Last year, when the government raised import duty taxes by 10% to a staggering 35%, the automotive industry in Kenya underwent a seismic shift. According to market experts, this move caused the cost of importing used cars to soar by over 14%.
Consequently, the demand for locally used cars increased as consumers sought alternatives to navigate the costly import scenario.
If owning a car is part of your resolutions for 2024, but you are budget-conscious, one popular option for buying used cars in Kenya is purchasing one through auctions.
Car auctions provide a unique and budget-friendly avenue for individuals determined to realize their dreams of owning a vehicle without breaking the bank.
That said, buying cars at an auction isn't as straightforward as it sounds. You need to be aware of some pitfalls to avoid getting conned or buying a car that isn't roadworthy.
Auto auctions sell cars of varying makes, models, and conditions to the highest bidders. An auction can be held at a physical location, online, or both. Bidding may be restricted to licensed car dealers or be open to the public.
Typically, the auctioneer manages the car on the auction floor, sets the starting or minimum price (also called a reserve price), and alerts everyone when bidding begins.
A bidder, the person interested in buying the auctioned car, will raise their hand or show a bidding card to place a bid. The auctioneer will keep increasing the bid amount until there are no more bidders.
The bidder who offers the highest bid when the auction closes wins the auction.
Before entering a bidding war, it's important to check the car's condition. Auctioneers often sell vehicles on an “as-is” basis, meaning you will accept all responsibility for the car and its condition if you win the bid. Getting out of the deal after winning an auction might attract fines.
Car auctions can be an ideal place to purchase a locally used car that also fits your budget. However, just like anything else, there are some benefits and drawbacks to it that you must consider.
Cost Savings: Auctions often offer vehicles at prices below market value as the seller is often looking to dispose of the particular car. This can allow buyers to acquire their desired vehicle at a fraction of the usual cost. However, remember that the vehicle is only sold to the highest bidder.
Convenience: Once the bidding is complete, the transaction process is often streamlined, allowing buyers to complete the purchase swiftly. This efficiency is particularly advantageous for those who wish to acquire a vehicle without the prolonged negotiations typical of private and dealership sales.
Circumvent Import Restrictions: Auctions can become a vital avenue for enthusiasts to access classic, old, and rare cars that may exceed the 8-year age limit for direct importation imposed by NTSA. Some auctions specialize in selling salvage and project cars that might not pass KEB's import standards.
Transparency: Car auctioneers often provide comprehensive information about each vehicle, including its history, condition, and any known issues. This can help you make a well-informed decision about whether or not to bid on a particular car. Some auctions may allow potential buyers to inspect vehicles before bidding.
Opportunity for Flipping: Buyers who understand the car market trends may purchase vehicles at a lower price, make necessary improvements, and resell them at a higher value.
Limited Options: You might not find the exact car make, model, or specifications you are looking for. This lack of variety can be a significant drawback, especially if you have specific preferences or requirements for your vehicle.
No Warranty and Limited Inspection Opportunities: The 'as is' policy at auctions means you may buy the vehicle without any warranty or guarantee. This can be risky, especially if hidden issues only become apparent after the purchase. Sometimes, you may be unable to inspect the vehicle in person or take it for a test drive before placing a bid.
Competition: Cars on auctions are sold to the highest bidder. If there's a high demand for a particular vehicle, the bidding can intensify, driving the price above your budget and consequently locking you out.
Hidden Costs: The initial bid price is not the final cost you'll incur. There are various hidden costs, such as repairs, registration fees, and other administrative expenses, that might drive up the cost of the car and make the seemingly good deal less attractive.
There are two types of auctions
Closed Auctions: This type of auction is only reserved for a select group of buyers and sellers, and they are typically invitation-only to limit who can participate. For example, a business can host an auction for company vehicles and only invite its employees.
Open Auctions: Open auctions are public auctions that are often advertised by the auctioneers, and any interested person can participate. However, some public auctions might charge entry or registration fees.
Dealer Auctions: Car dealerships may hold auctions to get rid of dead stock, sell classic cars, or sell damaged inventory.
Government Auctions: These are public auctions for selling cars previously owned or used by government agencies such as the police or your local CDF department. They can also include cars confiscated by law enforcement, KRA, or the Kenya Port Authority.
Repossession Auctions: These are public auctions that sell cars repossessed by lenders and car dealerships due to the owner defaulting on their auto loans.
Salvage Auctions: These are public auctions intended to sell damaged cars due to fires or serious accidents. Insurance companies typically hold salvage auctions to sell vehicles deemed too costly to repair. Buyers may require extensive repairs before they're roadworthy.
Start by identifying reputable auction platforms. Banks and government agencies often outsource auctions to third-party auctioneers. Verify the legitimacy of the auction by checking official auction news on the bank or government agency's website.
Next, familiarize yourself with the auction details, including dates, locations, available vehicle types, and terms and conditions for participation. Ensure you are well-informed before proceeding.
Finally, before entering an auction, determine your budget, considering the cost of the vehicle, auction fees, and potential repair expenses. Having a clear budget will help you stay within your financial limits.
Start by visiting the auction platform's website or your local auction houses to browse the listings of available vehicles. Pay attention to the details, such as vehicle specifications, starting prices, and auction dates.
If possible, obtain a vehicle history report for the cars you're interested in. Verify information on past accidents, ownership history, and more. Double-check details provided by auctioneers for accuracy. You can also bring your mechanic along to inspect the vehicles and give the car a rough appraisal.
Before entering an auction, ensure you have the funds to cover the bid amount and additional fees. If you plan to use an auto loan, get approval from your lender before bidding.
Additionally, prepare all necessary documents, including identification, KRA PIN, proof of funds, and any other documentation required by the auction house.
Register with the auction house before the event. This may involve providing personal information and paying registration fees.
Before you join it, ensure you understand the bidding process and rules. This includes understanding how bidding increments work, how to signal your bids, and any unique rules specific to the auction house.
Exercise discipline during the auction by sticking to your predetermined limits. Emotional bidding can lead to overspending, and it's crucial to maintain financial prudence throughout the process.
Once you win a bid, conduct a final inspection if possible. Check the vehicle's condition and ensure it aligns with your expectations.
Next, complete the payment process as per the auction house's instructions. Be aware of any additional fees that may apply.
And finally, complete the necessary paperwork to transfer vehicle ownership to your name. Ensure all legal requirements are met for a smooth transition.
Car auctions can be daunting, especially if it is your first time participating. They operate on a tight schedule, and decisions need to be made quickly. This pressure can lead to impulsive decisions, and you might overlook potential issues or bid beyond your intended budget in the heat of the moment.
During the bidding, resist the temptation to exceed your budget, even if the bidding becomes competitive. Take a deep breath, stay composed, and stay within your budget. If you are in doubt, consider bringing a knowledgeable friend or an expert along to guide you through the process.