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Home Living in South Africa Transport Buying a car and vehicle registration in South Africa
Last update on February 11, 2022

This guide explains the process of buying cars in South Africa and how the process of vehicle registration in South Africa works.

Buying a car in South Africa can be a slow process, as there’s extra paperwork involved for foreign buyers. Your resident’s visa or work permit will be the most important thing you’ll need before buying a car.

You may also need to get a South African driver’s license. However, foreigners can typically drive using an international driver’s license for the first year. Read more about the conditions for South African driver’s license and the regulations for driving in South Africa.

Buying a car in South Africa

When searching to buy cars in South Africa, you’ll find that car prices are substantially higher than in Europe and the US, although petrol costs less than in Europe but more than the US. Diesel is the most widely available fuel, and is slightly cheaper than petrol.

While buying new cars in South Africa is substantially more expensive, they come with a service plan and guarantee. This removes any concerns about buying a used car with a murky history.

Used cars in South Africa can be found on online portals such as Autotrader and Car Find. If you buy a used car in South Africa, it’s advised to get the car inspected at a dealership and have the serial number checked to see if it’s been involved in any accidents. Used cars also need a roadworthiness certificate.

Due to the high vehicle theft rates in South Africa, insuring your vehicle with smash and grab protection can be useful. This usually involves having a film that protects the windscreen, and most new cars in South Africa already have this.

South African car registration

Once you’ve bought your car, you’ll need to arrange a South African car registration. You must register your car at your local Licensing Office within 21 days after change of ownership. If you buy a car in South Africa from a registered dealership, it should come with a roadworthy certificate, its previous owner’s details and proof of payment.

In addition, you’ll also need your passport, foreign driving license, proof of residence, and your traffic register number. If your vehicle is financed, the title holder will instead be the financing institution.

The traffic register number can be a complicated document to get hold of. You’ll need to go to your local licencing office, fill out an application form and pay a licence fee, which varies depending on the type of car you’re buying. You can find full details of how to register your car on the government’s website.

Your South African car registration becomes void if:

  • the vehicle license disc isn’t renewable for more than four years
  • the vehicle is involved in an accident and is declared permanently unfit for driving
  • you sell the vehicle  or change ownership
  • the vehicle is repossessed for more than 31 days
  • there is a deregistration certificate.

Car insurance in South Africa

After registering your car, you need insurance. Insurance is often provided over the phone, although the insurer will sometimes want to visit you at home to check you own the car or insist it is inspected at a dealership.

Car insurance prices depend on the make and age of the car and your personal circumstances – such as your driving history, age and occupation. Most insurance companies will offer breakdown assistance as part of their packages.

It’s sometimes possible to get a discount on your insurance premium if you agree to have a tracking device installed in your car, which keeps a record of your vehicle’s location. If you buy a used car, it may already have a tracking device installed. You shouldn’t assume, however, that it’ll work straight away. Instead, you should call the manufacturer to set up your own account and have the device tested.

Read Expatica’s guide for more information on insurance in South Africa and how to insure a car in South Africa.

Driving your foreign car in South Africa

If you want to register a foreign vehicle in South Africa, you’ll need to produce your foreign ID details so you can create a record on eNatis (the National Transport Information System).

To register your vehicle, you’ll need to submit the following:

  • Two black and white ID photos
  • A certified copy of your passport
  • Proof of address
  • A fee, if required

Once you’ve submitted your documents, it can take up to six weeks to process your application, depending on your city or municipality.