(Legal) Rules of the road

30 Nov 2021

Rev up your knowledge of how the law impacts owning and driving vehicles

Legal&Tax’s guide to help you rev up your knowledge of how the law helps protect your rights when it comes to vehicles and driving.

Car sales and the law

Buying a car

Buying a car, along with a home, is probably one of the biggest purchases that you will make in your life. There are unfortunately scams and dishonest sellers out there, especially if you are buying a second-hand car. Nevertheless, you can be assured that the law is on your side. Legal&Tax Services will be your companion in making sure that you are legally protected throughout the purchasing experience.

Check it is a legal vehicle

Unfortunately, crime is a reality and, when buying a second-hand car, you will definitely want to make sure that the car being sold is not a stolen one. On the internet, there are many websites that will allow you to check the VIN number of the car and make sure it is in the clear. A useful site is for this is the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Find out if there is any damage or defects

If the car you buy turns out to be defective or damaged in an accident, which you were not told about, then the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) can help you.

It is important to note that the CPA does not apply to private sales between individuals. This means that if you do not buy your car through a formal business, but rather through another person, you will NOT have the same legal protection. Legal&Tax Services can help with expert advice, as well as sales agreement documents. Contact us for assistance so that if something goes wrong, you will have legal protection.

The CPA makes sure that when you buy goods they are of an acceptable quality. When it comes to cars, this law applies both to new cars, as well as second hand.

To sell a second-hand car ‘voetstoots’ (as is) is no longer a term that dealers can use to sell a defective car. Instead, the law says that what they sell must be of a good quality. In fact, the buyer has to be informed in writing about any defects or damage. The buyer even needs to sign, as part of the sales agreement, that he or she has been made aware of any problems.

The law states that if you are sold something that is defective or damaged, which you are not aware of, then you have three choices: The person or company who sold you the car must either pay for a suitable repair, replace the car, or offer you a refund.

There is a time limit of six months from date of purchase in which to identify and then claim for any of these faults.

If you have found yourself with a car that does not work as promised by a dealer and cannot be used for the purpose for which you wanted, call Legal&Tax Services and we will be your companion towards moving from a complaint to having contentment.

However, with a private sale, cars are mostly sold ‘voetstoots’. If there is a defect, the purchaser must prove that the seller intentionally hid this. This is difficult to prove because an ordinary person might not have enough technical knowledge to identify this. Be aware of this added risk when buying privately.

Remember, Legal&Tax can assist in advising you through a private purchase to better help protect your rights.

Bring the right documents

You will need to bring certain documents with you in order to buy a car.

  • Identity document – For South Africans you must bring your identity document. If you are not South African, bring a copy of your national identity document, as well as any necessary visas or permits that are needed to prove you are legally in the country.
  • Proof of income – The seller will want to make sure that you can pay for this big purchase. As such make sure to bring three months’ salary slips or bank statements.
  • Proof of residence – This can be anything that confirms that you live at the address you have given the seller. Common examples are electricity or telephone bills, or bond or lease agreements.

Sign on the correct dotted line

Make sure that the contract which you sign in order to buy the car is legally correct.

For example, the exact details of the car you are buying, as well as the full details of both you and the seller must be on this document.

If you are buying a new car, you definitely want to find out what service plan is available. A service plan is an agreement of what check-ups on the condition of the car might be paid for by the seller for a certain period of time.

You should find out if there is a formal warranty for the car. A warranty is a promise by the seller to fix certain problems in the vehicle you are buying.  The warranty usually lasts for a certain amount of time or until your car has done a certain amount of mileage.

A Legal&Tax companion is just a call away. Our legal experts can check that any car contract you sign is fair and correct.

We also offer you a template of a sales agreement that you can use!

Selling a car

Similarly, if you are selling a car, you also want to make sure that the sale goes off smoothly by following all the steps above.

We suggest that you use our Legal&Tax Services Vehicle Sales Agreement template to make sure that the deal is fair and legal for both parties.

Getting the moola to get on the move

For most people, a car is a purchase that they will have to pay off over time.

If you need to apply for credit or a loan, make sure that you understand how your credit score will affect your chances of getting this money. Your credit score is a report that will tell potential sellers how you have spent money and especially if you have paid off debt in a reliable way in the past.

If you need to apply for credit, make sure you do so only through a legal, safe and well-known credit provider, approved by the National Credit Regulator, such as a bank. The bank should give you a quote which will explain exactly how much interest and what administration (service) fees you will be charged.

Again, Legal&Tax Services can help you to understand all the fine details in such loan agreements.

Car safety and the law


If your car is in an accident, make sure that you follow these steps to have legal protection:

  1. Do not move your vehicle after the accident.
  2. Switch on your hazard lights to warn other drivers to be careful as they pass the accident scene.
  3. Find out if anyone is injured and call for medical help if needed. Do not move any injured people from where they are positioned. Legal&Tax Services Trauma assist can help with immediate medical advice and help.
  4. Assess the damage done to any vehicles.
  5. Exchange contact details with anyone else who was involved in the accident.
  6. See if there are any witnesses to the accident and get their contact details. Witnesses can help, especially if there is any kind of disagreement about what happened at the accident.
  7. Take photographs of the accident scene, as well as any damage done to the vehicles.
  8. If your car is so damaged that it cannot be driven, make a choice as to how you want to remove it from the accident scene. You do not need to use a towing company that arrives on the scene – you can choose your own.
  9. Go to the police station to report the accident within 24 hours.
  10. If you have car insurance, contact them to report a claim.
  11. Contact Legal&Tax Services for further legal advice. This might include questions about injuries for which you can claim back money from the Road Accident Fund. You can also contact our experts for help if the other party caused the damage but does not have insurance or is refusing to pay.

Towing, storage and insurance

When it comes to towing companies, it is important to check certain information before you let them tow your vehicle.

  1. If you have car insurance, make sure that they are a company which is approved by your insurer.
  2. Make sure that the towing company is legal and follows good practice. You can do this by contacting the SA Towing and Recovery Association (SATRA). They will tell you if the company is registered with them.
  3. Find out what fees you will be expected to pay the towing company. According to SATRA, a towing service where your car is taken within 20 kilometres of the towing company’s premises, should cost around R2 500. Storage costs per day should not be more than R450, with the average being R200.

NOTE: If you cannot afford to pay the towing company, you cannot just leave your car there. In this case, they can refuse to give you your car back until you pay off your debt.

A towing service also has no right to take any possessions that they find in your car; if they do, you can take legal action against them.


If you send your car to a workshop and then cannot pay for the repairs, the workshop can hold your car until you pay. They are not allowed to sell your car in order to get the money before following a legal process. Please note that if you have signed a contract with them that allows them to sell the car in the event of you not paying them, then they will have the legal right to do so.

At all times, the workshop has to follow the law.

This includes sending you a letter of demand, and if this does not work, a summons for you to appear in court.

Roadblocks and tickets

Traffic offence laws are there to keep us and all other travellers safe on the road.

Two ways in which the government protects us is by holding roadblocks and issuing fines if we break the law.

It is important that we still know our rights in these situations to make sure that all the processes followed are correct.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Always obey the rules of the road to avoid getting into trouble in the first place.
  2. Fines – If you are issued a fine but believe that you did not actually break any of the road laws, you have a right to contest (object to) the ticket. To do this you can contact the traffic department via phone, fax or email. The most likely outcome is that you might get the amount of the fine reduced.
  3. However, you cannot ignore a fine. If you do, you will receive a summons to appear in court and if you ignore this, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
  4. Unless there is a warrant out for your arrest, you can never be arrested on the spot for not paying a fine.
  5. Note: If your ticket is issued via the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO), which currently applies only in Johannesburg and Tshwane, then different steps must be taken. Contact Legal&Tax for more expert advice on this, especially as this will be rolled out in other provinces in the near future.
  6. It is important to know that the law does not force you to pay your fine on the spot. You should never hand over the money to a traffic officer and when you do pay you should always get an official receipt. Even if there is a roadblock with a payment facility, it is still your choice whether to pay there.
  7. Instead, you can pay your fine at a variety of places including supermarkets like Pick n Pay, Checkers, Engen quick shops, Woolworths or Spar. You can also pay at the SA Post Office as well as at certain banks and ATMS.
  8. You can pay online on a number of websites, as well as through most internet banking options.
  9. Make sure that you pay your fine on time, otherwise you can land up paying even more.
  10. If you cannot afford to pay the fine, then you can contact the Traffic Department and make a plan to pay off the amount.


  1. A traffic officer has the right to make you stop your vehicle at any time.
  2. They also have the right to ask you for proof of your identity and they are allowed to ask for your driver’s licence.
  3. According to the law, you must always have this with you when you are driving. In some cases, if you do not have your driver’s licence on you, then you will be given seven days to bring it to a police station and show it to them.
  4. A traffic officer is allowed to remove your licence disc from the windscreen.
  5. If the traffic officer believes that your vehicle is not roadworthy, he/she has the right to make sure that your car is immediately taken off the road.
  6. Furthermore, if the officer decides to arrest you for suspected criminal behaviour, you may not resist the arrest. Once arrested, it is your right to be brought to court within 48 hours.
  7. At a roadblock you may only be body searched by an officer who is the same gender as you. In other words, if you are a woman, only a woman may search you and vice-versa.
  8. You have the right to ask a traffic officer to provide proof of his/her job identity.


The legal issues around e-tolls continue to be very complicated.

If you have not paid your e-toll bills and are issued a summons to appear in court over your unpaid fine, you need to understand the legal steps that are expected to be followed.

If you decide that you have accepted guilt for not paying your fines, you will need to contact SANRAL – which is the organisation that runs the e-tolls.

However, if you decide you want to defend the payment, then you will need to contact Legal&Tax Services to get advice on how to proceed in terms of the legal process.

Remember, it is never a good idea to just ignore a legal notice like a summons. There could be some serious legal problems that will then occur.

Rather contact Legal&Tax services for expert advice and assistance!

Car licensing and the law

Vehicle licences

All vehicles must have a licence that is given out by the traffic department. The licence is valid for 12 months and has to be renewed.

You have 21 days after the date of expiry to renew your licence.

You can renew your licence at your traffic department or at a post office.

Bring your original identity document as well as a certified copy, along with a proof of residence.

Usually, a form to renew your licence is posted to you and you must bring this along. However, if you do not have this form, a form will be available for you at the place you go to for licence renewal.

The cost of the licence is based on the weight of the vehicle and it changes every year.

When you get the licence disc it comes on a big sheet of paper. You must cut the round disc part out of the paper and attach it to your windscreen on the passenger side. You can ask the traffic department or the post office for a sticker for this purpose.

Need more information or assistance?

Legal&Tax is your lifelong companion. Call us on 0860 587 587 or SMS “LAW” to 31690.

Article sourced from Legal&Tax.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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