can’t trust them, they don’t know you either – so if they are very quick to trust you and hand over money trusting that you will ‘send’ or deliver the car, be very careful, because chances are there’s no real money there.
- Do not be afraid to say NO – I fall into this trap almost every time. I have a number in my head, but I have a buyer in front of me right now, offering me a decent price, but not quite what I think I could get. DO NOT be afraid to tell a buyer that you can not go as low as what they are offering. Remember they saw your asking price and still came to look, so chances are they are prepared to pay very close to your asking price. A good deal is always one where both parties walk away equally unhappy, so don’t let a buyer bully you into a lower price just because they are there and ‘have come all this way to see the car’ etc etc etc.
- Do not be rushed – Scam artists are always in a hurry, because the more time they spend engaging with a potential mark, the more likely it is that the mark will spot their scam. DO NOT allow yourself to be rushed – allow plenty of time in your schedule for any transaction, and let it be known to your buyer that if the deal can not go through in YOUR own good time, then you have to postpone to a day when they have more time. No-one is going to quickly pop out to buy a car before heading to a job interview or whatever pressing appointment they may have. If they try to pressure you to speed up a transaction and get out of there with the car, suggest that they come back the following day when they have more time – chances are they will either fight you on it (alarm bells should be going off in your head), or they will agree, and disappear never to be seen again.
- Don’t be afraid to do a little social-media stalking of your buyer – Check your buyer’s on-line profiles. Whatsapp will tell you how long a user has been on whatsapp and even a person’s public Facebook profile can tell you a lot about the buyer. I had messages from an interested buyer on Whatsapp for example, but before agreeing to a meet I checked his profile and it showed that he had only had that phone number for about 2 weeks. Alarm bells were deafening and I didn’t make further contact with that buyer.
Now, although I always say that you can not trust anyone replying to your ad for your car, you still need potential buyers to trust you. You want them to be comfortable transferring large sums of money to your bank account, and they need to trust you enough to do that with the knowledge that you will not release the car until the funds have cleared into your account. So be friendly and honest with potential buyers. Point out faults and marks on your car – remember you don’t want them to find these things for themselves and feel like you were trying to hide anything. Suggest a second meeting at your home to actually do the transaction after they have viewed/ test-driven the car. Scam artists will be keen to do the transaction on the first meeting, so a second meeting is also a nice way to double check if they are serious buyers. By doing the transaction at your home, you are showing the buyer where you live, which means you won’t disappear with their money, but you are still in control so you don’t have to release the car until the funds clear. Immediate internet transfers between different banks can take up to 2 hours to reflect, so being at home gives you a nice comfortable place to wait for the money to clear too.
I promise I will do another article at a later date on how to tell a good used car from a lemon, but trying to put that all here would make this post a very long read in deed – so in stead I’ll focus on some tips for the actual transaction.
- Have the correct E-NATIS forms available for you and the buyer to fill out – when buying or selling your car, the buyer will need a Yellow change of ownership form (NCO Form) and a Blue Application for Registration of Motor Vehicle form (RLV form). These forms can be downloaded and printed at home to be filled out, you don’t have to use the official coloured forms from the municipality, printing them on white paper is perfectly acceptable. You will also need a certified copy of the seller’s ID. The forms are available for download HERE.
- Never pay a deposit on a car that you have not seen – Scam artists often try to pressure people into paying a deposit to hold a vehicle because they have had ‘so much interest’ in the car. Don’t fall for that trick and never pay deposits on a car you haven’t seen. You don’t even know if that car exists so why would you hand someone money to hold it for you? If you are going to be paying a holding deposit on the car, insist on meeting the seller at his home so you know where to find them should they disappear with your deposit.
- Always insist on a simple sales contract signed by both parties – This will protect you in the event that the seller decides to pull out of a deal or tries to abscond with a holding deposit.
- Know who you are dealing with – Make sure you know where the person you are buying from lives. Never deal ONLY over the phone. You need to make sure that if this person tries to pull one over on you, you must be able to get hold of them, or tell the authorities where they can be found.
- Go to your first meeting with empty pockets – Never go to a first meeting with cash or bank cards in your pockets. You need a driver’s license and a cell-phone, nothing else, so don’t take it with you. Should you be walking into a trap, they won’t be able to get anything from you.
- Always check the paperwork – Always insist on seeing the original registration certificate for the vehicle BEFORE you transfer any money. Pay attention to who the title holder is – if it is not the person selling you the car, walk away. If the title holder is listed as a bank, there may still be outstanding finance on the vehicle. If they can not produce the certificate DO NOT transfer any money. The car may be stolen, or the certificate may be lost, either way you will not be able to transfer the car into your name without that certificate. If the certificate is lost, the seller MUST get a duplicate from the licensing offices before you should even consider the deal. Cars that have had engines swapped out MUST have the new engine number on their Registration Certificate, so make sure the numbers on the engine and the car’s VIN matches up with the paperwork you are being shown. Getting a car through police clearance when the numbers don’t match is a massive undertaking and quite often unsuccessful, worst case scenario, the car could be seized and taken from you. So always make sure the paperwork is 100% in order before you commit to buying.
- Feel free to walk away – It’s really hard to walk away from a nice looking car when you have your heart set on owning it, but if something doesn’t smell right, there’s probably a reason for it. Walk away from any deal you are not absolutely sure about – there are millions of nice cars out there and you will find another one – so make sure you can still afford it when you come across it by not being scammed out of your hard earned money.
Make the best of it:
I really hope my tips and tricks help you navigate the murky, shark-infested waters of the used car market. Buying and selling cars can be lots of fun, but I completely get that it isn’t for everyone, and can in fact be very stressful. There are so many services out there now that offer to buy your car for more than what you would get at trade-in, and they are very tempting for sellers who are not keen on navigating the minefield of potential scam artists, but at the end of day you have to weigh up the service they provide vs. the potential extra money you could get by selling your car privately.
In the end I sold my wife’s car to a very nice dealer who contacted me a day after I placed my ads on gumtree and the Facebook marketplace. He paid us a very fair price for the car and although I am sure I could have gotten another thousand or two if I had sold it to a private buyer, the price I was offered for the car was still very reasonable and therefor I opted to go for a safer deal.
Nur from Tokyo Drift Autos came to my house, looked the car over and took it for a short drive – he was very friendly and professional and as I said offered me a very reasonable price for the car. He paid me a holding deposit on the day he came to view the car, which cleared into my account immediately, and when he came to collect the car on the following Monday he paid the balance in full, again, the money was available in my account immediately. He had all the required paperwork with him and transferred the car off my wife’s name in good time so we won’t have any issues with random fines on her name from the car we sold. It was truly a pleasure doing business with them. Like I said, if I had waited and sold the car privately I may have gotten another thousand bucks or so, but the safety of dealing with someone like Nur, made it worth it for me to let the car go at a very slightly lower price.
So if you want to go the easy way and sell your car, give Nur a call and see if he would be interested in your wheels:
Nur Rawoot: 0817730036
Always remember the golden rules, don’t trust anyone, don’t release anything until the money is available and above all, be careful out there. It’s sad that selling a car has become as dangerous as it is, but we make the best of it!
Any other tips we missed? Have you had or heard horror stories from people buying or selling cars? Let us know in the comments!