Would it be fair to compare the process of buying of a car in the United States or any other European country to that of Ghana? It wouldn’t be fair right but that should be the dream, man! It should be easy.
After seven years of using our Toyota Yaris, we decided to buy a new car. Not new as in brand new. New as in moderately used or pre-loved home used car. It’s nothing new in Ghana. Most cars imported into the country are home used cars which have been previously damaged in an some minor or major accident which are then auctioned online and finally transported to the country by car importers.
So we finally decided to buy a ‘new’ car this year and what a hair-tearing, frustrating experience it was!
Here’s our experience of the purchase process which I am breaking down into various steps from the search to acquisition. Let me warn you ahead of time that this a very detailed long post, make some sobolo and sip as you read.
The search for a home used car.
We had a desire. Get a new car. What kind of car? A Toyota Camry was our choice for it’s sturdiness and reliability. Anyway, to begin our search we searched first on Tonaton to get an idea of the market price for a Toyota Camry 2014 model.
So we had an estimated price idea. Do we just walk into a second-hand dealership? I already knew several dealerships around Labone junction but those guys only dealt in luxury cars. I texted a few influential friends and one gave me his Uncle’s number. According to my friend his uncle only sold Corolla’s but maybe he knew someone who had a Camry. This is exactly how the car industry works, there’s a huge network/association of car dealers and everyone knew someone who had a particular car. This association group have their own WhatsApp group whereby sellers would post up photos of a recently cleared fresh-from-the-port vehicle as for sale. And you know how WhatsApp groups work right? Someone will forward it on to other groups for prospect buyers and soon it will k. The association is not only made up of car importers but also young guys who act as middle-men in the car business, they connect the original seller to a customer, these guys earn as much 10% commission on each sale. Do the math.
I spoke to my friend’s uncle who I call Wofa and he assured me of getting one for us in a few hours. Wow! That fast? I was optimistic. I told him our budget. That’s one thing to also do, know your budget and let the middle-man know so they don’t waste your time bringing you something above what you have budgeted. Meanwhile, my husband too had connected with one other guy through a friend of his and he also said he had the model we were looking for.
During the search it’s extremely important to know into detail what kind of car you are spending on. Throughout this process, I learnt the difference between Toyota LE and Toyota SE thanks to my hubby breaking it down for me. He was very much interested in getting the SE model which had to have the full tech package; sun roof, electronic seats, keyless entry, full audio system, reverse camera, Eco fuel system, the works! Use Google to the max and watch YouTube car review videos to have more insight about the car.
We had established strong contact with Wofa and my hubby’s friend. It’s good to have at least two different contacts who can give you different options. When one person disappoints, the other can be relied on.
Acquiring the car.
Acquiring the car doesn’t mean purchasing it. This basically means you will be going to dealerships to see if the car for yourself or meeting up with the middle man to inspect the car. You can check out the features and test drive for yourself before the main inspection.
We had established some contact and each contact promised to bring us what they had found. I arranged to meet them at my mechanics workshop. This is something you must absolutely do and not skimp out on. I will explain why in a bit. So Monday morning, I left home to meet Frank at the mechanic and what car do I see but a Honda Accord 2014 model. He said this was also good too so I should just try it out. This is something you might experience when dealing with middle-men and car agents, they will bring you what you didn’t ask for in the hopes of changing your mind. A bit like going to a restaurant and ordering for Jollof but you get served Fried Rice because there was no Jollof but they thought you would love the Fried Rice, catch my drift? I reluctantly tried it out. It was cool but not a Camry and I personally didn’t like the dashboard which was a double-screen system; one for the reverse camera and side-mirror camera. I think my fear of dispatch riders hitting the side mirror made me quaver.
I checked the VIN ( Vehicle Identification Number) using the VinChecker website to check on the history of the car . Always use this or other websites to check the status of the car. You will find out if the car was involved in an accident or if it’s a stolen vehicle, the original mileage etc. Every vehicle has this very long unique number assigned to it. Some websites offer a fuller history report at a fee.
I didn’t go for the Honda as it also exceeded our budget by 5K. That’s a lot.
Wofa brought a Ferrari red Camry which looked absolutely fabulous! The mileage was at 46,000 which wasn’t too bad. Almost everything checked out with the exception of the reverse camera which according to Wofa was working just the day before. Well, it looked like God was telling us something. Were we ready to buy the car and fix it ourselves at a discounted price of the car? No. It was going to be too much stress which we weren’t ready to deal with the stress of Abossey Okai. What will be the deal breaker for you without which you will not go ahead with the purchase? Ours included the reverse camera and perhaps having a keyless entry.
Later in the week, Wofa sent me several photos of another Camry which was grey in colour. It looked good. Don’t however be too excited about beautiful photos of cars sent on WhatsApp until you see it feeli feeli ( with your own eyes). I had to go with the mechanic this time to North Dzorwulu to a dealership to see this Camry. It was perfect! The engine was good and it had all the tech specs we were looking for, I even took it for a test drive to get that feel and test the shocks. But imagine my shock and disappointment when another buyer brought hard cash to the dealership to purchase the same car! Apparently, they had paid the car dealer an amount of money to secure the purchase but had delayed in paying the full amount. I sat in the office mute as they counted bundles of cash for the car.
A low mileage car should also be one of your considerations when buying a car from the dealers. I know some of them fidget with the mileage to reduce the figures. How would you know? I don’t know but pray you don’t encounter any shady dealer. Low mileage on a used car coming to Ghana is often between 20,000 – 50,000 depending of course on car manufacturing year. The Camry was 46,000 and for a 2014 model that wasn’t so bad. Averagely a car in the US does 12,000 miles a year and this is a norm. A lower mileage also affects the price of the car; the lower the mileage the higher the price.
Several things can affect price such as year of manufacturing, mileage, car specs, duty paid on the import, profit margin, condition etc. Is it possible to beat down the price of a used car? Of course. By how much depends on the car dealer’s willingness and how low he’s prepared to go. One other thing you can do if there’s some form of repairs to be done is to offer to fix those issues at your expense for a discounted price. Either that or you can ask the seller to fix them. Some sellers would offer registering the car for you at GHC800 cost out of the price quoted. The car registration includes the transfer of property and road worthy certification. Not a bad deal considering the stress of acquiring a road worthy certificate in Ghana.
Inspection of home used cars
The inspection stage means taking the acquired car to the mechanic, exercise due diligence as a car buyer. Don’t just take any assurance of quality from car dealers without have a second opinion from an expert. Use a trusted and experienced mechanic like mine. Nimo has been my mechanic for almost a year now and he’s not only been reliable but also done very good maintenance and repairs on my Yaris. Note the words experienced and trustworthy. Don’t call that unreliable mechanic who keeps having to fix the same old brake pads every month on your car. He will give an easy pass without a thorough examination. Nimo was a great referral from my friend Kojo Akoto Boateng.
My mechanic opened the hood and sparked the car, the engine was good he said. He then checked the boot. The boot check is done to see if it has all the necessary tire changing tools ( car jack, lever, spare tire, etc) Raise the carpet in the boot to find these tools. It’s also a place to check to see if the car was an accident car which has been worked on, the hood also will reveal the same thing. Visible body works would show around the inner parts of the boot and engine area. It’s also good to ask beforehand if the car was an accident car. One random guy I met at the workshop whilst inspecting the car advised me to check if the car was originally from Florida State, the reason being that Florida was a flood state and any car coming from there had a possibility of being a flood car. Trust me when I say, you don’t want to end up with a flood car. If the car was involved in an accident around the engine area that should also be a red flag because there’s a higher risk of a poor repair job which could lead to future hair-tearing problems. If the damage was in the door or boot area its a lower risk to future problems. Just make sure the repair is as flawless as possible.
My mechanic did his own test drive as well and he one time let his welder do an interior check. The welder was really good. I would have missed out on some details for another Camry which we inspected. That particular car had been in an accident around the passenger door area, without the expert eye of the welder I wouldn’t have noticed that the interior side of the door was poorly worked on and literally loose ( my eye was blind to this), even the dashboard was funny. Nimo was happy with the engine checks etc.
Some car dealers would allow a diagnostic machine to be placed on for any hidden faults in the engine. I hear not everyone is open to this idea.
Paying for a home used car.
Used cars in Ghana aren’t cheap even if it’s an old model thanks to the rising dollar. Here we were all thinking that the new government would do some ‘magic’ to lower inflation and fix this dollar issue. False hopes. Like I said earlier, set your budget and prepare your mind for a possible GHC 2,000- GHC 3,000 over-budget . Car dealers in Ghana believe only in cash down, unless you are a well-known customer of theirs and they completely trust you to give you flexible payment terms such as 50% now with the rest spread over two months. If you aren’t, payment will be in full. The car dealers went with us to the bank once we were happy with our car. At the bank, make sure you have a friend or your partner near the car or at least having the car key AND standing near the car. I heard of a car theft incident recently and I was shook for 15 minutes. The story goes as follows; this guy had gone into the bank with the car dealer who received his payment cooly into a bag. The guy came out only to find the car stolen right at the bank premises! The car dealer had his money and there was no way this guy was getting his money back. For security sake, have a friend keep an eye on the car whilst at the bank. In buying a second hand car, be sure that you will be paying hard cash. Dealers have trust issues with any other mode of payment. I couldn’t help but be a bit wary. What if armed robbers had followed this guy to the dealership? I can’t say I was too surprised about the Royal Motors robbery incident some weeks ago. There’s simply no trust in cheques and bank transfers because human being.
It took us about a week and half to get the car we were comfortable with regarding body works, car features etc. A week of stress that is. The car is working fine after two months of purchase.
It was quite an experience for us with the ups and downs during the process. At least now we have established a business relationship with trusted car dealers. That’s a definite plus!
You can contact Frank a friend and car dealer who’s in my video below on his Whatsapp: 0279070855 or call 0209013527.
What was your experience in buying a used car in Ghana if you have already purchased one?
Here’s a video I made on the features and details to be aware of when purchasing a home used car. Please don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel, thanks for your support!