Used Cars: How to Read, Interpret Auction Sheet, Verify Mileage

Motorists on a Colossal Traffic Jam Along Busy Uhuru Highway in Nairobi
Traffic jam witnessed along busy Uhuru Highway in Nairobi in 2019
Simon Kiragu

Millions of Kenyans are swindled by unscrupulous sales agents when purchasing second-hand cars, and especially when importing units from different points of sale. One of the key documents used car buyers are not aware of or do not know how to interpret it is the auction sheet.

An auction sheet is an exceedingly important and reliable document that provides complete information about a unit, covering everything from scratches, major dents, and accidents history. It is created by an independent authority providing an unbiased assessment of the car.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), on Tuesday, November 9, directed that only right-hand drive (RHD) motor vehicles whose year of first registration is from January 1, 2015, and later, shall be allowed into the country effective January 1, 2022.


An auction sheet illustrated by Rutune Motor World States on Wednesday, September 15, 2021
An auction sheet illustrated by Rutune Motor World States on Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Rutune Motor World States

It further advised that the certificates of roadworthiness for vehicles whose year of first registration is 2014 will not be valid after December 31. The directives are aligned with Kenya’s plan to phase out secondhand cars by 2026. 

As buyers rush to import used vehicles, automotive engineers and car experts advise that they should normalise requesting auction sheets when buying second-hand cars. Many importers are susceptible to falling for the physical appearance of a car. 

Negotiation and the value of a buyer’s money start with the auction sheet. 

Auction Grade 

Second-hand cars are always listed under different grades. These grades underline the neatness and cost of the car. 

“The higher the grade, the cleaner it is. Gradings are ranked from S to RA or *. S indicates top tier vehicles that are mostly brand new,” an official of Rutune Motor World states. The same is indicated on Kobe Motor Company and other similar websites. 

S - New.

5 - Same as New.

4.5 - Excellent grade with almost no issue.

4 - Great grade with minor issues only.

3.5 -  Good grade with some issues that may need repair.

3 - Average grade with issues to fix.

2 - Bad grade.

* - Non-running car, needs a forklift to be moved.

R or O - Accident history/repaired. Repaired parts are mostly mentioned in the auction sheet. 

RA - Minor accident repaired.

RB - Heavy repair.

RC - Pillar or frame has been changed/repaired. 

R2 - Accident history and mostly rust or corrosion issues. 

Motorists driving along Mombasa road on October 14, 2019.

Alongside the numerical grades are alphabetical gradings A-D, that highlight the interior neatness of a car, from seats to dashboard, roof and panels. 

Alphabetical grades are used to complement the numerical grades. However, they play a key role a car can have good numerical or external grades but have issues with the interior which may cost a lot in repairs. 

A - Excellent interior condition. 

B - Good condition with some imperfections. 

C - Good or average condition with imperfections. 

D - Bad interior condition. 

Other Detailed Vehicle Condition 

1 - Minor, almost not noticeable (eg A1, U1).

2 - Small but noticeable (eg A2, U2).

3 - Average or big (eg A3, U3).

X - Big (Japanese kanji for "big").


Vehicle Options 

Motorists should also pay attention to detail while inspecting parts like the sunroof, leather seats, parking sensors, navigation system and leather seats. 

Other defects may be detected but written under the inspector's comments. This includes torn seats, rust, loose steering etc. 

R - Sunroof

AW - Alloy Wheel

PS - Power Steering

PW - Power Window

X  - Leather Seats


X - Navigation System

X - Airbag

Motorists stuck in traffic in Nairobi in October 2021


This will also be indicated in the auction sheet. Transmission refers to the whole drivetrain, including clutch, gearbox, prop shaft (for rear-wheel drive vehicles), differential, and final drive shafts. 

Cars are either manual or automatic. 

Manual F5, F6, MT, 5MT, 6MT

Automatic AT, FA, FAT, CVT

In the auction, an all-round car map indicates the car view of the car on paper and is usually marked with alpha-numeric. These markings indicate the condition of the body of the car from scratches to dents, cracks to replaced components.

“With the know-how of interpreting the auction sheet of different cars, the most important and critical thing to look for are which auction halls come in from. Different halls have different strictness hence that translates to the grades,” Rutune Motor World states. 


The mileage of the car also determines the grade. 

Grades 7, 8, 9 or S – These refer to a brand new car with only delivery mileage.

Grade 6 – This grade can sometimes be equivalent to the grades above, but sometimes will have a little more than just delivery mileage.

Grade 5 – A vehicle in superb condition, very close to brand new standard, but with several thousand kilometres on the odometer.

Grade 4.5 – A vehicle in excellent condition, but with up to a few tens of thousands of kilometres on the clock.

Grade 4 – A good, solid vehicle usually having less than 100,000 km on the clock.

Grade 3.5 – A higher mileage vehicle or one which will need some work to clean up.

Grade 3 – Either a very high mileage vehicle or one which is rough.

Grade 2 – A very rough vehicle usually with corrosion holes triggering this low grade.

Grade 1 – Usually a heavily modified vehicle that has had a different engine or transmission fitted, or which has an aftermarket turbocharger. Other possibilities are flood or fire extinguisher damage.

Grade R, RA, A and 0 (zero) – These are vehicles that have had some degree of accident repairs. At one end of the spectrum, the repairs will be a single panel replaced due to a minor parking ding, whereas at the other extreme there are vehicles that must have rolled in an accident that have had almost every panel replaced.

Ungraded vehicles (***) – These are sold as-is by the auction with no or almost no information about their condition. As such they are very risky and can result in escalating additional costs if they cannot drive or move.

Motorists pictured along Waiyaki Way on Thursday, October 17, 2019

How to read odometer from auction sheet

* - Mileage Rewound (reversed)

# - Mileage Unknown 

(Unidentified sign) Odometer changed 


Bidding Outcomes 

Purchased - Car matched listed price.  

Sold to other -  Car purchased by someone before you in the auction.

Not sold - The bids do not reach the reserve price set by sellers.

Cancelled by auction  - A vehicle does not meet the condition relevant to the country of import or customer purchase limit exceeded.

Cancelled by seller - A vehicle removed from auction by the seller during the process.

Quality Inspection Services Japan (QISJ) allows all second-hand car buyers to inspect vehicle chassis and mileage. 

A screengrab of Quality Inspection Services Japan (QISJ) website
A screengrab of Quality Inspection Services Japan (QISJ) website
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