Mustafa: We used to buy used cars from bonds only. People would import cars and immediately sell them off. But now, there is an internet explosion. There is this site, is it autotrader.com?
Jude: No, it is called tradecarview.
Mustafa: Now there are sites that directly link you to the auction. They list the cars that are going to be auctioned and the date. You can pay them and they make the bid for you, they give you the final price and even give you your balance after the auction. That is the level we are at right now.
Jude: How do you know the car’s condition before you buy it, or you just buy because it is cheap? But there are issues to do with your not knowing the condition of the car being auctioned.
Mustafa: I don’t know if you are talking about the state of the car aesthetically. There is a combination of factors. You can even buy from someone’s home. Then there are sellers who just upload their car’s details online. When there is an auction, they do an inspection of the cars as well. I think you have seen that image usually provided by tradecarview showing all sides of the car.
Jude: Yes, but it is in Japanese.
Paul: When it comes to that image, it shows you where the car has dents or which body parts need repair. Where there are dents, they put an X and there is a write up below that explains the dents. They show if the car has a big or small dent. But they will not go in details telling you how the gearbox works.
Mustafa: Okay, yes there may be a bit of a challenge. What is happening now is that these sites are connecting buyers to the auction.
Jude: There is this auction site called ebay. It is popular in Europe and in the US. I have seen cars on it as well. How does this one fare?
Mustafa: Ebay is just a site that connects buyers, it is like a market. But people make bids. Ebay has segmented them in categories such as ebay motors, ebay electronics etc. On ebay motors, you list your car and mention the reserve price. So, if people bid above that reserve price, you get the money. But in future, I foresee many people not buying from bonds and using the internet instead. People still buy from the bonds but along the way some have been disappointed. They are losing trust in cars from the bonds. The only problem with the internet is that you have to be careful. There are some tell-tale signs. Imagine a Premio of $100, yes it could be a good deal but you should be careful.
Jude: Definitely, there are some things that look suspicious.
Paul: You have to do some homework. Look at things like the mileage. It speaks loads about the condition of the car. Are you dealing with the trader or owner of the car?
Jude: Is there something like the best country to buy from?
Paul: It The issue should be what are you looking for? For instance, for manual cars, you go to the UK. But the UK market also has problems like corrosion and rust because of winter. If you want petrol engine cars, Japan would be the best deal. If you want diesel, try UK. If you want say a diesel Mercedes Benz ML or a diesel Land Rover; you may never find it in Japan.
Jude: You are right because you will be lucky to get a Toyota Fortuner in Japan. Fortuners are assembled in Thailand, among other Asian countries, and not Japan.
Paul: That is why we call them grey imports. There are some cars that are not meant for certain markets. We only pray that some can locally be supported. You have cars such as the Frontera.
Jude: It was sold as Isuzu Rodeo, Wizard and Amigo in Japan and as Opel and Vauxhall in other markets like UK.
Paul: Of course, today, the world is a global market. The issue is, do you know how and where to get the support?
Jude: Yeah, if you are interested in the American made Toyota Camry or Tundra, don’t expect the local Toyota dealer to be able to support you.
Mustafa: For me, I think the guiding principle about buying a car online would be about what I see as a good deal. A good deal to me would be dealing with good people and getting a good car. First, you have to do your homework. Look at the average price of your car elsewhere. Look at 10-15 companies on a market such as tradecarview to see how much they are selling this car. You will find a range. For instance, you may find that a 1999 Toyota Premio going for $1,000-$1,500. So if you find someone selling at $2,000 or $4,000 then there is a problem. Similarly, if you find someone selling it at $500, then there is a problem. After finding the range, choose one company or person then negotiate with them. There are some sites that provide details of the company, number of employees, etc that at least tells you how they operate. Then try as much as possible to talk to that person. Spend that Shs5,000 or so much on airtime and call Japan.
Jude: See if they can speak English?
Mustafa: Talk to them. Ideally, they should be speaking Japanese. That tells you that you are dealing with an indigenous person.
Jude: Don’t they have translators?
Mustafa: If you do everything online, it may be dangerous. I have actually talked to someone in Japan. But do you think buying online will eventually cause a big dent into the bond people here?
Jude: I don’t think it will cause a huge dent. You see buying online has its own risks.
Paul: Not many people in Uganda are internet savvy. Even just checking e-mails for some is a problem.
Jude: In Luganda, we have a saying loosely translated as having one’s eyes fixed on what can be touched. So you need to see what you are buying and touch it.
Paul: I don’t think the internet can shake up our bonds here. Our bonds serve a regional market including DRC, Sudan and Rwanda etc.
Jude: The internet people like you and me usually buy one car, two cars etc.
Paul: Many people want to see what they are buying. Others say, I will have to go with my mechanic to check the car and if it is okay, I pay. So for them, the extra money they pay is worth it.
Mustafa: Would you buy cars off the Internet or go to the bond?
Paul: I have ever bought cars off the net.
Mustafa: That was then what of now?
Paul: If I had money, I would rather buy what I can see. There are some technical issues. For online, what if you bought a car that was stolen how would you know? But that is me.
Mustafa: Jude, what of you?
Jude: I am an Internet person. You will forgive me but I don’t have trust in the bonds.
Mustafa: What kind of trust?
Jude: At least I will trust the history or details provided by the trading company. But with the bonds, I don’t know whether it was stolen or not, whether it was grade C or some other very low grade.
Mustafa: Why buy a car you can’t see or touch? From what you are saying then someone is better off buying from the bond.
Paul: On the net, your Muganda’s eyes may not help.
Jude: But what you see parked out there is a good example of the Internet.
Paul: That was a fluke. You were lucky.
Jude: I did my checks.
Mustafa: People want to save and cut out the middle man. There is also choice. The Internet gives lots of variety. You can also check for the mileage, all those details. But today, if I went to our bonds looking for your Honda, I bet less than 20 maybe available. On the internet, they are over 50 to choose from.
Jude: If I want a particular car here, there are chances I won’t get it. Say if I want a particular BMW 5 series, there are slim chances for me.
Mustafa: That is why I said the Internet helps with choices and making savings.
Paul: But they is also being pennywise pound foolish.
Mustafa: What is that?
Paul: You may think you are saving a penny by buying off the net and end up losing a pound. You should take a careful risk. Try and vet the company before buying. Ask friends who have bought from there. There are some old genuine companies. Some Japanese companies have actually opened offices in Uganda such as Autorec.
Mustafa: There is also Be Forward. They have opened up offices here.
Paul: You actually pay for what you have seen on the net and relax till when the car is delivered.