Thursday 20 June 2019 (UAE)

Buying and selling cars in Dubai, UAE

Buying or selling a car in Dubai

Buying and selling cars in Dubai and the UAE - where to buy, how to check a used car, how to register a car and transfer ownership.

It is not advisable to accept a personal cheque as payment when selling your car. There are a number of reports of people losing their car and receiving no money as a result of the cheque bouncing.

Buying or selling your precious auto is always a fun process, and you'll enjoy it in Dubai as much as anywhere. Take a few posh cars for a test drive - you'll find second hand dealers a lot more willing to throw you the keys to a Mercedes or BMW than in many other countries. New car dealers are usually pretty good too as long as you look halfway sensible.

What follows are details of where to buy, how to buy, how to sell, how to register, etc. Remember that cars seem to age more quickly in the arid climate in Dubai and look old sooner than you might expect elsewhere. Maintenance tends to be fairly casual too, FSH (Full Service History) usually means the car had a service every now and then, and there's no record of it. At the end are a few suggestions to consider (it's not advice but just a couple of ideas to get you started on your car shopping adventure), and a few tips on what to look out for when shopping for a second hand car (it's not comprehensive, and it's no replacement for a proper test or check up by someone who knows what they're doing).

Selling a New Car

You may wonder about the heading here but it's not completely unheard of for private individuals to sell a new car - quite a few are given away as raffle prizes. You'll be offered a ridiculously low sum of money from a second hand dealer (or even the original dealer), and will probably do much better if you sell it through other means. A difficulty is that you can't test drive it unless you register it - which makes it second hand then.

Buying a New Car

A choice many new arrivals to Dubai shy away from but there are a number of things going for this option.

New Car Dealers

There's usually only one dealer per car manufacturer due to the Sole Agency law in the UAE. So the lack of competition does mean you're stuck with that dealer for servicing if you want your warranty to remain valid. This applies to 2nd hand cars also if they're still under warranty. That law applies on a per emirate basis so you will find some automobile manufacturers with a different agent in different emirates. Some of the bigger car dealers in Dubai are:

It's possible to buy grey imports - new cars from second hand dealers at cheaper than new prices. Usually come from other Middle Eastern countries, sometimes further afield. Often advertised as "unwanted prizes". The difference is the grey import "unwanted prizes" might have warranty problems with the UAE agent, the real "unwanted prizes" won't.

Bank Loans for cars and automobiles

Buying a second hand car or used car

It's impossible to find one in Dubai now - they're all "pre-owned" instead. Makes them sound better than new right?

One thing (of many) to bear in mind is whether or not a car is built to "Middle East or Gulf specifications". A number of older cars have arrived in Dubai from other countries (used Mercedes from Europe for example) and have different specifications to new cars supplied to Gulf dealers. The main concern is the air conditioning and engine cooling system. Avoid if it's not Gulf specification, or at least find out how much it will cost you to upgrade it. This is less of a worry with newer cars. Keep reading for more useful tips...

Warning: Do not accept personal cheques as payment for selling your second hand car. There are a number of cases reported where the cheque has bounced and the cheque-writer could not be traced. For example ...

Magazines
Auctions
Supermarket notice boards
Newspapers - classified advertisements

See next section for a list of newspaper and other online classifieds websites. See also Dubai newspapers.

Online websites for car sales

Note these are listed for reference, that does not mean they are recommendations (unless comment says so).

Al Awir Used Car Market (or Al Aweer) - Dubai Municipality Used Cars Showroom Complex

The Al Aweer Used Car Market in the Ras Al Khor Industrial Area - a great place to look around and see everything from your most feared POS jalopy to exotic carriages you thought only existed in Jeremy Clarkson's imagination. But take a good dose of salt with everything you hear and Caveat Emptor should be painted on the windshield of every car there. Undoubtedly there are some good cars available but how are you going to recognise them from the questionable imports, the ones that have been clocked, the insurance write-offs welded together again, and so on? The market has a poor reputation and prices don't seem particularly cheap compared to other used car sources. Except for perhaps the auctioned cars.

The complex has over 100 dealers, a car registration department, insurance companies, and a branch of the Middle East Bank so you don't even need your own money.

Opening hours are 7:30 am to 2:00 pm and 4:30 pm to 11:00 pm Saturday to Thursday, maybe half day only on Thursday or Saturdays for some businesses. Showrooms and dealers might be also open Friday afternoons, but banks and government services (vehicle registration etc) are closed Fridays and possibly Saturdays. Note that some timings changed after 01 Sep 2006 when the government sector changed weekend working days from Thu-Fri to Fri-Sat.

Other used car dealers in Dubai

Is there any country in the world where used car dealers don't have a bad reputation? The answer is not Dubai or the UAE. And you have less comeback if there's a problem than you do in countries which have some degree of consumer protection (assume none in the UAE). Look at every car you buy on an "as is, where is" basis. The only realistic exception being ones that still have a manufacturer's warranty. There are second hand car warranties sold by Gulf Warranties which may give you some piece of mind but there's a long list of exceptions in what they cover, and check the fine print for servicing locations and frequency.

If you have an accident and it's attributable to a defect that the dealer should have known about and had rectified, the police may get involved. But that's a bit late if you're laid up in hospital as a result. You'd have a very difficult time getting a successful outcome anyway.

Registering a new or second hand car in Dubai

Information moved to car registration in Dubai procedure. Also includes information about:

Car care and maintenance
Suggestions when looking for a car to buy in Dubai
Test driving a car (especially an old banger)

Before you start the engine:

Start the car but don't drive it yet, just let it idle while you...

Driving the car (turn the stereo off so you can listen to the car)...

Don't make a decision to buy based just on this checklist, it's not comprehensive or complete. And there's always the occasional devious seller who can disguise problems in such a way the checks above won't pick them up. Hopefully it's enough to get you started though.

Good luck and drive safely!

Last update Saturday 21-Jun-2014
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