Cars and motor vehicle in Kenya

There are over 500,000 motor vehicles on the Kenyan roads. Of these, saloons and station wagons form about 50%. Utility vehicles especially pick-ups form about 20%. Matatus registered annually are slightly more than the buses/coaches. Both form about 5% of the total motor vehicle population in the country.

With the liberalisation of the economy, used imported motorcars far outnumber the new motor cars registered annually. Most of the imported used motor vehicles are saloon cars.

The Registrar of Motor vehicles registers, issues number plates and Registration books (log books) for all the vehicles, trailers, tractors, mobile cranes, motorcycles, and all other types of motor vehicles. In addition, the Registrar keeps records for all the vehicles registered by the department; civilian, G.K., parastatals, city/county councils, and UN bodies as well as embassies.

Registration and licensing of motor vehicle in Kenya

Registration and licencing of motor vehicles and drivers in Kenya are handled by the Registrar of Motor vehicles. This is done in the Road Transport Department which is managed by the Kenya Revenue Authority.

Registration of number plates in Kenya

There are five types of number plates issued by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles; for civilian, GK,  parastatals, local authorities and diplomats. The civilian number plates have a white oblong plate at the front bumper of the car and yellow oblong or squire plate in the rear bumper depending on the make of the car. The GK plates are similar in design and colour as civilian ones only that the numbering is different. The parastatals have same design of plates but that both plates are blue in colour. Local Authorities have green colour while diplomats have red ones. It is only the civilian and the GK plates that have white front and yellow rear plates. Others have one colour for both plates.

 The history of car registration numbers in Kenya

Motor car registration identification numbers have been changing over the years.

Government vehicles

During the colonial era, the government administration was on His/Her Majesty’s Service (HMS). Therefore government vehicles registered then bore the following identification marks:

a)  HMS 3457 (HMS followed by 4 digits).

This continued until after independence (December, 1963) when the registration marks were changed to Government of Kenya (GK).

b) GK 1245 (GK followed by 4 digits).

This series continued until GK 9999 when a new one GK 001A was introduced.

c) In 1982, this serialisation was changed to:

GK A789 (GK, gap followed by a letter and three digits).

d)   In 1997, a new serial numbering was adopted:

GK B653C (GK, gap, a letter, 3 digits and a letter).

Civilian registration numbering

The registration identification marking of civilian cars are as follows:

KAB 159

KAB is the registration Mark

159 is the registration Number

  • Upto late 1950’s, the registration identification numbering was: H 4965 (A letter followed by 4 digits.
  • In the 1960’s the registration numbering was changed to: KAK 498 (K followed by two letters, gap, then three digits).
  • ln 1989, this was changed to KAM 697E (K followed by two letters, gap, three digits followed by a letter.

Diplomats registration numbers

They are given red number plates and registration marks are as follows:

99 CD 19 K (first figures are the code for the diplomats country. CD shows it is for a chartered Diplomat and the next set of figures is allocated by the embassy, for instance depending on the rank of the car owner in the embassy, then at the end is K which means the embassy is based in Kenya.

United Nations bodies

They are also given red number plates and registration marks which are as follows:

12 UN 23K (The set of figures are for the UN department (for example, Population Fund, UN HQs, UNDP, UNICEF, next set with a K are for the rank or code of the car owner).

Development corporations linked to embassies

Car registration marks and numbers which are on red number plate appear like this:

32 DX 76B K (The first set of figures are the code for the country of the embassy, next set of two letters are for the NGO then followed by ranking of the car owner and ending with a K.

United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)

With its Headquarters in Nairobi, the organisation is allocated its own registration Mark and Numbers, for example, UNEP 246K.

Non-profit making international organizations

These organisations include; ICRAF, ILRAD, Red Cross, ICIPE, PTA Bank, They are issued with red number plates with the following pattern; KX 06 B 68 (The first two letters are a code for these NGOs, and the next two digits and a letter are for a particular NGO, then the next set of figures are the serial number of the car or ranking of the officer who owns it.


a) Initially trailers had a registration or serial marking as follows: Z 2837

b) In 1971, this was changed to: ZA 0149 ($ digits)

Government officials

Government officials with special numbers for their official cars are: The Attorney General – (AG 1) V

The Speaker of the National Assembly — (SNA 1)

Motor vehicle registration process in Kenya

New motor vehicles in Kenya

The registration process is handled by the motor vehicle dealer before handing over the vehicle to the customer. A motor car should not be used without number plates and appropriate licences.

The Registration Book is issued to the car owner later by the Registrar. However, if the motor vehicle is bought on credit, the Registration Book will show joint owners and it will be released to the financier who will retain it until the loan is repaid. The transfer will then be effected to remove joint ownership. The dealer will obtain from the vehicle buyer the necessary information and documents for the motor vehicle registration.

Imported used motor vehicles in Kenya

Most used cars in Kenya are imported from Japan and Dubai. There are some vehicles also from Britain, South Africa and a few other countries. Those imported through Mombasa Port are registered in the Registrar’s Mombasa office after they have been cleared from the entry port.

What you need for Motor vehicle registration in Kenya

Duty and VAT paid receipts, Import Entry form, Foreign Registration Book (with its certified English translation if the same is not in English), Mombasa Port Release or Ainuays Bill, Bill of Lading, import Declaration Form (IDF), duplicate valid insurance certificate, Vehicle Inspection Report for Commercial and PSV’s photocopies of the owner’s national identity card or business registration certificate where applicable, PIN card and the completed application Form (Form A).

For duty free vehicles, a copy of an exemption letter or documentary evidence of the exemption should be attached, such as a passport, for returning residents. The rest of the usual registration documents except the tax paid receipts should also be availed.

Other motor vehicles registered by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles are: Ex- Army, Ex-Government, Ex-CD or other foreign bodies, and the Police auction cars whose registration number has been tampered with or unknown and the owner cannot be identified.

Where duty was not paid initially during the previous registration, it must now be paid before the vehicle can be registered for the new owner. This means that the motor vehicle will have to be taken to the Customs and Excise Department for valuation for the payment of this duty.

To register a vehicle, you will need to take to the Registrar the registration book, number plates (a pair), duty receipts, copies of your identity card, PIN card, duplicate insurance cover and a completed application Form A.

Parastatal and local government cars are allocated the same serial registration number but with civilian number plate. Parastatals have blue plates while the local government have green.

Motor vehicle registration can be changed for very limited reasons. For instance, if a motor vehicle is stolen and is missing for an unreasonably long period, it may have been involved in many crimes and may be unsafe for the owner to continue using it with the same registration number. If the Registrar accepts your request, the vehicle will be re-registered and you will be issued with new number plates, registration book as well as road licences after paying the usual fees. The Registrar will require from the applicant a letter from the C.l.D office confirming need for such change.

Registration book is usually posted to the car owner under certificate of posting using the address given in the application Form “A”.

The vehicle registration book must be surrendered to the Registrar when the vehicle has been written off. The Diplomats must have their forms Pro lB or DAI approved by the officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international Co- operation. The approved forms will form part of the registration application documents.

Registration of the customs auction vehicles

You need:

The payment receipt, letter from the Commissioner of Customs and Excise Department confirming that the applicant was the winning bidder, Vehicle inspection Report (VIR) for commercial vehicles, photocopies of ID and PIN card, duplicate insurance cover, customs receipt and application form ‘A’ duly signed.

 Featured cars and motor vehicle businesses in Kenya

  1. A. Jiwa Shamji Limited
  2. ACME Parts and Spares
  3. Ado Bro Company Ltd
  4. Afrimax Auto Trading Company
  5. Agba Motors Ltd.
  6. Akaranga Autospares
  7. Alfa Motors
  8. Al-Husnain Motors Ltd
  9. Allied Tyre Traders
  10. Ami-Pal East Africa Ltd
  11. Associated Motors Ltd
  12. Associated Motors Ltd (Eldoret)
  13. Associated Motors Ltd (Mombasa)
  14. Auto Evolution Ltd
  16. Auto Xpress
  17. Autodrome Services Ltd.
  18. Automobile Association of Kenya
  19. Autoxpress Limited
  20. Avery (EA) Ltd
  21. Blaze Garage
  22. Body Torque Ltd
  23. Car Junction
  24. Car Mania Ltd
  25. Car Max
  26. Chambai Tyres And Automart
  27. Checkered Investments
  28. Chery Motors (EA) Ltd.
  29. Choda Fabricators Ltd.
  30. CMC Motors Group Ltd.
  31. Courtesy Cabs
  32. Crater Group
  33. Cynkey Ltd
  34. Dante Burba Diesel (1981) Ltd
  35. Davicell
  36. Delight Motors
  37. Devin Motor Bike And Cycle Mart
  38. Diesel Turbo Charger Services
  39. Dong Feng Motors Kenya Ltd
  40. DT Dobie
  41. Duorop Cycle Farm Ltd
  42. Durga Auto Spares Ltd
  43. Dynacorp Motors Ltd
  44. Elico Investiment
  45. Express Spares Ltd
  46. Finesales Ltd
  47. Franciska Auto Spares
  48. General Motors East Africa
  49. Glad Auto Parts And Hardware
  50. Han Kang Enterprises Ltd
  51. Hilltop Junction Motors
  52. International Auto Auction
  53. Iron Art Ltd
  54. J Auto Patrs
  55. Jabez Motocycle & Spare
  56. JasAuto Solutions Ltd
  57. Jawabu Motorbike
  58. Joska Motobike Spares Wholesale & Retail
  59. Kìngbird Motorcycles
  60. Kasarani Capital Tyres Centre
  61. Kenya Bus Servive Management Ltd – KBS
  62. Kheng Keng Auto Kenya Ltd
  63. Kingland Auto Spares Lubricants & Filters
  64. Kingsway Tyres Limited
  65. Laborex Kenya
  66. Land Mawe Ltd
  67. Lukenya Motorcross Limited
  68. Mahindra Ltd
  69. Marshalls (EA) Ltd
  70. Mastard Autospares
  71. Master Fabricators Ltd
  72. Matuto Mwalimu Motors Ltd
  73. MCS(Misters Control System) Speed Monitor
  74. MIkato Cycles (k)Ltd
  75. Mitsuba Agencies Limited
  76. motor World Fast Fit
  77. Motorways (K) Ltd
  78. Multi Trade International Ltd
  79. Oriel Kenya Limited
  80. Oto Doktuz Ltd
  81. Petrolube Entrprises
  82. Pony Motors Panel Beaters
  83. Power Max Auto Tryes
  84. Premier Ventures Ltd
  85. Prime Auto & General Trading Enterprises
  86. Puma Car Ltd
  87. Quality Spectrum Systems Ltd
  88. Rafiki Motor Cycle Spare
  89. Real Auto Track fuel Injections
  90. Rex Motors Limited
  91. Rivercross Tracking Limited
  92. Ryce East Africa – Engineering Division
  93. Ryce East Africa ltd
  94. Sakai Trading Ltd
  95. Samani Auto Parts
  96. Sameer Africa Ltd.
  97. Sean Garstin Motors
  98. Seaways Kenya
  99. Shapla Motors Ltd
  100. Shina Trading Company Limited
  101. Signature Ltd
  102. Simba Colt Motors
  103. Smart Auto’s Ltd.
  104. Specialised Fibreglass Ltd
  105. St. Austin’s Service Centre
  106. Stantech Motors Ltd
  107. Steel Auto
  108. Stepnice Agencies
  109. Steves Garage And Panel Beaters
  111. Subaru Kenya
  112. Tabsco Motors
  113. The Big Garage
  114. Toolcrafts Ltd
  115. Toyota East Africa Ltd
  116. Tracer Ltd
  117. Track and Trace Kenya Ltd.
  118. Traffilog Kenya Limited
  119. Transafrica Motors Ltd
  120. Transallied Ltd
  121. Trendy Automobiles
  122. Tyremasters Limited
  123. Tyseal East Africa Ltd
  124. Unity Auto Garage
  125. Vehicle Masters Limited
  126. Vehicles and spare parts
  127. Yansam Motors Ltd.

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About the Author

Hello, I'm Josphat Gachie, a DIGITAL MEDIA CONSULTANT and the founder of Softkenya is Kenya's most comprehensive information website. Hope you will get what you want. WELCOME.