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The 7 Hidden Costs of Car Ownership in Kenya
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The 7 Hidden Costs of Car Ownership in Kenya

When setting out to buy a car, most people budget for obvious costs such as the actual purchasing price, a rough estimation of fuel costs, and the annual cost of insurance.

If car loan financing is the preferred model, they then include the cost of interest that will need to be paid in the end.

However, there are several no-to-so-apparent costs that come with cars that also need to be considered if one is to have a better representation of how much it costs to own a car. Failing to anticipate and factor in the true cost is a common mistake among first-time buyers.

Read Also: The Hidden Costs of Homeownership in Kenya 

These costs rarely crop up in the initial budget, but after a few months, car owners are almost certain to come face to face with these expenses as explained in detail below.

Parking Costs

As insignificant as it may seem, the cost of parking a car adds up to a very significant figure at the end of the month, not to mention at the end of the year. It could be in a town where county officers charge a given fee, not to mention the infamous parking boys found in most major towns.

Parking fees are also charged in some residential areas where car owners part with Ksh100 or more to ensure that the security guard in the area is highly motivated to keep the car safe.

Let's say the car owner parks in town at least 4 times per week at a flat rate of Ksh300. This translates to Ksh1,200 per week, Ksh6,000 per month and about Ksh62,400 at the end of the year. If one then spends the same amount each week at residential parking spots, then the figure doubles to Ksh124,800 at the end of each year - residential parking fees are, however, not that common. 

Research has shown that cars are parked 95% of the time which makes parking fees a significant cost to factor in when budgeting for a car. Whether one has their own parking spot at home or regularly parks in town, it is important to consider how much it costs to keep the car parked safely and securely.

Read Also: How Not To Waste Money: Use The Cost Per Use Formula

Maintenance Costs

It’s often said that buying a car is the easy part, maintaining it in optimal condition is where the bills tend to pile up.

Regular car maintenance is vital when it comes to the health and longevity of the vehicle, and it also helps avoid costly repairs down the road.

Routine maintenance includes oil change, replacing brake pads, replacing tyres, replacing windshield wipers, and replacing air filters among other parts.

For example, if the popular Toyota fielder usually requires a minor service (air filter, oil filter and oil change) every 5,000 kilometres - depending on several factors including the type of oil and so on. The moderate estimate for a routine service including labour fees at a regular (not high-end) repair shop is approximately Ksh5,000.

Read Also: Why Leaving Your Car at The Mechanics is a Bad Idea

If the car owner travels regularly enough to cover the 5,000km every 2 months, the cost of this regular service will amount to Ksh30,000 at the end of the year. If he/she only gets to the 5,000km mark after three months then the cost drops to Ksh20,000 at the end of the year.

However, if the minor service is needed at the end of each month then this figure shoots up to Ksh60,000 at the end of the year.

After every 20,000Kms the same Toyota Fielder will demand a major service for parts that may be worn out. This is when most car owners come face to face with car part prices that induce temporary headaches.

For example, a new battery will cost anywhere from Ksh7,500 to Ksh20,000 depending on the brand as well as the car model. Some German machines such as the new Audi A4 will demand a battery worth Ksh50,000, add in the labour charges and you get why it’s important to budget for car servicing well in advance.

Some make and models are relatively affordable to maintain and also may have parts that last much longer or are relatively cheap to purchase. Others, especially those that are not very common on Kenyan roads, can cost an arm and leg. 

So, before making that purchase, it could be beneficial to get some estimates of what regular maintenance costs look like for the make and model of the vehicle you want to purchase. 

Read Also: Is Resale Value Really That Important When Buying a Car?

Unforeseen Costs

This can be tied in with maintenance costs as they are usually a necessity if the car is to run in optimal condition.

A good example is costs linked to stolen parts, with side mirror covers and indicator lights a favourite among thieves in cities such as Nairobi.

A second-hand side mirror cover will set you back at least Ksh2,500 in the downtown Nairobi area, however, this price goes higher depending on the car model. 

Light fixtures are also quite expensive. It is important to note that these replacement costs can be avoided altogether by securing such parts using rivets.

This then leads to yet another hidden cost which can be classified as security cost.

Read Also: Can you Maintain a Car While Living on A Budget?

Security Costs

The aforementioned riveting of parts such as side mirrors and indicators will cost anywhere between Ksh1,000 to Ksh2,000 depending on the garage one opts for. 

For example, Baricho Road (located behind the former Nakumatt mega supermarket along Uhuru Highway) is popular when it comes to riveting such parts due to the pocket-friendly prices of the mechanics located along the street.

Another crucial security feature that ought to be considered is installing an alarm. A car alarm system can be termed as the primary anti-theft feature which then makes it a must-have for car owners.

Prices start from Ksh6,000 and upwards depending on the model of the system that one opts to have installed in their car.

And then, if you are really keen on securing your vehicle, you have to factor in the cost of installing a car tracker. Here you are talking upwards of Ksh5,000 although this is typically going to be a one-off cost.

Read Also: The Fastest Way to Lose Money in Kenya

Car Cleaning Costs

As insignificant as it may appear, cleaning costs tend to ramp up if looked at from a long-term perspective. Many car owners usually have their cars cleaned once every 2 days, while some actually have their cars cleaned every day. Others, cognisant of the costs, keep a weekly schedule and try to drive more carefully, especially in the rain. 

Depending on the prevailing weather condition and a car owner’s residential area, having the car cleaned every day may be inevitable. For example, living in a neighborhood that is characterized by heavy construction work means the car is exposed to excessive dust every day.

This could explain why most guards in residential apartments also double as car cleaners. They usually do it at a discounted fee (Ksh150 or thereabout) compared to regular car wash establishments.

Assuming the guard washes the car at least 6 times a week, then the total cost at the end of the year amounts to Ksh43,200. It is important to note that this figure is the cheapest version of how much it would cost to wash a car throughout the year.

Regular car wash joints charge between Ksh250 – Ksh350 for normal body wash. If vacuuming, engine wash, dashboard scrubbing and polishing are needed, then this amount goes as high as Ksh2,500.

If you stick to the weekly carwash schedule at Ksh350, keeping your car clean will set you back Ksh1,400 at the very minimum every month. That’s Ksh16,800 at the end of the year. 

Add a monthly engine  clean, underwash, vacuum etc. and you can see how high the costs can go. Include, too, some air freshener and dashboard cleaner kits and your pocket is less heavier for what is really a necessity. 

Convenience Costs

When it comes to cars, a convenience package refers to a set of enhancements to a vehicle that is priced and sold separately. 

This could be a new set of 20-inch chrome wheels for a Toyota Prado that retail at Ksh90,000, or a full change to the entertainment system of a car whose costs also run in the tens of thousands – depending on the brand to be installed.

It could also mean having a fresh coat of paint to give the car a new look. This would cost anywhere from Ksh30,000 to Ksh100,000 and even much higher in Nairobi, depending on the car model as well as the color of the fresh paint.

If you add in things like leather seat covers, and a new exhaust system for those that like their cars to sound like beasts on the road each time they step on the throttle, then you get a clear picture of how these little-known costs can pile up to significant amounts.

Luckily, these are absolutely up to you - very much within your control. Of course, unless you are into comparison and want to get ahead or keep up with your peers, then it’s up to them! 

Read Also: Is Social Comparison Slowly Making You Poor? - Money Psychology 

Opportunity Cost

Opportunity cost refers to the value you give up to have something else. In other words what else could you do with the money if you opted to make a different choice? 

In carspeak, opportunity cost relates to the cost of tying up your money on the new car and foregoing other opportunities. What else could you have done with that money? And would that have been more beneficial than purchasing the car? 

Have you been saving for a year, or two year or thereabouts, to afford this car? Is the effort, the patience and the money worth the value the car brings. Is emptying that savings account into the car dealer’s account the best you could have done with that money? 

It can be more pronounced when one opts to take up a car loan as the preferred mode of financing the purchase. Think of it this way, if Ksh60,000 is being deducted each month and directed towards paying for the car, then that would mean that you would be foregoing the opportunity to direct that Ksh60,000 into any other revenue-generating venture or savings.

Even those that choose to pay cash upfront when buying a car inevitably bear the opportunity cost burden. Forking out Ksh1.2 million for a Toyota Fielder means one loses the opportunity to invest the cash elsewhere.

But is the cost worth it? In many ways it is worth it given the very practical and beneficial reasons people have for owning a car. You just need to be aware that you may be foregoing another opportunity - weigh it and decide if it is worth that cost. Rather than regret later.

Read Also: 7 Reasons Why Buying a Car Might be a Good Idea

Remember, in the case of an emergency, or a quick opportunity that you think you will pay off, you could easily take a logbook loan with the car you just purchased - as long as the logbook is in your name alone, meaning you have paid off the auto loan or you paid in cash. 

Read Also: Why are So Many Kenyans Taking Logbook Loans?


It is important to include these hidden costs in one’s budget prior to committing to make the purchase. This is so as to avoid running into expensive surprises along the way.

While one can’t completely exhaust all the little costs associated with car ownership, having a comprehensive budget is non-negotiable. Understanding the potential costs that come with owning a car helps develop better financial habits as it forces owners to master the art of budgeting.

And if you are planning on buying a car, knowing all the not-so-apparent costs associated with car ownership means you can make a very informed decision.

Or, do you looooove surprises!

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Eddy Mwanza is Creative Consultant living and working in Nairobi, Kenya. His areas of focus are Content Creation, Creative Writing, Research and Photography. When he is not writing in his favorite coffee shop, Eddy spends most of his time reading, cooking, and traveling. He is also a sports fanatic. Connect with Eddy on LinkedIn.

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