Guide to Finding Used Cars for Sale in South Africa

Finding a used car that suits your unique needs can be challenging. From deciding on the right model, the right price and the right mileage to knowing where to look, which tools to use in your search and what to do once you’ve found the ride of your dreams, understanding the South African used car market depends on knowing how to navigate it.

This guide to finding used cars for sale in South Africa will give you the essential tips you need, without compromising on your requirements and budget. We’ll look at how the South African used cars market works and explore the tricks and techniques used by reputable pre-owned car dealers to help you get your search started.

The adventure begins: Finding your new used car

Nothing beats the feeling of getting behind the wheel of a new car. Whether brand new, or pre-owned, driving away in a car you can call your own is special. But figuring out how to nail down that perfect set of wheels isn’t easy. With so many options on the table and an ever-expanding South African used car market, knowing where to look means knowing how everything works.

Buying a new car is a big step. Cars aren’t cheap, and purchasing the wrong one can leave you out of pocket, unmotivated and without a ride. Aside from all the shady characters out there trying to convince you to buy a badly-maintained rust bucket, getting your search wrong from the get-go can cause big problems down the road. To avoid this, there are some important steps to follow and things to look out for in your hunt for your next vehicle.

New cars are easy. They’ve never been driven or owned by anyone else, and their manufacturers usually provide all the important information and details you need to make an informed decision. But they’re also very expensive and often priced to take advantage of people with enough money to splurge on a shiny new ride. Used cars often offer much better value for money, and if you’re smart enough to buy through reputable pre-owned car dealers, you’ll likely end up smiling all the way back home to your garage.

So, let’s get into how to find used cars for sale in South Africa.

Figuring out your (and your car’s) needs

Buying anything, whether it be a loaf of bread or a house, should always be driven by a need or a desire - or a combination of both. But before you head on out and buy a car just because you want one, you’ll need to answer a few questions first.

Why you need a car in the first place?

Ask yourself: Why do you need this car? Once you’ve got a good answer that you can justify for going out to buy a new car, keep it close to your process. If you find yourself searching for cars for reasons outside of your initial motivations, reassess or come back to your ‘used car truth’.

 Here are some common reasons motivating people to buy a new used car:

  • ????To use in your job and to make money.

  • ????To commute to work every day

  • ????To transport kids to school and other activities

  • ????For going out or shopping

  • ????️To travel around the country

  • ????To boost your status

  • ♥️To feel good about having something to love

Remember to keep your “needs” separate from your “wants”. We all need a dependable, quality car to get us from point A to B, but we all want to drive there in a sports car. See the difference?

What is your used car budget?

Too many people end up setting a budget they can’t afford, or allowing one that’s too small put them off their used car search. Determining your budget can be tricky, but it is essential to getting your search right. A well-thought-out budget will protect you from overspending on a car and allow you to narrow your search.

Here are some of your budget elements to think about, especially for the South African used cars market:

  • ????Available deposit amount

  •  ????Cost of interest and insurance

  • ????Overall price of a new used car

  •  ????Total ownership costs, like maintenance, repairs, etc.

  • ⛽Cost of petrol

  • ⚖️Tax

 Establishing a budget is an essential first step in your used cars for sale search. This car budgeting tool will help you get started.

What are your lifestyle factors?

Lifestyle factors will determine the car you need. These elements differ from person to person, but understanding them will help you land on the right car - one you won’t regret buying down the road.

These lifestyle factors are important to most people looking to buy a new used car:

  • ????Daily commute needs

  • ????‍????‍????Your family size

  • ????Cargo space requirements

  • ????Fuel efficiency considerations

  • ????Safety features and technology

  • ????Desired car type based on activities

Make a list of your own lifestyle factors and use them to narrow down your car options. Don’t’ be afraid to update them if your lifestyle changes either.

What is your situation?

 Whether your financial situation isn’t as stable as you’d like or you simply don’t have money enough to take the plunge, there is help out there. Take a look at some of these really helpful deal assistance options that make getting into a used car possible.

Here are some examples of financial situations that may get in the way of finding oyur new used car:

While all of these situations can be tough, none of them means you can’t buy a new used car. With a little expert advice, some discipline and assistance from reputable pre-owned car dealers or a dependable credit facility, anything is possible!

Exploring the South African used car market

The South African used cars market has exploded in recent years. With the rise in dependable car dealers alongside an increasing number of online used car platforms, access to the market is literally at your fingertips.

Private sellers

 The most common place to find used cars for sale in South Africa is through the private seller. This may be someone looking to sell their car themselves or people who operate as an informal business by acting as ‘middlemen’ between a seller and a buyer.

  • Who are they? Almost all private sellers are amateurs who usually don’t fully understand the selling process or what the law says about selling cars privately. This means that you may unintentionally end up liable in a criminal situation and, without a legitimate returns or refund policy in place, will likely not be able to get your money back if something goes wrong.

  • Advantages & risks - While many private sellers are legitimately looking to sell vehicles, many people take advantage of others’ desperation or goodwill. Buying a car from a private seller carries many risks, including not knowing if they’re being completely honest about the car’s condition, whether it’s been in any accidents, if you’re safe while buying it or even if the car really belongs to them in the first place.

  • How to find them - Most private sellers advertise cars for sale on social media sites like Facebook or in classified ads. Be careful and always double-check the credentials of a private seller before meeting up with them.

Reputable pre-owned car dealers

 Car dealers are usually your best bet when starting out in the hunt for a quality used car. They are legitimate businesses offering helpful advice, quality services and value for money. There are many good reasons to buy from a dealership.

  •  Who are they? Big used car dealerships with multiple outlets usually indicate that they have generated a large customer base and have no problem convincing people to transact with them. Their physical presence, along with financial firepower, means that they are often able to offer the best value for money with top sales service and customer support. There is also strong competition among used car dealerships, with many companies and brands competing for their share of the market by offering lower prices, specials and additional service offerings along with great deal assistance programs.

  •  Advantages & risks - These reputable pre-owned car dealers usually also have an extensive inventory of vehicles to choose from, allowing you to browse and compare many more options than other used car sellers. Plus, most dealerships follow strict guidelines when it comes to the histories (especially around service records and accidents) and general conditions of the used cars they sell.

  • How to find them - You can research these used car dealerships and zero in on the best ones by looking at their online customer reviews, checking for accreditation and exploring their warranty and guarantee offers.

Online used car platforms

Online used car platforms are an increasingly popular option for many South Africans looking to find quality second-hand automobiles.

  • Who are they? Think of these online platforms as used car dealerships who have taken their showrooms online. These platforms list their cars in digital showrooms, listing all of the important information you need to make a decision and even allowing you to talk to a consultant directly.

  • Advantages & risks – Searching for a car at the click of a button is easy. Most of these platforms allow you to filter your car search by different metrics, like mileage, vehicle type and manufacturing year. You can even combine different filters to customise your search better. However, with such easy market access, there is always a risk of the car you want selling before you can pay over a deposit, and, in some cases, you can’t physically see the car before buying it.

  • How to find them – A quick Google search will provide you with a list of the top online used car platforms in South Africa. Some reputable pre-owned car dealers have both brick and mortar locations and a powerful online presence. Feel free to experiment with different options to see which ones suit your taste, which offer the most extensive inventories and who offers the most value.

The art of the search

Searching for the right used cars for sale is tougher than it sounds. Even with the myriad tools and resources at our disposal, finding the car that ticks all the boxes can be challenging.

Here are some pointers to help you get your search up and running.

Advanced search strategies

There is more than one approach you can take to your search. Whether you’re looking to find a car fast, are on the hunt for a very specific ride or are simply trying to find the most affordable options out there, putting together an advanced search strategy is the best way to go.

Don’t ignore the advanced search metrics or options. They’re there to help you refine your search, make things easier and narrow down your choices. We’ve picked some of the most popular search metrics that almost all South African used cars should come with:

  • Mileage – How many kilometres the car has driven in its life.

  • Year – Which year the car was built. This can tell you how hard the car has been worked (by dividing mileage by how many years the car has been around).

  • Vehicle service history – A record of all services completed on the car. One service per year or every 15,000km to 20,000km is an acceptable number.

  • Vehicle type – SUV, sedan, hatch, 4x4, or compact are the popular vehicle types you can use to massively narrow your search.

  •  Features – Usually used later on to really refine your search, features can be included or omitted by choosing between things like aircon, sunroof, leather seats, electric mirrors, rims, and Bluetooth.

Red flags to watch out for

 While developing your cars for sale search strategy, there are some important warning signs to be aware of. These can derail your search for a used can and, if ignored, can leave you badly out of pocket and with a low-quality used car.

  • Unrealistic pricing compared to market value – This can go either way. A car that is much more expensive than the average used car of the same make, model and mileage is likely overpriced. And one that is dirt cheap isn't always a good sign. Shop around first to make sure you’re in the right price range.

  • Bad seller reputation – If a seller, dealer or entity has a dodgy track record or is known for being untrustworthy, walk away. No amount of convincing or special deals will turn this into a good situation. Do your research.

  • Vague or missing information in car descriptions – If the dealer or seller leaves things out like service history information, mileage or other important vehicle details, be careful. This means that the seller hasn’t reviewed the car properly, or they don’t really have a car to sell. Ask for more information, or take your search elsewhere.

Taking the next step

Once you’ve found the used car you want to buy and completed your search, it’s time to take the next step.

Contacting reputable pre-owned car dealers

Speak directly to the dealer and let them know you’re interested in making a purchase. Remember to ask them detailed questions about the car, and don’t be afraid to be as thorough as you can be. Get a name and contact details so you can stay in touch.

Scheduling test drives

You’ll also want to schedule a test drive before making any payments or commitments. This test drive allows you to inspect the vehicle and take it out for a spin to get a feel for it. During your test drive, check for vehicle functionality, assess how it handles on the road, test all of the features and take a moment to see if you feel comfortable in the car.

Vehicle history checks

 Another important step before buying a used car is to verify the car's service history and to check if there are any accident reports associated with the car. Used car dealerships and sellers are usually required to disclose this information to you before you make a purchase. There are a number of reputable companies offering vehicle history checks in South Africa who can do these for you.


 Establish how you’re going to pay for the car. Most dealers require an upfront deposit to secure the vehicle and most buyers can’t afford the full cash amount for the car. This means approaching a bank or vehicle financing institution to assist you in financing the car.

Ask about deal assistance

 Some reputable pre-owned car dealers make it easier to afford your car by offering deal assistance. These offers allow you to secure your vehicle quicker and more affordably. They do this by providing cash amounts based on your profile that can cover your deposit, take care of initial instalments, cover a shortfall between a vehicle trade-in amount and the used car’s value and even provide cash to pay off other things, freeing you up to afford a car.

Finding your used car for sale in SA

 Ready to hit the road in your dream car? Auto Pedigree, with used car dealership locations across South Africa and a strong online presence, offers a wide selection of high-quality, pre-owned South African used cars. Our cars for sale undergo a rigorous 116-point quality assurance check, ensuring peace of mind for every driver. Visit our website or any of our dealerships to browse our extensive inventory and find your perfect match today!