Why are Imported Cars so Expensive?

Imported Cars
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Thatree Thitivongvaroon

There are many reasons why individuals might decide to import a car. Sometimes, buying a car overseas or in another country indeed is the best way to get a great deal. On the other end of the spectrum, some buyers desire luxury cars that are not produced outside of a certain country. 

But no matter your reason for importing a vehicle, it is important to carefully consider the factors that make imported cars so expensive before deciding to take the plunge and do so yourself. 

What Is An Imported Car? 

It seems like an easy question: An imported car is a vehicle that was made outside of the country it ends up being owned in. But the distinction between domestic vehicles (ones made in the same country they are sold in) and imported ones is growing fuzzier every year. Many foreign companies, like Toyota, put the finishing touches on their American vehicles in United States plants -- making a “foreign” car an entirely domestic item. 

If you are simply looking for a foreign-brand car, you do not have to import a car to find one that is safe, reliable, and affordable. If you have your eyes set on a particular vehicle, it pays to shop around your own country before looking for it elsewhere. 

Shipping Costs

If you want to import a car overseas, you will need to pay for shipping costs that can sometimes be exorbitant. You will either have to fly it across the ocean or pack it into a shipping container, and both options will cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. You will also need to pay for shipping insurance (unless you want to risk your car falling into the ocean), will cost you a few hundred dollars more. 

Import Costs

When you import a car, a lot of paperwork comes along for the ride. You will have import documents, export documents, tax forms, and it can all get confusing. It might be worth consulting an expert, which will likely cost you. 

In addition to the paperwork, you will be hit with a slew of taxes and fees for importing a vehicle. 

Cleaning Costs

If you are importing a used car or a vintage car, you will have to have it scrubbed top to bottom. Why? Well, most countries have very strict rules against bringing any agricultural products, seeds, or even mud across country lines -- and car undercarriages are great at picking up all of these things. You will need to have your undercarriage and tires professionally cleaned if you want to avoid running into legal trouble. 

Conversion Rates

When you are looking at prices for international vehicles, remember that if the country you are buying from uses a different currency, you will need to account for that fact when you’re thinking about the vehicle’s price. Exchange rates fluctuate from day-to-day, and that means that the price of your future vehicle will, too. It is hard to predict the best day to buy, but you should take into account that the price may shift. 

The Hidden Price Of Scams

Unfortunately, when you are not seeing the seller in person, it’s easy to get scammed -- and scammers targeting hopeful car importers abound. Take extra caution to make sure the people you are buying from are reputable before you send any money overseas. 

Repair Costs

These days, you can find the parts you need for many imported vehicles domestically. However, if you are thinking of importing an antique vehicle or one not sold in your own country, you can be sure that repair costs are going to be even higher than usual. 

Insurance Costs

Bad news in this department: insurance on imported cars is generally more expensive than insurance on domestically produced vehicles. This extra cost can range from a few hundred dollars a year to thousands of dollars more per year for particularly sporty or luxury vehicles -- you know, the kind that people are tempted to take on high speed, James Bond-esque drag races?

Other Hidden Costs

Need to move a steering wheel from the left to the right? That will cost you. Accidentally import a car that pollutes the environment at a level your state has deemed illegal? That will cost you, too. Make sure you dot every “i” and cross every “t.”