What is Salvage title? Export cars from the U.S.

Importing Used or Salvage Vehicles from the United States into Switzerland

By Mike Richards Updated: 08/17/2020 Posted: 10/19/2016

Though the import market for used U.S. vehicles in Switzerland is relatively small compared to neighboring nations, there’s no doubting its robustness. Due to the incredible wealth of the Swiss, there is always a strong demand for used vehicles of the luxury and performance sort. As such, there are many who are interested in exporting used U.S. vehicles to Switzerland.

If you’re thinking of doing so, either for personal use or as a business proposition, there are some things you’ll need to know. Below, we’re going to cover the entire process for getting a used U.S. vehicle from point A to point B. We’ll discuss why buying a used car through an online car auction is a great choice, how you can clear U.S. and Swiss customs, and even what the Swiss used car market looks like. Simply put, if you want to know how to import used or salvage vehicles from the United States into Switzerland, this is your one-stop shop!

Purchasing Used Vehicles at U.S. Online Car Auctions

Thanks to online used car auctions, consumers and importer / exporters are now able to gain access to the many used car auctions that take place across the United States each and every day. Because of this, these individuals are able to reap incredible savings, sometimes as high as 80%, on used and salvage U.S. vehicles.

The best part about online used car auctions, though, is the convenience. You can literally get started in minutes. One needs only to setup an account and then make an initial deposit. Your deposit will establish your bidding power, with its size typically corresponding to 10% of your total maximum bid. For example, were you to make an initial deposit of $1,000, you would then be able to bid up to a maximum amount of $10,000.

After your account is setup and your deposit made, you can then begin the process of browsing the extensive databases of U.S. used car auctions. You won’t be alone, though, as an auction agent or broker will be assigned to you. He or she can assist you throughout the entire process and can even connect you with used car auctions that cannot by publically displayed online through the website’s database!

Needless to say, if you’re looking to find the right car at the right price, online used car auctions are the way to go!

Shipping a Used or Salvage U.S. Car to Switzerland

As a major trading partner of the United States and the rest of Europe, you should have relative ease in finding shipping options to Switzerland. However, you must remember that Switzerland is a landlocked nation, and therefore there is limited availability when it comes to cargo shipping. Because of this, you can expect more expensive shipping rates to Switzerland than you might to other neighboring countries.

When shipping a used or salvage vehicle to Switzerland, you will have three major options. First, you can opt for air shipping, something that offers the greatest convenience. However, air shipping is quite expensive, and might be prohibitively so for most used and salvage U.S. vehicles. Second, you can opt for traditional container shipping. Third, you can opt for something known as RORO shipping.

RORO shipping, if you are not aware, stands for “roll-on roll-off”. With this method, your used vehicle will simply be rolled onto the ship at its departure port and then rolled off at its arrival port. The advantage here is cheapness and convenience. However, the drawback is that your vehicle could become damaged while in transit.

When opting for sea-based shipping, there is one arrival port in Switzerland. This is the Port of Switzerland, which is based along the Rhine. Nearly 10% of all cargo shipped to and exported from the country passes through this port, so it is quite busy. If you’d like to learn more about the port, you can consult its official website here.

Clearing Your Used Vehicle Shipped to Switzerland Through U.S. Customs

The process for clearing a used vehicle through U.S. customs on its way to Switzerland is incredibly simple. First and foremost, you must ensure that you have all of the relevant documentation squared away. This will include the Original Certificate of Title for your vehicle as well as one of the following:

  • A certified copy of the vehicle’s original certificate of title (from a notary)
  • Two complete copies of the vehicle’s original certificate of title

Along with the above documents, you will need to present your vehicle to U.S. customs at your port of departure at least 72 hours in advance of your ship date. In order to determine where precisely you’ll need to present your documents and vehicle, please contact the Port Director at your chosen port of departure.

With the vehicle and documents in hand, U.S. customs will do several things. These will include ensuring that the documents presented accurately reflect the vehicle presented, i.e. they will ensure that the VIN and engine numbers are a match. In addition, U.S. customs will also go through the vehicle with a fine-toothed comb, ensuring that there are no illegal substances or items secreted away.

Provided that everything checks out and the vehicle passes inspection, it will be cleared for loading onto the ship (or airplane) via your chosen method. Should you have any further questions about the process for clearing U.S. customs with your vehicle, you can consult the official website for U.S. Customs and Border Protection right here.

Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through Customs in Switzerland

Clearing customs in Switzerland will be a relatively straightforward process. When presenting your vehicle to Swiss customs, you are required to present the following documentation:

  • A Contract of Sale or Invoice
  • Proof of Insurance
  • Original Certificate of Title
  • Original Vehicle Registration
  • Proof of Identity (Passport, Visa, Driver’s License)
  • Original Bill of Landing
  • Documents Attesting to the Vehicle’s Worth

In order for the vehicle to clear customs once it arrives in Switzerland, the duties and taxes (outlined below) must be paid in full. Switzerland expects these duties and taxes to be paid in cash or with a certified bank check.

For more information about clearing your used or salvage U.S. vehicle through Swiss customs, you can consult Switzerland’s Federal Customs Administration’s (FCA) website right here.

Import Duties and Taxes for U.S. Vehicles Imported into Switzerland

In Switzerland, both new and used vehicles are subject to the same import duties and taxes. Unlike other neighboring countries, though, the amount of these taxes and duties are determined by the weight of the vehicle overall. Generally speaking, you will be required to pay a customs duty of between 12 and 15 CHF (Confoederatio Helvetica Franc or Swiss Franc) per every 100 kilograms of gross weight for the vehicle.

In addition to the above, there is also a Value Added Tax (VAT) assessed. This totals 8% of the assessed value of the vehicle plus the above customs duty. In the case of used and salvage vehicles imported to Switzerland from the United States, customs will be responsible for determining the depreciated value of the vehicle in question, typically in consultation with standard price guides like Edmund’s and Kelley Blue Book.

In addition to the customs duty and the VAT, there is also a separate automobile duty assessed by Swiss customs. This duty amounts to 4% of the total import value of the vehicle, which is again the combination of the customs-assessed value plus the customs duty – i.e. the automobile duty does not include the assessed VAT.

In order to pay the lowest amount in duties and taxes possible when importing your used or salvage vehicle from the United States into Switzerland, be sure to have adequate documentation that establishes the value of the vehicle. If you are unable to provide this, then customs will be solely responsible for determining the amount, which almost invariably leads to higher duties and taxes.

For more information about the duties and taxes for used and salvage vehicles imported into Switzerland, you can consult the official website for Switzerland’s Federal Customs Administration (offered in English) right here.

How to Register an Imported Used Car in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the Association of Vehicle Licensing (ASA) oversees vehicle registration. Registration is fairly straightforward, and you can visit the official website (see below) for the ASA below.

With imported used and salvage U.S. vehicles, all customs duties and taxes must be paid before the registration process can be started. After that, you will be required to present proof of insurance in addition to a report that asserts the vehicle in question meets the emissions requirements set forth by Switzerland. In addition, you will also need to provide an EC certificate, which will assert that the vehicle meets Switzerland’s manufacturing standards.

Note that each canton in Switzerland is responsible for determining its own vehicle registration fees. To find out the total amount you will be required to pay, you must consult the ASA office for the canton where the vehicle will be stored.

If you’ve like to learn more about the vehicle registration process in Switzerland, please visit the Association of Vehicle Licensing’s official website here. Please note, though, that this website is only offered in Swiss.

The Used Car Market in Switzerland

According to statistics provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, vehicle imports make up about 3.7% of Switzerland’s imports overall. Of that, the United States is one of the main trading partners, making up approximately 6.5% of the car import market overall, greater than the 5.5% owned by Japan. Germany, which is a member of the European Union, is far and away the chief trade partner for vehicles (both new and used) for Switzerland, though. All told, Germany is responsible for 42% of the import market for new and used vehicles in the country.

More so than many other countries in the European Union, Switzerland has been particularly aggressive in mandating that vehicles in the country comply with emissions standards. As such, the market has begun to move with greater speed toward electric vehicles. With electric vehicle technology still in its infancy, though, hybrid vehicles, particularly used ones, enjoy a strong position in the Swiss market.

Still, one cannot understate the wealth of Switzerland. As such, one should expect a strong demand for used classic and performance vehicles in the country. Classic and performance European makes and models dominate this sector of the used car market, however one can expect at least moderate demand for classic and performance vehicles manufactured in the United States. Given the cost of importation, a would-be exported of used and salvage vehicles from the United States to Switzerland should consider classic and performance vehicles as a strong opportunity.

The Most Popular Used Vehicles in Switzerland

As you might expect from a country that imports the majority of its vehicles from Germany, Volkswagen remains one of the most popular automotive makes in Switzerland. In fact, the Volkswagen Golf, as it is in many other European countries, is the most popular vehicle, owning a roughly 5% share of the market when statistics were last calculated. Moving into the top-10 most popular vehicles in the country, you’ll find that three other Volkswagen models rate, including the Polo, Passat and Tiguan.

In the luxury sector, Audi and BMW are the most popular makes. For example, the Audi A3 is the third-most popular vehicle in the country overall, owning a 1.8% share of the market. The BMW 2-Series owns the 10th spot on the top-10 most popular vehicles in Switzerland with a 1.2% share of the market. The 2-Series, it should be noted, has been growing exponentially in popularity and presents an interesting opportunity for someone exporting used vehicles from the United States to Switzerland.

American makes and models do not rate well, generally speaking, with the Swiss auto buyer. The most popular American make is Ford, which only manages to rank one vehicle in the top-20 most popular vehicles in Switzerland. This vehicle is the Ford Kuga, which owns a 1.1% market share of the used and new vehicle market in Switzerland overall. Given this, the message is clear. If you’re looking to import used vehicles from the United States into Switzerland, it’s best to stick with luxury European makes and models.

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