Tokunbo cars in Nigeria: Done more harm than good?


Posted by: Testimony Olajire

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What makes Tokunbo cars in Nigeria so popular nowadays? Do you know they used to find Nigeria a difficult market to penetrate back in the 70s? Your wonders will meet our answer in this post. Read on!


Most of the cars seen on Nigerian roads nowadays are from overseas

Nigeria is reported to be the largest economy in Africa, with the largest population on the continent. What this means is more people; more people means more need for transportation. And a higher need for transportation means more cars.

However, in a developing key sector, we are losing in our own playground: the manufacturing of vehicles, losing to the popularity of foreign-used cars. Foreign-used or second-hand cars are typically called ‘tokunbo’ in Nigeria. These cars have usually been used for some period of time from some weeks or months to even years before they are shipped down to Nigeria for resale. Some are ordered from the foreign country and then brought to Nigeria.

This article would examine if the use of tokunbo cars in Nigeria has been beneficial to us as a country or not.

>>> See 15 things you need to consider before buying a tokunbo car

Nigerians used to buy new cars back in 1970s

In the 1970s, tokunbo cars in Nigeria were not as common as they are today. This was because of the high import duty which the government placed on cars that were built outside the country.

Again, there was enough local assembly of cars to meet the target demand of the emerging car users in the country at that time. 

Unanticipatedly, foreign used vehicles became popular in the late 80s when the oil boom was over and the local assembly plants could not meet up with the local demand. The government also began to patronize vehicles for official purposes outside the country and thus, cleared the way for the influx of foreign-produced cars. For instance, Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Ltd. was producing about 100 vehicles daily as at 2000; but by 2010, production rate had dropped to 22 per day, making herself a shadow of her good old days.


New cars are often considered only the rich can buy

Of course, the price of brand new cars is way outside the pay range of most Nigerians -  a condition worsened by the depreciation of the Naira; therefore, tokunbo cars are the lifesavers. In fact, in Nigeria, people that buy brand new cars are often tagged with ‘super-rich.’ So what are the objective explanation for the quick shift to foreign-used cars in the 1980s? Let's find out!

So why do people buy Tokunbo cars in Nigeria?

Apart from the fact that local assembly of cars cannot meet with demand and the prices, the following are the reasons why many Nigerians would prefer Tokunbo cars:

1. Preference for foreign-made vehicles:

Nigerians like foreign products. Simple! We want to brag in a Toyota Camry or a Ford or a BENZ! This preference for foreign products is not only seen in cars, but in other products like phones, clothes, and jewelry (for instance, Dolce and Gabbana is what everyone wants to wear).


Innoson has a lot to do to bring Nigerian products to the top sales in Nigeria

2. Notion that tokunbo cars are more rugged

Nigerians believe that Tokunbo cars would be stronger and more adaptable to our road and weather conditions than even band new cars in some cases. This might not be easily proven, but it is a very common notion among Nigerians.

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3. Nigerians are not too bothered about the latest cutting edge technology

Unlike many countries that are always waiting to get the latest update or technological innovation, most Nigerians just need a presentable car that would get them around their daily activities without stress. A car with good fuel efficiency, transmission, air conditioner, and speed is good enough for an average motorist.


Many Nigerians don't go for fancy when it comes to buying a car

Whether a buyer is looking for a Toyota Camry 2007 or 2008 or a 2006 Toyota Corolla, the most important thing to an average Nigerian is to get a car and the car dey move! and that's it.

4. Everybody can have a car

With tokunbo cars, you can get good cars at cheap prices. Even low-income families can save to get one.

>>> Updated Tokunbo car prices in Nigeria (17 most popular brands)

5. There is a wide variety of options to choose from in the market

Yes, whoever you are, well off or a bit broke, family man or Uber driver, there is a tokunbo car for you.

>>> Read more: 

6. You save more

Since lesser is spent for almost the same quality as a brand new car.

Video: How and where to buy cheap cars in Nigeria

The downside of Tokunbo cars in Nigeria

Nothing is perfect, so what's not so sweet of owning a Tokunbo car?

1. Stiff competition for local manufacturers

Local automobile companies like Innoson would have a very hard time competing with these tokunbo cars. Tokunbo cars are one of the reasons why it is difficult for local car assembly plants and manufacturers to thrive. This is not helping the automotive industry, because Nigeria is large enough to be the seat of automobile manufacturing in the world.

>>> See Innoson Motors price list 2020, facts about its owner, logo, & Nnewi factory

2. Dumping ground for vehicles

Since tokunbo cars dominate the market, all types of cars abound. Those that are good, bad, well kept, hazardous to road users or not; everything finds its way to the Nigerian market. 

3. Flow of money out of the country

If we keep buying cars and other items abroad, the money just keeps running out of the country. On the other hand, a locally made car would keep money within the country, why don't we encourage the thrive of our own economy?

>>> For car buying and selling tips and advice, click here!

4. Unemployment

Unemployment is one of the end products of this. Instead of the operating plants that can employ several workers and accumulate salesmen that helps boost the manufacturing of local vehicles, we are reinforcing the sales of foreign cars.


The importing of foreign-used cars does not provide much job opportunity for Nigerian workers

5. Poorer appreciation for locally made products

The truth is that the more we purchase foreign-based products, the more we lose appreciation for all our locally made products. While many Americans would rather go for a Ford because it is an American car - their car, Nigerians would want to go for a Benz, or a Ford too, even though we have local options, even if they are limited. It's high time the compatriotism raised its voice!

6. Some of the cars that are bought are in poor condition

No, very poor condition indeed. As a matter of fact, the fault in some of those cars was the reason they were sold in the first place. In the end, an unlucky buyer would get the car and would have to live with the regret of buying a bad car. This would be very unlikely to happen with brand new cars.

>>> Read also: What determines a good Tokunbo car? Don't be cheated by its mileage

In the end, if Nigeria would take her place in the automobile world, then we have to strengthen our local manufacturing game. Tokunbo cars might look like a good and feasible solution at the moment, but it is hurting our economy and our national image. All stakeholders would need to be involved starting from the government, to the sellers and individual motorists. All hands would need to be on deck.

Tokunbo cars in Nigeria have made vehicular movement accessible to almost everyone at an affordable rate, but there is also no denying the effect it has on the national economy, so what is your choice?

Are you interested in some certain kind of topic? Let us know by sending an email to Also, find more car articles on where we upload daily content about Car news, Tips & advice, Car Prices, and Reviews.

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Testimony Olajire

Testimony Olajire


Testimony Olajire is a witty and innovative content writer with He creates top quality educative content on automobiles that readers can both relate with and enjoy. He has a keen interest in understanding what lies under the hood of any car, practical driving and safety tips, automobile history and managing automobile-related businesses; all in the Nigerian context.   

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