HOW TO: Buy A Vehicle As A Foreigner In South Africa
This guide will give you more information on registrering a vehicle as a foreigner in South Africa, and where to look for one.
Disclaimer! There is absolutely no guarantee this will work, so please be sure to have time on your hand and don’t buy a vehicle before getting the TRN. We did this in September 2017 but recent sources says there’s no changes on how to do this (Feb 2019).
Our plan when flying to South Africa was simple. Find ourselves a few motorcycles and figure out how to register them in our name, something we managed to do without much hassle! This is a write up on how to get the Traffic Register Identification Number (TRN), enabling you to registrer a vehicle as a foreigner meaning you'll have all the official documents in your name. You'll also find some useful information on where to look for vehicles.
First of all, there are many reasons why we rather bought motorcycles here in South Africa than shipping from Norway. The biggest undoubtedly being the amount of money you'll (most likely) save, and the motorcycle market which is a whole lot bigger than home.
Dealing with the government
The three of us arrived at Cape Town International Airport and was given normal tourist stamps in passport, giving us 90 days of visa on arrival. The following day, we went to The Traffic Department located on the inside of Civic Center in downtown Cape Town.
We brought these documents with us:
2 black and white passport photos
A long term accommodation rental agreement
A utility bill (water, electricity or similar). I dont think it's needed, but it strenghetens your case
Fill out the white form "Application and notice in respect of traffic register number."
It was well organized, and the line we waited in had no more than 3 people in front of us. We told the guy working behind the counter about our plans and wish to buy motorcycles. He took our passports, and browsed through for the our visas, as we only had normal tourist stamps he said they wouldn't accept the application. We told him we knew of people who received this with the same stamps earlier, but he said they're not doing that any longer. He also told us that if we were students, it wouldn't be a problem either. But as for tourists it's not this simple he said.
Not knowing what to do, we humbly asked to speak with the supervisor to get some clarification on this. We told the same thing, and the response was identical. Once again, we were rejected. However, the supervisor gave us a direct number to the main traffic department we could try calling. We left the department, and tried calling this number. We explained the situation once again, and told about the others we know whose done the same. The lady on the phone put us on hold while speaking to her supervisor, she said that it should not be a problem for us, and if the traffic department still wouldn't accept our application, we could have them call to that number.
Upon returning back to the department roughly 10 minutes later, we told the guy what we where told on the phone. He said OK and accepted our application. He took copies of our passport, the stamps and all the documents we brought! He told us it could take up to two weeks until the document would be ready, and said we could come back to pick it up then.
We asked the guy if we could buy motorcycles now, and that we would actually get the application accepted. "No problem, buy a motorcycle and come back in two weeks!" Great win!
Three days later we went back there to see if there were any updates, one of the documents was ready and the two others would be done over the weekend. Next Monday we came back and yet another one was finished. The last one would take another week, but we got it in the end!
Finding a motorcycle/vehicle
Before flying to Cape Town, we had scouted the online marketplaces for many weeks, looking for the perfect bikes. You should start looking for the vehicle at all of these online marketplaces.
NOTE! The search engines of these marketplaces are rather poor, you should try splitting up the model names when browsing. For instance, try searching Honda XR 650, rather than Honda XR650L as you might get different results. When contacting the sellers, we would recommend using WhatsApp instead of the built in chat functions of these websites.
Buying the vehicle
Be sure to ask the seller all about the motorcycle in advance, making sure there are no unanswered questions regarding the condition and surprises that show when you're bringing it on your next adventure.
How has it been maintained? Is it a written service history on the bike?
When was the last time it was serviced?
Has it been crashed?
Are there any known issues or problems?
Any leaks or sweating from engine/suspension or similar?
What types of problems have occurred earlier?
What type of riding is normally done with the bike?
How many previous owners?
Is it roadworthy? (A test vehicles in South Africa needs to go through)
If all of this checks out fine, you should go for a test ride and inspect it thoroughly yourself. Ask the seller to keep the bike cold before you arrive, letting you hear it at the first crank.
When paying for the vehicle, be aware that the highest cash bill in South Africa is only R200, and the ATMS might have a pretty low limit on how much you can withdraw every transaction. A solution here would be to bring USD/EUR or similar from your home country and have it exchanged into South African Rands, you'll might save your credit card from being blocked by your bank or not being able to withdraw enough money.
We were three guys with three different credit cards each, and helped each other out to withdraw enough money. We had better luck with the maximum withdrawal amount at ATMs at the malls in Cape Town than in smaller areas.
Change of ownership
2 copies of the blue form (one for seller and one for buyer)
2 copies of the yellow form
Copy of ID
Recieve copy of ID from seller
Give seller a copy of your TRN (if you have it yet)
Sign a sales agreement where you state who's buying what with the following issues from who for R50.000. If you are planning to import this vehicle into another country at a later point, this is really important.
If you're in the the same situation like we were, and you're buying the vehicle before you actually have the TRN, you need to tell the seller about this and leave the space for the TRN open until you receive it. Hopefully the seller understands your situation.
As soon as you have the TRN, you'll fill out the space for it in the blue and yellow form, and let the seller know your number so he can put in his forms as well. Now, you can deliver all these forms and documents to the person behind the counter and they will issue you your new registration documents right away.
You’re close to finished now. Next up is a short’n sweet stop at a vehicle testing facility to get your vehicle inspected and declared ROAD WORTHY. Google around to find your nearest testing facility. Don’t stress it, if you’re from the EU it’s not even close to the level of detail as on the German TÜV. Bring the receipt and control form back to the traffic center, and they’ll hand you your brand new registration and proof of ownership documents right away. However, you’ll notice that they’ve given you a new license plate number, so next up is getting new ones for your vehicle. In South Africa, authorized sign shops normally produce these on the spot. It should be a few of them around every traffic center as it’s a high demand.
Congratulations, you’re now the legal owner of a South African vehicle as a tourist!