With the rand’s value climbing radically over the last few weeks, importing tech from overseas has once again become an option for those gadget lovers looking to save money.
Prospects for importing in 2020 were rather low, with South Africa’s local currency getting hammered in 2020 and international trade and shipping being restricted.
However, the rand has been on a slow path towards recovery since hitting its all-time low of R19.35 in April 2020.
For the majority of 2021, the currency has been trading around R15 to the dollar, and recent international developments have resulted in a rally that sent the rand below R14.50 again.
The rand has since been hovering between R14.50 and R15.00 to the US dollar
This means that, for now, buying tech in the US currency is generally more affordable than it was for most of last year.
While many of the South African prices of tech accurately reflect the costs incurred in getting them to South Africa, there are instances in which local retailer mark-ups may be relatively high compared with importing the product.
As SARS classifies tech devices differently, they also incur different levels of import costs, which means your prospects of getting a discount can vary depending on what you are buying.
In certain cases, such as with smartphones, SARS charges VAT, import duties, and an ad valorem (luxury) tax, which means you will pay far more than the price advertised on an international site, even when taking shipping costs into account.
A laptop, however, is exempt from additional import duties or luxury tax. As such, you will only be expected to pay 15% VAT on top of the purchasing price to clear customs.
In many cases, this means buying a laptop from overseas can be cheaper than buying locally.
US vs South Africa
We’ve compared the total cost of importing different types of gadgets from the US to their retail prices in South Africa to see which was the cheapest with the rand trading at R14.50 to the dollar.
We used the United States’ biggest online retailer, Amazon, which makes this entire process very simple by automatically calculating the additional amount you will have to pay and including it in your transaction cost.
The table below shows our findings.
|Tech Prices – February 2021|
|Item||Import, Taxes, Delivery Fees||US Price||Final Price|
|Samsung 980 Pro 2TB NVMe SSD – Amazon||$77.23||$399.99||$477.22 / R6,920|
|Samsung 980 Pro 2TB NVMe SSD – Local||–||–||R9,171|
|Netgear Nighthawk X6 – Amazon||$31.75||$229.99||$261.74 / R3,795|
|Netgear Nighthawk X6 – Local||–||–||R4,714|
|Samsung 34-inch WQHD Curved Gaming Monitor – Amazon||$644.27||$659.00||$1,303.27 / R18,897|
|Samsung 34-inch WQHD Curved Gaming Monitor – Local||–||–||R12,199|
|Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 128GB smartphone – Amazon||$127.44||$497.99||$625.43 / R9,069|
|Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 128GB smartphone – Local||–||–||R14,899|
|Huawei Watch Fit smartwatch – Amazon||$42.84||$109.00||$151.84 / R2,202|
|Huawei Watch Fit smartwatch – Local||–||–||R2,499|
|Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro – Amazon||$44.67||$199.99||$244.66 / R3,548|
|Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro – Amazon||–||–||R3,999|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900X – Amazon||$102.27||$484||$586.27 / R8,500|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3900X – Local||–||–||R9,299|
|EVGA RTX 2080 XC 8GB – Amazon||$232.34||$1,199.99||$1,432.33 / R20,769|
|EVGA RTX 2080 XC 8GB – Local||–||–||R13,999|
There was no definitive answer to the question of whether importing is cheaper than buying local.
Our comparison showed that while buying certain products from the US – like an SSD or router – may be substantially cheaper than purchasing them in South Africa, other devices – like computer displays and graphics cards could be significantly more expensive.
It is also important to note that there are still limited global warranties available for many tech products, which means if your product is defective you may have to end up shipping it back to the country of origin to get it fixed.
This could be a very costly exercise that nullifies the purpose of importing – saving money.