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What to Look Out For When Buying a Second Hand Car in Kenya
What to Look Out For When Buying a Second Hand Car in Kenya
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What to Look Out For When Buying a Second Hand Car in Kenya

Washika Shiundu
May 11, 2023

Are you in the market for a new car and unsure whether to buy a foreign or domestic model? 

In this article, we'll look at the benefits and drawbacks of each choice to help you decide which is the best fit for your needs and budget.

We'll break down the advantages and disadvantages of each option so you can make an informed selection, whether you're seeking for affordability, variety, quality, or reliability. 

So sit back, relax, and let's explore the world of foreign and locally used cars.

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Foreign Used Cars

Foreign used cars are recent imports into the country that have been used abroad.

These cars may have some wear and tear, but they are still in good condition.


  • Wider variety of cars to choose from: Foreign-used car dealerships often have a wider variety of vehicles, including rare and unique models that are not readily available in the local market. 
  • Advanced features: Many foreign-used cars come equipped with advanced features such as lane departure warnings, blind spot detection, and adaptive cruise control that may not be available in locally used cars since locally used cars are typically older.  
  • Well-maintained with low mileage: Foreign-used cars are often well-maintained and have low mileage, making them less likely to have mechanical issues. During auction, these vehicles are graded based on how well-maintained they are - so you will be sure of the condition of the vehicle you are purchasing. 
  • Retains its value over time: Foreign-used cars will inherently maintain their value post purchase longer than locally used ones principa;lly due to their relative newness. If you decide to sell the car later, you are more likely to recoup a significant percentage of your initial investment. However, this is not always the case since some models however newer tend to depreciate faster than others.

Read Also: 6 Times When Buying a Foreign Used Car Makes Sense


  • Fraudsters: There is a risk of purchasing a foreign used car from an unreliable seller or dealer, leading to quality issues or fraud. 
  • Hidden Costs: Importing a foreign used car may attract additional costs such as taxes,  import duties, and shipping fees.
  • Unknown history: Some foreign used cars may have unknown histories and may have undergone accidents or have been involved in illegal activities, which can be a risk to the buyer. Despite the fact that they are graded pre-auction, it is possible to purchase a car whose condition doesn’t match the description on auction papers. This is, however, not rampant. 
  • It may be harder to find spare parts: Finding the right parts for a foreign-used car can potentially be challenging and expensive, especially if the vehicle is not a common model or brand, making repairs more difficult and costly. Even when the car is common in Kenya, it is possible that you are purchasing a newer version that’s just entering the country. Nowadays, however, Kenyans are finding it to be cheaper to import parts for themselves directly which guarantees quality too. 

Read Also: Money and Me: Buying My First Car.

Locally Used Cars

Locally used cars are previously owned and used within the country. You can purchase directly from an indivif=dual owner either through your contacts, from online listings or through car dealerships across the country. 

These cars may have been used for a few years and are often sold at a lower price than brand-new or foreign used cars.


  • Easy to find: Local used cars are widely available and can be found through dealerships, private sellers, and online marketplaces.
  • Lower maintenance costs: Repairs and maintenance of locally used cars are often cheaper because spare parts are readily available locally. However, if you purchase a poorly maintained vehicle, the costs can run very high. 
  • Lower Risk of Fraud: You are less likely to fall victim to fraud when buying a locally used car because you can physically inspect the vehicle and access its history.
  • Bargaining: It's often easier to negotiate prices with local sellers.

Read Also: Buying Your First Car? 8 Things You Need to Learn Now.


  • Limited variety: Locally used cars may have limited options, making finding specific models or features hard. This is principally because locally used cars are typically older and foreign-used vehicles which are newer come with enhanced features that may be the option you are looking for. 
  • Older models: Locally used cars may be older and have higher mileage, resulting in higher maintenance costs and reliability issues.
  • Low resale value: Locally used cars may have a lower resale value, making it challenging to sell them later. However, there are many models that are known for maintaining their value. 
  • Limited financing options: Local used cars have a shorter lifespan than foreign ones, making them less valuable collateral. As such, research and compare financing options before making a decision.

Read Also: Full Guide: The Process of Car Financing in Kenya.

Which to Choose? 5 Things to Consider

Here are five points to consider when deciding between foreign-used and locally-used cars in Kenya:

  1. Price: A foreign-used car will typically be much more expensive than a locally-used equivalent. However, the foreign-used car may be cheaper to maintain, have better fuel economy and could serve you for longer. To decide, you have to consider other factors including your ability to raise the funds, financing options, the purpose of the vehicle and whether you can wait to upgrade later. 
  1. Availability: While locally-used cars are available in a wide variety, if you are looking for modern features, better fuel economy, better safety etc., you are likely to have more options with foreign-used cars. 
  1. Resale value: The newer, better maintained a car is the higher the resale value it can fetch. But this is not the only factor, the model you choose, market forces and how well you maintain the car will ultimately be major factors in what your vehicle can fetch if you were to sell it. 
  1. Maintenance: If you buy a car that is newer, has been well maintained and has easy availability of parts, the maintenance costs are bound to be lower. This does not imply that foreign-used cars must have lower maintenance costs, but they would generally do based on newness alone. However, if your foreign used car is a rarer model or is too new that parts aren’t readily available, local mechanics are not very familiar with it and has average fuel economy then the costs are going to add up pretty fast. Locally used cars will typically have a marginally higher maintenance cost that foreign-used but this is not always the case. Employing the services of a qualified mechanic can help you identify a well-maintained locally-used car with low maintenance costs. 

Read Also: Foreign Used vs. Locally Used Car? 8 Things to Consider.

Wrapping Up

While foreign used cars may offer a broader range of options and better features, they come with the risk of hidden damages and fraudulent sellers.

On the other hand, locally used cars come with a higher level of transparency and less risk but may offer limited choices and could have higher maintenance costs. 

Ultimately, the decision of which to choose should be based on individual preferences, budget, and level of risk tolerance. Regardless of your preferred option, do thorough research.

Washika is a seasoned SEO content writer and copywriter with proven experience in creating unique, insightful and engaging content for a wide range of audiences that ranks high on search engines. Learn more about his work by visiting his LinkedIn profile.

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