5 things to check while buying a second-hand car in Kenya

Friday, June 17th, 2022 08:16 | By
Second-hand cars
Vehicles at a car bazaar. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Owning a car is one of the biggest achievements for ordinary Kenyans who struggle to keep up with the chaotic public transport in most parts of the country.

Alongside convenience, a car comes with a load of other benefits including privacy, the ability to attend to emergencies conveniently, flexibility, independence and freedom among others.

While car ownership is one of the most coveted statuses in society, it can become one of your major sources of stress in case it is not executed with caution and care, especially when you are buying a secondhand car.

It is estimated that imported second-hand vehicles account for 85 percent of car purchases in Kenya, meaning that most Kenyan car owners buy used cars.

Used cars, whether imported or locally bought, do not give a guarantee that it will give the best service to the owner.

Here are a few things to check when buying a secondhand car in Kenya


The condition of the body, in most cases, indicates the general health of a car. In case a car has a lot of dents, it is an indication of a careless user and this could as well dent your pocket as you strive to make the car better.

If the body is too much spoilt, it is better to look for another car that is well maintained, that will not cost you an arm and leg while doing repairs.


The engine is central to any car, after all, you do not want to buy a good-looking car that will stall on the highway, or that will never move. It is not easy to determine the health of an engine from an external view. Take the car for a test drive, and if you are a good driver you'll understand how 'healthy' the engine is. However, this is not enough. Consult a professional to be certain about the car.

If possible, take the car to a mechanic or a service centre where they can check the health status of all components before making any decision.

Also, check the engine number. If it does not match the one on the logbook, ask for documentation indicating the change of engine. If there is no documentation, you could be buying a stolen car, so avoid it.

Accident history

Some cars are advertised as "accident-free which is not always the case. A number of the cars you see on the roads are total write-offs only repaired to make you feel that it has never had an accident.

A car that has had big accidents will never function optimally, and worst of all, cannot be insured comprehensively. This means in case of an accident, the insurance company will not pay you.

You can get a clue on accident history through body fillers, misalignments, bent frames, missing bolts and nuts, headlamp replacement and misalignment among other indicators.

In case a car had been written off, a search on the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) will how. Avoid cars that have been previously written off.


You do not want to buy a car and then it is repossessed while you are driving to work. Most cars being sold online in Kenya have loans on them, and the owners may not disclose this during the sale.

Before doing any purchase, do a search on the NTSA website, which will show if a car is under caveat or is co-owned. Cars that have been bought through a loan are registered under two names, the owner and the financial institution that offered the loan. Sometimes the lender could be the only owner on the logbook.

Unless you are buying off the loan, avoid such cars.


Sometimes car owners tamper with the odometer, which shows how long the car has travelled. An odometer which has been tampered with is red flag that the car could have been misused previously.

High mileage is also not a good indicator, although it should not be the main concern. A car with a high mileage could indicate a high possibility of wear and tear, which decreases the efficiency of the vehicle.

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