Cars in Dubai are regarded as a necessity, not a luxury. While Dubai has an excellent and expanding public transport system, there remains an attitude in the expatriate and local communities that public transport is for “them,” but cars are for “us.”
Car ownership is a public declaration of your income and status in the community, so it’s not surprising that pretty much everybody aspires to possess a set of wheels, to at least show that they are off the very bottom rungs of the economic ladder.
There are practical reasons as well. A car insulates you from the worst of the climatic conditions (providing the air-conditioning is functioning properly).
The mobility that car ownership gives allows car owners relatively quick access to all sorts of places that would otherwise be harder to reach – the malls, the more distant supermarkets, and Dubai’s attractive “suburban” hubs like the Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Road strip, and such desirable hotspots.
Of course, we’d all like to own brand new cars, straight off the showroom floor, but it also makes good economic sense for the newly arrived expat to buy second hand.
We’ll look at the various options in the used car market and restate some of the more obvious “buyer beware” warnings that accompany a “pre-loved” purchase.
All the main dealerships have second-hand selections as well – mostly, but not always, of their own models. These will mainly be only one to five years old, have quite low mileage, and are likely to have been sold and serviced by the dealership since new.
In fact, you’ll probably get a 12-month full warranty with the purchase: the dealers are that confident there will be no trouble during that time.
So, the pros: you end up with a car that is probably indistinguishable from a brand new current model, it will probably come with a decent guarantee, and it will cost quite a bit less than a brand new purchase.
In other words, you get new car peace of mind.
The cons? It’s probably the most expensive of the “buy secondhand” options, and you may also be required to have the car serviced by the dealership for at least the period of the guarantee, if the guarantee is to remain valid.
One of the better-known second-hand car dealerships is Al Futtaim Motors’ Automall. The Al Futtaim Group are the owners of the Toyota, Lexus, Volvo, Honda, and Chrysler/Jeep dealerships, so Automall clears a lot of dealership-sold cars for all the above divisions.
You can also web search any other automotive make by dealership and see what late model cars they have available. Here, for example, is Nissan Dubai’s homepage.
In addition to being able to see the base list price of all the new models available, in the “buying” section of the page, there is a link to “Nissan Certified Pre-Owned” cars.
It states very clearly what you get when you buy a car that is “certified” – broadly, it’s similar to what I said above: the 12 month guarantee, etc., then a further link passes you on to the actual cars available at the time of searching.
Independent, but long-established second-hand dealerships
There are a few that have been on the Dubai scene longer than I have. 4X4 Motors is very well-known, and has always had lots of stock in multiple outlets. There is a branch on Sheikh Zayed Road, and 4X4 also has a large presence in the Al Aweer Used Car Souk (read about this in the next section).
While 4X4 Motors specializes in off-road, 4-wheel drive vehicles, they always have a full range of vehicles of every kind and price range.
Target Auto Showroom in Sheikh Zayed Road is another veteran of the Dubai scene. Fancy a Porsche or a Ferrari? Target always has them in stock and on display.
There are others along Sheikh Zayed Road, mostly clustered in the vicinity of the 4X4 Motors outlet. They tend to offer some pretty high-end stuff. Think Bentley and up: Pagani, McLaren, AMG Benzes, and the like.
Dubai’s Used Car Souk
Gold souk (market), spice souk, fabric souk – traditional markets where the goods are on display and you haggle and bargain until you get the best deal at the outlet of your choice.
OK, all those we understand, but car souk? Yes, why not?
Most of the independent used car dealers are located together in a large space in the Ras Al Khor Industrial area called the Al Aweer Used Car Market. Here’s everything you need to know about Dubai’s Used Car Market, and it’s a relatively short and inexpensive taxi ride from either the Deira or the Bur Dubai sides of Dubai Creek.
As you’ll see, it’s very much a one-stop-shop. In addition to lots of dealers with lots of cars, there are car insurance offices on site and Al Tasjeel (the Dubai Road Transport Authority’s department tasked with roadworthiness, testing, and registration) also has a presence there.
You can literally arrive, inspect, test-drive, haggle, agree on a price, pay (there are bank branches there too, who will arrange finance), register the car, and drive off. Now, it might be a bit of an ask to do all of that in one visit on one day, but even if you have to return a couple more times, everything can be done in a very short time.
I have to add a disclaimer: I have never done business in either Dubai or Sharjah’s used car souks, so “buyer beware” rules, OK?
Take your time, do your research about ballpark figures for selling prices, test drive several examples of the chosen model, and enquire about warranties. Get any agreements in writing, arrange for independent assessments of your choice or choices (not too many, because you’ll have to pay for these), and then take the leap of faith if it all still stacks up as a good deal.
Read all about it!
Then there’s the online used car market, most visible via Dubizzle.com – 30,000 cars up for grabs at the time of posting this link. These are mostly all private sales, so everything I said above about “buyer beware” doubly applies.
Once you’ve bought it, you have no comeback.
You can buy the Autotrader magazine in most garages, but it also has an online presence. Most of the cars displayed will be in the outlets at the Al Aweer Used Car Market, but there may also be a few private sales listed.
Finally, large institutions like universities and companies with several hundred employees often have “Buy, Sell, Swap” pages on their institutional intranets. Now, these aren’t normally open to the public, but you may have people in your friendship circles who have access and will look out on your behalf.
There’s generally a feeling that if a car belongs to a European or North American professional, it may be a better buy or have been better looked after. No reason to drop “buyer beware” antennae though, just because the owner has a smart suit and tie.
You’ll certainly be spoiled for choice if you opt to go the second-hand route for your first car purchase in Dubai.