As public transport in Saudi Arabia is limited, most expats opt to drive themselves or hire a driver. Many have cars provided by their employer but for those who don't, the process of buying a car in Saudi Arabia can be daunting. Fortunately, it can be greatly simplified with the right guidance and resources.
Factors to consider when car buying in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has some of the cheapest petrol in the world, so gas mileage is less of a factor than in other locations when deciding whether to buy a car. Expats interested in exploring the desert should consider four-wheel-drive vehicles, as standard cars don’t have the ground clearance or power to go over rocks and drive in the sand. Buyers should also consider the price and availability of spare parts.
Buying a new car in Saudi Arabia
Expats purchase new vehicles while in Saudi Arabia for many reasons.
Some prefer having a car they feel they can rely on in the severe weather conditions. Air conditioning is a necessity, and good tyres are important because their lifespan is often compromised by the heat.
Dealerships usually have English-speaking staff. Cars bought from them have the advantage of being under warranty. Also, the dealership will take care of the majority of the paperwork involved in buying a car.
Buying a used car in Saudi Arabia
There are various options for expats who’d prefer to buy a used vehicle.
There’s always a risk involved when buying a used car. Expats should negotiate with the seller to have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic of their choice and ask for maintenance records.
Cars don’t rust with age in the arid climate, but underneath their shiny bodies, the heat takes its toll on less visible parts, like gaskets, hoses and belts. It’s important to find a trustworthy, competent mechanic – ask friends and colleagues for referrals.
Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a standardised way of calculating car values, so they go for market rates. Potential buyers should get an idea of a car’s base asking price by searching the internet.
Renting a car in Saudi Arabia
Expats have the option of renting a car if they aren’t sure how long they will be in the Kingdom or would prefer not to buy one. Car rental companies are plentiful, usually have a good selection and work on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Expats should ensure insurance is included in the rental price and read the policy to find out what their liabilities would be if they’re involved in an accident.
Car insurance in Saudi Arabia
Car insurance is mandatory in Saudi Arabia, and comes in two basic forms. Expats will need one of these before finalising their purchase.
Mandatory or third-party insurance covers the damage someone causes to other people or property but not their own vehicle. It’s reasonably priced, but coverage differs between companies, so it's best to shop around.
Comprehensive insurance covers all damage, including to the policyholder’s vehicle. Each company’s products and prices differ, so expats should consider the options and ask friends and colleagues for referrals.