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After weeks of waiting, a Soweto first-time car buyer was finally refunded the R12000 she paid for a salvaged vehicle.
Sithembela Manana of Zola 3 said she had always wanted to own a vehicle, but due to the ever increasing price of vehicles she could not buy herself one.
Manana said her cousins have always been buying and repairing damaged vehicles from Hillbank Corporation and she decided to follow suit.
Hillbank Motor Corporation sells salvaged vehicles countrywide on behalf of the insurance industry.
Manana said she started saving two years ago and did not think twice when she finally obtained her driver's licence - she approached Hillbank to buy her own car.
She visited their Robertsham branch and spotted a salvaged Hyundai Getz on sale for R26000. She made an offer to purchase and paid a deposit of R12000 on December 22 last year.
She could not pay the balance a day later as they were closing for their December holidays, Manana said.
She visited their offices on January 4 and was told the person who sold the car to her was still on leave and that she had to come back a week later.
She was also advised to pay the balance once the insurance company had released the registration papers, which she agreed to.
On her next visit she was told the insurance had refused to release the car's documents.
Manana later discovered that the car was sold to another buyer a few days after she was told that the insurance was holding onto the papers.
"Their sales person had lied when he told me the insurance company did not want to release the papers. Their computer showed they sold the car on January 16 2010," said Manana.
She said she felt betrayed and demanded her money back.
"Instead, the salesperson referred me to their head office where I was sent from pillar to post," said Manana.
She claims that she was told she could not be assisted as Hillbank was undergoing liquidation and was being audited.
"They told me to wait for a further two weeks before I could get my money. I did not think it was fair to make me wait," Manana said.
Two days later when she called their Robertsham branch, the offices were empty, she claims.
"I went there and a security guard would not let me in, adding that Hillbank staff had left before noon that day."
Last week she was told they could only see people who had secured appointments.
But when they took her money, they did not want her to make an appointment, she said.
"They initially did not want to take my details but did so after I mentioned Sowetan Consumer Line," she said.
Manana said she only got a refund when Consumer Line stepped in.
Consumer Line was also given a runaround for at least three days before Manana was refunded. When Consumer Line eventually spoke to Mark Groenewald, the owner of Hillbank, he agreed to refund Manana.
Groenewald apologised for the inconvenience they have caused Manana, adding that her complaint should not have been taken to the media.
He said if Hillbank had sold her car, there was no valid reason they should not refund her money. Groenewald made an electronic transfer last Friday and Manana has confirmed receipt of her deposit.
Advantages of buying a salvaged vehicle:
l Not all damaged vehicles are write-offs. Some have slight dents which can be easily repaired.
l You can save a lot of money.
Manana's cousin said it cost him just over R6000 to repair a damaged vehicle he bought from Hillbank two years ago. He still drives it and it is in good shape.
l If you think of buying a damaged vehicle, rebuild it to the exact specifications to pass the inspection and make it legal.
l Make sure you are familiar with the laws of putting a damaged car back on the road.