EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of our Money254 Partner Series produced in partnership with Peach Cars.
I have lived in Nairobi for more than 20 years. For this long, I thought I knew of every con trick in the city. Until I was shown I was wrong. Very wrong.
I bought my current car in 2017 in a rather simple and straightforward process. My colleague connected me to another friend who was in the vehicle importation business. I paid a deposit and after about 2 months, my car docked at the port of Mombasa.
I paid just about Ksh1 million for a foreign-used 2010 Subaru Impreza.
Those were great times.
I say this because, in September this year, I talked to the same friend to enquire about the price of importing a Toyota Allion and was surprised to get a quotation of Ksh1.9 million - nearly double my budget.
The friend later explained to me that the cost of foreign-used vehicles had gone up due to a combination of factors including the introduction of the 8-year rule, the fall of the shilling against the dollar, increase in import duty, among others.
I could not believe it when my friend listed some of the vehicles I could get with my budget of around Ksh1 million. A 2016 Mazda Demio for example, now fetches as high Ksh1.5 million. Not that there is any problem with the car but I remembered a foreign-used Demio would go for Ksh600,000, in 2016!
It’s September 2023 and I have been planning on buying my wife a car for a while. She runs the family business, a rental agency in Nairobi. The job often requires her to move around, sometimes in the company of clients who need to be shown around.
For most of the past 2 years, we usually drive to my office together where she drops me off and proceeds to use my car for her business errands.
However, as our family business has grown, and my out-of-office activities have increased, I figured buying a second car would make sense. I have been saving for a while until September this year when I felt I had raised enough cash for a decent car.
My first plan had been to buy a foreign-used vehicle. However, after the feedback from my friend in the importation business, I was back to the drawing board. I resolved to still go with the Allion, considering the business needs, but now opted for a locally used vehicle which was within my budget.
One evening I was scrolling on Facebook and noticed one listing that instantly drew my attention. Most of the 2009-2010 Toyota Allions I was considering were going for between 1 and Ksh1.4 million. But here was one listing showing “Ksh850,000 distress sale”.
I called the seller to confirm it was not a joke or a non-existent person. A lady picked up and assured me that the deal was genuine, she was looking to sell the car to cover some urgent medical bills.
We organised a physical meeting at a nearby mall where I could inspect the vehicle. Everything looked good. I started getting the excitement of getting such a good deal in such a seamless manner.
I asked for a day to raise the cash, the lady agreed and offered that we would meet the next day at a lawyer’s office. A few hours later, she called me and said that another client had offered to pay for the car immediately.
She, however, indicated that she would give me priority if I deposited a small commitment fee of Ksh50,000 “just so I do not dismiss this client and you change your mind”.
It sounded reasonable since I had already met up with her. However, my sixth sense told me to check out on Facebook if indeed there was an indication of how many other people had expressed interest in the same car.
I looked for Facebook posts bearing the seller’s name but instead of getting the vehicle’s offer history, I came across two disclaimers indicating that a number of clients had been conned while trying to buy this specific car. It was a close call as I had been planning on sending the money later that day after topping up my mobile money account.
For the next few days, I shared the story with my friends and relatives, informing them of what I considered to be a “new” trick.
Turns out I was the only visitor in Jerusalem! Many of my friends who had bought locally-used cars had various versions of the story. My workmate, Njeri, heard the story over lunch and revealed that she had fallen victim to a different scheme where she got the car but paid more than its fair value.
Njeri had done all the due diligence and had gotten the transfer facilitated by a lawyer.
However, as she was applying for comprehensive insurance, she was surprised the car she had been told was “clean” with no accident history, had a history of a major accident, meaning she could only qualify for third-party insurance.
Since Njeri has owned a car before, we were curious to know how she had missed the airbag error light, to which she sadly, and somewhat hilarious narrated that the mechanic had found the light had been hidden using a piece of cloth behind the dashboard.
Somehow, she had been hurried through by the seller that she forgot to do the car diagnostics test.
The not-so-sweet stories got me researching some of the safeguards Kenyans use or can use when buying locally used cars.
While there were hundreds of platforms where I could get the car I was looking for, many of these platforms only facilitated the interaction between the seller and us the buyers. There was no sure way to tell who was genuine since even the disclaimers, such as the one I had bumped into, were not consistent.
It was while researching about this gap in the Kenyan market that I came across Peach Cars, a used-cars marketplace that offers nearly every service I needed.
The most important factor for me was the chance to review and shop for cars that were verified. Peach Cars verifies all the cars sold on their website. It was satisfying to learn that the team that does the verification is made up of trained professionals with both local and international experience.
Beyond the verification of sellers, the cars are subjected to a 255-point inspection to confirm that they are in the declared mechanical condition, and if any faults exist, they are disclosed to the buyer beforehand.
I proceeded to visit the Peach Cars offices where I was able to view a number of cars that I was interested in. I learnt I could even request the team to look for more options, given their market networks in the Kenyan market.
Within two days, I had found the car that I wanted. Although it was slightly above my initial budget, it was great value for money. The sales process was even smoother than I had expected.
The Peach Cars team uses an escrow payment process. That is to mean, as my experience was, the money I deposit is not released to the seller until I am satisfied with everything.
The team is also able to draft the sales agreements which protects both parties. I found the customer service at Peach Cars to be superb, even helping with the TIMS transfer process which had been a headache when I bought my first car.
As we speak, my wife has been driving her 2011 Toyota Allion for a month and the experience has been nothing short of bliss.
Would you like to try out Peach Cars? You can start your search here.