How to spot an illegally imported second-hand car in South Africa

The South African police and Sars have started to crack down on cheap second-hand cars imported into South Africa.

A recent report stated that around 20,000 vehicles are illegally registered and sold in South Africa each year.

The second-hand vehicles are mainly from China and are shipped to South African ports. There, they are taken by criminals and fraudulently registered on the eNatis system – after which they are sold to buyers.

The cars are much cheaper than their legal counterparts, making them attractive to buyers.

If the vehicle is found by the police or Sars, however, it will be seized and destroyed.

An example of this fallout is a local woman who purchased a 2017 VW Touran for R120,000 from a car dealer, who was a Congolese national, in February 2018. The car normally retails for over double this price.

In October, she was visited by police who confiscated the car and said it had been fraudulently registered.

How to spot an illegal second-hand car

To find out how South Africans can avoid falling victim to this scam, we spoke to WeBuyCars and AutoTrader – top players in the second-hand car market.

Dirk van der Walt, CSO of WeBuyCars, said that as a general rule the illegal imports will be much cheaper than the usual retail price in the market.

“You get what you pay for. If you buy something cheap, you pay cheap. If you buy something expensive, you pay more. Consequently, if someone offers you a vehicle at half price, be suspicious,” said van der Walt.

He stated that buyers must also exercise due diligence and buy from recognised dealerships.

“Average people, in the ordinary course of life, are unlikely to encounter one of these deals unless they buy from a source that’s not well known.”

Van der Walt said the illegal vehicles will also carry tell-tale signs they are not meant for local sale, such as Chinese writing on labels inside the vehicle as well as in the service book.

He added that despite all these signs, the Road Traffic Management Corporation should be able to pick up the registration of a foreign VIN number in South Africa and address the problem at a regulatory level.

“The issue needs to be addressed on the level of the Minister of Trade and Industry, eNatis, and the RTMC – the governing bodies of the industry.”

George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO, said that the first warning sign of an illegal import is always the price of the car.

“If the price of a car is too good to be true, it probably is,” he stated.

“We currently have a very light tool to help users see the average price ranges which can be used as a guide. If the price of the car is way under the going retail market values on AutoTrader, then there’s usually something wrong. Investigate this fully before buying.”

Now read: South African 27-inch PC monitor battle

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How to spot an illegally imported second-hand car in South Africa