Nairobi - Post Report Question and Answers

What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

SUV; right-hand drive only. - Mar 2022

Don't take a car, buy it there. - Aug 2021

Something with high clearance for the potholes and the giant bumps on the road. - Apr 2021

SUV. - Nov 2020

SUV for sure. Streets have lots of potholes and they love having high speed bumps here. - Dec 2018

One you don't mind getting beat all to hell. We didn't purchase or import a car, and thank God, as the roads here are not in good shape. They don't seem to be well-kept, and there are massive, axle-cracking potholes everywhere. The traffic in general here is not good. Wanna get downtown? Expect a seven mile car ride to take at least 90 minutes. Carjackings, car theft, etc., are rampant. You must keep your wits about you at all times. - Dec 2018

The roads seem horrendous and we have found the potholes are numerous. It is strongly advisable to find a 4x4 with excellent tires. - Jun 2018

Large all-terrain vehicles are the only way to go. Land Cruisers, Land Rovers, and the like are most widely available. Nothing with a low ground clearance, nothing fancy. - Jul 2016

High 4x4 vehicle. - Sep 2015

We have a 4 wheel drive because we like to self drive in the parks. You could get by with something without 4 wheel drive, but having a higher wheel base is important because there are tons of speed bumps and those with regular cars drag over them or have to go sideways over them. - Aug 2015

Oddly, a huge 4-wheel drive is not necessary - for game drives you will be with a company; they use big "Born Free" safari trucks with canvas sides and roof that can be rolled up. For in-town a smaller, even 2-wheel drive, will do but get the highest clearance you can. You can get another inch or so purchasing the largest tires you can get without hitting the wheel well. Most cabs are Toyota Corollas. Cars are very expensive to buy here, even from departing expats (who are trying to recoup the high price they had to pay.) Plus a used car from here has had a lot of punishment already, even with just a couple of years use. Order a right-hand drive from Japan before you come. Toyota parts are easiest to get here and there are good mechanics, even some who come to you. Recommendation: get a personal driver at least for the commute. Interview for one who really knows cars--he will know when and where to get good service. - Jul 2015

We have a four door Nissan Xtrail. It is two wheel drive and we have had no problems taking it anywhere. The roads are terrible in places. - May 2015

4WD is best if you want to get out of town and go on safari. - Dec 2014

4WD, right-hand drive. - Jun 2014

You have to buy at post or import from Japan. It seems like a complicated experience. Try to buy from a departing family and get a car that can handle dirt roads. Don't buy a fancy car! Car jackings are frequent. - Jun 2014

High-clearance vehicle is necessary. Cars are incredibly expensive here, and they get beat up on Kenyan roads. Mechanics are horrible and either will swindle you or tell you they fixed something and not fix it. Ask around as a good mechanic is very hard to find. Beware of car accidents in Kenya - the government passed a law that if you are in an accident and someone dies it is automatically a criminal offense. As an expat, you will assume to be at fault. - Mar 2014

Right hand drive SUV (so like the UK). Many drive Prados, Land Rovers and Pajeros. People either ship in from Japan or buy from those departing post. This is another racket. People sell for what they bought it for. You will overpay. It will not be worth what you pay for it. Accept it and be prepared to put some cash into it because the roads here are tough. There are a few good mechanics and several not so good. Ask around before your wallet is drained. Parts are hard to come by for Land Rovers and Pajeros. Prado is the vehicle of choice. - Jul 2013

Right-hand drive 4WD less than 5 years old. Or buy one here from another diplomat leaving post. But have it checked out by a trusted person already at post, and don't get a lemon like we did :-( - Jun 2013

Right hand drive SUV. You need 4WD. Get a grill on it too, b/c you WILL get nicked at some point. - Dec 2012

SUV, high-clearance, tinted-windows. Toyota, Subaru, Range Rover, and Nissan are the most common brands. Seriously, get an SUV with a good suspension, new tires (from the US), and consider importing the car from Japan, because Kenyan roads rapidly depreciate a car and generate lots of squeaks. - Aug 2012

Ah, vehicles. I agree with the previous poster - import from Japan - Toyota, Mitsubishi, Subaru. Land Rovers are popular, but hard and expensive to maintain. If you do decide to buy at post I would not buy anything that had been in Kenya more than two years. Labor may be cheap, but it also may not be skilled. And you can't just up and sell your car - the Kenyan bureaucracy has a whole procedure if you want to sell a car before the end of your tour. - Dec 2011

If you want to drive outside of Nairobi, getting an SUV is almost a must. That said, we know quite a few people with small cars or minivans who do fine with those in the city. There are a LOT of speed bumps and potholes, and so we’ve needed to rotate/balance tires and adjust alignment quite frequently. Labor is cheap, parts are expensive. Many people order a used car from Japan before coming to post, and that is highly recommended (cheaper, better condition vehicle.) If you do that and know the tire size, I would highly, highly recommend including four tires in your HHE. Tires here are expensive and shipping them from the US is expensive. Don’t count on vehicles from people leaving being available to purchase once you arrive: sometimes there are, sometimes there aren’t. Used vehicles here are quite expensive –- but most people sell them for about what they paid when they leave. Large families have an especial challenge. Many of the SUVs here or from Japan are smaller. Even a 7-seater is smaller than most 7-seaters in the US.

Local insurance is mandatory, but inexpensive. USAA doesn’t offer any vehicle insurance in Kenya, but Clements does. I wouldn’t have a new car here. People WILL run into you. It’s better to get a nice, used vehicle and not sweat the damage.(Most body damage is pretty easy/cheap to get repaired. Ask me how I know.)

We didn’t get a driver right away when we got at post – and I regret that. While it can be a hassle to “manage” one more staff person, it is GREAT to have someone who can drive you to places you wouldn’t drive alone, to take you around the city so you don’t have to deal with or think about traffic, to run errands for you and to take the car in for servicing (and watch the mechanics to make sure everything is done thoroughly.) I most highly recommend getting a driver as soon as you get to post. - Dec 2011

I brought a 4WD for safari driving and you will really use it. - Sep 2011

4wd, try to import one from Japan, as it won't have been beaten up yet and will be cheaper than on the local market. It must have the steering wheel on the right. Consider fuel efficiency: gas is expensive. - Dec 2010

Either a peppy older right-hand drive car, or SUV.Your car will really got knocked about and dinged wihle here. It is wise to only bring a used car. Car jackings happen frequently per above. - Dec 2009

Definitely 4-wheel drive even for the city. The driving is nuts and the roads are full of potholes or pot-canyons. - Jul 2009

4x4, high clearance, good shocks to handle poor roads. Get a diesel with a turbo charger to get up hills and pass slow moving cargo trucks. Get an alarm, tint your windows and get an extra wheel if you like to do road trips. Parts etc. for the major brands, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Range Rover, Suzuki, Suburu are all available. Mechanics are cheap and plentyful. Good tires are expensive but and others ship to APO. Roads are dangerous and in poor repair. Lighting is non-existant. Driving is competitive and aggressive. Carjackings happen all of the time. - Jun 2008

You definitely need something with high ground clearance to put up with the lousy roads and potholes that pervade Nairobi. A small SUV (Nissan X-Trail, Subarus, Toyota RAV-4, Honda CR-V) is adequate although the adventurous people who want to go out of town more frequently would be best served with a Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol, or Land Rover. Japanese brands seem to be the most common; it is rare to see any U.S. brands such as Fords or Jeeps. - Feb 2008

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