What to do when your car breaks down on the highway

Your car is suddenly not able to drive anymore and is slowing down. You’re on the highway with cars driving past you at very high speeds. What do you do?

  • First of all, try to get yourself out of harm’s way. If you notice any trouble, steer your car towards the far-left hand side of the highway. If there’s enough space next to the yellow line, try to bring your car to a standstill in that area.
  • Make sure you’re visible to other cars by switching your hazards on. If it’s dark, switch on your car’s interior light as well.
  • If it’s safe to get out of your car, place your red reflecting triangle about 200 metres from your car so that you can be visible for oncoming traffic.
  • Look around you to see if there are any visible landmarks or signs that could make it easier for your insurance company to locate you if you are unsure of your whereabouts.
  • Call your insurance company to let them know what has happened, where you are located and what the situation is like. If you are in danger or hurt, let them know immediately.
  • Notify your loved ones of your situation so that they’re aware and could possibly wait with you while the insurance company sends a tow truck to assist you.
  • If your insurance company is unable to fix your car there and then and it needs to be towed, remember to take all your valuables out of your car. Also make a note of the amount of kilometres on your car’s odometer.

Buying a car – know your rights

The used motor industry was once known for its loops and holes, and how dealerships were able to protect themselves rather than the buyer. Since the implementation of the Consumer Protection Act back in 2008, things have changed for the better.

Buyers are now able to get a clear view of what they’re buying, if the price is reasonable and what they can expect from the dealership afterwards is stipulated.

There are eight points outlined by the Act relating to the rights you have as a buyer when buying a used car:

  1. Disclosure

It is the dealer’s responsibility to disclose any known faults in the vehicle. He should also list what he has done to the vehicle in terms of reconditioning. The dealer has to inform you, based on his his experience and knowledge, to make a judgement call on the condition of the car. While it’s not expected that a dealer should know everything about every single car, it is important to know that in cases of arbitration the Ombudsman will usually revert back to the issue of “reasonableness”.

The dealer must disclose the year of first registration as well as the car’s current code status – used, imported, stolen, rebuilt, etc. You deserve the right to inspect the car and take it for a road test.

  1. Wear and Tear

The buyer will have to show his acceptance of buying a used vehicle by way of his signature and that the vehicle’s wear and tear will meant it won’t perform like a new vehicle. Complaints related to wear and tear will not be sufficient for a return.

  1. Right to Return the Vehicle

The buyer may return the vehicle for a full refund within six months if the outlined conditions are met. According to the Act, wear and tear is excluded from the outlined conditions. The buyer has the option to request a repair, replacement or refund, but the defect has to be proven by the owner. Note that if the car is under a finance agreement, things can get very complicated. Because a car is seen as goods that devalue with use, the owner will be liable for the usage as well as any damages that have been inflicted on it.

  1. Cooling Off Period

A cooling off period is only applicable if:

  • The offer to purchase and/or sales agreement was signed at a place other than the seller’s premises or the finance company’s premises; or
  • The vehicle was sold to the client by direct marketing (a cold call).
  1. Price
    According to the Act, the price of a vehicle must be fair, reasonable and just. Because cars like collector’s items are sold at prices higher than book value or cars in good shape are sold for less than book value because of the high mileage, it is extremely difficult to apply this part of the Act to the used motor industry.
  2. Safe Use of the Product
    In line with the Act, the owner is now required to sign a declaration to show he accepts responsibility that a vehicle is a dangerous item and that he won’t be allowed to claim injuries to the seller after signing the declaration.
  3. The Right to Documentation
    Buyers have the right to receive copies of all relevant documents relating to the purchase of the vehicle. It will be required that the buyer acknowledges receipt by signing for the documents.
  4. Implied 6 Month Warranty
    The buyer has the right to ensure that the seller stands claim to the reasonable durability of the car for a period of six months – an implied warranty on defects. It is the buyer’s responsibility to understand the difference between wear and tear (tyres, exhausts, clutch, brakes, etc) and defects (a gear suddenly jumping out – requires proof). It is also the buyer’s rights to extend an aftermarket warranty.

While the Act means a lot of paperwork and red tape for both the buyer and the dealership, it is of the utmost importance to highlight that the Act is there to protect both the buyer and the seller, and to ensure the used vehicle market is one that can be trusted.