Don’t Get Crushed by Code 3: Protect Yourself When Buying a Second-Hand Car

Don’t Get Crushed by Code 3: Protect Yourself When Buying a Second-Hand Car
Consumer Education Homepage - News Vehicle Salvage Database

Picture this: You find the perfect used car – affordable, stylish, seemingly in pristine condition. You buy it, excited for your new set of wheels. But weeks later, an unsettling clunk on the highway turns into a terrifying spinout. Turns out, your “dream car” was once a mangled mess, declared a write-off by insurance and patched up to look roadworthy again.

This chilling scenario is more common than you think. South Africa’s roads see countless accidents, and many severely damaged cars get “repaired” and put back on the market. While a roadworthy certificate ensures basic safety, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Major collision damage can lurk hidden, posing serious risks to you and your loved ones.

The Blind Spot in Car History

A standard roadworthy test checks basic components like lights, brakes, and steering. But it’s not equipped to detect past major damage, especially frame repairs or hidden structural weaknesses. This leaves a dangerous blind spot for second-hand car buyers.

SAMBRA is in the fight for transparency

Pushing for the public release of a Vehicle Salvage Database, the South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association (SAMBRA) is fighting for transparency. A publicly available database would reveal the history of written-off cars, preventing them from slipping back onto the market undetected.

But until then, what can you do?

Take control of your car buying journey

  • Seek expert eyes for collision concerns: Whether you suspect past accident damage or not, your first step is to consult a SAMBRA-accredited motor body repairer. They have the expertise to spot hidden repairs and assess the structural integrity of the vehicle.
  • Go beyond the roadworthy: An accredited vehicle testing station that is a member of the Vehicle Testing Association (VTA), will undertake a comprehensive multipoint check on the car. The multi-point inspection (MPI) covers a range of additional categories and goes beyond basic checks and gives you a much clearer picture of the car’s health. It is conducted by a trained and qualified examiner of vehicles and will give you a far more comprehensive report on over 120 points of the vehicle.
  • Uncover the service history: NADA dealerships and RMI-accredited MIWA workshops can access a car’s service history based on its VIN number. This can reveal past repairs and maintenance issues, offering valuable insights.
  • Cover your bases: Take the vehicle for a thorough inspection by an RMI-accredited repairer, from the likes of SAMBRA or the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) before you agree to make a purchase.
Remember: It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Taking these extra steps might cost a little more initially, but they can save you from heartache and potentially life-threatening situations down the road.

Spread the word: Share this information with your friends and family. The more people aware of the hidden dangers of unknowingly buying previously written-off cars, the more chance we have of getting a transparent Vehicle Salvage Database.

Together, we can make South Africa’s roads safer for everyone.

Additional resources:

SAMBRA-accredited repairers:
NADA, VTA, and MIWA member details:
More consumer education: