Buying a car in South Africa: part one

How hard can it possibly be?  You wouldn’t believe it.

The first obstacle here is actually having means to pay for the car.  We need two cars as SA is not pedestrianised and does not have much in the way of safe public transport.  Our plan was to get a cheap run around for Rob to drive to work, and a nicer car (chosen on the basis that he can fit his blimmin’ surfboard in) for us that will be our main car.  Our budget is around £20,000 for 2 cars.  You would think that would be enough wouldn’t you?  In the UK we could both drive very decent second hand cars for that, but not in SA.  Cars are so much more expensive here that it’s almost criminal.  For a crappy second hand run around with a tiny engine, p/s and a/c we are looking at minimum R60,000 – that’s over £5,000.  We are talking about a hairdryer on wheels here!  Nothing with a decent engine and certainly no space in the boot!  For Rob to get something like an Astra with decent mileage he is going to have to spend in the region of R160,000+, which is more than £15,000.  It’s crazy.

We were going to finance both cars in Rob’s name and put down half as the deposit, but due to the bureaucracy here we have decided to buy the little shitty car for cash and then finance Rob’s.  Well, that is if we can get finance as Rob is here on a 2 year visa and you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to do anything here without an SA ID or permission to stay for longer.  We applied for finance last week and were told it would take 2 days to find out.  That was 7 days ago.  Gotta love Africa.

The first week that we were here it wasn’t too bad having one car as Rob worked half day a few days and then was off a few more.  Now he has gone back to work and I don’t have a car.  I’m essentially trapped in the house, apart from walking to anywhere nearby.  The supermarket is not close enough to walk back with the goods, and guess what, Midas needs to go to the vet as he has an eye infection (when is that cat ever not sick?!).

I can’t even rent a car as my passport has been sent off to apply for my visa.  My only real option is taxi’s, but private taxi’s are extortionately priced here and I don’t have a job, and I’m definitely not brave enough to get a minibus taxi – yesterday I’m sure I saw about 30 people crammed into one and they usually seat 16, with the driving erratic at best.  I don’t think that some of these guys know that there are indicators to signal when changing lanes or turning.

picture stolen from Google. An SA mini bus taxi

We are going to spend the weekend looking at cars, but that’s still 2 days away and most dealerships appear to be closed on Sundays.  I’m going stir crazy in this house.  I haven’t quite finished unpacking yet, but there are other things that I need to do and I want to get out of this house already!  Instead I think I am going to have to accept defeat, grab some tanning lotion and hit the garden.  It’s a hard life.


7 thoughts on “Buying a car in South Africa: part one

  1. Oh dear Martina, yes it is a difficult task getting a car sorted. I was also house bound when we arrived – suddenly kids needed to go to the dentist and I could only carry a few groceries each time I went to the shops. Other things you need to consider. Have you got a Traffic Register Number Certificate? You need one to get the vehicle registered.

    “About applying for traffic register number:
    To buy or register a motor vehicle in South Africa as a foreigner, you must produce your foreign identification document. If this document is not available, you will need to apply for a Traffic Register Number, provided you have a valid passport with supporting documentation that provides proof that you are legally in South Africa.
    A Traffic Register Number is the main identification number accepted for road traffic transactions.
    A Traffic Register Number is also required when you want to personalise an organisation’s motor vehicle.
    What you should do:
    Go to the nearest registering authority or driving licence testing centre with the prescribed fee and complete form ANR (Application and Notice in respect of Traffic Register Number)

    If you are applying for traffic register number as a foreigner who wants to buy or register a motor vehicle in South Africa, you must submit the following documents:
    certified copy of your passport or a certified copy or your temporary residence permit
    your foreign identity document
    two ID photographs (Black and white)
    prescribed fee”
    (Ours was free in Gauteng)

    And if that is not enough – try getting insurance without a South African Drives Licence… some insurance companies can be very difficult.

  2. Thanks Deb’s. We knew about the Traffic Register No thanks to Sine’s blog, so off we set off duly to get one to be told that we have to wait 10 days to get it. Another post on that one coming soon!

    I’m dreading insurance – I know that in the UK if you drive on a foreign license you pay way over the odds and am sure it is probably the same here.

  3. Lol! I’m so tickled my blog on the topic is already being recommended, thanks Debs! I think the words I wrote most often in my early blog posts on Joburg Expat are “I DON’T HAVE A CAR”. Yet it seems all of us have to go through it again, so telling you all I no know doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference. I wish you good luck! BTW, someone else just asked me about insurance, and maybe I should write about that too but I feel like I didn’t do much research. Just went with our bank (Standard Bank) who also has an insurance brokerage. We probably overpay, but it was quick and convenient. They gave us the insurance right away over the phone and then came later to check that we actually have the car we are insuring. That way we could drive it right away without waiting another 2 weeks…

    • Not having a car here is such an issue here isn’t it?! I took it forgranted how easy it is to get around in the UK. We have managed to buy one car and will be picking it up over the next couple of days. I’ll be blogging about the whole sorry experience. It was not a simple process, but then when is anything in Africa?!

  4. I thought I might add an update on our situation. Today I went down to Randburg with my son who turned 17 last week so he could get a Traffic Register Number and apply for his learners licence (Just as I did 18 months ago with my eldest son). I thought seeing as we were there together I would also get a TRN as our Permanent Residence has just about come through. I was well equipped, passports, 2 black and white photos each (thanks to Prince and his little ‘studio’ just outside the gates), proof of residence, marriage certificate, the duly completed forms – and all of these photocopied and certified (just to be extra sure). When we got to the front of the queue the sullen City of Joburg clerk took one look at my sons papers and told him “Go and wait over there”. He looked at my passport – which is in my maiden name (as all Italian passports are) and told me I must bring my husband and only then could he help me. Well I was furious and asked to see his supervisor. We waited 10 minutes and the supervisor came out to tell my son that he could not have a TRN until he was 18. We protested strongly and told him how when my eldest was 17 we got a TRN – he said it must have been done illegally! Luckily my technosavy teen quickly went onto the Dept of Transport website on his cell phone and showed him that at the age of 17 one can get at TRN and apply to do the written test for a licence. And as for me…. the supervisor explained that my husband MUST be present because the visa in my passport says “to accompany spouse”. Now if only the sullen clerk could have been polite enough to explain that the first time around! The good news is that the technosavy teen gets his TRN after only 2 days! Just remember if you ever get Permanent Residence status in South Africa you have 1 year to apply for a conversion of your foreign drivers licence to a South African drivers licence or you will have to do the written test and the road test – along with all the teenagers!

    • I sometimes think that they just make up the rules as they go along! I will update you in a post about our own dealings. Nothing is ever simple! I bet your boy is relieved that he is to get his in 2 days though – it is the only thing that matters at that age. I’m also finding that although I have all the time to sort out everything that needs doing here as I am not working, I also cant do anything because I am not the one with the working visa. I feel quite invisible!

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