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The U.S. and India have different driving rules. India is a right-driving country (vehicles with the steering wheel on the right side of the car), but don’t let that fool you into believing you won’t run into plenty of left-driving vehicles while roaming the streets.
Many people ship their vehicles ahead of their arrival to the country, importing them from the U.S. and other countries.And they do so for many reasons.Likewise, Indian nationals may buy a car overseas and have it shipped to the country so they can own their dream cars or bikes.
Even with driving rules reversed, people can experience great comfort driving their familiar and trusted vehicles in a foreign land. But whether that’s the best option for everyone comes down to many factors.
The Indian Government’s position on import of cars
There’s a lot of speculation regarding customs duty taxes on imported cars and vehicle prices in general in India. Some argue that India has some of the most expensive vehicles, despite many models being much cheaper in other countries.
The truth is that isn’t always the case. The Indian government imposes hefty taxes on vehicles not fully manufactured in India. Therefore, imported vehicles and partially assembled cars in India are subject to multiple taxes.
This position may rub many nationals and foreign nationals the wrong way. But it may have had a positive effect on the local automotive market.
Many agree that India is one of the most prominent emerging markets. High taxes on manufacturers and consumers have made many automotive makers consider opening factories in India.
A Limited Offering
India has tens of BMW dealerships. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy to find the latest or best models or that they’re accessible with regards to pricing. A few brands dominate the Indian automotive market. These include Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Toyota Kirloskar, Honda, Renault, Nissan, Stellantis (Jeep, Citroen, etc), among others.
These are a few of the most recognizable brands. But not even the hottest brands have extensive catalogs available for Indian drivers. Returning nationals may wish to hold onto the cars they bought overseas.
Meanwhile, foreign nationals relocating for work to India for a year or two may want to take their personal cars with them.
Automotive enthusiasts, rally drivers, and collectors may want to sample and experience more exclusive cars. All of these reasons can be compelling enough to consider shipping a car from the U.S. to India. As international shippers A-1 Auto Transport put it, overseas vehicle transportation is safe, fast, and not as costly as many believe. At least, it’s true when done right and working with the right crew.
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Import Duties on Cars
The big question is whether it’s worth shipping a car from the U.S. to India. Custom duties can exceed 110% of the car’s total value. In addition, owners have to pay insurance and additional import taxes not factored into the customs duties.
In other words, bringing foreign vehicles into India, even for personal use, is expensive. But it can be done.
Of course, vehicles must meet a strict list of requirements based on their condition. New and used cars should adhere to specific rules in order to clear customs. Fortunately, some exceptions may apply to car owners who are missionaries, embassy employees, legal heirs, physically challenged or disabled drivers, foreign nationals, etc.
And as is the case in many countries, shipping a car to India for personal use requires not selling the car for at least two years.
What to Do With a Foreign Car in India
Setting aside personal comfort, peace of mind, or finally driving that dream car, there are many reasons to ship a car from the U.S. to India. Firstly, American-made muscle cars are rare in India. Although Ford slowly entered the Indian automotive market, it offered very few exciting models.
The latest four-wheel stallions are hard to come by without shipping them from overseas. Likewise, vintage muscle cars are even rarer. That can make an import a great conversation starter or entry ticket in high-society circles.
Furthermore, some cars only come in right-handor left-handdriving styles, not both. Shipping a car from the U.S. to India might be the only way to get a specific model.
One can also argue that India doesn’t have the best infrastructure or forgiving off-road terrain. But there are plenty of Jeeps and 4WD monster vehicles overseas that can tackle any harsh environment and terrain conditions.
Shipping a car from the U.S. to India could be the only way for visitors to enjoy some of the country’s most challenging and breathtaking trails.
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Shipping other vehicles from the U.S. to India
Do all vehicles get the same treatment as those designed for transporting people? Yes and no. For example, motorcycles have lower duty fees, but even those can exceed 70% of the total bike value. It depends on many factors like provenance, manufacturing date, engine displacement, power, etc.
However, heavy equipment vehicles like tractors, excavators, and others are cheaper to ship to India. The fees may vary a lot, but the customs duties may drop well below 30% of the vehicle’s value in some cases.
That’s a good sign that not everything about the customs regulations and pricing is upside down when it comes to bringing vehicles into India overseas. But working with experienced shippers is necessary to learn the intricacies of the process, handle the paperwork, save money, and speed up the registration process.
Shipping Foreign Cars to India Is in high demand despite the complications
Just because something is expensive or harder to get doesn’t mean people don’t want it. Many international vehicle shipments go through from the U.S. to India every year. Some people don’t want to let go of their cars, others want to show them off, some collect rare models, etc.
And where there’s a will, there’s a way. As complicated as the customs clearing and registration processes are, the right shipping agent can guide nationals and foreign nationals through the correct procedures.
What’s even better is that there’s no law against LHD cars or driving using a foreign driver’s license in India. Therefore, anyone with the means and desire to do so can drive their favorite car in India.
(The views of the author in this article are personal)