No one ever forgets how it felt when they bought their first car or when they finally bought their dream car. Unfortunately for a number of others, they were left with a bitter taste in their mouths, after realizing that they had been conned by very cunning individuals. Buying a car is a serious financial commitment and is a process that shouldn’t be rushed. The best defense against a scam is an informed consumer. By obtaining an up-to-date vehicle report, potential buyers can fact-check all information provided by the seller. The information can also assist the buyer in spotting a suspicious deal and avoid falling victim to vehicle fraudsters.
Here are some tips to help you prevent being conned when buying a car in Kenya.
1. Be wary of fake vehicle adverts
Criminals place adverts for fake vehicles online at hugely discounted prices to lure in buyers hunting for a great bargain. In this digital age, Kenyans use online content for everything from comparing prices to doing more in-depth research, particularly when it comes to long-term financial commitments such as buying a car.
Fake vehicle adverts are relatively sophisticated and usually include photos to match the vehicle description with the contact details of the so-called seller. Fraudsters appear to be genuine sellers by being willing to provide additional information together with a convincing explanation for the massive discount. Criminals then pressure buyers into making an urgent deposit or full payment to secure the vehicle.
Once payment is made, the scammer disappears, and the buyer is left without a vehicle and their hard-earned cash. It is important that consumers exercise extreme caution when engaging with unknown individuals online and use whatever means at their disposal to verify the details of the seller and the vehicle is sold. There are several other tips buyers should keep in mind to stay safe:
- Profile a seller as much as possible before engaging with them. If the same names and photos appear on multiple platforms, it’s best to stay away.
- Be wary of vehicles being sold for way below market value for similar makes and models. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
- Being pushed into making an immediate payment is a red flag you shouldn’t ignore. Remember that you have the right to walk away should you feel pressured or uncertain about a vehicle.
- Consider going through a trusted dealership. A reputable dealership offers peace of mind as companies are accountable in terms of regulations.
- If you suspect fraud, or if someone is attempting to gain unauthorized access to your personal banking information, contact your bank and nearest police station as soon as possible.
2. Seek a trusted mechanic’s advice
Take a trusted mechanic with experience in that particular vehicle model to view, check and road-test the vehicle to confirm that it is mechanically sound, to help pinpoint any issues such as mechanical faults and to help you in the negotiation process. Tell the mechanic to take a mental note of the condition, the parts and accessories of the vehicle as they are on that day.
3. Crucial searches to conduct
Here are the crucial searches that you must before proceeding to make the transaction.
a. NTSA search (TIMS portal)
Conduct a search on the motor vehicle ownership and registration on NTSA portal using the prospective vehicle’s registration number (number plate). This will help determine:
- Who the registered owner of the vehicle is; the VIN number (or the chassis number); the engine number; vehicle type (that is, model, type (station wagon, saloon, lorry), colour, engine capacity etc.).
- Whether there are other co-owners of the vehicle such as a bank, a micro-finance institution or other creditor such as a motor vehicle dealer.
Sometimes, there might be another co-owner or owner listed on the logbook such as:
- A bank, a financial institution or a motor dealer, which would mean that there is a loan or a debt secured by the vehicle. Request the owner/seller of the vehicle to discharge the charge on the logbook by getting the bank, financial institution or motor dealer to write to NTSA stating that the loan or debt has been repaid (if it has) and to request the charge to be discharged/removed. The owner will then pay discharge fees, surrender their original logbook with the co-owners’ names; and NTSA will issue a new original logbook with the seller’s names only.
- A deceased person (legal term for “a person who has passed on”). In such a case, you should request the seller to present a copy of confirmed Letters of Administration or Grant of Probate issued by the courts to the NTSA office together with the original logbook, NTSA will then advise on the next steps and ultimately facilitate the transfer of the vehicle to the administrator/executor of the deceased’s estate who has been confirmed by the court and who in turn will transfer the vehicle to you or NTSA will transfer the vehicle directly to you and issue you with a new original logbook in your names.
Do not attempt to purchase a vehicle with a logbook showing another owner such as bank, financial institution, a motor dealer or a deceased person. It can be repossessed by the bank, financial institution or a motor dealer or the transfer challenged in court by dependant of the deceased person such as one of their children or spouse.
b. Collateral Registry search (eCitizen portal)
Conduct a search on the Collateral Registry (MPSR) under the Business Registration Service (a department of the Attorney General’s Office) on your account on the eCitizen portal, by clicking on “Search Request” and select “Search Criteria” then “Grantor’s Identification” where you insert the owner’s/seller’s name and national ID/Passport number or “Motor Vehicle Chassis Number” where you insert the VIN Number of the vehicle. The Collateral Registry lists movable assets including motor vehicles which have been used as security to secure loans granted by individuals, banks, financial institutions such as microfinance institutions, saccos, credit institutions and motor dealers.
c. KEBS search
Conduct a search on Kenya Bureau of Standards’ (KEBS) mileage verification portal using the prospective vehicle’s Chassis Number (VIN Number) to determine whether there has been odometer tampering to reduce actual vehicle mileage. You can also send a text message to 20023 as follows: CH#Chassis Number. Get the Chassis Number from the NTSA search document you had already obtained.
d. KRA Customs Duty search
Conduct the KRA Customs Duty search to verify if the import duty was paid by the seller. Ask the seller whether they have all (or any) of these documents, QISJ (issued by KEBS), Import Declaration Form (IDF), F147 and Payment Slip, Export Certificate, Duty Entry Form and Payment Slip, CFS invoice, Receipt and Release order, and Bill of Lading; especially if they are the vehicle’s first owner or if the seller is a motor vehicle dealership. Confirm whether the engine has ever been replaced by the seller, and if so, inquire whether there are importation documents such as IDF Forms for the engine, if it was imported; or sale receipts, if the engine was bought locally.
4. Before meeting the buyer
Obtain from a lawyer a Motor Vehicle Sale Agreement or search for a suitable one, online or from a legal portal, amend it and then print it. Open an account with the NTSA TIMS portal and confirm that the owner too has an account on the NTSA TIMS portal. Get the owner’s bank details. Carry the Motor Vehicle Sale Agreement, NTSA TIMS Vehicle Search and a Bankers Cheque drawn in favour of the owner with the agreed purchase amount.
Avoid transacting in cash when meeting the owner/seller. Always use Bankers’ Cheques. They are as good as cash but have the safety precaution of being traceable, easy and safe to carry and have to be banked. In the event that the seller insists on cash, request them meet you at the banking hall of your bank and release the funds to them in the hall, not outside, and only after concluding the transfer and being given the original logbook.
Before the meeting, ask the owner to come with the vehicle (if it is roadworthy) to the meeting place, if it is not, arrange for a flat-bed recovery truck to go to the premises where the vehicle is and load it up, that is, before parting with your Bankers’ Cheque. You can get conned in a blink of an eye. Being a little paranoid, always helps.
Avoid paying a seller and then collecting the vehicle later on, even if the seller is a friend. The vehicle might get involved in an accident, be stolen or damaged between the time of payment and collection. Pay only when you can see the vehicle and the keys. Also, before the meeting, ask the owner to carry their original as well as copies of their National ID or Passport and PIN Certificate.
Request for the original logbook to be brought to the meeting. Do not forget to ask the owner to carry the QISJ, IDF, F147 and Payment Slip, Export Certificate, Duty Entry Form and Payment Slip, CFS invoice, Receipt and Release order, and Bill of Lading (if these apply, and are available); and where the engine has been replaced, to carry the IDF for imported engines, or sale receipts for locally purchased engines.
5. On the transaction day
Hold the meeting in a public place such as a law firm, shopping mall, restaurant, NTSA’s offices, a bank etc., where there are members of public and/or security officers about, as well as internet. Have your trusted mechanic accompany you to the meeting as well as a trusted friend or relative for security purposes. The mechanic will do a final check on the vehicle to confirm that the vehicle is in the same condition it was when you and him/her checked and road-tested it (vehicle battery, radio, spare wheel, jack, wheel wrench and other parts and accessories are still there and that there is no new dents, cracks or scratches, etc.).
Lastly, ensure you have money in your M-Pesa account for the payment of the motor vehicle transfer charges which vary based on the vehicle type such as saloon, lorry, etc. and engine capacity (cc). Ensure that you have access to internet for the purposes of accessing NTSA TIMS portal transferring the vehicle from the owner’s NTSA TIMS account to your NTSA TIMS account. Confirm and double check that:
- The engine number (called Vehicle Identification Number “VIN”) on the vehicle matches the one on the NTSA TIMS Search and the original logbook; if it does not, then the vehicle is either stolen, or duty was not paid and has been given the registration of another scrapped or written off vehicle.
- The original logbook is authentic and not a forgery.
- The names on the owner’s original logbook match the names on the NTSA TIMS portal.
- The ID Number or Passport Number and PIN Number on the owner’s TIMS account match those on their original National ID or Passport and PIN Certificate.
- There is no other listed owner on the logbook or the TIMS portal such as a bank, financial institution or a motor dealer etc. and if there is, abort the transaction until the other owner consents to the sale and agrees to transfer the vehicle together with the owner to you.
Both parties, that is, the seller and the buyer will then fill in the relevant details on their respective TIMS accounts where the seller transfers and the buyer accepts the transfer. The seller will then sign the Motor Vehicle Sale Agreement, handover the original logbook, motor vehicle keys and the buyer will hand over the Bankers Cheque. Also ask for an invoice and/or a receipt (if available).
6. After the purchase
If the engine had been changed, arrange with the seller to accompany you to the Nairobi Traffic Headquarters Ngong Road, next to Kenyatta Hospital or the nearest traffic base or police station for the police to sign the replaced engine IDF document or purchase receipt. Depending on the vehicle type, you can book online on the NTSA TIMS portal for the vehicle’s inspection by NTSA Motor Vehicle Inspection Unit at Industrial Area, Nairobi or the nearest regional Inspection Unit.
Follow up with NTSA two weeks after the transfer, to collect your new logbook in your name. Note to carry your original ID or Passport and the original logbook in the previous owner’s/seller’s name. Lastly, never ever pay any commitment fee or any amount to enable a seller to bring the car to you for viewing or for fuel or any advance payment. No amount is a small amount. Be smart and take your time and due diligence. Above all, follow our advice above to the letter. Be a little paranoid.