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Navigating body corporates, tow trucks and paying for old car 'add ons'

Wendy Knowler Consumer journalist
Law enforcement can give the towing operator at the scene a lawful instruction to remove the vehicle off the roadway to the side of the road at no cost. Once moved, it is your choice to decide who tows the vehicle.
Law enforcement can give the towing operator at the scene a lawful instruction to remove the vehicle off the roadway to the side of the road at no cost. Once moved, it is your choice to decide who tows the vehicle.
Image: RUSA

In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:

Don’t get suckered into paying a new price for an old car “add on”

Did you know that none of the extras you have added to your car when you buy it new will be taken into account by a motor dealership when you trade in or sell the car?

That’s because the “value guides” which the trade rely on to make you an offer on your car give add-ons — such as towbars, canopies, cool rims, stronger shocks or roof racks — zero value, according to Trevor Browse, who heads up Nedbank’s Motor Finance Corporation.

But the person who buys that car will find those pre-existing “zero value” items added to their offer to purchase, and if the car is financed, interest will be paid as well, of course.

I remember investigating a case a few years ago, where a woman was charged R3,000 for a bin lining on a used bakkie which had been applied several years before by the original owner. The dealer principal told me: “My only explanation is that the sales executive broke the price down to highlight these extras on the car”. With the extras added, she said, the price of the bakkie was still in line with the market value.

Browse said something similar. “There is an argument that all these extras are good to be itemised and not just included in the car price.”

But how can you know if the total amount, with all those second-hand extras added, is indeed “market value”?

Here’s how: the TransUnion Car Value Report. For a nominal one-off fee you can access the trade and retail values of the car you’re interested in buying and you can also check that the price you are being offered on your car as a trade-in is market value. Knowledge is power!

What not to do when approached by a tow-truck driver

I thought I’d heard it all about unscrupulous tow truck drivers’ tactics but clearly I was wrong. I am not suggesting that all tow truck operators are unscrupulous, but some, sadly, are.

In a case I’m investigating currently, a man who broke down on a freeway was asked by the tow truck driver, who arrived on the scene within five minutes, to hand over his driver’s licence, which he photographed before handing it back.

The driver was not given any form to sign before the car was towed, he says, and by the time he found out where it had been taken, massive storage costs had mounted. And then he was presented with a form as proof of his consent, with his signature on it.

When he protested that the signature wasn’t his, that photo of his signed driver’s licence was produced as “proof” that it was indeed his signature.


Sage advice from Ettienne Pel, national chairman of the United Towing Association SA (UTASA): “Under no circumstances are you obliged to use a towing service against your will, especially where law enforcement puts pressure on you to get the road cleared.

“Law enforcement can give the towing operator at the scene a lawful instruction to remove the vehicle off the roadway to the side of the road at no cost.

“Once moved, you can then use your free will to decide who tows the vehicle.”

Good to know!

“Never sign any document, where the costs are not stipulated on the front of the authorising form to remove the vehicle,” Pel says.

If you have insurance, save the name and number of your insurer’s towing hotline on your cellphone, and call them when you’re in an accident and your car needs towing.

If you aren’t insured, save the SA Towing & Recovery Association's (Satra) 24-hour line — 0861 0 72872 — on your cellphone and if you're involved in an accident, call them for details of a Satra member in your area. Ditto the United Towing Association of SA (UTASA): 0861188272

Never let anyone phone your insurance company on your behalf.

What many do is pretend to call your insurer and then tell you they have approval, when they don’t, and you end up paying for the tow as a result.

Get all the tow-truck company's details before they disappear with your car — full name of the driver, the company's physical address and landline number, and the registration number of the truck.

Be very clear about where the vehicle is to be towed, and make sure this is written on the form.

If insured, call your insurer soon after your car has been towed to ensure that all is in order.

If not insured, and your car has been towed to a tow-truck company’s yard, make arrangements to have it collected as soon as possible to avoid sky-high storage fees.

Can a body corporate enforce any new rule they fancy?

Pieter, who rents a flat in a Cape Town block, raised a very interesting issue in his e-mail to me:

“Under [lockdown] level 3 the body corporate imposed the following new rules — I may not receive any visitors in my flat and I may not use the swimming pool.

“I am ‘allowed’ to go to the recreation area on the roof of the building, but I may not smoke or drink up there, not even water. According to the body corporate, a visit from just one friend is regarded as a social gathering.

“Are these draconic rules reasonable?”

I sourced a response from sectional title consultant and trainer Leigh Maingard. “In order for rules to be implemented and enforceable the scheme has to have a special general meeting, have members approve the changes and then have the rules submitted to and approved by Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS),” she said.

“If this has not been done the rules cannot be enforced. I doubt very much that process was followed in this case.

“The trustees are not empowered to enforce anything; they can only expect residents to follow level 3 restrictions and protocol.”

There you have it.


E-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za

Twitter: @wendyknowler

Facebook: wendyknowlerconsumer


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