By Stephen Macharia
The vehicle restoration business has registered significant growth in the past year as prices
of imported used cars increase, Maurice Wuoto, a mechanic at a private garage in Karen, Nairobi, has told AutoNews Magazine.
Since he started working as a mechanic in 2016, Wuoto has been restoring cars, but between last year and the present, he has seen more grounded cars restored than ever before.
“Based on my observations, there is a higher demand now than I have seen since I started working for car restoration services. I believe it is due to the knock-on effects of rising import vehicle prices. It is now possible to sell abandoned vehicles at people’s homes for a sizable profit”, he said.
Data from the Kenya Auto Bazaar Association, an organization that represents used vehicle dealers, indicates that the decreased global production of automobiles contributed to a 33 per cent increase in car prices in Kenya last year.
The yard prices of popular 2015 vehicle models such as Toyota Fielder, Toyota Rav 4, Toyota Premio, Toyota Belta, Nissan Note and Nissan X-Trail have prices increased by a range of between Sh200,000 and Sh600,000 since last year.
This has resulted in a corresponding increase in old vehicles. A check at online car selling platforms shows that popular 20-year-old vehicles including Toyota Corolla, Toyota Allion, and Toyota Wish are retailing between Sh500000 – Sh800000.
“This situation has increased the value of all vehicles in the country. Instead of upgrading to newer cars, many people are holding onto the vehicles they own. This has created a shortage in the number of old vehicles for sale,” Wuoto explains.
Many mechanics, according to Wuoto, have understood these runes and are now advertising their shops as centres for automobile restoration. He believes that this business can only expand.
“Restoring vehicles is a passion of mine. Every time I see a wrecked car that has been made roadworthy, it gives me pure joy, he said.
Wuoto continues, “However, restoring a car might lead to compromised safety,” noting that to increase the integrity of the car, owners must pick a qualified mechanic and buy genuine parts.
Depending on the condition of the vehicle, restoration can be complete or partial. The price of restoration varies and depends on a number of factors, including the cost of the chosen garage and the availability of parts.
Wuoto believes that owners of vintage Mercedes Benz vehicles restore their cars at a higher rate than owners of other makes and models.
“W211 and W201 Mercedes-Benz models are being restored very frequently. Some of these automobiles were delivered as shells here (referring to the garage where he works). We start by working on their bodies, paint, and headlights”, he said.
He quickly clarified, however, that the majority of vehicle owners prefer to have restoration work done in their own backyards, suggesting that the business environment has changed.
“The auto restoration industry is changing quickly. The majority of mechanics offer mobile services because customers choose the time and location, observed Wuoto.