Updated: Mar 9, 2021
(free version, including audio and visual guidance!)
One guy with very little knowledge about cars trying to find a vehicle that will take him and his girl safely across the African continent for 30.000 km.
You know you’ll run into problems when your only accomplishments in the automobile sector consist of changing tires and replacing fuses on your old Mitsubishi Colt Sport Edition that you got when you were 18. Bjoern became quite good at the latter though, since he had to perform it on a regular basis – thanks again Thomas, for always bringing your special ‘bass-lover’ playlist to make sure the fuse blows with your favorite song!
So, anyway – we have no clue whatsoever, but we definitely need a car since walking (too lame, no pun intended) and biking (too strenuous and also too little packing space for three bikinis) are out of the race.
“... we have no clue whatsoever, but we definitely need a car ...?”
Initially we were thinking about flying down to South Africa and buying a car there since it seemed like the more affordable option with a bigger selection. But after doing some research on blogs it became clear that it might be tricky for foreigners to buy a car in RSA (especially getting the paperwork done) and we’d most likely be getting a shitty price if we were to sell the car under time pressure at the end of our trip.
How the f***do you do it?
After some trial and error, here’s the ultimate 5-step-plan we can recommend to you if you find yourself in the situation above (bonus: it’s adaptable! If you’re someone who doesn’t know shit about a thing but wants to buy that particular thing – go ahead and try, feedback welcome!)
Find a guy that actually knows shit about cars, specifically the models that you are looking for.
Make this guy your friend, if you can’t, try bribes.
We all know it and it’s a real thing in 2020: the internet. Read a lot in forums and blogs. Find the car nerds. Ask them questions. Read their 5-pages-long answers. Try to understand what they’re saying.
You’re now at a point where you think you know a lot and you’re excited to buy. Stop. Right. There. Download the relevant apps (mobile.de, autoscout24 …) and just lurk on your prey.
The hard part begins: you have to go out there and talk to people who are selling their baby and know everything about it. You know next to nothing. Be humble. Bring your girl, because once she starts asking questions it’ll at least appear as if you know…stuff.
Turns out there are basically two models that work for Africa based on the availability of service garages and spare parts: the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Landrover Defender. For both cars we’re talking not about the newer models but the ones with very few electronic parts, so everyone with a screwdriver can get it up and running again.
Our first pick was the Toyota Land Cruiser since the first people we talked to were convinced the Defender is more of a sensitive Sally (yes, it is a religion: you either believe in the Land Cruiser or the Defender. No mercy for the respective other).
After having gone through steps 1 to 4, not really finding any offers on the German market we liked, we made the call to start back at step 1 with the Defender and have now arrived at step 5 of the plan.
“... how do you know that the rusty Defender you are planning to buy is worth its money?”
It is a weird feeling to spend a lot of money on what seems to be a quite shitty old car compared to what you would buy as an everyday city car. It is easy to go to a dealer, buy a new vehicle and drive off the parking lot. But how do you know that the rusty Defender you are planning to buy is worth its money? You just don’t and to some degree never will, so you need to live with this reality.
Luckily, there is a whole scene out there with great knowledge and for the most part they’re all adventurous people like us. Telling them we want to buy the car and take it in on a trip across Africa lightens up their eyes and they are keen on helping us. We are amazed about the friendliness and willingness to share honest information about their car (no Motherfucker-over Jones in this business).
Well, we’re off to spending our time on the apps and also just discovered the saved searches function on ebay Kleinanzeigen. Let’s see how it goes. The adventure has just started.