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Why did you buy your used car? If you are a man, the likelihood is that you did so because it’s fun to drive, can overtake every other vehicle on the road and fits the image you have of yourself. And if you’re a woman? Because it’s safe and affordable. 

Generalisations? Of course. But they’re not so far off the mark, says Rikus Blomerus, chief marketing officer of used-vehicle retailer WeBuyCars. Experience shows that many men buy with their hearts but many women with their heads. 

“Women are more likely to choose hatchbacks and sports utility vehicles (SUV) than men, which may indicate that they value practicality, space and safety when choosing a vehicle type,” he says. 

“Men are more likely to choose sedans, single cabs, double cabs, cabriolets, coupes and station wagons than women, which may suggest that they value performance, style and power.” 

Of course, we all know men and women who don’t fit these stereotypes. But you can’t (unless you’re a woman) argue with facts. WeBuyCars experience shows that both genders (this is not the place to get into arguments about how many there really are) value versatility and functionality. Men also tip towards status, says Blomerus, while women prefer cars that are fuel efficient, safe and reliable.   

So who buys what in the used-vehicle market? Hatchbacks are preferred by 43.4% of women, against 34.7% of men. SUVs are favoured by 26.5% of women and 20% of men. For sedans, the split is 14.7% and 20.9%, for single-cab bakkies 4.2% and 8.4%, for double cabs 4.6% and 8%, for cabriolets 1% and 1.4%, for coupes 1.5% and 2.3%, and for multipurpose vehicles 3.1% and 2.6%.  

Women may be more concerned than men with value for money, but the average value of used vehicles they buy is 4.9% higher than those men purchase, says Blomerus. Only after the age of 70 do men pay more. 

Another retailer, AutoTrader, reports that the value of its used-car and bakkie sales exceeded R39bn in the third quarter of 2023, but sales in September lagged those of August – mirroring the sluggish sales trend in new vehicles.  

Electric vehicles (EVs) remain a tiny proportion of the used market. AutoTrader reports that 131 were sold in the first half of 2023. Fifteen different models were sold, with BMW’s i3 the most traded. 

New or used, EVs’ higher purchase price remains the biggest obstacle to more sales, followed by the time it takes to charge them and the national lack of charging infrastructure. 

Ignorance may also play a part. Asked by AutoTrader if EVs retain their resale value better than traditional petrol and diesel vehicles, 49% of respondents say yes and 51% no. According to WesBank, however, resale value should be one of the prime considerations behind any vehicle purchase. Most cars are depreciating assets, it says. The longer you own yours and the more you drive it, the more value it will lose. 

Besides obvious aspects such as service history and keeping the vehicle clean, there are ways to minimise that loss, says WesBank. Once you’ve settled on a car model, find out which variant is likely to have the best resale value: two- or four-door, manual or automatic, diesel or petrol? 

Then there’s exterior colour and interior trim. These may turn you on now, but will someone else want to pay top dollar in five years for a bright orange small car with a vomit-green interior? 

And go easy on those personalised touches. “Try to resist overdoing it with aftermarket accessories,” says WesBank. “You may see your oversized rims, outrageous body kit and banging stereo system as improvements, but it’s almost guaranteed that the next owner – or, more importantly, the dealer where you ultimately trade the car in – may not.” 

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