Is It better to import a car or buy locally?

import finance

When deciding to buy a car, you might be faced with these two choices; do you import a car or buy from the local dealership. The choice is not easy, because both options have advantages and disadvantages.

Ultimately, the cost and the available budget influence the decision whether to buy from your local dealership or import a car. No matter the choice you make, know that there are always risks.

Owning a car nowadays is not a luxury but a necessity. Traveling with your family in a private car is more cost-effective than using a Matatu. Imagine a family of 4 traveling from Nairobi to Mombasa, they will spend more using public means than a private car, not to mention the disturbances and inconveniences.

Importing a car

There are different regulations on car imports. They include: a car must not be older than 8 years since the first registration, and the vehicle should be roadworthy and right-hand drive. An inspection is done to ensure the vehicle imported is roadworthy.

Importing a car is viewed as a very lengthy, rigorous, and complicated process. However, there are advantages to importing a car.


  • Availability of a wide range of vehicles to choose from. Importing a car from abroad gives you an opportunity to choose the make, model, and specification of your car, unlike in the local dealerships where there is no wide variety.

  • Quality/ value for money:  when you import a car, especially through reputable channels, you are assured of getting quality vehicles. When you import a car, you have the option of checking and inspecting the auction sheet to check for any defects.

  • Mileage: The mileage of the car may determine its maintenance cost. A vehicle with high mileage is more susceptible to breakdowns than a newer, slightly used car.

  • Trust: Compared to buying from a local dealership, you can trust the mileage from an imported car because it is indicated on the auction sheet. Sometimes local dealers change or falsify the mileage so as to add the markup price of the vehicle.

  • Financing: Availability of financing options: when importing a car, there are many options for financing with banks and financial institutions offering competitive rates to enable you to get a car at an affordable cost. Some financial institutions such as Ngao Credit Limited go as far as facilitating the entire purchase process for you to make the experience easier and more convenient. 
import a car


Time: You could wait longer for the vehicle to arrive. It typically takes six to eight weeks for a car imported from Japan to arrive in Kenya. If you want the car immediately, the waiting time may frustrate you.

Cost: Importing a car may be considered to be more expensive than buying locally but when you consider that a low mileage vehicle has very low maintenance costs, it may is worth it. 

Buying a car at a local dealership

With personal cars becoming necessary in our day-to-day commute, there are many dealerships that offer competitive prices and services to potential car buyers.  Before buying a new or a used car locally, you should consider the following advantages and disadvantages.


  • Affordable: Buying a car locally is considered to be the cheapest option because you don’t have to pay costs such as import duty or other shipping costs.

  • After-sale support from the dealer:  Local dealers are sometimes known to offer after-sales services such as support in case you need spare parts.

  • Fast: If you are looking to own a car in an as short time as possible, buying from a local dealer has a faster turnaround time. You can just walk in and if you have the finances and other required documents you can walk out as a car owner.

  • Choice: With so many open dealerships and the availability of dealerships online, you have a wide selection of cars available to you.

a car saleswoman at a car dealership


  • Lack of financing: purchasing a car locally, you do not have access to a financing option. To pay for the vehicle, you will have to do it out of pocket.

  • Risk of fraud: When buying from the local dealership you have to be careful not to fall into the trap of unscrupulous dealers. Some people have lost money due to conmen who masquerade as genuine businesspeople.

  • Warranty: most used cars do not come with a warranty, especially if you are buying a locally used one.

Key Takeaways

Purchasing a new/used car locally or importing a vehicle from other countries such as Japan or UK, can be challenging. All options have benefits and drawbacks. So before purchasing a car it is wise to do your own research on the potential benefits of your decision.

People tend to buy cars when they can afford it and have options to choose their preferred cars at a lower cost and without much stress.

When purchasing costly vehicles such as a cars with a price range above Ksh. 2 million it may be better to import because you have an opportunity to choose exact specifications and get the car of your dreams at a lower cost compared to buying from a local dealership.

With the availability of import finance, buying a car is no longer a headache because banks and micro-finance have stepped up to fill the gap. Ngao Credit limited is one of the trusted institutions filling the financial gap, to learn more dial *725#.

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