12 Tips to Note Before Buying and Importing a Car

Introduction

Looking to import your dream car but don’t know where and how to start? While importing a car into your home country may sound like an easy task, there are many factors to take into consideration before purchasing and importing your dream car. Thankfully, with the advancement of technology these days, you can obtain a whole lot of information at your fingertips.

When doing your research, be sure to think about things like the actual total cost of importing the car as well as engaging a reliable overseas car dealer. In order to get the best prices, you should try searching for your desired car model locally and compare prices before deciding whether to import it. Another crucial step is to engage a suitable and professional freight forwarder to aid you throughout the whole importation process to ensure a seamless experience.

Since this is a big-ticket item, it is vital to do in-depth research and be well-informed of the procedures and costs before deciding to go ahead with it. In this article, we have broken down the factors that you should consider and the tips that you might find helpful to aid your research process before making this huge decision.

Factor 1: Cost

When it comes to considering the different factors of purchasing and importing a car, the cost is often one of the largest determining factors. Not only does cost take into account the monetary value of the car, but also other hidden costs that you may forget to consider such as shipping fees and repair costs for second-hand cars. The tips provided below also include hacks that you may take advantage of to cut the overall cost incurred.

Tip 1: Compare prices of cars from different countries

Needless to say, the first thing to consider is the price of the car itself. There is a common misconception that cars are always cheaper in their country of origin. However, this is not always the case as there is a possibility of finding cheaper cars online in another country, especially second-hand ones.

Tip 2: Use exchange rates to your advantage

When calculating the cost of the car, be sure to factor in conversion rates as well, since you are purchasing the car from a different country. A simple cost-saving hack would be to take note of the fluctuation of exchange rates during different periods and seize the opportunity to make your purchase when the rates are in your favour.

XE Currency App on iPhone (Source)

One of the phone apps that is widely used to monitor exchange rate fluctuations would be XE Currency. This app allows you to set email alerts when your currency pair reaches your desired rate and is available for both iPhone and Android users.

Tip 3: Calculate shipping fees and taxes

Importation includes a variety of extra costs from shipping fees to taxes. Be sure to add up all these costs to have a clearer idea of how much it costs to import a car as compared to purchasing one locally. Weigh the costs to effectively evaluate if the purchase is value for money.

Let’s take a look at the following example for the case of Singapore:

  • Shipping a used car to Singapore will incur a S$10,000 surcharge.

Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme (Source)

  • Under the Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme, cars that generate above 230g/km of carbon dioxide (CO2) will incur a S$30,000 surcharge.

Vehicular Emissions Scheme (Source)

  • Under the Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) as seen above, cars with high emissions of CO2, hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) will incur up to a S$20,000 surcharge.

Therefore, it is important for you to do your research and find out if your home country imposes such import taxes, so you can take them into account when calculating your total costs.

Other than that, enquire regarding the shipping fee for your desired car model as well, as it is based on different factors such as the size and weight of the car, operating condition and shipping destination.

Tip 4: Be wary of too-good-to-be-true prices

While low prices may seem very tempting, before you commit to such a big-ticket item, ensure that you do some research with regards to the range of acceptable market prices for that particular car model. When dealers quote prices that fall way out of the typical price range, it may be a red flag.

Tip 5: Check accident history information for second-hand cars

If you are looking to import a second-hand car, there are certain hidden costs that you might be neglecting to consider. Make it a point to request for and do a thorough check of the car’s accident history in order to prevent buying an unworthy car that is full of repair work to be done.

The accident history information report should include things like any import and export information, service and repair records, mileage history, purpose of use (i.e. taxi, rental car, etc.) and flood damage data. This report will better inform you of the commitment that you are about to get yourself into and the extra costs that may come along with it.

Tip 6: Check for rarity of your car parts and factor in maintenance costs

Whether you are planning on getting a new or second-hand car, another cost consideration to take into account is the rarity of car parts and maintenance costs for your preferred car brand and model. This can be done simply by googling your desired car’s brand (and model) with the words “parts” or “spare parts” and your country, e.g. Toyota Wish spare parts Singapore. You can then browse through the first few links to see if these parts are easily accessible and available at a price within your budget.

It is important to find out if your car’s manufacturer still sells the parts for your car, regardless of whether they are still manufacturing the car or not. This is because while some car manufacturers, such as Saab, may have ceased operations, their car parts for certain models are still available in a number of official service centres. Therefore, you should determine if these car parts are available in your country to save time when you actually do need to get them.

2014 BMW parts (Source)

There are certain car brands or models that may be notorious for having high maintenance costs in different countries. Some examples of such brands in Singapore would be BMW, Mercedes and Chrysler. Their spare parts are usually expensive and hard to find, and any repair works usually require a specialist. By being well-informed of these potential costs (both in terms of money and time used to do research), you will be able to make better purchase decisions.

Tip 7: Check vital car specifications

This can be done with a simple Google search. Car specifications that you may want to take a second look at include fuel consumption and CO2 emission as well as emission of other harmful pollutants.

Fuel consumption may be measured in litres per 100 kilometres (l/100km) or kilometres per 1 litre (km/l), depending on the country. This value is important because, theoretically speaking, the higher your car’s fuel consumption is, the less fuel efficient it is and the more you may potentially need to spend on fuel. To determine how fuel efficient your car is, refer to the table below.

Note: This table provides an approximate range of values – use at your own discretion (Source)

Ideally, you would want to get a car that has good fuel efficiency in order to save costs on fuel. However, settling for a car with average fuel efficiency will do the job.

With regards to CO2 emission, there might be certain plans that have been implemented in your country to prevent excessive emissions as these contribute to global warming. In the case of Singapore, there are schemes put in place to encourage the purchase of low carbon emission vehicle models. These schemes include the Carbon Emission-Based Vehicle Scheme, Revised Carbon Emission-Based Vehicle Scheme and VES. Based on the latest VES, it takes into account your car’s emission of five pollutants – CO2, HC, CO, NOX and PM. Rebates under these 3 schemes can amount up to S$30,000. For more information, please refer the tax structure for cars in Singapore.

Tip 8: Protect yourself when making a deposit

There are various scenarios in the process of purchasing your car that may require you to leave a deposit and it is essential to note that the deposit amount should not too high. A reasonable amount to pay would be 20% of your car’s open market value.

According to RealCarTips, below are some examples of possible situations that may require a deposit on your end include the following:

  • Unable to make full payment after purchase agreement has been signed

If you need time to make the full payment for your car, your dealer might require you to pay a deposit to ensure that you are serious about the purchase while they hold on to the car for you. However, this deposit should be refundable and not a partial payment.

  • Dealer places an order directly from the manufacturer on your behalf

In this case, the deposit will not be refundable if you decide to back out of the purchase. Therefore, be sure to read the agreement thoroughly before committing to it with your signature.

  • Dealer trade

A dealer trade, or dealer swap, happens when your chosen dealer does not have the exact car model and colour that you want, and decides to swap cars with another dealer. This is when it becomes tricky, because you have to make sure that your dealer is indeed able to get and has the car that you want. Request for important details such as the Vehicle Identification Number, specifications of the vehicle, photo of the exact vehicle and date of arrival before leaving a deposit.

In Singapore, on top of the regular deposits, the dealer will also ask for a Certification of Entitlement (COE) deposit of S$10,000. This is the amount that the dealer will have to deposit with the Land Transport Authority in order to bid for the COE under your name.

Factor 2: Importation Regulations and Laws

Once you have established that you are willing and able to afford the car model of your choice, the next step to this entire process is to find out about the importation regulations and laws of your home country. This has to be done before you make the deposit payment for your car and make shipping arrangements.

Tip 9: Complying with regulations and import laws

Different countries have different sets of laws and regulations regarding the importation of cars. It is mandatory to check and comply with the necessary laws that are applicable.

Right-hand drive car (Source)

For example, Singapore only allows cars with right-hand drive and used cars must be less than 3 years old. Other things to look out for would be any Fuel Economy Labelling Scheme and/or Maximum Power Output that have been put in place.

Here are some links that may be useful for importing vehicles to different countries:

Importing Vehicles into Australia

Importing a Vehicle into Canada

Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Import and Export Duties

Importing a Vehicle into New Zealand

Procedures on Importation and Registration of a Car in Singapore

Procedures on Importation and Registration of a Vintage Car in Singapore

Importing Vehicles into the UK

Importing a Motor Vehicle to the United States

Factor 3: Quality

Other than ensuring that you are abiding to all importation laws, you should also make sure that you are getting a bang for your buck. Is the car that you are eyeing really what you expect it to be? When buying a big-ticket item, it is extremely crucial that you ensure that you are indeed getting what you paid for. With the few tips below, you can easily confirm that you are getting a car that is up to your expectations.

Tip 10: Read reviews of past experiences

Reading online reviews is a popular and almost foolproof way of getting to know the true experiences of past customers. These reviews help to give you an idea of what it is like if you were to work with that particular car dealer, and if they are reliable. Some of the platforms that you can access reviews would be Google, Facebook and online forums.

Alternatively, for a more accurate assessment, you may wish to ask around if any of your relatives or friends have had any encounters with trustworthy car dealers. Otherwise, you may call the dealer to request for photos and documents and decide if your interaction with them and their work ethics are to your liking.

Tip 11: Test driving

If you are in the country that you are planning to import your car from, it is advised that you should go for a test drive while you are there. If that is not possible, find a local dealer with the exact car model to test drive on before importing your ideal choice of car. And if that does not work out as well, read as many reviews as you can until you have a clear idea of the driving experience and make sure your dealer is reliable.

Factor 4: Shipping

As soon as you have decided on your dream car, it is time to engage a suitable freight forwarder to kickstart the importation process.

Tip 12: Finding a suitable freight forwarder

It is vital to do some research on the forwarding company before making your final choice. While this may seem tedious, once you have found a reliable forwarder to suit your needs, you will not only be able to reap the benefits of your unbelievably affordable Taobao buys, you will also get to enjoy efficient shipping experiences.

Freight forwarding services (Source)

When it comes to shipping a car from another country to your home country, there are many procedures involved such as documentation, customs clearance and freight insurance. These extra services are not covered by a shipping agent and will only be provided by a dedicated freight forwarder. It is hence important that you find a dependable forwarder to take care of all these necessary procedures to ease the importation process.

Recommended freight forwarder: M&P International Freights

Since they were established in 2006, M&P International Freights has had vast experience dealing with a myriad of international clients. They have since established themselves as an efficient and trustworthy freight forwarder that provides many services including trucking, customs clearance and cargo insurance.

This professional team is accredited with SLA, MTO and FIATA and continues to strive to achieve service excellence with their superior customer service. They are dedicated to assisting valued customers at every step of the shipment process, and this reflects in their countless 5-star reviews on both Google and Facebook.

Last but not least, M&P International Freights is located in one of the world’s busiest ports with free-trade zone benefits, guaranteeing you with the most efficient routes and competitive prices for fast, affordable and quality services.

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