The trend of travelling to Cotonou, the largest city and economic centre of Benin, to purchase budget or foreign used cars is popular in Nigeria.  With the high price tag of new cars, and the quick depreciation rate of new vehicles, investing in a used car may seem like a judicious option, but buyers still need to be smart in their choices.

A majority of Nigerians believe the myth that all cars in Cotonou are in good condition and affordable and so, purchasing cars with hidden damages can sometimes become costly problems for the unsuspecting buyer.  A checklist of 4 things every prospective buyer should to consider before heading to Cotonou.

An unidentified potential car buyer test the keys of a Toyota SUV while Innocent Nwabioku who is a car dealer far left, looks at stickers on the car displayed for sale at the Berger used car market in Apapa area, Lagos Nigeria Friday 17 Dec. 2010. The Berger car market is one of the largest used car markets in Nigeria with used cars coming from the United States of America and Europe. Photo: George Osodi for Wall Street Journal

Possible Costs

Before you go purchasing a car, you must draw up a budget that covers the basic cost of the car as well as other variables. You will have to factor in transportation (going there); cost of hiring an agent as well as an expert to help you examine the car, possibly an interpreter also, as French is the main language at Cotonou and Nigerians are English speakers; payments to be made at customs.  After considering these costs, you find out that sometimes, paying all expenses, against the actual year of manufacture, makes the purchase much more expensive than shipping and clearing directly in Naija. As for the car itself, to ensure that you are being charged a fair price, make sure to compare prices for the same make, model and year with several sources.

Custom duty

Custom duty payment, the money you pay before bringing a car across the border, is a huge factor when it comes to buying a car from Cotonou as it is authorized by the federal government. The levy can be quite steep and the processes involved can make the entire endeavor very tasking. Agents would usually suggest buyers escape custom duty by taking hidden routes across the border, but that also comes at a heavy cost and has a lot of disadvantages as you stand a chance of losing your car entirely when caught.

Parking-lot

Risks

There are so many risks that come with buying a car from Cotonou. From the possibility of making a bad purchase due to limited time for inspection, and ending up with the wrong document (custom papers, carte-de-cruise e.t.c)  to the chances of being duped and your car being stolen enroute, it is essential that you consider these possibilities thoroughly before you make your final decision. Research and look for practical ways to protect yourself from these risks, that way your purchase can be well worth the price.

Time

Time is always of essence. Before you head to Benin to buy a car, you need to calculate how long the entire process will take and consider if the time spent will be worthwhile or at least cost effective. Normally, it would take up to 3 working days to clear a car and move it to the border, so you cannot just pay and move it immediately.  In Cotonou, however, you can get it in less than 24 hours, but that implies that you most certainly will not get the time to assess the vehicle and test drive it before purchase.  You may save yourself the extra time, but you have to ask yourself…was it worth it?

Ndem Nkem
Travel/Tech Writer
Jovago Nigeria

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