18 June 2013

How to buy a car in Astana

Following on from my recent post on using public transport in Astana I thought it might be useful to write about our experience of buying a car in Astana.

Unlike the expatriates that come to Astana with the large international companies we do not benefit from  a car and driver.  We decided very early on in our time here that we needed to rent or buy a vehicle to make travel in the city as safe as possible for the children.  Rental costs are prohibitive long term so we decided to buy.  This was easier said than done, we spent our first weekend in Astana (in August) at a car mart but did not actually manage to buy a car until June the following year.

The car mart is on the city ring road and a kind friend took us out to take a look round.  Leaving the city behind gave us our first view of the steppe, Astana sits on the middle of the plain and as soon as you leave the city limits it stretches flat as far as the eye can see.  A token fee gives entrance to purchasers and vendors alike.  Cars for sale have a price, in Dollars, and basic details in the windscreen.  Prospective purchasers wander up and down the lines looking for a suitable vehicle and enjoying a snack from the many food stalls.  A quick look told us that our budget, calculated on what it would cost to buy a basic 8 year old Japanese 4x4 in the UK, would buy us nothing at all, the cars we were looking at were on sale for $15,000.  We tried to negotiate on the price by picking up on defects but, unlike any other market I have ever been in, there was no movement. 

We found a car that we liked, at the upper end of our budget and 5 years older than we had hoped for.  We asked our friend how we could arrange a test drive only to be told that this was not possible.  Purchasers do not drive the car before they buy it, rather it is taken to a garage (of the purchaser’s choice) and they check for defects.  We decided not to buy that particular car when we found out that the computer port had been disabled and there was no way for the garage to obtain a readout on the engine.

We carried on the search online, http://kolesa.kz/ (wheels) lists second hand cars for sale.  We had a couple of false starts (cars of a different model from the advertisement) before we found a suitable vehicle, a 15 year old Nissan that we bought for the cost of a 4 year old model in the UK.  The car is no match for the beautiful new Lexus/Toyota behemoths that parade around the city but it is comfortable, practical and large enough to protect us in a smash.  The 4x4 means that we can drive it anywhere, even hunting on the steppe should we choose to go.  The prices are high because of the steep import charge.  Diplomatic cars (with distinctive red plates) are cheap because they are not charged the import fee but the ordinary Kazakhs and expats buying local cars are stung by this.  That said cars do not depreciate as rapidly here, they are seen as a long term investment, so we do not expect to loose too much on resale.  


Buying the car proved to be only the first hurdle as we had to get it through the technical check and register it to our name.  Registration plates do not pass with the car as they do in the UK but rather with the individual, as in Switzerland.  I was away when the car was registered so it was put in my husband’s name.  When driving we must carry all the registration and insurance details together with an International Driving Licence.  A few weeks ago we were told that my husband’s informal permission is not enough to allow me to drive the car and I need a separate, notarised authority.  This paperwork is time-consuming to arrange but once it is in place there are no hurdles to driving the car and exploring the nooks and crannies of the city or enjoying a picnic out on the steppe.

Click on the picture for more posts on life in Kazakhstan.

Ersatz Expat

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