Check if you bought a stolen vehicle

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

How many of us buy a second- hand car only to discover that our purchase was dodgy when we have to claim from insurance?

How many times have insurance companies refused to pay because the engine of the second-hand car we bought with our hard-earned money was tampered with?

If it turns out that your second-hand car is a stolen vehicle and you have an accident, your insurance policy will not pay out and you will probably lose your car, along with the money you paid for it.

Caroline da Silva, head of portfolio management at Santam, South Africa's largest short-term insurer, says the country is experiencing car thefts in huge proportions. More than 17000 cars were stolen last year alone.

This makes the likelihood of you ending up with a stolen vehicle all the more real, whether you are buying through a dealer or not.

Da Silva says: "A reputable car dealer will of course go to great lengths to ensure the cars they sell are fit for purchase in every respect.

"But not all car dealers are reputable and the private sale of vehicles leaves a wide gap for criminals to get in on the act."

Da Silva says that conducting some simple background checks before buying a used car can ensure that you are not left out of pocket.

She offers these simple background checks that can put your mind at ease:

lCall your local police station with the registration number, engine and chassis number - which all appear on the car's licence disc. You will quickly and easily establish whether the car you are planning to buy is stolen or not.

Da Silva says should the chassis and engine number not correspond, it might indicate that the car was involved in a major accident. It might also mean that the car has been tampered with and contains stolen parts.

In this case, after an investigation, the car may be seized by the police.

l Ensure that you have proof from the seller that all outstanding amounts have been settled before you buy the car.

Many second-hand cars have outstanding finance and if you buy the car, you are liable to pay this outstanding amount.

You can always call the car owner's finance company directly if the proof provided looks suspect.

Da Silva says: "Ultimately, there is a strong case for legislation to make every seller prove that the car they are selling is fit for sale. But until such time, these simple checks will ensure that your secondhand car purchase does not backfire."