How to Import Cars from China: A Comprehensive Guide


With the deepening of globalization, China has become one of the world's largest car manufacturers. Its advanced manufacturing technology and diverse model choices have captured the attention of buyers worldwide. As a freight forwarder, I understand the importance of knowing how to import cars from China. This knowledge helps me serve my clients better and significantly improves business efficiency. In this article, I will share the complete process of importing cars from China, including the necessary documentation, transportation methods, customs clearance procedures, and solutions to common issues.

Whether you are a business looking to expand your car dealership or an individual passionate about importing high-performance vehicles, this guide will provide valuable insights. Let's explore every crucial step and uncover the mysteries of importing cars from China together.

How Much Does It Cost to Import Cars from China to Your Country?

Importing a car from China involves several factors that can affect the total cost. Different destination countries have varying import duties, ranging from 0% to 100%, plus local value-added tax, depending on the vehicle's value and other import standards.

Main Cost Factors:

  • Age Restrictions: In Africa, Egypt, South Africa, Sudan, and Morocco, the import of used cars is completely banned. Over 20 other countries prohibit the import of used cars older than 10 years, with some also imposing mileage restrictions and additional VAT on vehicles exceeding certain usage limits. (This overview only covers African countries due to space constraints. Feel free to consult us for age restrictions in your destination country[import car from China]
  • Transportation Methods: Options include container shipping and roll-on/roll-off (RO-RO) services, each with different cost implications.
  • Vehicle Specifications: Costs are influenced by the vehicle's type, size, and weight.
  • Additional Fees: Extra charges may apply if your vehicle requires special handling, such as non-operational vehicles or those needing forklift loading.

These costs will vary based on your vehicle's specifics and required services. Understanding these factors can help you better prepare for importing your car and ensure a smoother process.

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Gernerally, How Long Does It Take to Import Cars from China?

  1. North America (USA, Canada):
  • Sea Freight Time: Typically 20-30 days.
  • Customs and Inland Transportation: About 1-2 weeks.
  • Total Estimated Time: 6-8 weeks.
  1. Europe (Germany, France, UK, etc.):
  • Sea Freight Time: Typically 25-35 days.
  • Customs and Inland Transportation: About 1-2 weeks.
  • Total Estimated Time: 6-9 weeks.
  1. Australia and New Zealand:
  • Sea Freight Time: Typically 10-15 days.
  • Customs and Inland Transportation: About 1-2 weeks.
  • Total Estimated Time: 5-7 weeks.
  1. Asia (Japan, Korea, Southeast Asian countries):
  • Sea Freight Time: Typically 5-15 days.
  • Customs and Inland Transportation: About 1 week.
  • Total Estimated Time: 3-5 weeks.
  1. Africa (South Africa, Nigeria, etc.):
  • Sea Freight Time: Typically 30-45 days.
  • Customs and Inland Transportation: About 1-2 weeks.
  • Total Estimated Time: 7-10 weeks.
  1. South America (Brazil, Argentina, etc.):
  • Sea Freight Time: Typically 30-45 days.
  • Customs and Inland Transportation: About 1-3 weeks.
  • Total Estimated Time: 7-10 weeks.

These estimated times cover typical transportation and processing periods, but actual times can vary due to customs efficiency, port congestion, and shipping schedules. Click the button below to contact us for more accurate information.

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What Documents Are Needed to Import a Car?

Importing a car requires preparing and submitting several documents to comply with both the exporting and importing countries' laws and regulations. Here are the main documents typically required when you import cars from China:

  • Original Bill of Lading (Sea Waybill/Air Waybill)
  • Driver's License or International Driving Permit (if needed)
  • Original Invoice
  • Packing List
  • Customs Clearance Form"
  • China Port Terminal Handling Charge Documents

The documents required may vary depending on the country and type of vehicle being imported. Therefore, consulting with us before importing is advisable to ensure all necessary documents are prepared for a smooth import process.

How to Transport Non-Operational Vehicles?

import car from China

The most efficient way to transport non-operational vehicles to their destination is through shared container services. This method is ideal for securing non-operational vehicles or forklift units in containers for transport. Another option is roll-on/roll-off (RORO) services, though not all export ports offer these services.

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Contact Jike for RORO shipping from China

Comparison: Tow Services vs. Forklift Services

Many vehicles are rejected at U.S. ports when using RORO services due to poor conditions. To ensure a smooth booking process, it is crucial to accurately report the vehicle's condition—whether it is operational (driving and steering), requires towing (non-operational towing), needs forklift assistance (non-operational forklift), or is flood-damaged (water-damaged vehicles). Emphasizing the actual condition of the vehicle rather than the condition of the auction report is essential.

Owners or buyers must understand that they are fully responsible for any costs incurred during transportation. Providing detailed and accurate information about the vehicle helps facilitate smoother transport operations and avoids unnecessary delays and costs.

Non-Operational – Tow Services

Transporting non-operational vehicles through ship-towing services requires adherence to several key conditions to ensure safety and compliance. These vehicles, although non-operational, must still meet specific standards to qualify for transport:

  • Operational Steering: Crucial for safely maneuvering the vehicle during loading.
  • Tires Must Hold Air: All four tires must be intact and can hold air for easy towing.
  • Operational Brakes: Essential for controlling the vehicle when moving.
  • Functional Ignition System: This includes releasing the steering column and gear shifter to ensure the vehicle can be properly steered and shifted.
  • Operational Driver Door: Ensures vehicle interior access for necessary controls and adjustments.
  • Intact Windows: All glass within the vehicle must be intact to prevent safety hazards.
  • No Sharp Edges Inside: To prevent injuries during transport.
  • Vehicle Keys: It is necessary for entering and securing the vehicle.

If the vehicle does not meet the above conditions, it will be considered for forklift service. Whether a vehicle requires towing service or forklift service will be determined by the port authority of the port receiving the vehicle. Flooded vehicles are also considered forklift service units if they can be driven and driven.

Operational But Problematic – Forklift Services

Although vehicles are listed as "operational" on auction sites, transporters often encounter vehicles with significant issues upon pickup. These discrepancies highlight the importance of accurately assessing the vehicle's condition to determine the appropriate transport method.

If your vehicle has at least one of the following issues, forklift services are required:

  • Flat Tires: If the vehicle has one or more flat tires, forklift services are necessary for safe loading and transport.
  • Missing Keys: Vehicles without keys automatically require forklift services as they cannot be driven or steered into transport.
  • Broken Axle: Vehicles with damaged axles are unsuitable for towing and must be transported via forklift.
  • Wheels Not Rolling: Vehicles with any wheel that cannot roll require forklift services to ensure they can be moved onto the transport vessel.
  • Interior Safety Hazards: Vehicles with broken glass or blood stains inside must be handled by a forklift. To avoid this, it is recommended that all glass shards from the vehicle interior be vacuumed thoroughly.

When requesting a booking, it is crucial to accurately report the vehicle's condition. Transporters charge detention fees for waiting at the port, and shipping lines sometimes take up to two hours to update bookings from operational to non-operational or from non-operational to forklift services. When this happens, the shipping line must update the booking in their system and notify the terminal of such changes while the driver waits at the port.

Conclusion on Importing Cars from China

import car from China

While importing cars from China may seem daunting, the process can be simplified and stress-free if you choose JIKEship as your shipping partner. We are familiar with the fundamental aspects of car shipping and are recognized as a reliable freight forwarder by hundreds of businesses. Choosing us ensures a seamless transition, turning a complex task into a straightforward, efficient experience.

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