According to motoring experts, if you’re in the market for a second-hand car, the time to get the best deal is right now

South Africa is in a technical recession and while financial advisers are probably warning you to tighten up your belt, motoring experts are urging consumers to get ahead of the curve if they want to get a good deal on a used car.

This is because the weak rand, according to AutoTrader CEO George Mienie, actually presents a unique opportunity for car buyers to pick up a car at current prices before the price increases due to currency fluctuations.

“We’ve seen that used car prices only increase about six months after new cars. Accordingly, if new car prices rise by 10% within the next month or two, used car prices will only rise by the same percentage about six months later,” he says.

“This means that used car buyers can get good value in the used car market right now. This is especially the case in top-end cars (vehicles costing over R500 000).”

The weaker rand also bodes well for original equipment manufacturers, as well as vehicle exports, which are expected to grow from 340 000 units this year to 384 000 units next year.

READ MORE: Best second-hand vehicles to buy in SA

Wesley Procter, GM at used car retailer getWorth, offers a few tips on how to avoid buying a lemon:

  •  Choose wisely

Lean towards cars that have low mileage and which are relatively new. Older cars with higher wear tend to give more problems. Don’t just choose a car because you like the colour or the look of it. Be practical.

  • Research, research, research

You can never do enough homework when it comes to buying a car. Once you have chosen the car you want, compare it to others just like it. Look at the average pricing, the average mileage for that price and find the deal that suits your budget best. If it appears too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Who are you buying from?

This can make a big difference. If you are buying privately, you have no protection under the Consumer Protection Act and the sale is typically “voetstoots”, so you would need to be doubly careful. If the owner has only owned the car for a short period, be particularly wary. 

READ MORE: Second-hand savvy

  • Checklist

To ensure the car is in good condition, it needs to tick certain boxes. Does it have a full service history? Has it been in any accidents (that have been disclosed)? How many owners has it had? Try to stick to as few owners as possible. Was it previously purchased through a reputable company? Could it be a stolen car? If the owner (or their bank) doesn’t have the car’s papers, avoid it.

  • Don’t forget to test-drive

First things first, when you go to look at a car you are interested in, always try and take someone with you to provide an objective opinion. If they have knowledge of cars, even better. But, before you even get into the car, take a walk around it. Look for any dents, chips, scrapes or paint irregularities – any mismatched paint is usually an indication that the car has undergone some poor quality bodywork. Check the tyres and make sure that, overall, it appears to be in good condition.