It doesn’t take long for most expats to realise how much they need a car after arriving in Qatar. Quite aside from the heat, negotiating Qatar’s public transport system is simply not something you want to do every day. While there is the option of importing your car from home, buying a car when you get here is usually your best – and cheapest – option.
Fortunately, buying a car in Qatar is easier than you might expect. Whether you want to buy new or used, whether you want a flashy SUV or an affordable runaround, there are plenty of options to choose from. And, as cars are imported duty free – and thanks to Qatar’s oil prices – the cost of both buying and running a car here in Qatar is relatively low.
So, what do you need to know?
Where do you start when buying a car in Qatar?
Where you start will usually depend on whether you want to buy new or used. If you want to buy new, dealer showrooms will be your first port of call – after you have done some research on the make and model of car you want to buy, finding out how much you should expect to pay.
If you want to buy a used car, it can be helpful to start by talking to other expats. Check out expat forums and websites, and speak to other expats in person to tell them you are looking to buy. You might be able to find a great deal from someone looking to sell, who hasn’t yet gotten round to advertising their car.
If you hear nothing on the expat grapevine, head online to check out the classifieds section on the qatarliving.com, the specialist car sales website qatarsale.com, and the Facebook group ‘Buy It, Sell It, Swap It Qatar’.
It’s also worth bearing in mind the fact that the car market in Qatar is cyclical. Typically tying in with school terms, the market is usually flooded with cars for sale in May, June and July, which makes it a buyer’s market. As expats return in September, fewer cars are available, making it a seller’s market.
How do you get a good deal?
If you want to buy from a dealership – or even if you decide to buy privately – it’s a good idea to know how to negotiate. First, shop around. This lets you know how much you should expect to pay, while helping you nail down the best deal.
When talking with a dealer, know what you want to pay and negotiate hard. This means bringing the price down to a reasonable amount, while also working to get some extras thrown in, such as window tints. It’s also a good idea to look around for promotions and deals, which could see you getting a special price, or getting insurance included in the price of the car.
If you have your finances sorted, tell the dealer that you are ready to make a down payment, as this gives you better bargaining power.
How do you cover the cost?
If you don’t have the money to cover the cost of your car upfront, you may be able to get a loan from your bank. Most banks in Qatar offer car loans up to two years. Dealerships also offer financing options, but be aware of how much you will be expected to pay upfront. You may also want to check whether you can have the loan repayment deducted straight from your salary.
Should you buy new or used?
There are pros and cons both to buying new and used. If you buy new, you know that the car has never been mistreated – and you get that new car smell. You may also benefit from features such as a warranty, giving you some extra peace of mind. However, new cars are more expensive – and as soon as you drive them out of the dealership, they depreciate massively.
As cars lose most of their value in the first two years, buying used can be much easier on the wallet. But, buying a used car can have its dangers. You don’t know what it’s been through and how well it has been treated. Minimising these risks is possible, however. Read on for more.
How can you avoid buying a lemon?
You can reduce your chances of buying a lemon – or any car that has problems – by paying attention and asking questions. Be sure to see the car in daylight, and if you don’t know much about cars, try to take someone with you who does. Take the car for a test drive and put it through its paces when going at speed, stopping, cornering and going over speed bumps.
It’s also a good idea to check over the car’s service history, and to take it for an inspection. In Doha, there are a number of mechanics near the Industrial Area on Salwa Road that offer this service. Ask around for recommendations from other expats beforehand to find out which inspection centres to opt for – and which to avoid.
What do you need to get on the road?
Once you’ve agreed on a price, it’s time to get your car on the road. To drive a car legally in Qatar, you need to have a driver’s license, car insurance and vehicle registration (in that order). It’s also worth noting that in Qatar, the vehicle is insured, not the driver, which means anyone with a driver’s license can use the car while enjoying coverage.
If you are buying a car at a dealership, the dealer will usually take car of most of this for you, sorting out both the insurance and the registration on the car. If you are buying privately, you may be able to transfer the insurance to your name, or you may have to arrange insurance yourself.
In terms of registration, check how long the registration of the car is valid for (it needs to be renewed annually). You can register your car at the Ministry of Interior’s Traffic Department, where you will need your proof of purchase, your ID, the filled out registration form (in Arabic), your insurance document, and the fee. Alternatively, you can do it all online using the Qatar Government’s Metrash 2 app.
Note, you will need to renew your auto registration every year, and if your car is more than three years old, you will need to get a Technical Inspection Report carried out by the Technical Inspection Unit in Doha.