Buying a car in South Africa: Part Two

Following on from Buying a Car in SA: Part One I bring you part two in the ordeal (there is no better word to describe this experience).

As we are not South African citizens we must have a Traffic Register Number in order to register the car in our names or even take delivery of the car.  So we found a list of all of the licensing departments in Joburg.  On their website it did not say that you had to go to one in particular, so we chose to go to the one that offered the most services, in Randburg, and Rob set off to arrive at 7.30 which is when they open.

You need to have your lease agreement, passport, passport pictures and international driving license.  Rob hadn’t had his pictures done in advance, but there were people outside touting to take pics.  As soon as Rob got out of the car a guy whistled at him and beckoned him over.  Rob followed him into the middle of a market, where there was a tent set up and inside they take your photo.  They used a normal digital camera, and instead of zooming in with the camera itself, he just walked forward until he was close enough for Rob’s face to fill the screen!  Hilarious.  He printed the photo’s on the spot.

Rob then went into the licensing office, which was modern, airy and although busy looked like it was efficiently run.  He approached the main desk and asked for the form, only to be told that as we live in Melville we had to go to the Langlaagte office.  Tres annoying.  It said this nowhere on the website.  We had not heard of this area before and they gave Rob some very vague directions.  Back into the car, and then 10 minutes spent trying to find it on the map.  It took 45 minutes to get there in rush hour traffic.

As soon as Rob drove through the gates he could tell that the Langlaagte office is a different kettle of fish from the Randburg office.  Langlaagte was a concrete pandemonium that Rob likened to a prison.  He says that he lost the will to live immediately.  It took two people to point him to the right place, and once he arrived there were four chaotic queues in the room, but no one that worked there around to assist.  Rob went round asking people which queue to join and eventually found the right one.   The Randburg office had given him the application form so he spent some time filling that out, and after an hour he reached the front, where he was sent to another room and another queue.

There was a man interrogating people to ask people what they wanted and sending some people to other rooms as they were apparently in the wrong queue.  Rob told him that he wanted a traffic register number and the guy looked through all of his documents only to tell him that they were no good.  The application form did not apply to that office, and you need copies of your documents rather than the originals.  Of course no one had told him this previously.

Rob was then sent out of the building, over the car park to a shack where you could buy sweets, drinks and photocopies.  There was a long line of people that looked as depressed as Rob as they had also been queuing for hours and been sent out of the  building.  Ten minutes later Rob got to the front of the queue and asked for copies (which were extortionately priced).

Rob went back into the building, back to the room of four queues, back into the other room and joined the queue once again. 45 minutes later it is now Rob’s turn to be seen.  Rob goes to the guy that had sent him away to make copies, who spent about one minute looking through the documents and then stamped a small piece of paper and told Rob to come back ten days later to see if he had been successful.  Rob was quite furious, but nothing that could be done but wait to see if we were successful.  We were not aware that you could be unsuccessful with your application.  Oh well.

Ten days pass and Rob returns nervously to see if this is all a waste of time.   An hour and a half of various queues later and Rob leaves the building with the precious Traffic Register Number.   Result.  I’m so glad that I didn’t go with him!

Straight to the garages to arrange delivery of our cars.  The first one was no problem as we bought it for cash.  We bought from Kilokor Motors and from the most awesome dude, Brian.  He even put a big bow on the car and there was a bottle of bubbles inside for us!  Cute!

Our two cars. Finally!

The second car was not as straight forward as we bought it on finance, but the dealership were great and looked after everything for us.  We bought from GWM Edenvale and found an excellent deal – possibly because it was not in the Northern suburbs where everything seemed to be so expensive.  It was definitely worth the drive for the price that we paid.   Of course, no one in the last month has told us that you must have insurance to drive away a car bought on finance, and obviously on a Saturday afternoon all of the insurers are closed.  Doh!

We finally have our two new (second-hand) cars in our garages.  I’ve been zooming around Joburg buying all kinds of things (poor Rob).  It’s not as nerve-racking driving here as I thought, as long as you keep your eyes peeled at all times.  There is no driving on auto pilot in this place.


19 thoughts on “Buying a car in South Africa: Part Two

  1. interesting that it seems that Rob was the only one who had to go through all this trauma.. and where were you throughout eh?

    as for the frustration of africa, yep, thats the beauty of the continent. in my experience, most things, adminstrations and rules can be quickened up though with a bit of charm, negotiation and a smile. rules are a very fluid concept there…..

    • Ha- Rob has to do it because everything has to be in his name. I don’t have a visa!

      The bureaucracy here is mind blowing, and it seriously depends who you et on the day as to what ye outcome is here. I’m just glad that after we set everything up it should be done and dusted!

    • Are you suggesting I wasn’t charming? Honestly, I tried my best Michael-Palin-bumbling-through-Africa impression – I smiled, I said a big hello, I asked how the guy was doing – but the guy at the front of the queue, the guy who holds the keys to the seventh circle of hell that is Langlaagte testing station, he responds to nothing other than humble, silent subservience.

  2. Martina! I just found your blog about being an expat in jozi, i just moved here around the same time as you…i’m here for 2 years as well. We are in the process of buying our cars (bleg) and it is terrible. I started a blog as well. I enjoy reading this as we are going through many of the same experiences.

    • Hi Namrata, Nice to “meet” you! I’ve had a squizz at your blog and it’s awesome! We should definitely meet for coffee if you are free one day – I can pick your brains about the photography class that you have signed up for as I am desperate to learn how to use my camera! If you need any help with car stuff let me know as I feel like we experienced everything that could go wrong before it went right!

      • actually I would love to get coffee, since I am new it is always fun to expand your friendship circle! want to email me at namrata.singh (at) and maybe we can set something up for later this week? i love melville and am disappointed we didn’t have enough foresight to get a house over there instead of melrose north.

  3. Hi Martina,
    Well done on getting a car at last. It would be a good idea to read Joburg Expats blog about when you are stopped by Metro Cops. I felt very intimidated and narrowly escaped being locked up and my car impounded because I did not have the right documents (or certified copies – valid only for 3 months at a time). I carry a photo copy of my passport with permit, international drivers licence and marriage certificate (as the car is in hubby’s name). He carries a copy of his work permit (more recently his permanent residence certificate) and drivers licence! I have always done my best to be polite and have resisted attempts to solicit ‘lunch money’ or ‘money for a cool drink’. I never talk on a cell phone while driving and try to keep to the speed limit! If you are on Twitter you should follow @pigspotter – he tells you where the roadblocks are and illegal speed cameras have been set up. He often tweets about traffic problems as well.

    Happy driving!

    • Thanks Deb’s. We carry absolutely everything in the glove box just in case! I also don’t speak on the phone whilst driving – it is illegal to do so in the UK so it feels so wrong to do it here. Plus I need both hands so that I can swerve away from the mini-bus taxi’s 😉

      The speed limit thing is helped by the fact that I am terrified that Rob will have to pay RRR’s for my offences as I do not have a job, so I have tried to be good here. In the UK the speed camera’s are very clearly marked but they are so well hidden here!

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