Importing a car from the US

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To help others considering importing a car from the US, I’ve decided to write this article – about importing a car from the US. It’s also in Danish: For at hjælpe andre, der overvejer at importere en bil fra USA, har jeg besluttet at skrive denne artikel – om import af bil fra USA.

If you are looking for a summary and a ‘check list’, see it here

Research and finding your car

Anders Bilidt
I spend about two years on finding my car. I used a lot of time on forums, both nationally and worldwide. I asked a lot of questions – some of them stupid – to be sure, I was on track. I even started out looking for another model than the one I’ve ended up with!

I searched for cars on eBay, national/worldwide forums, craigslist, mobile.de and all other places I came across during my journey.

When I found my car, I did some homework to check up on the car and the owner. I didn’t have (and still don’t have) any reason not to trust the seller, but I suggest you do as much checking as you can on e.g. the engine and car VIN#, the seller’s activity on forums, his ‘reputation’ on forums, his ability and willingness to answer all your questions and in the final end: your gut feeling.

If possible, arrange with someone to go and see the car. I didn’t have that possibility, so I asked for a lot of photos of the critical areas of the car.

Signing the contract and paying for the car
There will always be some sort of uncertainty and neccesity to trust the other part. In my case, I presented a VSA (vehicle sales agreement) to the seller (found on Google), and he was fine with that – he even got his work mate to go through it and amend it to fit our purpose. That also told me something about the seller.

We agreed and signed the VSA, and I transfered the money to the seller through a bank wire transfer. Now, at this point you’re really left alone to hope… You have a signed contract to work from and a lot of hassle with lawyers etc. if you never receive your car.

If you in anyway can let the shipping company pay for you upon pick-up or even better have a person you trust pick up the car, that is the safer way of handling it. My shipping partner charged $200 to do this, so I chose to save the money and trust the seller.

Shipping the car to Europe / Denmark

fairplay shipping a/s
Importing a car to Denmark from outside EU is expensive. There is a customs fee of 10,2% and VAT of 25% of the car + transport + insurance value. However, in Holland they have special rules for original oldtimers (> 30 years old). They don’t charge any customs fee and only 6% in VAT. In the UK they have the same rules – and 5% in VAT.
UPDATE: As of ultimo 2013/beginning of 2014, Denmark reintroduced 0% TAX and 5% VAT on classic cars. I haven’t yet been able to find anything written on this, but is has been confirmed by SKAT on telephone and several other Danes have imported under the new rules.

I chose to use Holland as import country, as it was a little easier for me to get the car home from Holland than from the UK.

Note: As a EU citizen you are free to clear customs anywhere in the EU, so once the car has cleared customs in e.g. Holland, you are not obliged to pay anything extra in your own country.

I asked for quotes from 7-8 different shipping partners handling the US > Holland part. Almost all of them had a ‘preferred agent’ in Holland they would use to unload the car, handle the car, drive it to a warehouse and to clear (and pay) customs/VAT for you.
It was hard for me to choose my own agent to handle things in Holland, as it also depends on exactly where the container (with the car) is unloaded.

By the way, you can also choose to use a RO/RO service (roll on – roll off). In this case your car is driven onto the vessel and driven out again in the destination port. This is cheaper (to handle), but in my situation there wasn’t any appropriate route, so it would have been more expensive to go with this option. My car was in a container with three other cars (a 1977 Mercedes Benz 450 SEL, a1987 Jaguar XJ-series and a 1972 Ford Pinto)

In the end I chose Trans Global as shipping provider. Initially they work with WFL (agent) in Holland, but they changed this in my case to PVL (agent in Holland), as it would be quicker to bring my car home in this way (yeah, don’t ask me why).
My car was picked up at the seller’s home in Arizona and driven to Los Angeles. It was inspected both at the seller’s place and upon reception in Los Angeles. Trans Global decided to change the route, so instead of going by vessel from Los Angeles to Rotterdam, Holland, they took the car by train from LA > Houston – and then by vessel to Rotterdam, Holland.

Kay from Trans Global was the far best person to answer all my questions – also the silly ones, and he was the one giving the most emphatic experience. Trans Global and two others were almost offering the same price – and lower than the other ones I’ve received quotes from.

I decided to add an insurance on the transport – 1,2% of the car value with a $250 deductable – to prevent unforeseen damages to the car during transport from US > Holland.

I also decided to arrange the pick-up of the car in Holland myself through a Danish car carrier.

Notable piece of advice: Try to work with as few partners as possible. If I could do it over again, I would have chosen the Dutch agent to handle the trucking of the car to Denmark as well.

In my case, my car had transport damages (scratch on the front light housing and big scracthes on front spoiler). It took me a really long time and many e-mails and documentation to sort it out. The light house was damaged on it’s way to Holland, but the spoiler scratches were not present, when the car left Holland, so they must have happened on the way to Denmark from Holland.

The documentation part was not very strong with Trans Global or PVL. It took me weeks to get the documents stating the condition of the car. I used Motortransport (a Danish company) to take the car from Holland to Denmark, and they had no documentation at all. Luckily, PVL could prove the car was signed for by the truck driver not to have any damages to the spoiler, but it took weeks and e-mails to get Motortransport to accept the damages as their responsibility.

I decided not to proceed with the damages on the light house, as that would probably just have been eaten up by my deductable amount.

There was no deductable amount on the transport from Holland > Denmark.

Be sure to ask for documentation and ensure you receive it as soon as it’s done (on the car condition, load/unload, duties, inspection etc.).

I got a link from PVL where I could follow the vessel on the sea – quite nice. However, to get information on the car after it had cleared custom duties in Holland, was a hassle. Angela from PVL was very quick and polite to answer me until then, but I guess she became busy, and as Motortransport was also very, very poor in communicating with me, I had a hard time planning the exact date of delivery of the car in Denmark.

In the end, PVL actually ended up with a lower price than agreed – that’s positive.

Motortransport sent me an invoice with a wrong amount, and it took 2-3 weeks to get that corrected.

The custom duties part worked out well. PVL sorted it all out, and my car was not chosen for further inspection. They paid the VAT and invoiced me the amount together with their fee.

Upon reception of the car, I noticed it had more scratches than expected. It also had some minor issues on different areas, but I did calculate with something unforeseen – and I would advice you to do as well, especially if you’re importing a very old car, as two persons never see a car in the same way.

Summary, calculation examples and ‘check list’

UPDATE APRIL 2016
Upon researching another classic car, I came in touch with Anders Bilidt from Motoring Nostalgica – Independant Classic Car Inspections. Originally from Denmark, now living in England, and Anders has a massive knowledge of a great variety of classic cars. He did an inspection of the car for me, sent me photos and a really thourough report on the car – it was world class!
Contact Anders, if you also want to make sure you don’t buy a pig in a poke. It can save you both time, travelling and bad experience.

Shipping partner used: Trans Global – contact: Kay Lester.
My experience: very good and quick service, answering all questions, knows the business. Not strong on documentation, so remember to point out the importance of documentation of the car before signing.
Fair prices – especially on the insurance.

UPDATE APRIL 2016:
I have later gotten acquainted with Karina from fairplay-shipping.dk. She offers a fantastic service and competitive prices, and she is very straightforward and honest to deal with. I recommend that you write Karina an e-mail or call her on her direct number +45 3688 2001, if you want a quote regarding import of a car from the US.

Agent used (in Holland): PVL – contact: Angela Baven.
My experience: Very quick responses and good knowledge on hardly everything regarding importing a car from the US. Again – do mention the importance of the car condition being documented.
Very good prices – turned out to be cheaper than agreed.

Agent used to transport car from Holland to Denmark: Motortransport – contact: Steen Trampedach.
My experience: very slow to respond to mails. Financial department sent me an invoice with the wrong amount, and I had a lot of hassle getting them to accept the fact, that the transport damages on the spoiler was their responsibility. Very poor documentation.
Good price – but not sure it’s worth to save money on this part of the journey.

Calculation example when importing (in this case to Denmark)
– note: fictive prices and fees – just to give you an overview. Exchange rates as of april, 2014

calculations_usdeuro

‘Check list’:

  • The seller should willingly answer all your questions, also the stupid ones!
  • Have someone to inspect the car if possible
  • Eventually have the shipping partner pay the seller upon pick-up of car
  • Get VSA signed by both
  • Set up a budget including both the sales price, transport, insurance, VAT/customs and handling fees
  • Do research nationally if you have to pay a registration fee (as I had to)
  • Get an accept on e-mail that all shipping & transport partners will present documentation with pictures from every place the car is picked up/landing/loading/un-loading
  • Go for an insurance with a low deductable
  • Choose your partners very carefully – go with the ones you trust
  • Besides Trans Global, Schumacher Cargo Logistics was the other company in “my final selection”
  • It might pay for you to pick up the car in Holland yourself with an auto trailer. To mee it would have taken too much time, effort, insurance, rent etc.
  • Have fun! Otherwise it won’t be worth the hassle.

If you think I’ve missed out anything or have any questions, feel free to contact me.

3 comments »

  1. Richard Nichol says:

    Excellent guide, I’m bringing in a TR6 also to Denmark.

  2. Kenneth Bon says:

    Nice car. Although we see quite many of them in Denmark, it is definitely an excellent summer car with a beautiful design!

  3. Perfectly pent articles , Really enjoyed reading through .

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