Go direct for car extras, check warranty date and tracking contracts explained

Wendy Knowler's consumer watch-outs of the week

10 October 2023 - 11:59
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
It's a car theme in this week's consumer watch-outs of the week. File image.
It's a car theme in this week's consumer watch-outs of the week. File image.
Image: 123RF/keleny

In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:

Car extras: DIY is best

I’ve long advised car buyers to resist the urge to let the dealership arrange all the extras — tracking device installation and contract, paint protection, scratch and dent policy and so on — for you, “conveniently” having it all added to your finance contract. It costs a lot more that way, plus interest.

Suresh’s experience bears this out. “I intend to purchase a new vehicle soon,” he wrote. “On the vehicle I intend to add paint, interior and undercarriage protection.

“The dealership wants to charge me about R8,000 for this. I went to the same supplier and they told me they can do the same job for R2,500.

“Will this in any way have any bearing on the warranty of the vehicle?”

I don’t see how that could possibly be the case, given that it’s the same service by the same supplier, just minus the middleman’s cut — but I did suggest he double-check with the manufacturer.

As is almost always the case, convenience costs. Quite a lot.

Your tracking contract doesn’t end when you sell your car

It’s an understandable misperception, but you remain committed to paying your monthly car tracking subscription even if you no longer have your car, whether you sold it, it was stolen or written off.

Magda wrote: “I signed up with a car tracking company and paid them every month by debit order. A year ago I contacted the company and requested them to cancel the service since I’d sold my car. They refused to cancel and every month they still debit my bank account for R265,” she said. “I had to reverse the debit orders but they just keep on debiting my account. Their attorneys are harassing me now, insisting I have to pay them.”

Unfortunately, whatever happens to your car, when you sign a three-year contract with a tracking company you are legally obliged to keep paying the stipulated monthly amount for the full 36 months, as per your contract.

If you cancel within those three years, you are made to pay an often hefty cancellation penalty. And after that initial period, when the contract automatically switches to a month-to-month one, you still have to give a month’s notice of cancellation before your financial obligation to the company ends.

Included in the amount you pay every month during the initial three years is an amount to “pay off” the tracking device, the same as a cellphone contract monthly subscription fee includes an amount to cover the phone which comes with the contract.

A way to avoid this with a tracking contract is to buy the device outright, upfront, and pay monthly for the tracking service only. That way you can cancel at any time with a month’s notice and no cancellation penalty.

So I suggested to Magda that she pay what she owes before that debt gets out of hand.

Buying a new car? Check on the warranty start date

Do you know what a pre-report is? Sometimes cars are registered without being sold — for example, when a customer cancels a deal at the last minute — which means the car’s warranty is activated, but the car is not driven off the showroom floor.

Another customer then buys that new car, but doesn’t check the warranty details and finds out much later that the warranty on their “pre-report” car is a few months short.

That could be what happened in Ronnie’s case — he bought a “brand new” car in February 2018, but has just found out that the five-year warranty was activated in October 2017, meaning it has already come to an end.

The warranty period begins on the date a car is “delivered to” the first retail buyer, so I will be taking up his case. But here’s the advice: even when you’re buying a “brand new” car, always ask to see the warranty registration certificate, to make sure it starts on the day you drive the car off the showroom floor.

GET IN TOUCH: Contact Wendy Knowler for advice with your consumer issues via email consumer@knowler.co.za or on X (Twitter) @wendyknowler

subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.