Buying your first car is one of those experiences that sticks with you for a very long time.
On that specific day, colors seem brighter, you develop a spring in your step and you somehow develop this urge to say hello to everyone you come across.
I remember my first like it was yesterday.
Over the last 3 years, I had been diverting a portion of my income to a special savings account geared towards my first car. When the actual day finally arrived, the sense of fulfillment was intoxicating.
I had my eyes on a black Suzuki Swift sport and spent the eve of ‘D-day’ just ogling at photos of the little beauty.
After carrying out a comprehensive market research, I discovered that I could save a very substantial amount of money if I traveled down to Mombasa and drove back in the swift Suzuki.
This was back in early December 2019, hugging, overloaded matatus and gathering with friends for an all-nighter were common and unregulated.
I had read up on hundreds of stories involving Kenyans who went down to the coast in search of their dream car, only to end up in a nightmare scenario starring heartless conmen and millions lost in the process.
This is why I had spent the last month or so vetting my contact at the coastal city who was referred to me by a friend I trust with my life.
However, this did not translate to overlooking the due diligence phase that should be done before any decisions involving unknown parties are made.
Everything checked out and Mzee Faruk (my contact at the coast) helped me every step of the way.
The beauty of new-age banking is you can skip the queues at banking halls by simply transacting online, which is what I did.
I was really tempted to go for the ‘lipa pole pole’ (hire purchase) model which required an initial downpayment of Ksh180,000, then monthly payments spread out over a year.
I quickly shelved the temptation after some quick math led me to the realization that I’d spend at least Ksh100,000 more by the end of the year as opposed to paying the full amount in cash.
Mzee Faruk helped me navigate through all the paperwork including a comprehensive insurance cover that cost about Ksh22,000. He even went as far as taking me to a car service centre before seeing me off.
I have sent some of my close friends to the sociable and humble Mzee Faruk since then.
The drive back to the city felt like a cruise on some spaceship. Your first car does that to you.
Just like new shoes, your first car and the warm fuzzy feeling it brings can end rather abruptly.
Don’t get me wrong, the convenience a car brings is worth the 3 years I spent saving up. Errands become so much easier, trips upcountry to visit with family, and your dates also tend to get a boost in terms of mobility and options.
However, 2020 came and brought along a tonne of tough lessons. Jobs weren’t that secure anymore, fuel prices were skyrocketing at frightening speeds, and we couldn’t hug each other any more.
By July 2020, things had gotten so tight in terms of finances that I had to convert my Suzuki Swift into a cab, securing some extra income is always a good thing.
The fuel prices didn’t make things easier, nor did the social distancing directives as the country waded through the unknown.
This led to adding car hiring services to my catalogue and with the help of friends and acquaintances, business has been slow but thankfully steady.
Knowing what I know right now about cars e.g. regular servicing costs, car wash expenses, tips at various office complexes and parking spots in Nairobi, and the unexpected repairs or replacements, I’d still change nothing about how I went about getting my first car.
The bank had initially (a year prior to the purchase) offered a pretty tempting asset financing deal that would have given me some breathing room.
As it turns out, my finances and yearly budget just couldn’t accommodate the plan, which is ok I guess.
If it doesn’t fit within my budget, I tend to always run for the hills after learning the hard way that no amount of money cannot be burned through if a sort of plan on how to make it work for me doesn’t exist.
Things are gradually heading towards some sort of normalcy and I’m happy to report that my Suzuki Swift has served and is serving me well.
Nothing quite prepares you for the expenses that come with a car but the flip side of the coin in terms of convenience and a potential income earner during lean times gives it some sort of balance.
The real challenge comes in how we go about financing the purchase. I had to take a lot of hours to meditate and convince myself not to take some of the offers thrown my way such as the lipa pole pole plan.
It may work for some but after a quick run through the amount of money I bring in each month, I knew it would bury me in some hole.
When it came to my first car, I tried my best to get it on my terms.