Don’t get caught with buyer’s remorse – read the fine print

So you are all excited about purchasing a second hand vehicle.  You love the colour and the way it looks.  Everything sounds and looks great – it even comes with a two year warranty. So what can possibly go wrong?  Nothing right?

Deon Goch, National Vice Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud affiliate of the Retail Motor Industry Association (RMI), says even if you have been very cautious, it is strongly advised that like with any other large transaction, you approach the purchase with caution and understand potential pitfalls and your rights. He says the two most important things to remember are:

Firstly, you need to ensure the vehicle is independently checked. If you are purchasing your vehicle from an accredited dealer or one approved by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), you can rest assured that the dealer has highly trained technicians with the right diagnostic equipment and tooling to conduct the best inspection. The client should ask the dealer for the safety inspection/ multi-point check report that is conducted by the dealer prior to the vehicle being offered for sale. In many cases, the dealership partners with independent vehicle test centres to undertake inspections and produce the necessary fitness report for the dealership. 

If the dealer you purchase from cannot provide you with this peace of mind, you need to insist that the vehicle goes for an independent inspection at an accredited Workshop before you purchase or sign anything. He says this is possibly the most important thing you can do to ensure you never experience buyer’s remorse.

“Spending a small affordable amount at an accredited workshop to carry out a bumper to bumper inspection on a vehicle lift allows the technician to see a lot more detail than you can with your naked eye just walking around the vehicle. Based on this outcome you now have the confidence to enjoy your future asset with minimal risk.  The workshop will allow you to make an informed decision and point out any defects that may be found.”

Secondly, the other really important detail to check is exactly what the warranty actually covers.  All used vehicles will be sold, either with the balance of the factory warranty and/or an extended warranty. Extended Warranties are insurance products and the Finance and Insurance specialist assists the client in advising what is covered and what may not be covered. In terms of the Consumer Protection Act, all cars sold (new and used) will have a 6-month implied warranty of quality (section 56 of the CPA) which covers most defects, failures or hazards not caused by the purchaser.

It is critical nevertheless that you understand and read all the fine print. You don’t want to end up as a distressed customer suddenly faced with a mechanical breakdown a couple of months down the line only to be advised that your warranty only covers a portion of the repair costs. Goch says many defects are routinely excluded from a warranty. “For example overheating is a common exclusion motorists are not aware of.” You now have an unplanned costly expense and the frustration of not being aware of the fine print exclusions.  He advises never to overlook the fine print and just as you take the extra time to get an independent assessment or ask for a full safety inspection report from your dealer, take the time to get the salesman to carefully take you through all warranty clauses. 

Goch cautions that regular wear and tear items are generally not covered by the warranty you purchased. “Your vehicle’s brakes for example will pass the test, but the lifespan that’s left may be minimum.” He says there are critical items that do not form part of the roadworthy, but a trained technician will identify a lot more faults such as semi blocked catalytic convertors, cambelt wear, accident damage and so on.

So in summary once you have found your dream used car, insist that you get a full safety inspection report, either from the dealer or an independent workshop.  Make an educated decision based on the report and take time to completely understand all exclusions in your warranty.

Deon Goch - Vice Chairman MIWA