There is a chance you have heard about someone who does car importation or wants to import one in Kenya. From the face value, this process seems complex and for the few to do.

However, anyone can import a car into the country as long as you follow the set processes. As a developing economy, the majority of cars imported are secondhand cars due to various reasons such as affordability.

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Another fact is that most Kenyans import Japanese cars. The Toyota model to be more specific. This is the reason why there is a famous saying that there is a high probability the car in front of you is always a Toyota. (Please note am not marketing any brand). It is just the reality.

Due to this fact, most of the Kenyan imported cars originate from Japan. However, this doesn’t stop anyone from importing a car from any other country as long you adhere to the process.

Choosing the Type of Car You Want

The process of importing a car in Kenya starts by identifying the type of car you need. With the advancement in technology, this has become as all this happens online.

There are several online platforms you can use to search for the car you need. Through these platforms, you can check details such as the

  • latest car pictures
  • Car Specifications (mileage, engine size)
  • Price

Once you have made your choice, you are then required to make the payment through the various given payment methods. Once complete, the shipping process of the car starts at your nearest port.

Some of the most common car buying platforms include;

What are the Common Car Shipping Methods?

Shipping is the most convenient and affordable method to transport your car into the country. This accounts for over 90% of all imported cars.

There are various shipping methods you can use to import a vehicle in Kenya such as’

  • Roll on Roll off (RoRo) Shipping Method– RoRo involves the use of a ship to transport the cars from the source country to the port of delivery. It uses special ships that are designed for this specific task. It is the most common and cheapest way to transport your car. However, it has its challenges such as the high potential risk of car damage.

This happens because cars are parked in an open space without any particular such as the one in a container shipping method.

  • Container Shipping Method– This method involves the use of ships as well. However, cars are transported in containers giving them more protection in comparison to the RoRo method. Due to this higher level of safety, this process is more expensive than the previous one.
  • Airfreight – This is the fastest shipping method, although it is also the most expensive one. Instead of the ships, it involves the use of Airplanes. Hence, the reason why it is faster

The choice of a shipping method is dependent on various factors such as the;

  • Shipping cost
  • Shipping time
  • Safety

In case you don’t have all the information, you should engage the shipping agent to get more details before making the decision.

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It is also key to note that the choice of a shipping method has an impact on the tax paid. Hence, the need to factor in all these elements before making the final decision.

The government has set some rules to be met before a car is imported. The body in charge of this enforcement is the Kenya Bureau of Standards. You can also engage them if you need any clarification to avoid falling into legal challenges upon commencement of the process.

 Requirements for Imported Cars

  • Age limit

Kenya has an existing age limit of 8 years for all cars imported into the country. This means that any car coming into the country should not be more than 8 years from its manufacture date.

As an example, in 2022, you can only import a car made in 2015 and later. To arrive it is key to note that this considers both the date of manufacture and registration. These two shouldn’t be more than a year apart.

  • Right-hand drive

Kenya is a right-hand driving country. Hence, this makes it mandatory for only importing right-hand drive cars.

You may import a left-hand drive car but this requires special permission to do so.

  • Roadworthy

All cars imported into the country must be in good condition as per the guidelines by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). The inspection to ascertain this must be done at the point of origin by a KEBS agent.

2 main inspection agents do the inspection. They include:

Required Documents for Car Importation

Several documents are necessary for clearing your car at the port of entry. Most importers prefer to get the services of a clearing agent. This makes the process easier and faster especially if you don’t have adequate knowledge of the process.

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The clearing agent helps in paying the relevant fees such as import duty on your behalf. They are also with the documentation process which could be very demanding if you haven’t done it before.

Some of the documents include:

It is key to note that these should be the original documents.

Car Import Duties in Kenya

These are the duties that are you will pay during the importation process. Several factors are in use to determine the duty such as;

  • Date of manufacture: This considers both the month and year of manufacture. Newer cars tend to attract higher duties and vice versa.
  • Make of the Vehicle – Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Subaru, Audi
  • Body type– van, sedan, SUV
  • Model – Civic, Camry
  • Engine capacity– 1800cc, 1500cc
  • Engine type – petrol or diesel engine.

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Types of Duties and Taxes

  • Import duty- 25% of the vehicle’s custom value (CIF) of the car. This includes invoice value + insurance costs +freight charges.
  • Excise duty – This depends on the type of the car
    1. 20% of (custom value +import duty) for vehicles with 1500 cc and below
    2. 25% of (custom value +import duty) for vehicles above 1500 cc
  • Value Added Tax – 16% of the vehicle’s (custom value+ import duty + excise duty)
  • Rail Development levy– 2% of the vehicle’s CIF
  • Import Declaration Fee (IDF) – 3.5% of the CIF or 5,000 shillings; the higher amount.

You can get the CIF value of a vehicle from the Current Retail Selling Price (CRSP). This is available on the valuation templates on the KRA website.

KRA uses a predetermined CRSP value which might differ from your buying price. For example, if KRA states that the CRSP value for your vehicle is Ksh 2,000,000 yet you bought it for Ksh 900,000, your tax will be based on KRA’s CRSP value.

A point to note is that automatic and diesel vehicles are cheaper to import into Kenya than petrol engine vehicles.

There are also some other additional costs you can incur in this process such as;

  • Clearing fees– These are the fees you incur when you engage a clearing agent. There are no specific rates because each agent is different. You should ensure you negotiate for the best rates possible.
  • Container or RoRo storage charges
  • Delivery charges-You will incur this cost if you choose to have your vehicle to another location e.g. your home address.

Importing Vehicles for Returning Citizens

A returning Kenyan citizen is a Kenyan who is changing residency from another country back to Kenya permanently.

There are some minimum requirements for returning citizens who want to import their vehicles into Kenya.

  1. Be at least 18 years old.
  2. Must have lived outside Kenya for at least 2 years.
  3. You must not have visited Kenya for more than 90 days within those 2 years.
  4. You must have owned and used your vehicle for a minimum of one year (365 days) excluding the shipment period. Supporting documents might be required to prove this such as bank statements, logbooks, and insurance documents.
  5. The vehicle should arrive within 90 days of the returning citizen’s arrival. This will require you to use a fast and convenient shipping method to meet the 90-day deadline.
  6. It should meet the KEBS requirements for imported vehicles i.e. Right-hand drive, roadworthy, and not more than 8 years old.
  7. The imported vehicle should have a maximum carrying capacity of 13 passengers and a maximum load capacity of 2 tonnes. This excludes some vehicles such as buses and lorries.

In case you were in a left-hand drive country, you should sell your vehicle and purchase a right-hand drive vehicle. KRA requires documentation of ownership to prove you had the left-hand drive vehicle for at least 365 days before purchasing a replacement right-hand drive vehicle.

The replacement should not exceed the Current Retail Selling Price (CRSP) value of your former left-hand drive vehicle.

You might be required to produce some documents to prove that you are a returning citizen and not someone who was simply traveling e.g. an alien ID, a Kenyan passport, and a work permit.

Tips on How to Import a Car in Kenya

  • Due to the number of fraudsters in the industry, it is critical to engage the services of You licensed forwarding/clearing agent. This helps minimize the chances of fraud.
  • Ask the seller to send you proof of the vehicle’s existence. It could be in the form of pictures or videos. A video is more ideal since you get a better view of the vehicle.
  • When importing a vehicle, do not try to import any personal items inside the vehicle. This is against the customs regulations and it could get you in legal trouble.
  • Ensure you get insurance cover for your vehicle during transit in case of any damage.
  • Do not forget to get your finances in order before you begin the importation process. If you begin the importation process without enough capital, your vehicle could get stuck in the port on entry resulting in more storage costs


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