Pre-owned cars in South Africa: a story of love and lust

Purchasing a car is similar to going on a date. You court the vehicle and get to know it a bit before dropping an exorbitant amount of money, forming a bond that lasts for years. It’s pretty easy to compare cars to relationships, going through a few before you settle down, whether you’re purchasing one new car or pre-owned in South Africa.


The first car, the first love


At the age of 18, I managed to pick up my first car. It was a pre-owned model, but that didn’t matter to me at all. It was love at first sight and in my eyes it was absolutely perfect in every way. A 1998 Mazda Soho, it lacked a lot of the modern day conveniences of other cars on the market, such as power steering, aircon, and automatic windows.


Like my first love, it wasn’t perfect at all, but when you’re young everything is looked at through rose-tinted glasses. I’d take it on long drives, visit exotic locations – which living in Cape Town was pretty much a drive out to Paarl – and wash it every weekend.


Then, it all came crashing down.


Looking back, the relationship between us had already started to form cracks, even from day one. The car would sometimes choke off, leaving me defenseless and panicking as it wouldn’t respond to my begs and pleas to start at a traffic light. It guzzled oil like no one’s business, regardless of anything that I did. And the front wheel drums had to be replaced, which cost a pretty penny.


I counseled the car with mechanic after mechanic, trying to fix our bond, but it slipped further and further away from us. All we did was fight. Eventually, I had no choice but to say goodbye and move on. The relationship was no longer the same and I wasn’t the person to fix it.


The second car, a blind date


My next car was a Mazda Sting, another pre-owned model, but one that wasn’t my choice at all. Being carless for a few weeks and working a pretty intense job, some family members offered to pick something up within my budget.


I arrived home after work one day and there it was, gorgeous in the driveway and under the light of the setting sun. It was beautiful. We immediately went out.


I drove that car all over the Western Cape, from weekends away in Wilderness to sunny afternoons along the Strand beach front with friends. It was everything I ever wanted. The car was perfect. That is, until the day it was murdered.


On the way to work one morning, we sat at a traffic light. To this day I’m not sure what made me look up and into the rearview mirror, but what I saw was another car speeding towards me. A second later it slammed into the Mazda, wedging the car between the attacker and a massive 4×4 with a bullbar. The car was compacted.


I had to kick the door open in order to escape the accident. A week later, after a few assessments from insurance, I was told that it didn’t survive. The chassis was too mangled and damaged to be saved.


Heartbroken and feeling alone, I needed to find a new car pretty quickly. It wasn’t my choice, but a necessity for work.


The one I wanted


I’d had my eye on a Hyundai Getz. We’d flirted briefly when I was taught to drive and since then I’d never forgotten it. The circumstances in finding the perfect car were grotesque, but I guess it was fate.


A few weeks later, after tracking down one for a pretty good price, I visited my future Getz for the first time. Sure, it had a bit of mileage and was a tad smokey, but it was absolutely everything I wanted in a car and I had to have it.


During that time, I’d gotten married (not to a car), but after a few years, the relationship broke down and we were soon separated. In the process of filing for divorce from that relationship, the Getz and I began to have our own troubles and nothing could stop the inevitable end.


The car had literally begun to fall apart as parts of the engine seized up, costing me a fortune in mechanics and counselling once more. Nothing seemed to help and like the first relationship with the Sting, everything was hanging on by a thread, teetering on the razor’s edge.


The final straw appeared as a complete engine overhaul. It would cost me more than I still owed on the car and I wasn’t prepared to put in the effort. We said our goodbyes at a Ford dealership and went our separate ways.


My current love, a lasting relationship


I traded in the Getz for a 2014 Ford Figo, brand new off of the showroom floor, but not without its own faults as well. This time I managed to finally find a car in my favourite colour, a Pepsi blue (or metallic blue as the brochure says), which I’d wanted for quite a while.


The Figo isn’t perfect and has its flaws, such as a stabiliser bar that enjoys shifting at the slightest nudge, the car’s temper flaring if I don’t treat it right. There are a few rattling windows. I’ve also learned to not push the car too hard, either.


We understand each other, accepting both flaws and perfections. It’s a car that I love and one I plan to have for a very, very long time to come.