Buying or renting


The huge size of the country and often poor and confusing public transport within cities can make driving a preferable option within South Africa. Road safety standards are, however, not great. It’s important to take a lot of care so as not to join the ranks of the 13,802 who died in road traffic accidents there in 2012.

It’s important to note that South Africa is one of the few countries that drives on the left hand side of the road, which could be a whole new experience for many people.

Your foreign driving license is perfectly fine in South Africa as long as it’s still valid in your home country. It may be advisable to get an international driver’s permit, as not all traffic officers are aware of the exact protocol when it comes to foreign driving licenses. This can cause unnecessary problems and delay your journey further.

Another important thing to remember is that all drivers and passengers must wear seat belts at all times, otherwise they risk receiving a fine. Obviously it’s advisable for safety reasons as well.

Buying a car

The first step towards buying a car in South Africa is getting a Traffic Registration Number (TRN). This can be obtained at a local Licensing Department for Traffic or Driving License Testing Centre. You will have to take valid photo ID, two passport photos and documentation to prove you are legally residing in the country. This can take a number of days to process, after which your TRN should be ready for collection.

Once you’ve got your TRN, you’re ready to go out and start looking for a car. Like most countries, there’s a vast number of retailers to choose from. Some of the biggest and most reputable online ones include:

As with anywhere, it’s good to get the car checked thoroughly by a mechanic before buying it, to ensure there are no nasty or expensive surprises later down the line. Once you’ve decided which car you want, you’ll need to get a certificate to prove it’s roadworthy. This is done from either the department for traffic or a government approved testing centre. This is necessary for the vehicle to be transferred into your name.

When you have received the certificate, you have 21 days to register the vehicle in your own name, as well as register for the appropriate tax disc. This can be done at your nearest registering authority. You will need to take the original registration papers of the vehicle, which should be given to you by the previous owner.

In South Africa, insurance isn’t compulsory. Roughly 72% of drivers in South Africa are uninsured, which makes covering yourself that bit more important. It’s advisable to study your insurance policy particularly thoroughly if you’re under 25, as you won’t always be insured for damage to others. This can be extremely expensive in the event of an accident. Arrive Alive  lists many of the main car insurance providers in South Africa, as it is also always a good idea to shop around!


Renting a car in South Africa is a relatively cheap and easy way to get around. Hire cars start at roughly US$40 a day, and all of the main rental agencies such as Avis, Hertz and Europcar operate within the country. Offices are generally found at airports and within city centres. There are also plenty near national parks and game reserves should you wish to conduct a self guided safari.

Some car rental companies also offer a convenient service that can act as a halfway point between renting and buying a car. This is called the ‘buy-back scheme.’ It works on the basis that you buy a car with a guarantee that the rental company will buy it off you at the end of an agreed period of time (although this period is usually flexible.) This option generally works out cheaper for those wanting a car for a longer period of time (normally at least 3 months), but not for an indefinite period. It can also save a lot of the paperwork hassle that comes along with buying a car, as the rental agency will normally sort this out for you. It often includes extra benefits such as AA (Automobile Association) membership. Drive Africa  are one of the best companies to use for the buy-back service.

Further reading

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