flights home page | forum »

Buying a car can be a fraught experience

Bangers are imported from Santiago for sale to unwary foreigners

Until about five years ago, there were very few cars on any Cape Verde island. Except on Sal and Santiago, where so many government pen-pushers seem able to afford a huge 4x4, they are still quite rare.

Local big wigs prefer the largest and most powerful 4x4 that they can find. Mitsubishis and Isuzus are especially popular: One local has even bought a Dodge Ram Charger which looks more like a small truck than a car. The General Motors Hummer, a military vehicle, which used also to be sold to civilians, before GM dropped it, seemed to be the final proof that you have arrived. Fonseca at Murdeira even owned two for a while, until the developer who had paid for the second one claimed it back. Murdeira owners had allegedly paid for the first.

The sort of cars on offer second had mostly vary from beaten up to downright dangerous. A Portuguese construction company which was pulling out put up several Ford Rangers for sale. Built in Thailand from Mazda components, these are popular in Cape Verde, because they are substantially cheaper than either Japanese 4x4s or Land Rovers.

Unfortunately, the Rangers must have been driven through the sea at weekends and never washed down. When you examined the undersides, there were gaping holes in the metal work where salt had eaten away parts of panels, The suspension was probably also in an equally unhappy state. Although theoretically possible to find the appropriate metal panels and import them, this would be difficult. Ford does not sell Rangers in Europe, so dealers have no body parts.

In the event these vehicles were sold in a secret auction at Lisbon, for whom nobody knew the date, time or place. Very likely there was only a single bidder, who must have thought that he had a bargain. Time will tell, whether he is correct.

One source of cars in relatively good condition is Reposession. So many Caope Verdeans bought cars on cheap loans, which after the collapse of the economic boom, they can no longer afford. The banks take the cars back and sell them at reduced prices. But it does not seem possible for foreigners to access this trade.

Another source of really over-priced and possibly dangerous cars is an old banger brought from Santiago to sell to an unwary foreigner. One of these blew a gasket when the engine was revved and had to drive away ignominiouskly at a snail`s pace. Cape Verde has recently brought in annual MOT tests - in Sal available only in November. So driving such a car could result in a heavy fine, if it has already failed a test in Santiago.

Importing a new or used car by container is not simple. It is unclear whether Cape Verde will accept Right Hand Drive cars. South African Airways operated such a fleet, but they had great influence. Import tariffs are high and complicated. They bear particularly hard on older cars, often costing far more than the car is worth in Europe. Since you can buy a small Japanese 4x4 second-hand from one of the importers or car hire companies for around €12,000 it may not be worthwhile, unless you can get duty exemption.

Find Car Hire Contacts