Importing cars from USA to India : Process & Checklist

Importing cars from USA to India is a hectic job which involves lot of rules and regulations and high custom duty.It will take more time for the process to finish, if not handled properly. You can import either a new car or a used one and the rules are different for both.

India has a good market for the newly imported cars as many rich people would like to buy the car for maintaining their status symbol.

Rules for importing new cars

A new vehicle can be considered for import only it satisfies the following conditions :

  • Should follow all the rules and regulations mentioned in the Motor Vehicles Act 1988 in addition to the latest changes in rules as on date.
  • Neither manufactured nor assembled in India.
  • Should be manufactured only in USA.
  • Not registered in any country other than USA.
  • Not sold or leases prior to India.
  • Speedometer should be changed to km/hr instead of miles/hr.
  • Steering should the changed to right handed from left handed.
  • All controls in the car should be changed for right handed drive.
  • In India, the rule is ‘Keep left’.So the headlights of the car should be changed in according to that.
  • Engine capacity should be less than 1600 cc

Also the new vehicles can be imported only from the customs port at Calcutta,Mumbai and Chennai.

Related: Top India Calling Cards

Rules for importing used cars in India

You cannot import a used car as it is banned by the government unless you are a citizen of India & returning back or transfer of residence. Points 1 to 9 above are applicable for used cars and there is no restriction on the engine capacity for used cars.In addition to 9 points, the below applies to used car.

– The car should be more than 3 years old from the date of manufacture.

Here the vehicle can be imported only from the customs port at Mumbai.

The main drawback in importing an used car is that you cannot sell the car for 2 years from the date of import. But some people are still selling the cars unofficially without changing the documents till 2 years are completed.

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Exceptions for import rules in India

You don’t have to follow the rules above if you or the car fall under the categories below:

Returning to India permanently after staying 2 years in USA and you have the car for the past 1 year.

– Given as a gift in an event or competition ( Eg. Cricketers were awarded with cars for winning matches)

– Physically handicapped people

– Offices or Branches for the US companies in India

– Charity Institutions

– Legal heir of a person who has died

Indian companies with US collaboration

Check out latest information on rules regarding importing cars to India can be found in the following sites


Department of Heavy Industry

Customs duty for imported cars in India

It is applicable for both new and used cars. It is so high that you can buy a car for that price in India. For most cars, it will come to 50-75% of the original cost of the vehicle and the customs duty for luxury cars are more than for normal cars. The customs duty for used car is calculated based on the Cost of the car, Form Insurance and Freight value for getting the car. The calculation also involves depreciation of the car depending on its age.

The Duty calculator website helps you to find the approximate custom duty for the car.

Get a customs broker

Is your head spinning fast on reading the above rules and regulations to import a car?Then the best way is to get a legal and good customs broker located at the port of arrival of the car so that the paper works will move faster.You have to be very careful in choosing the brokers because there are many illegal ones rounding everywhere and you may loose in the middle of the way.

Do you really need to import the car? Personally, I feel importing the car to India after making all the modifications is a waste as you will lose the original image of the car. Also the quality of Indian roads are so worse and you won’t enjoy the feel of your car in the same way when it was in US.

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More details here – Chennai Customs Official Website – Details about Importing of Cars to India

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Mani Karthik

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