Rent-to-buy vehicle schemes are gaining popularity as imported cars continue to flood into Harare. It has emerged that these schemes now dominate the private taxi business in Harare’s Central Business District (CBD) and surrounding suburbs, although most of these cars are unregistered.
The schemes on offer require payment for the vehicle in installments of $150 to $200 a week for a period of 12 months or 18 months, depending on the model of the vehicle. This is an appealing proposition for many drivers who hope one day to run their own commuter businesses or to simply own a car.
Models from Toyota such as Spacio, Raum and the popular Ipsum are ideal for taxis. However, operating as a pirate taxi now seems to be more lucrative as evidenced by the number of individuals not registering.
“Most of us on this rent-to-buy scheme are operating in the CBD as pirate taxis because we cannot afford to register as taxis before the vehicles become ours,” said Mr Moyo from Msasa Park.
“These schemes are good as they give drivers a chance to own taxis. Unfortunately it is leading to increased carnage on the CBD’s roads and is also adding to traffic jams,” said taxi operator Silas Chakanetsa (42) from Warren Park.
Many operators, however, are already falling on hard times in the taxi business as it is fast flooding and becoming less lucrative. Some drivers are said to be struggling to keep up with their installments.
“The business is no longer rewarding because the traffic authorities are giving us a hard time and some of us are now failing to pay the installments. I know two people who have had to surrender their cars after finding the going tough,” said Chakanetsa.
Most of these private taxis have established routes in the CBD, most notably the Fourth Street to Market Square route as well as the CBD to Avondale – Parirenyatwa, a well travelled route by commuters.
On the other side of the coin, the rent-to-buy scheme has presented a lifeline to some informal car dealers who were experiencing difficulty in selling their imported cars.
In an interview with Harare News, one of the car dealers who runs a rent-to-buy scheme said the public transport sector is one of the few vibrant businesses in the informal sector hence they saw an opportunity.
“It is hard to get cash for car sales nowadays so rent-to-buy schemes presents an easier way of selling cars as you are guaranteed of getting all your money or your car back,” said the dealer who refused to be named.