Tips for safer car shopping online

Buying cars online is a growing industry in South Africa, beware the dangers…

No matter what they’re buying online, internet users have been cautioned in recent times to be additionally vigilant. Online shoppers are exposed to a number of threats – from simple malware designed to steal personal information from their computers, to advanced online scams designed to lure innocent, unsuspecting consumers into dangerous deals that part them with their cash, often unwillingly.

The saying so often uttered to help guide buyers looking for a deal is, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is”. However, there are ways to ensure that a good deal can still be had.

So says leading vehicle portal Managing Director, Charles Grassie from Surf4Cars. “Online shopping has opened up new options for car buyers. With easier access to previously unseen deals, genuine bargains are still available,” says Grassie. “Our brains have been conditioned to disregard deals that might be too good to be true, but there are honest sellers who have enticing offers that could make that dream a reality for buyers.”

Buying cars online is a growing industry in South Africa, driven by a global trend that sees consumers spending more time researching online before actually entering a physical retail environment.

“Some research indicates that nearly 80% of the time taken to arrive at a vehicle purchase decision is now spent online, whether researching a specific make and model, or finding a suitable example to buy,” says Grassie.

But that shouldn’t take the human element, logical financial planning, and risk awareness away from any pending decision.

“Online portals connect buyers and sellers, whether in the new or pre-owned market,” says Grassie. “But they vary in degree of safety when it comes to vetting online advertisers; and therefore offering consumers any degree of protection.”

In the case of shopping for a new car, buyers might be blinded by enthusiasm, passion and the burning desire to seal the deal and drive off in a new set of wheels.

Online portals vary in service from simply creating an opportunity for buyers to meet sellers, right the way through to vetting online stock and providing fraud prevention qualifications to provide customers peace of mind. To aid in this, Surf4Cars offers a product called Buy Safe, Sell Safe. Through this system it only lists vehicles from credible dealers who have a lot to lose by defrauding unsuspecting buyers and sellers.

“Through Buy Safe, Sell Safe we assist with verifying the history of vehicles to ensure they are not damaged or stolen and have a traceable service history, for example, so that buyers get a good deal,” says Grassie. “This benefits both private buyers and private sellers. Buyers know their information is protected, and sellers know we’ll bring them good quality buyers.”

The logic makes sense. And the proof of trustworthy conduits like Surf4Cars comes in the form of dedicated teams to screen each advertised vehicle, making it difficult for fraudsters to obtain details of other parties. This is backed up by a call centre to field queries about any suspicions and to provide advice for buyers. Finally, partnerships for supporting services, like vehicle finance and insurance, are formed with trusted parties and institutions.

Like most services currently, simply providing a single product is no longer competitive. Consumers demand an integrated experience and multi-service offering that simplifies the journey to the ultimate purchase.

 “Any vehicle purchase is a major decision for most South Africans. So it makes sense to always go to a reliable outlet to find that car of your dreams,” says Grassie. “We like to think we go one step further in actually providing some guidance and assistance to make that decision – whether through our many available online channels, or in person courtesy of our experienced and professional call centre team.”