How to Buy a Car in Johannesburg

In South Africa, most people get around in mini-bus taxis or buses, but as an expat, it’s likely that you will be able to afford your own car, and in Johannesburg, this is the easiest and most convenient way to get around (bar peak traffic periods).

Owning your own car as an expat in South Africa is going to involve some effort and paperwork, but with all the right documents, and some patience, you’ll be able to buy and register a car.

moving to South Africa, How to buy a car in South Africa


Just to be aware cars here are much more expensive so you may want to look to buy a second-hand car in good condition than a brand new vehicle.

Whether you’re an independent professional or moving to Johannesburg with your partner, we recommend that each adult has access to a car (it will make your life much easier), although in depending on where you live more people are now making use of services like Uber or a driver.

You can research online to see what’s available, as the models available might differ slightly from other countries:  

To give you an idea of what’s available and popular, here is a list of the top 10 passenger cars sold in South Africa as of July 2016: 

    1.    Volkswagen Polo Vivo
    2.    Volkswagen Polo
    3.    Toyota Corolla Quest and Auris
    4.    Toyota Etios
    5.    Ford Fiesta
    6.    Ford EcoSport
    7.    Toyota Fortuner
    8.    BMW 3 series
    9.    Renault Sandero
    10.    Ford Figo

Other common models you’ll see on the road, especially in Gauteng, are Mercedes Benz, Volvo, Hyundai i10S, Honda Jazz and Toyota Quantums and Volkswagen Kombis (the car of choice for mini-bus taxis).

Most cars in South Africa are manual transmission but automatics are becoming more common. It’s advisable to get a car that also has ABS breaks, power steering, airbags and adequate boot (trunk) space, especially if you have children.


There’s no need to be overly paranoid, but please note that in certain areas of Johannesburg, especially in the wealthier suburbs and downtown that crime, especially vehicle crime, is an unfortunate reality. 

To mitigate your risk, be aware that due to their popularity, and therefore the ease of access to spare parts, certain cars are targeted by criminals. These high-risk models include:

    •    Toyota Fortuner
    •    Volkwagen Polo
    •    Toyota Quantum
    •    Toyota Hi-ace
    •    Nissan 1400
    •    Toyota Hilux
    •    Toyota Venture
    •    Toyota Corolla

To make sure you mitigate your risk as much as possible, avoid driving in high-risk areas, rather take Uber and have smash and grab protective film put onto your car before you drive it. 

For more tips on how to stay safe and how to buy a car here - come along to our next Webinar on 5th December.  


This is a plastic film that will make it more difficult for someone to break into your vehicle and will prevent the glass shattering if someone breaks your window during what is known as a smash-and-grab, where a criminal will break a window to steal something out of your car when you are stopped at a robot (traffic light). Keeping your window open a fraction also makes breaking a window more difficult.

Other preventative tactics include always leaving adequate space in front of you and the next car when stopped at a robot, this will give you a chance to maneuver in the event that someone does try to break your window. 


In Johannesburg it’s also common for people to drive 4x4 or SUV’s. One of the South African customs we adopted as a family is to go on long road trips to the coast, and so now need a larger car to pack all the bikes / beach gear etc, plus its great to get off road exploring either on safari or in Lesotho. 

Note that you’ll spend a lot more on fuel though! 

To give you an idea of what’s available, here are the top 10 SUV’s in South Africa in 2016:

    •    Ford EcoSport
    •    Toyota Fortuner* (See above)
    •    Renault Captur
    •    Toyota Rav4
    •    Ford Kuga
    •    Nissan Qashqai
    •    Nissan X-Trail
    •    Volkswagen Tiguan
    •    Jeep Grand Cherokee
    •    Toyota Prado

Land Rovers, BMW X5, and Volvo's are very common amongst the expat community and you can often pick one up from someone that is leaving. Please contact your Local Assistant if you would like us to help you arrange this. 

Other common utility vehicles, which you’ll see more of in rural areas, are Ford Rangers and the Toyota Hilux.


In order to register a car, you will need to buy one first and organise the requisite finance (if needed). To secure finance you will need to have a bank account (See section on how to open a bank account).

You’ll first buy the car (pay a deposit and secure finance), and will then receive a certificate of registration from the car dealership where you bought the car.

Without a South African ID, you will need to get a Traffic Register Number, but please note that the laws keep changing on this. Often you can only get a Traffic Register Number if you have a valid work permit or permanent visa (but not always!). 


To get a Traffic Register Number, you’ll need to register your car with the Traffic Department, and will need to provide the following, which your car dealership should provide for you:

    •    Roadworthy certificate
    •    Current registration
    •    Invoice/Proof of payment

In order to get licence plates for your car you will need to go through the registration process at any branch of the Traffic Department, which can be very busy, so check what times your closest branch is open, and if possible, find out when it’s best to go (ask us / your local assistant).

In addition to the above documents, you will also need to provide the following documents to register a car:

    •    Proof of identification: Passport and passport pictures (for processing)
    •    Proof of residence: Lease agreement
    •    Proof of drivers licence: foreign driver’s licence


As theft is a problem in South Africa, it’s important to take out comprehensive insurance, and although a further expense, many South African also install a tracking device in their cars so they can be more easily traced if they are stolen.

We can recommend a number of Insurance Brokers who often still get the best rates here, plus are just on the end of the phone should anything go wrong. Contact us for more information

There are various options available but the following are popular companies that operate around the country:

    •    Outsurance
    •    Miway
    •    Hollard
    •    Dialdirect
    •    Tracker
    •    Cartracks
    •    Matrix

Your car dealership will also be able to offer you some options to consider, and may be also able to organise this on your behalf.


In the past few years there has been a noticeable increase in police and metro police presence in Johannesburg so be sure to always keep your driver’s licence with you and make sure that your vehicle licence is up to date. If not, you will be fined, and could potentially be arrested, if any of these are out of date.

With many minibus taxis notoriously unroadworthy, metro police have taken a hard stance on infringements, particularly DUI, so be careful and don’t drink and drive (stricter laws have just come into play).

To renew your licence, if you are a member - we can take care of it all for you. Alternatively you simply go to the post office or a registering authority (traffic department) with the renewal form that you will be sent in the post or which you can get from the relevant authority that issues renewals.

If you would like a list of all the recommended car dealers, paperwork that is required, and make and model break down / theft statistics request your own personalised report here

If you have your own local expert - they can provide you more specific information and answer any questions you may have, in addition to doing a web research for current car availability, and complete all the admin behind getting your car registered.  


Even with cars, services like Uber have become very popular, so make use of them, especially if you’re going downtown or plan to drink. 

Want more info - we have put together a step by step guide, and run 2 webinars to give you all the information you need.

All for just $19 - purchase your copy here