Perfect Marketplace for Expats:

I’ve told you my story about buying a car in South Africa, in all its glorious (and sometimes embarrassing) detail. I’ve also told you my story about selling the car again, taking place almost three years later, and it provided another welcome opportunity to let you learn from my successes and (as more often than not) mistakes.
But what might have saved me a great many words (and almost certainly some money) is a simpler approach: I could have used Gumtree.

And no, by that I do not mean that I should have trekked to the village square where business is conducted under a large tree and where goods change hands, although when I first heard of Gumtree I thought that it must have derived its name from exactly such a scenario.

What is Gumtree? is a classifieds website, much like Craigslist in the United States. I’ve since learned that the name was a brainchild of the original founders, who launched the site in 2000 and were looking for a name that might appeal to their target audiences in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa and connect them in some way. Even though Australian and South African gum trees, to my knowledge, are very different species, the name was chosen and has stuck.

The only reason I didn’t buy or sell my car on Gumtree was that I simply didn’t think of it as a trading site for cars. However, I’ve been told that Cars for Sale is Gumtree’s biggest category by far, with almost 800,000 monthly ads. I learned this when I was recently approached by Gumtree to inquire about advertising on my blog. Since I’ve been wanting to write about them for quite some time, we agreed for me to write a sponsored post (which this is, just to be upfront about it). Here are some other interesting facts I learned about Gumtree:

  • It is South Africa’s #1 classifieds site, and the 6th largest site overall in SA
  • It was purchased by eBay in 2005
  • It first started out in Cape Town, and was subsequently launched in Joburg and Durban in 2009
  • Most of Gumtree’s visitors come from Gauteng
  • About 2.5 million ads are posted on each month

I was surprised to hear Gumtree is owned by eBay. Somehow that gives it a mantle of respectability that (at least in my mind) its American cousin Craigslist lacks. I’m not surprised, however, that most of Gumtree’s visitors come from Gauteng. Most of everything that happens in South Africa seems to be happening in Johannesburg and surroundings (i.e. Gauteng Province), which is why Gumtree is such a must-visit location for all Joburg expats.

A recent screenshot from the Gumtree cars for sale listing in Johannesburg

I can’t quite believe that I navigated through three years of expat life in South Africa without ever conducting a Gumtree transaction, which I would have loved to report to you. However, my blogger friend 2Summers did just that, and you can read about her experience here (it went smoothly and to everyone’s satisfaction). Based on this and other feedback I’ve received, I’m confident that I can wholeheartedly endorse Gumtree.

How to Use Gumtree

So, whether you are a newly-arrived expat, perhaps still in your home country nervously surfing the Internet researching car prices, or whether you’re looking to trade in your car for something else, give Gumtree Used Cars a try. If you’re looking for bargains, you might want to specifically look for repossessed cars. Or perhaps you’re looking at the other end of the spectrum for that nice BMW you’ve always wanted to have? Or go completely South African and get yourself a bakkie – once you’ve completed your South African language lesson about bakkies, lekker, takkies and such.

Of course you’ll find a host of other categories on Gumtree besides cars, such as properties/rentals, household goods, electronics, all sorts of services, and even jobs.

If you’re at the tail end of your expat days, you’ll undoubtedly need to shed a few possessions before the arrival of that moving truck, and Gumtree is a great way to put up your car and household goods for sale, while saving those costly advertising fees you’d have to pay on another website. Posting a free ad is as easy as pie – you choose your location, pick the category, and enter all the details – voila, you are ready to sit back and wait for the calls that are sure to come.

As easy as 1-2-3: Posting a free ad on Gumtree

Safety Advice

One worry you might have is how safe a Gumtree transaction might be. As with everything else in South Africa, safety is always a concern. And as with all other situations you might encounter, I’d say you just have to be sensible about it, as I’m sure every South African will tell you.

Being sensible means to take some common-sense precautions when conducting a Gumtree transaction. Make sure you only correspond with a buyer/seller via the contact data officially sanctioned by Gumtree, and when you set up a meeting, do it in a neutral/populated place like a coffee shop or garage (SA speak for gas station), or if it has to be in your home, make sure you are not alone (most estate security guards will be happy to show up for a small tip). It’s really the same as anywhere else.

On the plus side, you’ll save some money, earn some extra cash, and perhaps meet some colorful characters along the way, which always makes for a good story to tell! But just in case you still have concerns, Gumtree has put together a safety guide for its users that addresses a list of various concerns.

Go ahead, give Gumtree a try by signing up here. And please let me know how it goes.

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