29 Dec

Kenya car ordeals

- Buying a car in Kenya -

If you have been an expat in Kenya and you drive your own car, you may have experienced the hassle of having to find a car from one of the car bazaars or sale yards, e.g. along Ngong Road. If on top of that you are also a Mzungu(1) and even if you know something about cars, you may still have felt treated like a complete idiot. In my experience – even when showing off with my modest knowledge of cars – the bottom price a sales persons would quote for me, always turns out to be 100-200,000 Kshs higher than when my Kenyan friends inquire about the very same car. The irony is that even my Kenyan friends are never sure if they are being ripped off.

Wouldn´t you have liked skipping the above ordeal? [I actually enjoyed it, but I just came from Nigeria so was a thrill seeker at the time.]
Wouldn´t you have preferred to buy a car from a like minded person? Would you have appreciated speaking to the former owner and trust that s/he was transparent about the history of your car?
Would you have been willing to pay a bit more if you knew your car had been well maintained by an expat?

- Distinguishing Jua-kali(2) from proper maintenance jobs in Kenya -

Another issue I have found really frustrating when buying used cars in Kenya is that no matter how decent the selling party seems, you are in for some surprises. Most of my Kenyan friends admit that they will always try to spend as little as possible on the maintenance of their car. I believe this to be the case for many car owning, even the middle class, Kenyans. They do not investing in good maintenance of their vehicles. Of course there are exceptions, but how do you find them?
Once I bought a car from someone who owns a large upmarket store, and several fancy cars. I was completely blinded by these outer appearances, and just assumed he would have maintained his cars well. I still want to believe he intended to. But after I bought the car – without having done the usual technical assessment – when in the garage we removed the wheels, we found one heap of Jua-kali patch-work, e.g. bushes cut out of tractor tires. The previous owner explained that he had just entrusted the car to his driver to go for maintenance jobs and the driver had produced respectable receipts. But in reality the driver must have regularly brought this car to the Jua-kali-mechanic, a handy man who tries to fix your car with the one screw-driver he owns, instead of to the garage.

Even though I am knowledgeable about cars, I still had to learn the hard way how to get my cars properly maintained in Kenya; for decent and not exorbitant amounts.
Based on such experiences I can now advise you on your maintenance needs in Nairobi. Most of the times I will just refer you to my befriended mechanic (who is from Austria).

Karibu Kenya - Welcome to Kenya!

(1) Mzungu literally translates to “foreigner” but the term is generally used to mean “white person”
(2) Jua kali literally translates to 'hot sun' and is the local name given to people who work metal and wood for a living. In the vehicle trade we mean the un-trained mechanic on the road side, the handy man who tries to fix your car with the one screw-driver he owns.


Last modified on Thursday, 05 January 2012 17:50

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