Tips for Buying Volvo, Subaru, and Other Car Imports

January 27, 2012

There are different ways to buy a Volvo import. For tourists, diplomats and military personnel, it is possible to have the Volvo of your choice delivered to one of many destinations in Europe, after which you can drive the car and then have the Volvo delivered to your home in the U.S. Another option is to purchase a Volvo that has specifications suitable for U.S. conditions and then have the vehicle shipped directly to the U.S.

Buying a Volvo import has many advantages, including being able to have the vehicle fully customized to suit different needs. Available customization options include colors and wheels as well as inlays, interiors and more.

American Specifications
It is possible to buy a new Volvo import and have it customized to suit American specifications and it is also possible to take delivery in one of 13 different destinations in Europe. After completing your stay in Europe, Volvo will ship the car free of charge to the nearest Volvo dealership in America.

Costs
Americans purchasing a Volvo in Sweden are not required to pay European taxes, but will need to pay close to three percent American duty on the vehicle's residual value. By availing yourself of Volvo's European Delivery program, you will even get a couple of free tickets from America to Gothenburg, Sweden, where you can pick up your vehicle at prices significantly lower than buying a Volvo from a U.S. dealership.

Shipping
It is often necessary to have the Volvo shipped back to the US within six months. Be sure to check out Volvo's export programs that apply to expatriates, diplomats and military personnel. Volvo's European delivery is meant to help the company get as many customers from abroad as is possible. The thinking is that once a person buys a Volvo, they will stick with the brand for the rest of their lives.

Volvo Home Shipment Program for Tourists
This particular program is valid only for between two and six months. According to customs regulations in force in Europe, it is necessary that tourist cars be exported out of Europe within six months from the time of delivery, provided the vehicle is being exported out of Sweden.

Importers
When importing a Volvo through a dealer, be sure to work with one that specializes in the service and repair of Volvo models. They should also have qualified service technicians provide proper service for each and every Volvo model.

Tips for Buying an Import

Like Volvo, many auto makers have their own programs and incentives for importing a car to the U.S., but there are some general rules that apply to importing any kind of car. Be it Subaru or Mini Cooper, Lexus or Land Rover, there are certain models from foreign auto makers that are not available in the United States. Imports often take place, for example, between the U.S. and Canada, where Canadian buyers have access to some of these cars. But when buying an import vehicle, there are some possible hitches to watch out for, and necessary details for a successful import process. Here are some of the things import buyers should consider.

Make Sure You Need to Import
Before you go through the hassle, and pay the extra cost of importing a vehicle, make sure a similar model is not already available for sale here in the United States. There are quite a few dealers and services that specialize in importing vehicles to sell in the United States. A quick search on the web will help you find these types of dealers and also allow you to browse their current inventory. You may find a dealer with exactly the type of car you want at a price that you can afford.

Choose the Vehicle Carefully
When selecting any particular vehicle for import, make sure the car doesn't require significant modifications. All cars imported into the U.S. have to pass import vehicle safety and emission standards. Although your vehicle could be modified to match these standards, that is an additional cost. Moreover, insurance companies may offer you little to no coverage if you've modified the car.

Know the 25-Year Rule
Vehicles order than 25 years are generally much easier to import into the U.S. For vehicles newer than 25 years old, some more stringent restrictions may be applied.

Look for the NHTSA List
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration governs the requirements for importing cars into the U.S. Vehicles newer than 25 years old must be on the approved list. Knowing the rules for imports can be very confusing, so be sure to get a copy of the NHTSA approved list it to know if certain sale offers can be legally imported.

Have the Car Inspected
Although a good export company will usually provide the service for you, make sure you have the car inspected before it leaves its country of origin. You need to find out if the vehicle meets emissions and smog standards in the United States. Also, if the vehicle is equipped with a right side steering wheel, it may require a conversion before it can be registered in some states.

Use a Proxy
One of the biggest risks of purchasing a car for import is that you don't have the chance to look closely at the car before you commit to it. Many people prefer to drive a vehicle or at least to visually inspect it before they purchase it. If you're purchasing a car a long distance away, this may not be possible. There are two potential ways to get around this. The first is to have a proxy or a trusted acquaintance test-drive and inspect the specific car you'll buy before you finish the transaction. Less preferable would be for you to test-drive another copy of the same vehicle somewhere in the United States.

Check Factory Rebates, Incentives and Warranties
Warranties and other offers may apply differently to different nations. For instance, the Canadian Subaru warranty provisions and other incentives may not apply the same way to a U.S. buyer who takes the car across the border. Always look for how the provisions of a deal to a particular national market may change as a result of cross-border purchase.

Look for Import or Duty Fees
Find out all you need to know about the customs and duty charges at the port of entry. Vehicles manufactured in and imported from Canada are generally exempt from duty. Moreover, if you're a returning resident to the U.S., you can apply your customs exemption amount of $400 towards the vehicle import duty. Make sure you work the cost of shipping and import duties into the total purchase price of the car. This allows you to decide whether you really want to import the car or not.

Beware of Added Taxes
In addition to customs taxes, there may be different taxes for the car you purchase based on the country of origin. One of the most common of these is VAT, or value added tax, which is common in parts of Europe but doesn't exist in the United States.

Collect Needed Paperwork
To successfully import a vehicle, you need the title for the vehicle, and in some cases, a purchase order or other paperwork that verifies the original sale. Make sure you get what you need from the seller in order to avoid getting short-changed by importing hassles when the time comes to ship the vehicle.

Maintain Proof of an Accurate VIN Number
Because some importers have been doctoring vehicle identification numbers (or VIN numbers), U.S. authorities are on the lookout for improper application of a VIN, the basic serial number for a vehicle. Having proof of an accurate VIN on hand will help with routine paperwork tasks, and help you convince authorities that the import is above board.

Check for a Recall Clearance Statement
For some vehicles, the destination country may ask for a recall clearance statement in order to prove that there is no outstanding recall applied to the vehicle. Make sure you can get this piece of documentation if it is necessary.

Rely on Skilled Professionals
One of the most important things to consider when importing any type of car into United States is the reputation of the export company in the foreign country. There are many reputable export companies that can help you with almost all phases of importing a car, such as preparing the paperwork, providing you with a bill of lading and even having the undercarriage cleaned as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Take some time to research different export companies and look for sites that offer opinions and reviews on any company you are considering.

Each country has its own community of skilled professionals in the field of vehicle imports. In the United States, these people are called registered importers (RI). They will be your guide to practical issues of importing a vehicle, including shipping it from overseas, and getting it off of the docks in the U.S., where getting cleared through customs can be a tough part of an import process. For new car purchases, the automaker may also be able to provide some help for importing customers.

Use a Dependable Shipper
Get quotes from various shipping companies to get the best rate and fast shipping time. If you can afford it, hire an agent to do the work on your behalf. The shipping company should tell you the expected arrival time of your vehicle. You could also ask them to ship the vehicle to a port that's located in your state. Alternatively, ask an agent to clear the vehicle at any other port of entry.

Consider Using a Forwarding Agent
Instead of claiming your vehicle yourself at the port of entry, consider hiring a freight forwarding agent do it for you. Forwarding agents are experienced in claiming all types of imported freight, including imported cars. They are well versed in the paperwork required to attain the release of the vehicle from customs and can even deliver the vehicle to your location. Although using a freight forwarding agent can add to the cost of importing the vehicle, the agent can also save a lot of time and help avoid mistakes that could force you to send the vehicle back out of the country and repeat the process all over again.

Exercise Caution
When importing vehicles from other countries, make sure you're dealing with a reliable source. There are several online scams that cheat people from large sums of money. Maintain all receipts, mail and any other correspondence with the overseas car dealer/agent so you don't become a victim of a scam.