importing a car

Everything you need to know about importing a car in Kenya

Importing a car in Kenya can be a long, nerve-wracking process for the ordinary person. Still, it’s very popular due to the high demand for used Japanese and German cars. Additionally, you have access to a wide variety of cars meaning that you’re more likely to find higher quality cars at cheaper prices.

You can either import a car through a car importation company such as SBT Japan or you can do it yourself. Yes, you can import a car on your own as long as you follow the right procedure. Though it’s a long process, the government has simplified all the bottlenecks that made importation difficult a few years ago.

Here’s everything you need to know about importing a car in Kenya.


Before you start the importation, you should familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of importing a car. The vehicle you want to must comply with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) requirements of Legal Notice No. 78 of July 15, 2005. This includes:

  • The vehicle must be right-hand drive. Left-hand drive vehicles can only be imported for special purposes such as car collectors, donations to the government, ambulances and firefighters.
  • The imported vehicle must be less than 8 years old from the year of first registration. You should check the month and year of registration of your car against the month you expect the car to reach Kenya. Note that if the car is older even by a month, it will not be allowed in the country.
  • The vehicle will be subject to roadworthiness inspection by a KEBS-appointed inspection agent in the country of export.


Your paperwork needs to be in order to make the importing process run smoothly. These are the documentation you need.

  1. Commercial Invoice – it’s a legal document between the supplier and the customer that describes the sold goods, and the amount paid by the customer. This is one of the main documents used by customs to determine customs duties.
  2. Original Logbook From the Country of Importation – The seller will issue you the original logbook but you can also ask, just in case. Upon presentation and cancellation of the original logbook from the country of importation, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) will issue you an original Kenyan logbook.
  3. Auction sheet – Though it’s not compulsory, the auction sheet is an important document you may need. It provides complete information about the condition of your car including scratches, major dents, and accident history.
  4. Bill of Lading – This is a contract of carriage which confirms the carrier’s receipt of the cargo. It also serves as a receipt. Once you receive this document, you can track the carrier until it gets to the port.
  5. Pre-shipment Inspection Certificate – It’s also known as the certificate of roadworthiness. It’s issued after a mandatory inspection by an independent inspection agency to verify that the car conforms to specifications stated on the sales contract.
  6. Copy of your KRA PIN Certificate – This is used to verify payment of taxes and compliance with KRA guidelines during clearance at the port.


Apart from the cost of the vehicle, there are other costs that you should keep in mind so you can make a comprehensive budget. They are as follows;

  1. Cost Insurance Freight (CIF) – This is a term used to describe the cost of the vehicle, transporting insurance fee and the shipping fee.
  2. Import Duty fee – This is the amount paid to the KRA once the car arrives at the port. The import duty fee varies depending on the car’s manufacture year, make model and features.
  3. Excise Duty – Excise duty is levied at Ksh150,000 for a car less than 3 years old while Ksh200,000 for a car more than 3 years old.
  4. Value Added Tax – KRA charges a 16% value-added tax (VAT) to the buyer. However, some vehicles are exempt from this tax.
  5. Import Declaration Fee (IDF) – You must obtain an Import Declaration Fee license before clearance.
  6. Railways Development Levy – This is levied at 1.5% of imported goods.
  7. NTSA fee – You will have to pay a certain amount to the NTSA to get your logbook and number plate. This amount will change depending on your vehicle’s make and features.
  8. Clearance fee – This will be paid to your clearing agent at the port. It can be paid before or after the process depending on the agreement with your agent. Generally, the amount starts from Ksh 6,000. The total cost of clearing a car at the port ranges from Sh60,000 to Sh120,000 based on the size of the vehicle.
  9. Insurance cover – Lastly, you need to pay for insurance so you can drive the car on Kenyan roads. There are many good car insurance covers you can choose from depending on your budget. The cost of the cover depends on a variety of factors such as car model and driver’s gender. Typically, an insurance cover for a car worth Ksh 1,000,000 is Ksh 25,000.

Shipping Method

There are two shipping methods you can choose from but the most common is through the sea. All the methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Generally, shipping from Japan to Kenya takes about 4 to 8 weeks depending on the method. Here are the shipping options available:

Air freight – This is the safest shipping method but it’s also the most expensive due to the nature of cargo on board and the speed of delivery. However, you can save on costs by transporting other pricey commodities with your car. You can also transport up to two high-end vehicles at the same time via air freight.

Sea Freight – When using the sea freight method, you can choose from two options. The Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo) shipping option allows you to import a large number of cars at the same time which is perfect for clients owning car showrooms. It’s also more convenient and cost-effective. The shipping container option is one of the safest ways of delivering a vehicle into Kenyan ports through the sea. You’re also allowed to ship other things apart from personal belongings in the container. The items should be approved by customs.


Now that you know what to expect when importing a car, including the cost and time estimates, you can proceed and start the buying process.

  • First things first, make sure you find a reputable website to buy your car from. As with everything, there are legitimate car websites and fake ones. Do your due diligence to avoid getting disappointed.
  • Once you get a website that has the car you’re looking for, you will need an account on the site so you can communicate with the seller. Most websites simply need your name and email address.
  • Now, get in touch with the seller who is offering the car on the site. You can also bargain the price to get it at a slightly lower price
  • Once you agree on the price, click on Buy Now or the purchase button on the particular site. Go ahead and make the payment (this can be 100% or 60% of the CIF). The seller will provide their bank details. Note that you will have to change the currency from Kenya shillings to dollars or euros in the bank for the payment to go through.
  • Once the payment clears, the seller will transport the car to either the airport or the seaport depending on the method you chose for shipping.
  • At the port, an inspection of the car will be done and an inspection certificate will be sent to you.
  • After the inspection is done, the shipping process will begin. You will get a bill of lading which is used to track the shipping process and clear the car when it gets to the port.
  • You will be required to pick a clearing agent and give them the bill of lading even before the car arrives so that they can prepare for the clearing process
  •  When your vehicle arrives at the port, you will be alerted so that you can pay the clearing fees. Your agent will start the clearing process after you pay them the clearance fee.
  •  Your agent should help you with the following; paying all the Taxes and Levies(duty) to KRA, registering the vehicle on the NTSA portal, and clearing port charges.
  • You will then receive your logbook after 2 weeks or so when clearance is done and you have a number plate.
  • After that, you need to buy insurance for the vehicle. Comprehensive insurance is recommended.
  • Now, you can drive your car from the port or have it transported to your location at your own cost.