24 May

Why I imported a car

Many expats come to Kenya for a couple of years for work, anticipating an adventurous lifestyle with regular safaris over the weekends to admire Africa’s wildlife. Others are planning to build a new business in booming Nairobi and again others have been around for a while, and are not planning to leave the country any time soon…. All these people are likely to at some point be looking to buy a car.

Assume you are in the first group. Well, I was there some years ago. Those first weeks in Nairobi I remember very well. I was looking for a house, trying to build a new social life, getting to know Nairobi, getting my papers right, opening a bank account, figuring out how to get a good car and… working full time.

Let’s talk cars only: I needed one. One that runs properly, can be maintained well, and which I can sell off at a nice price when I leave the country again after three years (well, that didn’t happen, the leaving part I mean: I fell in love, got married, and stayed, you know how it goes….).

There are the local car yards, but honestly I don’t know that much about cars, and would believe anything from just about any kind person trying to sell a car. And even if I was a car expert, I’d have to find time, a lot of time, to visit car yards, check notice boards for cars, do a lot of homework about reasonable prices and years of manufacture, check if spare parts for that particular model are there, deal with numerous brokers or whoever they are and hope the car is what it is told it is.

Then I was asked: “why not go for the best option: importation?”
What do you mean, BEST?

  • An imported car has a high resell value. If you choose a car that can easily be maintained here in Nairobi (in my case a Nissan XTrail), you’ll be able to sell it again for a very good price (a good price and some exchange rate luck made that I nearly drove it “for free”). Besides, expat-owned cars are rather popular in the local car market, for their good condition and the possibility for people to get a bank loan in exchange for the car logbook.
  • When importing a car you can choose from a wide range and from newer models. (I picked “my” colour, and got my manual transmission)
  • Cars that you import have only seen smooth roads, thus are usually in much better condition than equally old cars that have been on Kenyan roads. (I have to admit it arrived rather dusty, driven all the way from the port in Mombasa to Nairobi, but… after it was washed it appeared a beauty, and the ride a true (well balanced, accident-free) joy)
  • Mileage of imported cars obviously is lower than of older cars that you find here (65k for a 6yr old car, that's a granny in Kyoto who went shopping once a week, and okay: plus 600km from Mombasa to Nairobi)
  • Finding the car of your liking (model, year of manufacture, colour and other specs) is much easier when you import, than when scanning notice boards and visiting local car yards. (it took 2 or so weeks to find the car I liked. Manual transmission was the limiting factor, as opposed to automatic, which is easier to find)

I got it. And it worked out great for me!

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