Process of Importing a Car to Kenya

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Importing a car is a process that if not done carefully can lead to disappointments and frustrations. It is therefore important to know the process involved, the documents required and the payments to be made. Here is a breakdown of the process of importing a car to Kenya.

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Decide on import location and whether auction or direct purchase

Japan is a popular country for importing cars in Kenya. Their auction sites have become very popular due to the fact that cars there are generally cheaper. Apart from Japan, other countries Kenyans import their second hand cars from are UK, Singapore and Australia.

Do your research and choose where to import your car from. If you decide on Japan, you can choose to bid on one of their auction sites or purchase directly from a seller.

Make sure the car you intend to import:

  • Is not older than 8 years from year of manufacture
  • Is right hand drive
  • Has to be inspected at source for roadworthiness

If you choose auction…

Browse the numerous auction sites for your preferred car. Familiarize yourself with the bidding process and the auction sheet that comes with each car. An auction sheet provides information on the condition of the car after it has been inspected by the auction house. The information it contains include model details such as make, model, year of registration, mileage etc., and details on damages such as dents, scratches, changed parts etc. It is vital you thoroughly go through it before deciding to bid.

After going through the auction sheet and are satisfied with the condition of the car, you can decide to bid for it. To do that, you will be required to first make a deposit. If your bid is successful, you will then be asked to send the balance and other fees such as consultancy fees. If your bid is unsuccessful, you can choose to be refunded your money or have it allocated as deposit to bid for another car.

If you choose direct purchase…

Direct purchase is easier and straightforward: browse dealers’ websites, identify the car you want and engage the dealer on buying it. Make the dealer aware the car is to be imported to Kenya so they can have it inspected, organise for shipping and prepare the necessary documentations. They will ask you to make payments and send them proof so they can begin the shipping process.


After purchasing your car:

  • The seller or exporter will take it to be inspected by a mandated KEBS (Kenya Bureau of Standards) inspector for roadworthiness. In Japan, some of these companies are Quality Inspection Services Inc Japan (QISJ), Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Centre (JEVIC) and Auto Terminal Japan Ltd (ATJ).
  • A certificate of roadworthiness will be issued.
  • The seller/exporter will deregister the car and prepare it for shipping. They will book the car for the next available ship to Mombasa and be issued with a Bill of Lading that has the shipping details.
  • The final thing the seller/exporter will do is send you all those original physical documents related to the car. It normally takes two weeks to arrive. The documents are:
    • Original Commercial Invoice
    • Original Logbook from the country of importation that has been cancelled from the country of origin, as this will be required by National Transport and Safety Authority to give you an original Kenyan Log Book
    • An English translation maybe required if the Logbook is not in English
    • Export certificate
    • Original Bill of Lading
    • Pre-shipment inspection certificate. (certificate of road worthiness)

Make sure the exporter has the correct details on where your car is to be exported and where the documents are to be sent. If you so wish, you can have the documents directly sent to your clearing and forwarding agent. Also request for copies to be emailed to you immediately as proof the car is indeed on its way.


Most cars are shipped on a a RoRo (Roll-on, Roll-off) as its cheaper compared to putting them in containers. If you wish to have yours shipped inside a container, you can arrange for that with the exporter.

Clearing customs

Once your car has been shipped:

  • Inform your clearing agent and forward to them copies of the importation documents you were sent on email as well as copies of your ID and KRA PIN as you wait for the physical originals to arrive.
  • As soon as the physical documents arrive (two weeks after your car was shipped), make sure the agent has them so they can start the process of clearing your car as soon as it arrives.
  • Your agent will log into KRA, fill and submit the Import Declaration Form (IDF) which tells KRA what you are importing.
  • The agent will then generate an entry sheet which details the taxes you will pay.
  • You can pay the taxes directly or you can send the money to the agent to make the payments on your behalf.

Once your car has arrived at the port:

  • It will be offloaded from the ship and driven to a container freight station (CFS)
  • A customs officer will pass a Customs Entry which is a document that contains details of the consignee/owner of the car, PIN certificate, ID no, details of the consignment and a breakdown of the relevant taxes to be paid.
  • After it passes Customs Entry, the car will go to verification where an officer is presented with the car’s clearance documents. The officer will physically inspect the car to verify that its details match the documents.
  • After it passes verification, your agent will register the car with NTSA on your behalf. You will need to have an account with NTSA which your agent will use. NTSA will issue you with the latest number plate which your agent will collect and fix them on the car.
  • Your car is now ready to leave port.
  • You can decide to drive it yourself from Mombasa, subcontract a driver to deliver it or put it on a carrier. Make sure you insure it first before its driven from the port

Even though it is possible to import a car on your own, engaging a reputable car dealer is highly recommended. This is because they understand the intricacies of the process and will manoeuvre it better making it less stressful for you. Work with someone with a good track record as the industry has been infiltrated with unscrupulous dealers conning unsuspecting buyers. A good dealer will advise you, guide you in choosing the right car, handle the whole process and update you on every step.

Read: More How-To Articles

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