Five Myths around Buying or Selling a Car

Lance Branquinho / 23 August 2019

Buying the right car can be tricky if you intend to sell it for a good price one day. Follow these 5 tips to ensure you get the best value for your purchase.

Optional extras have value (they don’t)

The myriad of style and convenience options offered to new vehicle buyers, creates an enticing matrix of options. Perhaps you’d like those larger wheels? Or those comfier seats? What about optional puddle lights under the side mirrors, which display the brand logo at night, to ensure you don’t step in mud or gum when getting in or out of your car?

Options are pure marketing and don’t increase the value of a car over the longer term. They become the first victims of depreciation. The only options which retain any value are safety and Smartphone syncing features. All other nice-to-have and styling features are best avoided.

The trend is your friend (not really)

Vehicle design is very similar to the fashion industry. It operates on a principle of buyers desiring individual differentiation, instead of function.

Over the long term, especially when it comes to sell, buyers desire function – not fashion. Be careful of strange new body shapes and designs, they very rarely last beyond a five-year product cycle and can leave you with a curious car that has very little resale.

An example of this is the MPV, which was once a choice family vehicle configuration, but has now been surpassed by the SUV. Or the retro trend, popularised by VW’s ‘new’ Beetle, Chrysler’s PT Cruiser and Dodge’s Nitro.

Colour matters (it does)

Much like the fashion which drives design trends, colour varies from year-to-year within the automotive industry. New emulsions and metallic colours are constantly being mixed as product planners wish to differentiate their vehicles from rivals.

Cars are larger three-dimensional objects and as such, their shape and proportions can be very colour sensitive. What looks good on a wall or two-dimensional colour chart, will not necessarily have the same aesthetic appeal when applied to a vehicle. Be conservative with colours. Bright hues are best avoided.

The most popular South African car colour remains white (40%), followed by silver (20%) and grey (12%). You don’t want to be the individualist driver with a purple metallic car, who can’t easily trade it two or three years later.

Rarity does not equal value (unfortunately)

In most market transactions, rarity equals value – but only if there is demand. The car industry is slightly different: here you want to be part of the popular brands which sell thousands of cars per month.

Unless you are trading low-volume sports-cars, it is very disadvantageous to buy into a fringe brand which trades thinly in South Africa.

The sheer economies of scale and security in parts supply chain of larger brands are worth the price. You can also be sure that they will be around for decades in future. Don’t buy an outlier brand of car – it could be difficult or nearly impossible to sell later. Especially if that brand discontinues its South African presence – as was the case with Citroen, Chrysler, Dodge, General Motors and Saab locally, over the last decade.

Clean it (properly)

If you are selling, perhaps the most powerful impression you can make on a prospective buyer, is to present them with an immaculately clean vehicle.

A professional valet clean of your car, including treatment of the seats and upholstery, is not hugely expensive and immediately creates a sense of quality associated with the vehicle you are marketing to be sold.

Most people aren’t fastidious about regularly having their car valet cleaned – but it is quite a modest outlay, which over time, compounds to a very good return when you do decide to trade your vehicle.