Used and out of warranty – an acceptable risk?

Tough economic conditions, combined with the potential to save as much as 50 percent on the sale price of a new vehicle, means that sales of used trucks are booming. FOCUS investigates whether it’s worth buying out of warranty, and what to expect and inspect.

Just as in the automobile sector, trucks are sometimes sold privately, or through smaller independent dealerships. One reason for this is that a seller is sometimes able to get a better price from a smaller dealership.

Buying used and out of warranty can be risky, but it is a risk that some smaller owner-operators have to take. Basically, getting the best deal will depend on knowing what to look for and getting the right vehicle at the best price.

What will the truck be used for

The application for which the truck will be used is an important aspect of buying any truck, whether it’s new or used. Will it be used as a flat bed with drop sides, a tanker, or a freight carrier?

For example, an owner-operator may have a temporary contract, and fulfilling it doesn’t warrant the purchase of a new vehicle. In this instance, a suitable used truck can be obtained for the specific purpose and sold on when the contract expires.

Ryan Pretorius, MD of Rhino Truck Sales, offers a word of advice: “When sold as new, cabs are normally sold without a body. Once a truck body has been fitted, the description on the licence disc must change. If the description on the disc does not match the truck, it is very expensive to change and the traffic department may impound the vehicle.”

It is equally important to know the weight, volume and density of the merchandise the truck is expected to carry. Will the truck be doing long or short trips and what mileage will it do over the term of use?

What’s in budget

After determining what kind of truck is needed, compile a short list of vehicles that match the criteria.

Manufacturers will provide a book value for any vehicle sold by them in the past. Service providers like TransUnion also keep a detailed record of vehicles and their respective trade values represented at wholesale and retail level.

Since the vehicles are likely to be several years old, problems with particular models would have shown themselves by this stage. Research should be undertaken on aspects such as common failures, or life expectancy, on the models within a particular price bracket.

If there are a lot of vehicles of a particular model continuously available on the market and they are all priced cheaply, this may be an indication that this model is troublesome.

Truck inspection

Before going any further, look at the licence disc to see if all information matches that on the truck.

“It used to be the case that outstanding licence disc fees remained on the seller’s name when sold. This changed in November 2017 and outstanding fees, along with penalties that can amount to tens of thousands of rand, are now transferred to the new owner.

Ask for the service history of the vehicle and check that all the routine maintenance has been carried out. Also, check for any unscheduled maintenance and note the millage at which this was carried out.

If the dealer has no service record, this can sometimes be obtained from the original operator in the form of a logbook. It is also possible to call the service department of the vehicle manufacturer to get details on the most recent service.

Pretorius says it is not uncommon for sellers to turn back the odometer. “By the time a truck gets to around one million kilometres the paintwork should be littered with stone chips. If this is so, and you open the cab to find 300 000 km on the clock, this should sound alarm bells,” says Pretorius.

Check for signs of accident damage like body filler and poorly aligned panels. Look underneath the truck for bent or worn steering and suspension components. While down there, look for patches of oil on the ground or on the inside of the tyres or engine bay.

Check all lubricants – these can be sent away for testing if necessary. Pretorius says: “You can check that the piston rings are in a reasonable condition by running the truck up to temperature, opening the oil filler cap and checking for ‘blow-by’, or puffs of smoke escaping the engine block. Also, check the radiator cap for oil residue which may indicate a blown head gasket.”

When buying a used vehicle out of warranty, it serves the buyer to identify problems and negotiate for these to be fixed or subtracted from the sale price.

In terms of the Consumer Protection Act

There is a belief among some that if a vehicle is purchased and something goes wrong soon after purchase, the buyer is entitled to a refund. This is not necessarily true, and applies only in very special circumstances that may be difficult and time-consuming to prove in court.

Within the used-vehicle motor industry a dealer must disclose any known faults on the vehicle. The buyer is also entitled to request a list of what the dealer has done to the vehicle in terms of reconditioning.

The dealer must also disclose the year of first registration and the code status of the vehicle: new, used, imported, stolen and recovered, or rebuilt. The buyer is allowed to inspect the vehicle and conduct a road test.

As a final means of achieving peace of mind, the buyer can request that an inspection be carried out on the vehicle. One option is to take the truck to an inspection centre that conducts multi-point checks.

Pretorius says: “If I have a consumer who is unsure, I encourage them to take the vehicle to the manufacturer for a full report. Normally they charge around two hours’ labour to do this.”

Buying used and out of warranty is not for everyone, but it offers the opportunity to save the owner-operator a lot of money upfront. The final decision comes down to finding the right vehicle at the right price and accepting a level of risk that isn’t inhibiting.

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is one of the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publications in southern Africa.

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