Last weekend Cassandra and I spent a few hours at the “Sunday Car Bazaar” on Ngong Road—a large, dirt parking lot where there are tons of used cars for sale. We had been thinking about buying a car to putt around town with and, seeing as we know next to nothing about cars, we figured this would be a great opportunity to see what was out there. It was an eye-opening experience!
Let me attempt to summarize it with three words and one picture:
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock your whole life (and therefore have had no contact with popular culture), allow me to paraphrase Wikipedia on the subject of the automobile salesperson:
The automobile salesman, particularly the used car salesman, has often been a source of characters, often negative, in movies and television shows and cartoons. History and fairy tales often characterize peddlers (people selling goods) as negative influences, or outsiders out to take advantage of people.
Kenyan used car salesmen don’t look quite as sleazy, but they’re definitely smooth talkers. After three hours of walking around we were sun burned and dejected. Getting the real story in an industry not your own is a tough and tiring task. In retrospect it wasn’t actually that bad, but let’s just say I’m not the proud owner of anything new (or used) and shiny with four wheels. Needless to say, we rode a matatu home!
When I got home I hopped online to do a bit of research. One thing I learned was that you can import relatively new cars to Kenya from Japan for much less money than you’d pay the car sharks at the used-car lot. Cars we saw on the lot for $6,000 USD were going for around $4,000 on sites like AutoRec.co.jp. One potential down side of importing is that there is a hefty duty placed on car imports, but that’s only applicable to Kenyan citizens, na mimi si mkenya (and I ain’t Kenyan).
I guess going the import route does take a little bit more know how, and there are probably a million more chances for you to get ripped off in between your car shipping and you going to get it off the docks at the port of Mombasa… but if you want to save a potentially huge chunk of change it’s worth looking into.
Long story short: do your research and you won’t get had! Oh, and go visit the car bazaar on Sunday, if only to get your guard up!