The excitement of buying a car, whether it is brand new or second hand (used), is not optional especially for first timers. As such, you look forward to getting behind the wheel and forget to check out for key elements such as the general safety features of the car.
Elisha Ofwono who bought a Toyota Wish approximately two months ago advises that before you drive your newly acquired car out of the bond, go along with a mechanic to inspect it for you to determine if it is road worthy or not.
“After paying for my car at the bond, I went with a friend’s mechanic to carry out some checks. The two tyres of the car still looked new while the other two had no treads. I talked to the car dealers and they replaced the old ones without any extra cost,” Ofwono recalls.
He further reasons that tyres that come on second-hand cars are not only used or driven in their countries of origin such as Japan and Germany but they are also driven during transit immediately the car has been offloaded from the ship at Mombasa and driven to its final destination in Kampala.
“By the time the car reaches the final user or buyer in Kampala, it becomes impossible for you to determine how long you can drive on the same tyres or how long they have been used. It leaves you with no option but buying new tyres to be safe because you are not sure of their state beyond their physical appearance,” Ofwono says.
Sula Kilimani, a mechanic at Kisekka Market in Downtown Kampala, says most tyres that come along used cars do actually look admirably new, yet they are old.
“Before a used car is exported to leave its country, it is parked for a time that only the bonafide seller can tell. During transit and when it reaches Mombasa or Kampala, it is still parked until it is cleared or bought off. In these processes, when a car is parked for long, the tyres start to crack and if you are not observant to have them inspected, one of them may burst as you as the crack enlarges due to pressure,” Kilimani explains.
Normally, car airbags are safety features that are seen when a vehicle has been involved in a head-on collision or when it has rammed into an object after protruding through the car dashboard. Some vehicles such as the Mercedes Benzes are manufactured with airbags in the door sides and other directions for absolute safety.
However, just like your fuel sign displays on your dashboard when your fuel tank is almost empty, Edgar Kaweesa, a mechanic in Ntinda advises that you check out for the functionality of the airbag light before you drive your car from the bond.
“If you have no mechanic to inspect the car for you, when you turn on the engine, the airbag light should be able to show on your dashboard. When it displays a yellow or red icon of a seated passenger with a round circle before them for a very short time, it is when you can determine that your car airbag is functional,” Kaweesa explains, adding that after displaying on your dashboard, the light goes off.
He is, however, quick to note that you should not rely on your airbags to save your life in an accident because some airbags only function when you wear the seatbelt.
“This literally means that if you do not wear your seatbelt and your car is unfortunately involved in an accident, the airbag may not serve the purpose for which it was meant. This also means that you have to make sure that you and the car occupants wear their seatbelts,” Kaweesa observes.
Brakes pads and brake disc
The most important safety features in any type of car are the brakes.
“Before you get on the road, let a mechanic inspect whether your brakes are recommended for use or if there is a need to have them replaced. Go for a test drive with him to demonstrate the functionality of the brake system. He should also be able to get off all the tyres to inspect the brake discs to determine if they are in a road worthy state,” Kaweesa advises.
While car safety features are mainly on the body of the car itself, Sula Kilimani, a mechanic at Kisekka Market in Kampala, recommends ascertaining the documentation of the car you are buying before you drive off. This includes making sure that the car card is transferred into your names.
The car chassis and engine numbers should also be in concordance with those on the car logbook and card. This, he concludes saves you costs of going to authorities such as Uganda Revenue Authority and police to legalise ownership of your car in case future queries arise.
Where to buy a car
Locally, there are various ways through which you can buy a car. There is an option of buying it online, using brokers, walking straight into a local bond or dealership or even buying it from someone you know.
While buying one from a bond and online gives you the opportunity of choosing the model of the car you want, you are limited for choice when buying a car from a friend, unless is it the same brand and model you have been looking out for.
Abby Kabonge, a car dealer, says when buying from a friend, you have a higher bargaining power compared to when you are buying from a bond or online.
“You can even enter an agreement with your friend from whom you are buying the car that states the terms and conditions of payment. This can happen when you have paid a certain percentage of the total cost of the car because most people sell off their cars with intentions of topping up to buy another car,” Kabonge says.
Mathias Kakwenda, an independent car dealer in Kireka, says you can also buy a car from the bond after paying say, 60 or 70 per cent of the cost of the car. “There are bonds that receive cash while there are others that will recommend you to the local banks they work and transact business with.
In such an arrangement, the bank can buy you the car of your choice and you are left with the task of remitting a discussed monthly figure to the bank until you complete the payments before the car is registered in your names,” Kakwenda says.
Kabonge says when you choose to buy a car online, in most cases, the importing agent provides you with information on how much the car costs from the country of origin, its state before it is shipped, shipping costs, mileage of the car before importation, engine size, chassis number, marine insurance fees or Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF), taxes to be paid and the period of time the car is expected to be delivered to the destination. From Japan to Mombasa, Kabonge says it takes approximately six weeks to arrive in Kampala.