Second-hand cars have been coming into Zimbabwe to be sold off to the public for some years now. Some buyers are content with what they get, others are not, but in the end the dealer always wins, as once the car has been sold the dealership relinquishes any responsibility for the vehicle.
Most second-hand car dealers in Harare buy cars either from Japanese auctions and have them shipped to Durban and brought to Harare, or they are bought from dealers in South Africa – who have gone through the Japanese auction process – to be resold here in Harare.
John Kelly, who runs a second-hand car dealership, Kelly’s Cars, says that the problem is not on the Zimbabwean side. “They [the Japanese] sell the cars as they are and when they arrive in South Africa they are made to seem better than what they are and Zimbabwean dealers buying from South Africa don’t check the cars thoroughly before the purchase.” He does say though, that it is completely up to the buyer of the car to have it checked by an independent mechanic before handing over any money or signing any contracts.
James Mapfumo is the owner of a second-hand car that was brought in from Japan. When he took his Honda CRV for a test drive it seemed to be in excellent condition and the price was “very good”, although he was not willing to say how much he paid. After a few months on the road, he started to notice problems – “the suspension was the main problem,” he said, “and I could tell that the odometer had been wound back. I went back to the dealer from whom I purchased the car but because I could not prove that anything was his fault, I was stuck with a car that would soon be unusable.”
A second-hand and new car dealer from Tandem Motors, David Collyer, says that the Japanese cars they sell have been purchased direct from auctions in Japan, and all cars are thoroughly checked before being purchased and before they are sold. He does agree with the general perception that odometers are wound back at a lot of dealerships in Harare but another second-hand car dealer who does not wish to be named says that people are not interested in the mileage of the car, and “if it weren’t for Japanese second-hand imports, there would be very few cars on the road today.”
Mechanic Jordan Adams says “people should look past the price of the vehicle and see what it can offer you. If you, and your mechanic, think that it will still be driving fine in ten years time then it is okay to buy – otherwise there will be a build-up of cars that are too old to be driven and too damaged to be fixed.”
Adams points to a looming problem that Harare will have to deal with. As was reported in the March issue of Harare News, without a proper car disposal facility in the city, we are facing a huge environmental challenge as these cheap, second hand imports are inevitably taken off the road.