Pros and Cons: Why Nigerians love tokunbo cars? | Historic Outlook


Posted by: Henry Egan

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Foreign-used cars were not that popular before the civil war but the norm has changed and now we can see many reasons why Nigerians love tokunbo cars!

Driving foreign-used cars have become a norm among Nigerians. That is, using a car which has already been used by someone abroad. They are popularly called ‘Tokunbo' cars which translates from the Yoruba language and literally means ‘from overseas’. Do you know why Nigerians love tokunbo cars?

Most of the cars driven in Nigeria were previously driven in the western world before they were exported to Africa to be resold as second-hand.

Used cars are often repaired, replaced, painted, and repackaged before being sold to Africa. Noteworthily, cars delivered to Nigeria deem them to be of the best quality because the previous foreign owners are perceived to have good maintenance culture and ride on better roads which leave the cars in excellent condition.

Tokunbo cars that you can commonly find are Toyota, Honda, Mercedes, Peugeot, among others.

These vehicles sent to Africa have the majority, as Nigeria is the biggest market, sent to Lagos ports. Lagos, the commercial capital of the country, has the most automobile hubs after which the vehicles are transported by road to other parts of the country.

Other ports like Port Harcourt and Calabar operate at minimal capacity. A lot of people also prefer to go to Cotonou, neighboring Benin Republic, to acquire foreign used vehicles at a cheaper price.


Tokunbo cars virtually own the Nigerian road

The Story behind the Tokunbo: History of Tokunbo cars in Nigeria

But one may wonder, why go through all the stress to get a used vehicle, why not get a brand new one?

Foreign used cars became the go-to alternative in the 80s, following Nigeria’s economic downturn leading up to the 90s. At this time it was very difficult for middle-class earners to afford brand-new vehicles popularly known as "Tear-rubber" in local parlance.

Nigeria’s economy looked bright prior to the civil war when the naira exchanged the dollar almost equally at the time. Different sectors of the economy were growing, and even if one can’t say everywhere was a paradise, there were prospects of economic stability.

However, the civil war brought alongside its huge economic setbacks. A lot changed. It caused the Nigerian government's huge resources from money to be spent on weaponry and lost manpower. those killed during the war.

Intellectuals and innovative people died. Youths were traumatized after the war. Many who had lost their breadwinners had to begin fending for themselves which led to rural-urban migration causing overcrowding in the cities and the rise in criminal activities due to the influx of unskilled people determined to eke a living.

In years that followed, the 80s and 90s, under the military regime, the economy continued to suffer, battered, on the cusp of collapsing. The country defiantly relied on oil and the rate of civil service corruption skyrocketed causing the naira to fall as against the dollar.

It was as though the dollar struck the naira with a heavy punch, causing the feeble naira to fall facedown in a loud thud. With the dollar exchange very high, the cost of brand new vehicles became impossible for the average Nigerian to afford, thus the shift to Tokunbo vehicles.


A brand new car costs almost thrice as much as its Tokunbo counterpart

>>> See What documents to collect when buying a Tokunbo car in Nigeria?

Advantages of Tokunbo cars

The Tokunbo vehicle comes with its advantages.

For one, it’s less expensive and stressful to purchase. Tokunbo cars are available for almost all existing models except for the latest ones which won’t be available as second-hand units. Therefore, it’s easy to get a good used car that is in excellent shape, offers good fuel efficiency, solid on the road performance, and overall cool quality at a much lesser price. No need to stress oneself in trying to get from the manufacturers with the more stringent protocol.

Further, when buying a Tokunbo car you can easily get older and discontinued models which you can’t get for brand new like the Toyota Venza and Honda Cross tour.

As already mentioned, you can’t easily get recent models. Also, a Tokunbo car would cost less for import duty charges compared to the cost of clearing a brand new car.

Downsides of Tokunbo cars

The Tokunbo vehicles have their disadvantages too. Firstly, they’re not as cheap as one might think; especially when you’re going for a high-end vehicle, you’re getting a vehicle that is as expensive as a brand-new car of a lower brand.

Another obvious noteworthy point is that a second-hand vehicle has been used before, so it’s definitely not new and you have no absolute guarantees as to what’s working or not, irrespective of what the dealer or exporter tells you. Although people with experience can thoroughly access the vehicle and know what faults it may have, it still doesn’t beat getting a car fresh off stock.

Another issue many have with Tokunbo vehicles is attaining their spare parts. It may be difficult to get spare parts for some models. Most times, these products appear not to be cost-effective because it has been used for several years before being sold to the second buyer.

Due to the geographical changes on the product destination, it is possible for the car to incessantly develop faults, sending the buyer on constant trips to the mechanic.

Another factor worthy of note is that the availability of this investment by a nation will not permit the indigenous companies manufacturing vehicles to thrive. Innoson motors in Nigeria, for example, do not have as much patronage as it should because the mind of Nigerians has been fixed to the culture of buying foreign used vehicles imported from abroad.

Lastly, buying and selling Tokunbo vehicles turns a country into a dumping ground for toxic items that were recycled in the country of import which might later lead to a health hazard in the nearest future.


Tokunbo is quite affordable to the common man with his meager means

>>> Click to reveal related posts on Tokunbo cars in Nigeria!


So basically the reason why Nigerians love Tokunbo cars is due to the cost. Buying a brand-new vehicle can cost twice as much as buying a second-hand car.

A foreign second-hand car is preferred to Nigerian-used because foreign cars were driven on better roads and maintained better.

Although importing these foreign vehicles has its demerits, I can boldly tell you the following: "you see these tokunbo cars eh, we go still buy am for a long time, until them find way resurrect this our epileptic economy". 

So, if you must buy one of these tokunbo and fairly used cars, all you need is check out our car sales page and boom! You may just find your perfect car. So what are you waiting for, go there already?

Before we go, see this very short analysis form this Nigerian:


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Henry Egan

Henry Egan


Henry Egan a poet, essayist, content writer, blogger and technical writer who is willing to read just that last material to develop the best content possible. Henry feels he is more of a new generation writer with a sassy and swanky style. You can be sure you'll get all the facts in and never get bored with his articles.

He has got a flair for technical reviews on automobile and cars. He studied Mechanical Engineering but his first love remains Literary Art.

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