What’s the Cost of Importing a Car to India from the USA

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Written By Mani Karthik

I share everything I learned in life on this blog. From personal finance to spirituality and everything in between. 

One of the biggest questions NRIs returning to India have is whether they should bring their car with them to India or sell it while they are still in the US or any other country. Importing a used car to India involves hefty customs duty, which could end up being more than the current price of the car. Still, many people prefer to bring their vehicle with them, whether due to personal attachment with it or the fact that an imported vehicle is considered by many in India as a status symbol.

However, before you make a decision either way, here are some things about the cost of bringing a vehicle into India that you should know.

Cost of Importing a Car to India

The custom duty on a used car being brought into India is calculated according to the CIF value (Cost of the Car + Insurance + Freight Value). The cost of the car is the invoice price minus any applicable depreciation for NRIs importing the car under the “transfer of residency scheme.”

MK List

All relevant information related to this can be found on the official website of the Department of Heavy Industry as well as the Indian customs website, which has become quite user friendly over the years.

How Depreciation Works Out

When you import a used car, depreciation is subtracted from the cost of the vehicle, which reduces the amount on which you will need to pay customs duty. Here’s how depreciation is calculated:  

  • The first year: 4% every quarter
  • The second year: 3% every quarter
  • The third year: 2.5% every quarter
  • The fourth year and thereafter: 2% every quarter

The maximum depreciation allowed is 70% of the new car price.

Imported Cars Customs Duty Calculation

At present, the customs import duty in India for used cars is 125% of the assessed value. However, the actual cost of bringing a used car to India is higher than this, since certain additional taxes are applicable as well. Here’s a breakdown of the various duties and taxes to be paid:

  • Import duty: 125%
  • Landing charges: 1%
  • Countervailing duty: 30% + ₹20,0000 per vehicle
  • CESS rate: 3%
  • Additional countervailing duty: 4%

To simplify things, consider using an online customs duty calculator, such as the one offered by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs or Cybex. And, don’t forget to add the cost of shipping to all this to calculate the total amount.

Read: How to import a car to India

India Government Policies

You should also familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations for importing used cars, as per the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, the government agency that administers laws related to foreign trade and investment in India. Here’s a look at some key guidelines:

  • The used car that is to be imported needs to follow all the rules and regulations for vehicles in India, as per the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 and the additions made to it over the years.    
  • The car should have at least 5 years of roadworthiness from the import date.
  • It should not be older than 3 years from its manufacturing date.
  • Left-hand steering and controls are not allowed in India. If the car has a left-hand drive, it would need to be changed to right hand. Similarly, the speedometer needs to be changed to km/hr from miles/hr and the headlights adjusted.
  • The car needs to get approved for Indian standards of road safety, emission and fuel quality (homologation).
  • The car needs to have been used for a minimum of one year outside India.
  • Used cars can be imported only through the Nhava Sheva Port in Mumbai.

Documents Required for Customs Clearance

The following documents need to be submitted at the time of importing the used vehicle:

  • A certificate issued by a testing agency that states that the used car has been tested immediately prior to being shipped and that the vehicle conforms to the regulations outlined in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, as well as the rules made under it.
  • A certificate issued by a testing agency that states that the used car has been tested immediately prior to being shipped and that the vehicle conforms to the homologation certificate issued at the time of its manufacture.

Read: Indian customs duties & fees

Homologation Process

An imported car needs to be tested for compliance with the Indian government’s requirements, as outlined in the Central Motor Vehicles Act (1988), the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (1989) and the Exim Policy (2001). This can be done at one of the following places:

  • The Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (VRDE) in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra
  • The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) in Pune, Maharashtra
  • The Central Farm and Machinery Training and Testing Institute in Budni, Madhya Pradesh.

However, petrol cars with engine capacity above 3000cc, diesel cars with engine capacity above 2500cc and luxury vehicles valued at more than US$40,000 are exempt from this process.

Customs Brokers

Importing a car to India can be a very complicated and tedious process, with several rules and regulations that need to be kept in mind. This is why many who choose to bring their vehicle to India opt for a customs broker to help them with the process and ensure faster completion of the paperwork.

However, you need to be careful while selecting a customs broker, since there could be illegal ones out there, who’ll do more harm than good for your import process. Choose a reputed customs broker near the port of arrival of your used car, i.e., the Nhava Sheva Port in Mumbai.

So, is it a good idea to bring your car with you when you return home? Considering the fact that you might have to pay more than what the car is worth and that you’ll have to make many modifications to it, I would say that it would be better to sell it off and bring back only smaller items with you.

However, in the end, it depends on how much you love your car and whether you’re willing to part with it.

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