Shopping for A Automotive In South Africa As A FOREIGNER

So, the massive announcement is out! We’re formally driving throughout Africa in “Charlie,” our latest addition to The World Pursuit household. The 1989 Land Cruiser is superior!

He’s a workhorse, a 4×4 Tonka trunk outfitted with a bush bar, roof rack, and pull-out drawers. Nonetheless, shopping for a automobile in South Africa isn’t any easy process. Right here is our story.


**Please word that we purchased a automobile in South Africa as a foreigner in 2016. We have now tried to replace this web page as a lot as doable, however some particulars and guidelines could have modified.


Like others, you might be questioning what the truck price, so let’s simply get how a lot the price out of the best way.

Charlie price us a whopping 60,000 ZAR or about $4300 USD on the time of writing. 

By no means thoughts the price, although. The problem right here was that we have been two Individuals attempting to purchase a automobile in South Africa. I simply need to name the entire course of “a bureaucratic African nightmare.

Right here is the start of our combat to get our automobile.

We knew we would have liked our personal automobile to journey by way of Africa the best way we needed. We need to journey to distant locations and camp within the African bush. We need to see the villages and work together with the native individuals deeper than what a conventional overland journey affords. And we’re additionally planning to remain at some stunning lodges, in the midst of nowhere Africa.

Anvil Bay Camp Mozambique Beach
Anvil Bay – Solely Accessibly by 4×4 or Chopper

Shopping for a Automotive in South Africa

We set a finances, we transferred cash to our financial institution accounts, and we started to search for a automobile. We rented a automobile week after week in Cape City, in order that we might go to all of the dealerships situated within the space. We scoured the web and referred to as the professionals. After weeks of looking, we discovered our Land Cruiser that might get us by way of Africa.

He was unadvertised on-line and sat proper on the nook of Voortrekker Rd with a large signal that mentioned “4×4.” Truthfully, we have been simply on the fitting street on the proper time once we noticed him. We took the automobile for a take a look at drive and determined in was the fitting automobile for the fitting worth. It took us lower than an hour to appreciate he was the fitting automobile for the job of getting us throughout Africa.

buying a used car in south africa

However that was all youngster’s play.

For a foreigner to register a automobile in South Africa and get the title to the automobile, you want to current a Visitors Registration Quantity, or TRN.  A TRN should be utilized for on the Motor Car Division and might take wherever from at some point to 6 weeks to course of. Whenever you apply for a TRN you want to usher in (SAPS) licensed copies of your passport, worldwide driver’s license, and proof of everlasting handle in South Africa. Sounds easy proper?

Properly, that is Africa so we knew stepping into that getting this TRN can be something, however easy. We each have a legitimate common US drivers license, which, for those who don’t know serves as a global drivers license all over the world. We had the worldwide drivers license, we used the handle of the Airbnb we have been staying in Cape City, and we additionally had a 90-day vacationer visa for South Africa.

That’s the place the issue was – our vacationer visa. Earlier than vacationers might get a TRN with simply their stamped vacationer visa, however guidelines hold altering and that is not the case. Now foreigners must have a extra substantial visa – suppose scholar visa, work visa, or just about something longer than a yr.


We determined to strive our luck with our vacationer visa anyway as a result of the method to get one other visa was an entire different deal in itself. We assumed that some luck and a very good lenient particular person on the Motor Car Division can be on our aspect. The primary girl on the Civic Middle in Cape City shot us down inside 30 seconds. “No visa, No TRN.” We tried once more at a special workplace a number of days later, and Cameron satisfied the employees there that they need to take the appliance. They took it, mentioned all ought to be good and advised us to come back again in 4 days.

4 days later and no TRN. “Strive tomorrow,” they mentioned. We have been operating low on time; we needed to be out of South Africa in two weeks as our vacationer visas actually have been up. So being suggested by the visitors workers we tried the following day.

“We will’t discover your kind, strive tomorrow,” they mentioned now. What on this planet? Now they claimed they’ve misplaced the shape.

Our stress ranges have been skyrocketing. We already discovered the proper automobile, put a deposit down on him, and had the money in hand. We needed this automobile! We needed to drive ourselves round Africa!

We began to reassess our choices. Ought to we hire a automobile by way of Southern Africa? Ought to we simply resort to public transport? Ought to we abandon Hashtag Africa? Ought to we simply get the hell out of Africa and get our asses to Southeast Asia the place it’s simple to journey, low-cost, and the web is plentiful?

No. We should accomplish this process.

After 5 extra journeys again to the Visitors Division and plenty of agonizing nights, the South African Visitors Division ultimately denied our software and we misplaced all hope. The rejection was primarily based on the primary stamp in our passport that had an expiration date on once we might apply for such issues. Inevitably it was our fault that we waited too lengthy to use for this TRN. Nonetheless, once we landed in South Africa for the primary time we had no thought we have been going to need to purchase a automobile within the nation.  Even when we utilized the very first day we received to South Africa I doubt they might have given us the TRN on a vacationer visa, however I’ve heard of it occurring.

We went over our choices for methods to purchase this automobile. We went by way of conditions again and again and ultimately got here to the conclusion that it was the automobile or public transport. With all of our costly electronics, we knew that public transport by way of Africa can be an actual drawback and would severely restrict us to solely touring in essential cities. We defined our drawback to some family and friends and so they requested us why don’t we simply hire a automobile to journey by way of Africa.

buying a car in south africa

So, why don’t we simply hire a automobile for Africa?

Many individuals hold asking this query, and I imagine it’s a honest query to ask if we have been solely in Africa for a month or two. Nonetheless, now we have been dreaming about touring Africa extensively and renting a automobile for that is simply not a viable choice.

Right here is why:

Moreover South Africa, nearly each nation on our route requires a 4×4 car. We witnessed first hand simply how unhealthy the roads are in Mozambique when all we had was a 2×4. After a number of weeks touring the nation in a Nissan Bakkie, we had had sufficient. We knew we would have liked a 4×4 to get by way of Africa.

Are you aware how a lot 4×4 rental prices on common all through Africa? $100/day on the very low finish. Wowza… Which means on simply our month lengthy trek by way of Namibia we might be on the lookout for a rental for $3000! That’s only one nation we’re planning on going to! We plan on driving our Land Cruiser round for at the least six extra months.

Now math isn’t my robust swimsuit, however by my calculations that might price us at the least $18,000. $14,000 greater than what our superb Land Cruiser price us – and that’s not together with petrol or the inevitable dings and scratches the automobile would get.


To not point out:

For each border you cross overland you want a letter from the proprietor of the car stating that you would be able to drive throughout the border. Virtually all rental automobile firms cost wherever from $50 to $150 per border crossing letter. That’s one costly piece of paper.

Talking of…

It’s attention-grabbing to know that any automobile rented within the Southern Africa international locations usually don’t allow you to journey additional than Zimbabwe with a rental.  We have now plans to go as far north as Ethiopia or Sudan so this isn’t an choice for us.

Driving in Namibia

Oh, yea and…

I actually hate coping with rental automobile firms – particularly in Africa! I hate worrying about each little ding and scratch we could placed on the automobile. I hate desirous about sleazy firms having our bank card to cost no matter they need on. I hate all their lies and deceitfulness and little “extras” they attempt to make on each reserving.

We rented three separate automobiles in South Africa, and each single time we returned the automobile the rental firm tried to cost us for one thing ridiculous. The primary was once we rented our bakkie for 2 months with Hertz all through Mozambique, Lesotho, South Africa, and Swaziland. We introduced the automobile again fully unscathed, however they nonetheless tried to squeeze 300 Rand out of us to “clear the sand out of the ground mats.” Actually?

We rented a second automobile in Cape City with a not so nice firm referred to as “Lease a Cheapie.” What we had rented was certainly…a cheapie. Once we introduced again the automobile to them in addition they received 300 Rand out of us for a pin nail sized scratch on the hubcap. I’m satisfied this how they make their cash.

The third automobile we rented in Cape City was with SiXT, an organization I normally want to hire with everywhere in the world. Once we introduced the automobile again after three weeks of driving they signed off the papers and mentioned we have been all good on the automobile. I checked my bank card assertion per week later and so they charged us for not having sufficient petrol within the automobile. This was false and even when we didn’t carry it again with the right amount – that they had already signed off that the gasoline was full upon return. Cue me attempting to cope with these prices with my bank card in the midst of the desert with poor connection.

If Charlie occurs to get a scratch on him? Oh effectively. Oops, we ran right into a ditch, springbok, or visitors cone. Let’s not fear about it. I cherish the liberty of getting our personal automobile.

With one in all our extraordinarily shitty leases in Cape City


We have now been driving the automobile for one week now and have already gotten two affords to purchase the automobile. It is a four-wheel-drive Toyota Land Cruiser in Africa. Or in different phrases, a very popular commodity. Once we purchased Charlie we considered him as an funding. We received a terrific deal on the automobile for $4300, and we hope to promote the automobile again for that a lot plus some (Replace – WE DID). Assuming we don’t fully whole Charlie, now we have each hope that we are going to at the least break even on the acquisition on the finish of the journey. We could cry on the finish when now we have to offer him up, however our pockets can be smiling once more.

Africa Overland
Filling up in Uganda

Now, again to the bureaucratic African nightmare story

So that they denied our software for the TRN and we had now one week left to get out of South Africa. We turned our drawback to the web and despatched out one final electronic mail that might make or break us.

We despatched an electronic mail to the one individuals we might belief in Cape City, Heye and Angela – the lodge homeowners of the attractive Travessia Seaside Lodge in Mozambique (the place we had stayed earlier this yr – extremely suggest!). We requested if they might register the automobile of their identify and fortunately they fortunately agreed! This turned our solely choice to drive the automobile out of South Africa, however clearly, this alternative might have solely been obtainable with a South African that we fully trusted to not screw us over.

Though we paid for and purchased the automobile, the registration continues to be and can stay of their identify. To drive the automobile throughout borders we simply wanted a letter from the “proprietor” giving us energy of lawyer over the car. So we might drive it wherever we needed in Africa (keep in mind that $50 kind the rental firms attempt to get you with? You’ll be able to write it your self…)

Our energy of lawyer letter just about acknowledged that Cameron has full energy over the car and he can drive it to every particular person nation we listed on the shape. The letter had the car engine quantity, registration quantity, and described the make and mannequin. The letter was then signed and notarized by Heye. We took the letter to be lamented together with the title of the car and a replica of Heye’s passport.

Mozambique Lodge Beach Rooms
Travessia Seaside Lodge in Mozambique

So, three days later and after months of stress, fear, uncertainty, and researching we lastly had our very personal wheels and it felt GOOD. Now time to get the hell out of South Africa. We left Cape City feeling nice as we made our means north to Namibia with Charlie. We had been in South Africa a complete of 87 days and had a 90-day vacationer visa – so though there was a lot extra to be explored we felt snug leaving. Till we received to the border.

“You’ve overstayed your visa, you’re each undesirable to this nation,” mentioned the customs officers.

What was presupposed to be a fast exit simply turned an problem? I knew what she was referring to; she was referring to the three-month date from once we FIRST entered South Africa. I attempted to clarify to her that we had traveled into Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland and had entered and exited South Africa on three separate events. That didn’t matter although we had 90 days in South Africa because the very first time we entered, the clock didn’t begin and cease each time you exited and re-entered.

Lesotho Sheep Herder Drakensberg
Maletsunyane Falls in Lesotho

Striving to be a journey planning perfectionist, I researched this earlier than this dilemma. There was little to no data on-line – even on the federal government web site. The one data I discovered was in an outdated Lonely Planet discussion board saying you might enter and exit and it didn’t depend in opposition to your 90 days.

“However there isn’t any data wherever in your authorities web site that claims what we did was prohibited,” I pleaded together with her.

Her response was the everyday African response that I nonetheless can’t inform if I hate or love. “Sure I do know the data may be very imprecise, however that’s simply the best way it’s.”

I’ve by no means overstayed a visa. Even by way of the Schengen Zone in Europe I at all times be sure to go away earlier than my 90 days are up. I do know that Cameron and I didn’t do our due diligence on the matter and broke the foundations in South Africa, unintentional or not. Now what?

Cameron and I are actually labeled “Undesirables” to South Africa and aren’t permitted to enter once more till who is aware of when. I really feel a bit like Snowden within the US. Undesirable (and way more). Good factor now we have heaps extra of Africa to discover!

Replace 2023!

We get many emails from individuals asking us methods to journey round Southern Africa and do what we did. Please word this put up was initially printed in 2016, although we attempt to replace yearly. Sadly, we can't enable you to purchase your individual Charlie, and in the event you electronic mail us we are going to direct you proper again to this weblog put up for additional data as now we have famous all the pieces that we all know right here. Listed below are a few of our commonest questions answered. 
  • Insurance coverage: We get plenty of questions on insurance coverage for our automobile. We had an outdated 1989 Land Cruiser, so we selected to not cowl the automobile for damages. For legal responsibility insurance coverage, we paid for COMESA. A 3rd get together insurer that works in lots of African international locations. It’s a must to purchase this at a neighborhood insurance coverage firm and you’ll have to do your analysis and due diligence to discover a appropriate one. Should you don’t have COMESA third get together insurance coverage can sometimes be purchased on the border of the nation you’re getting into. We purchased ours in at Madison Basic in Lusaka about two months after we left South Africa.
  • We regularly get requested if we had any border points with our paperwork. We solely had two points with our paperwork in Africa. One was on the Kariba/Siavonga border on the Zimbabwe aspect. They acknowledged that we would have liked a police clearance letter stating that the car was not stolen to get out of Zambia. You don’t want this and we knew it so we held our floor for about half-hour till they ultimately allow us to move. They have been certainly on the lookout for a bribe right here which you’ll encounter time and time once more overlanding Africa. The opposite was on the Kazungula Ferry crossing once we have been leaving Botswana to go to Zambia. They insisted on a police clearance letter to go away Botswana. They have been insistent at first so we gave up, and tried an hour later once more and the official didn’t ask for one. All of it relies on who you’re coping with in Africa. There aren’t any official guidelines! In case you have time and are fearful it doesn’t damage to go to the police station and get this clearance letter earlier than you permit South Africa.
  • If you already know you need to purchase a automobile in South Africa begin the method as quickly as you may. A lot of our scenario was nerve-racking as a result of we had waited so lengthy after arriving within the nation.
  • We acquired a number of “fines” whereas driving throughout Africa. All fines have been paid on the spot and might vary wherever between $4-$30. Don’t count on them to mail you your high-quality within the mail outdoors of South Africa. Should you don’t have money on you to pay your high-quality likelihood is they may accompany you to an ATM or police station to pay it proper there. Until after all woman luck is in your aspect and also you sweet-talk your means out of paying.
  • We discovered essentially the most crooked police to be in Tanzania. 
  • In case you have extra questions the “Overlanding Africa” Fb group is a superb useful resource.
  • We have been capable of re-enter South Africa. In 2019 we lastly returned to South Africa and it felt superb to be again within the nation. We employed a lawyer to get our ban lifted. Once we flew into Johannesburg in October 2019 we have been stopped by border officers. They knew we had overstayed and we have been dropped at a backroom. We confirmed them the letter stating that we have been allowed to re-enter the nation and off we went! We additionally returned once more 2022, and entered the nation with out issues. What can we are saying? We love South Africa!
  • Above all keep in mind…that this was our expertise shopping for a automobile in South Africa. Everybody’s hassles and joys can be completely different and what labored for us could not be just right for you. You’ll doubtless have plenty of trial and error like we did. It may be very time intensive attempting to work across the paperwork right here. A very powerful factor to remember is that That is Africa and there aren’t any exhausting set guidelines for something, however you’ll discover that out alongside the journey.

Should you’re up for a really lengthy learn here’s a detailed account of our total journey throughout Africa.

Cross-Border Letter Instance

The Kazungula Ferry Crossing

We get a ton of questions and emails in regards to the cross-border letter and registering the automobile in somebody’s identify. Significantly, it’s at the least a few emails and messages per week.

To reply everybody’s query. You might be making a authorized doc referred to as “Energy of Legal professional” that offers you rights over the car, reminiscent of driving it over borders or taking it to a mechanic. Sure, it must be licensed by a commissioner of deeds or a notary.

You do not want to be current for this, however whoever has the automobile legally filed below their identify does. I’ve hooked up a clean border letter that we created and used. It by no means introduced any issues, however use it for example template at your individual discretion.

Plan Your Journey to Africa

  • Journey Insurance coverage: We don’t journey with out journey insurance coverage and neither must you. You by no means know what can occur whereas touring so it’s finest to be ready. HeyMondo gives wonderful short-term and long-term journey insurance coverage. 
  • Journey Waterbottle: Once we’re unsure in regards to the water provide we use our Grayl Air purifier. It’s are available exceptionally helpful round Africa.
  • Digital camera Gear: Chances are high you’ll need a digital camera in your journey to Africa. We love the Sony RX100V for a pocket-size digital camera and the Fujifilm XT-4 for knowledgeable digital camera. Try our favourite cameras for Africa.
  • Safari Garments: Light-weight, beige, and moisture-wicking clothes are nice for touring Africa. See our favourite safari clothes right here.
  • Safari Hat: A superb hat is each fashionable and purposeful.
  • Safari Bag: A sturdy bag is right for touring round Africa.
  • Safari Pants: We suggest neutral-colored pants as they’re nice at hiding grime and might match most shirt colours.
  • Safari Shirt: Shirts like these are light-weight and hold the bugs away!
  • Boots: Whilst you don’t must put on sturdy footwear every single day, at the least one pair of safari boots will make your journey nicer!
  • Journey Adapter: You’ll want a particular journey adapter for touring Africa. Get one earlier than you get there so that you don’t pay a premium on the bottom.

Journey South Africa

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