A member of our family is gone. Yes, Charlie, our 1989 excellent Land Cruiser that we bought to get across Africa now has a new owner. We shared some unforgettable memories together – getting stranded in the Okavango Delta, a flash flood in Arusha, and straddling Zimbabwe and Zambia with nothing but water beneath us.
Oh Africa, how we love you so much. After going through hell and back trying to buy the car in South Africa, it was a serious debate to sell him or not. Here is our story of selling a car in Africa. Here’s the story of how we drove across Africa fo $300.
Yup We Drove Across Africa for $300
To recap we bought Charlie last October in Cape Town for 60,000 Rand. At the time of purchase that was approximately $4300. We then continued to spend about another $1000 on a tune-up and equipping the car with jerry cans, various tools, an air compressor, hi-lift jack, ground tent, sleeping pads, a more relaxed, and other miscellaneous items to get us across, Africa. Pretty much everything you would need for truck camping. Read all about what’s in our car here.
For the four months prior to that we had a South African rental car before Charlie to travel through South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland. We could not have gotten to about 75% of the places we went to without our vehicle. Our next stop is Kenya, which we have decided to travel to without our own transport.
Why Did We Sell Our Car?
We are both tired of continually being in the car. Distances are far, traffic is terrible, roads are questionable, and our bodies are aching from immobility on long travel days. When we get to a destination, we are happy – when we have a ten-hour travel day we are miserable. Every time we move locations in Africa, the drive is at least five hours. We move locations about every three days, so that’s at least a five-hour drive in the car every three days.
I should note that five hours is an excellent travel day in Africa for us. Six to eight is more along the lines of ordinary, and a one to three-hour drive is like going to the grocery store. Distances are very far when you’re driving around this huge continent. Cameron did almost all of the driving because I am terrified of driving a massive car on bad African roads with pedestrians everywhere. I have a fear of hitting a child and get anxiety when people or bikes are on the way. So, I left the driving up to the more confident driver. We played with the idea of driving the car back to South Africa to keep it there until we return, but just one more lousy travel day convinced us out of it.
This car has gotten us as far as we have intended to travel for the time being. We don’t have a carnet (essentially a passport for a vehicle), which is required to enter with a car in Kenya and Egypt.
We’ve gotten reports that you can bribe border control to let you through the borders recently, but that’s not something we want to deal with right now. This piece of paper would cost us about $1000 that we would hopefully get back at the end of our journey.
However, it’s cheaper to fly from Uganda to Kenya, and we know we’ll get back to Egypt later (2020 UPDATE – we did). We’d love to explore Sudan and Ethiopia, but the problem lies with crossing the border into these countries with a car because the borders are currently unstable. So, we knew Uganda would be the end of the road with Charlie and us.
Then There is the Money
Besides just necessary travel expenses like accommodation and food, Charlie’s fuel efficiency is 6 kilometers a liter – that’s about 13 miles a gallon for all my American friends out there. It costs quite a bit to drive him around, $2,890 is what we have spent to be exact. We have also spent quite a bit of money maintaining the vehicle. He was born the same year as me – 1989. He is getting old and requires some TLC and maintenance, but I also can’t think of another vehicle we could have driven on the worst African roads.
Africa is Not Our Home
If we lived in Africa, there is no way we would sell Charlie. We would drive him back to our house and park him there. However, we don’t have a home in Africa, and besides a few boxes in our parent’s homes back in the United States, we don’t have a “home” at all. (2020 Update – we moved to Canada) We can’t plan on keeping a vehicle here when we can’t legally stay here for an indefinite amount of time.
How Did We Sell Our Car in Africa?
We knew that the Land Cruiser was an investment when we first bought him in Cape Town. As long as we arrived at our final destination with the car intact, we knew we would get some of our money back on the purchase. We didn’t know how we would sell the car; we just knew that we would sell the vehicle. It’s been an act now, think later mentality during our entire journey.
We bought a Toyota Land Cruiser in Africa, one of the most popular choices of the vehicle on the continent. Every week or so, we would get an inquiry on the car.
“Is your car for sale?“
“How much for the car?“
As I mentioned when we first bought the car, a Land Cruiser in Africa is a hot commodity, and Charlie is a pretty darn nice one. Throughout our journey, we collected names and numbers of people interested in the car, so selling him would be a cinch.
Well, sort of
When we arrived in Uganda, we finally started seriously thinking about how to sell the car. Before we did anything, we took him to a mechanic to have a fundamental tune-up and asked him how much he thought it was worth in Uganda.
“$8000 maximum, but I think you will get $7000,” he said.
What? We bought the truck for $4300 in South Africa, where cars are the cheapest on the continent, so when we both heard this, we were trying our hardest to contain our excitement and act cool. We would drive across Africa and make money.
I had posted on Ugandan Facebook groups for $5000 initially, but I went home and immediately changed the posting to $7000. We also included everything in the car to the seller – because what were we going to do? Fly around Kenya with a giant three-person tent and cooler?
My Facebook inbox was blowing up with requests to see the car. Of course, like any offer on Craigslist or Gumtree, only about 5% of the people were serious. I had requests anywhere from $1000 – $3000 cash for the car, and one request to give them the car for free. A “donation” was how he put it.
No one was offering anywhere near the price the mechanic had told us. The main reason being that if the buyer wanted to do things legally, he would have to pay taxes to import the car, taxes range from $2000-$3000 in Uganda for our truck. No one was exactly jumping to pay us $7000 for the car plus $3000 to the government. We met with our first real prospect – we drove through rural villages to get to him.
The man offered us $5000, but he didn’t have it with him. We told him we would think about it; we wanted to make the most off our Charlie. With a flight coming up and time running out to sell the car, we didn’t want to keep driving around Uganda to sell this thing. That night we sent him a WhatsApp and confirmed the sale for $5000.
He agreed and told us he would meet us at the airport the day we were flying out. That little voice in the back of my head started voicing some concerns.
“So, he wants to meet us at the airport presumably with half the cash promised in hand before he knows we have a flight? “
In case you didn’t know, Africa is full of opportunists. We told him he should meet us the day before we leave to finalize the deal. Five minutes later we get a text back, and he tells us he doesn’t want the car anymore confirming my suspicions that he was trying to scam us.
On to our other prospects. We drove around Eastern Uganda for the next few days to potential buyers trying to get rid of the car. Unlike selling things in the US, we, the sellers were putting in the work instead of having potential buyers come to us.
Everyone said the same thing. They didn’t want to pay a high price for the car AND pay import taxes. We were tired of getting jerked around, we were tired of driving, even more, to try to sell the car, we were just tired. After some debate we agreed the lowest we would accept was $4000 for the vehicle, anything lower than that was insulting and we would keep it in a lot in Uganda until we could figure it out further.
We drove back to Kampala wholly defeated. I was still getting low ball offers in my Facebook inbox, and we had a flight out to Kenya in three days. Charlie very well might be sitting in a parking lot for a few months while we sort out what to do with him.
But then, we sold the car.
Yes, we sold the car!
To a Dutch man that has a business in Uganda. He runs a guesthouse and safari company, and a 4x4 Land Cruiser is precisely what he needed. We never met him, but we spent many hours with his assistant who took the time to test drive the car with us and take it to a mechanic.
“Man, this is one sweet car,” they all said.
We sold the car for $4000 USD cash on a bright sunny day to his beautiful Ugandan wife and handsome safari guide, David. They let us kiss Charlie one last time, and we told them to treat him well. We sat in the Protea Entebbe Hotel and drafted up a bill of sale, gave them the title to the car, a copy of our passport, and the keys. It is the buyer’s job to import the vehicle into a new country, and that is what they will have to do.
Do I think they got a good deal on the car? Absolutely. They got a 4x4 African workhorse equipped to handle the bush.
Did we get ripped off? Not at all. I would have liked to get more on the car, and I do think he was worth more, but considering it cost Cameron and me virtually $300 in “rental fees” to drive across Africa with an excellent head turner of a car for six months we are quite happy.
We gave most of our cooking supplies, clothing, extra food, and pretty much anything that we can’t carry on our backs to random locals. Salaries in Uganda are appallingly low, and many people live on less than $1/day. The look on some on their faces when we emptied our car was a complete joy. Giving away things like a bag of rice or a colander is more of a reward than any money we could get for the items.
Okay, Let’s Talk More About Driving Across Africa and the Money
I know you are wondering what the whole trip cost us! I’ve been keeping meticulous notes on every transport expense throughout this trip.
As mentioned before, Charlie cost us $4300 in South Africa.
We had to put a new battery in him twice (bad alternator we later fixed), new brake pads, clutch repairs, rebuilt the starter motor, and a had few general maintenance stops along the way. $1033 was spent on repairs and general maintenance.
Two new tires set us back about $500 (Good mud tires are expensive in Africa).
We traveled about 25,000 miles and put $2890 worth of petrol in the car. A diesel engine would have been cheaper, and we only had a handful of travel partners to split gas with us a few times.
We spent about $1500 equipping the car with everything we would need to tackle the continent. Things like a tent, cooler, sleeping pads, plates, utensils anything we would need to camp around Africa. All of these supplies were purchased in South Africa, where camping accessories are cheaper.
We paid $40 on road “fines” in Swaziland, Malawi, and Tanzania. With the majority of those costs coming from the shady cops in Tanzania.
That brings the total of driving for six months and 25,000 miles to $10,263.
We sold the car for $4000. So it cost us $6263 to drive across Africa. That’s $3131.50 each.
Of course, this is not counting the money we spent on living. Things like accommodation, food, and fun are not included in this cost, but it should give you a reasonable basis should you want to tackle something like Hashtag Africa yourself. No one said this was a cheap endeavor. Camping fees were typically $15 USD a night per person and we lived off pasta, rice, and beans.
So, when you do it yourself, and someone wants to just hitch a long ride, think twice. It’s a lot more than just splitting fuel, and we had countless requests for people wanting to join so they could necessarily get a free safari across Africa, while we spent a lot of time, money, and effort equipping ourselves.
Would I Drive Across Africa Again?
We saw the sunrise over the tallest dune in the world in Namibia. We drove around the rim of the most impressive crater lakes in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. We have found some of the friendliest people in rural communities in Malawi. We sat in Kasanka National Park with not a single other guest in the park we watched the sunset in complete wilderness.
Defying that typical African tourist stereotype felt liberating, we weren’t fly in and fly out tourists. We left South Africa with apprehension to brave the African bush; now, we are much more confident travelers. Cameron is 26 and I am 27, so I feel great that we’ve been able to accomplish this at a young age.
We even impress Africans with our journey! I know we are not the toughest bush people of the bunch – far from it. We have met some of the craziest travelers on this continent full of inspiration. However, maybe we can stand next to them now and have a few cold beers and relive some stupid tales.
Would we make this trip again?
Yes, but with a much needed few years break to chill out with some easier (and cheaper) travel. Traveling Africa is more than rewarding, but I won’t lie and say that anywhere near as simple as traveling elsewhere in the world. As for us now? We’re off to Kenya to see more of what this continent has in store!
2020 Update: After more than three years and 30+ more countries traveled we still realize driving across Africa was one of our greatest journeys ever. We have no doubt we’ll do it again. We chat about it a lot, and this time documenting the whole experience on YouTube. We’d like to try overlanding west Africa eventually as well. It’s true what they say about Africa, it changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same.”