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

Importing Salvage Vehicles, Used Cars into Trinidad and Tobago from the U.S.

By Mike Richards Updated: 06/22/2022 Posted: 11/10/2016

Though a small nation of two islands, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the richest countries in the Western Hemisphere. As such, there is a vibrant automotive market there, one which importer-exporters around the globe are eager to break into. The government of this island nation understands this, though, and they’ve put up some roadblocks that make importing used cars in Trinidad and Tobago much easier said than done. With this handy guide, though, you’ll learn everything you need to know. From the process of clearing customs how to navigate the complex duties and taxes to be assessed. Simply put, if you want to know how to import used or salvage vehicles from the U.S. into Trinidad and Tobago, this is your one-stop guide!

Purchasing Used Vehicles at U.S. Online Car Auctions

Online car auctions provide importer-exporters and average consumers with the very best way to get incredible deals on used cars in the United States. Through websites that provide this service, one can gain access to the incredible deals available through used car auctions taking place across the United States every day. Best of all, there’s no need to have a dealer’s license (which is typically required), as these Online Car Auction sites list vehicles from certain dealer-only auction houses on their site so that you get access to this inventory at great prices.

To get started, you merely need to set up an account and make a deposit. This deposit is only necessary to establish your potential maximum bid. In most cases, a deposit will represent 10% of your total bidding power, meaning a small deposit of only $400 (around 2660 TTD) will allow you to bid up to $4,000 on a used vehicle. This is incredible because through online car auctions you can sometimes save up to 80% on the cost of a used vehicle!

Once you’ve set up your account, you’ll be able to browse an extensive database of used car auctions. In addition, you’ll be given access to an experienced auction agent or broker, who can hold your hand through the entire process. He or she can help you to identify vehicles that best match your budget and needs, and he or she can even link you up with auctions that cannot be publically displayed. All told, this gives anyone looking for a great deal on the used car the broadest array of choices and the very best chance to save.

Shipping a Used or Salvage U.S. Car to Trinidad and Tobago

Though a small nation of two islands, Trinidad and Tobago has one of the most vibrant economies in the Western Hemisphere. As such, it should be relatively easy to find a United States port that offers service to the nation. The only real choice that you’ll have to make is your preferred shipping method. The most obvious will be traditional container shipping, but there’s another method you should consider.

This method is known as RORO shipping, with the RORO being shorthand for “roll-on roll-off”. This refers to the method by which your used vehicle being imported to Trinidad and Tobago will be loaded onto and off of the ship. Quite simply, it will be rolled onto the ship at your chosen port of departure and then rolled off once it arrives in port. This lends a whole lot of convenience to shipping your used vehicle to Trinidad and Tobago, but there’s another benefit.

Because the labor involved with loading and unloading containers won’t be present, RORO shipping is much cheaper than traditional container shipping. Needless to say, this is something that can help you to improve your margins if you’re seeking to import cars to Trinidad and Tobago as a business opportunity.

The only real drawback is that your vehicle may become damaged during transit due to its exposure to the elements, but the risk is relatively minimal.

If you’re shipping a cheaper vehicle and willing to accept the incredibly tiny risk, then RORO shipping can be a real-time and money saver. However, if you are shipping a more valuable luxury vehicle, you may wish to opt for traditional container shipping. Either way, the choice is entirely yours!

There are two primary container ports for Trinidad and Tobago, both located on the island of Trinidad. The first and largest in the Port of Spain. The other is Point Lisas, which is located just north of San Fernando. Both of these ports are overseen by the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago. You can consult their official website right here.

In addition to these two primary ports, several smaller ports might be able to accommodate a vehicle arriving solely by RORO shipping. These are, of course, subject to availability through the shipper that you’ve selected.

Clearing Your Used Vehicle Shipped to Trinidad and Tobago Through U.S. Customs

When importing a used U.S. vehicle into Trinidad and Tobago, you will first need to clear that vehicle through U.S. customs. Thankfully, this is an incredibly simple process, only requiring that you submit your used vehicle and the appropriate documentation to customs at least 72 hours in advance of your ship date.

As far as documentation is concerned, you need to have the original Certificate of Title for your used car. In addition to this, you will also need one of the following:

  • One (1) Certified Copy of the Original Certificate of Title OR
  • Two (2) Complete Copies of the Original Certificate of Title

These documents and the vehicle must be submitted to customs at your chosen port of departure.

To find out where U.S. Customs is based in that port, simply contact the Port Director.

Once U.S. customs has taken possession of your vehicle and documents, they will do two things. First, they will check to make sure that your documents accurately correspond to the vehicle by checking the associated Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs). Second, they will thoroughly comb through the vehicle, ensuring that nothing illegal has been secreted away.

Provided that your vehicle passes this inspection and your documents are in order, U.S. customs will clear your vehicle. It will then be subsequently loaded onto the ship to be imported into Trinidad and Tobago. Should you have any additional questions about clearing your used vehicle before departure, simply consult this guide provided by U.S. Customs and Border Security.


Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through Trinidad and Tobago’s Customs

When your vehicle arrives in Trinidad and Tobago, there are several documents that you will have to present to customs. In addition, please note that you (or the person accepting the vehicle) must arrive in person for the vehicle to be cleared. The documents you need to present are:

  • The Original Certificate of Title
  • Proof of Insurance
  • Original Bill of Landing
  • Customs Clearance Certificate
  • Photo ID (Driver’s License or Passport)

You will also need to present a completed C82 Form, along with four copies of this completed form. To obtain a copy of this form, as well as to receive more information about completing it, please consult this website.

There are several different restrictions placed upon cars imported from the United States (and elsewhere) into Trinidad and Tobago. The vehicle must be converted into a right-hand drive vehicle before being shipping into the country. Second, there are several age restrictions of which to be mindful:

  • Vehicles that use gasoline must be no older than six (6) years when imported.
  • Cars that use diesel fuel must be no older than three (3) years when imported.
  • Vehicles that used compressed natural gas (CNG) must be no older than four (4) years when imported.

(Note: The above vehicle ages ARE inclusive of the year of manufacture.)

Trinidad and Tobago has enacted a complex quota system for the import of used vehicles from abroad. Resident individuals (or those relocating to the country) are permitted to import one used vehicle every three years. Registered government importers of used vehicles are permitted to import more. However, they are subject to the quota system. To learn more about Trinidad and Tobago’s quotas for imported used vehicles, please consult this document from the country’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, Investment, and Communications.

To get the answers to more general questions about clearing a used vehicle through customs, please consult the official website for Trinidad and Tobago’s Customs and Excise Division. In addition, you may also wish to consult the official website of the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Investment, and Communications, where you can find relevant forms and additional information.

Import Duties and Taxes for U.S. Vehicles Imported into Trinidad and Tobago

When importing a used U.S. vehicle into Trinidad and Tobago, there are several different duties and taxes assessed. These include import duty, a Value Added Tax (VAT), and a Motor Vehicle Tax (MVT). Each of these is assessed on the CIF value of the vehicle being imported. CIF stands for “Cost, Insurance, Freight”. It reflects the value of the vehicle and the cost of shipping insurance. It also reflects the total cost incurred when shipping the used vehicle to Trinidad and Tobago.

The customs duty applied to used vehicles varies depending upon the cubic capacity (cc) of the vehicle’s engine. These customs duties are as follows:

  • 20% of the CIF: Used cars with an engine of up to 1599 cc
  • 25% of the CIF: Used cars with an engine of between 1600 cc and 2000 cc
  • 30$ of the CIF: Used cars with an engine of 2000 cc or greater

In addition to this customs duty, there is also a Motor Vehicle Tax (MVT) assessed on imported used vehicles. Again, this MVT varies depending upon the cubic capacity of the used vehicle’s engine:

  • No MVT: Used cars with an engine of 1599 cc or less
  • $4.00 per cc: Used cars with an engine of 1600 cc to 1799 cc
  • $8.00 per cc: Used cars with an engine of 1800 cc to 1999 cc
  • $21.00 per cc: Used cars with an engine of 2000 cc to 2499 cc
  • $25.00 per cc: Used cars with an engine of 2500 cc to 2999 cc
  • $30.00 per cc: Used cars with an engine of 3000 ccs to 3499 ccs
  • $45.00 per cc: Used cars with an engine of 3500 ccs or more

There’s an important thing to note about the MVT. Trinidad and Tobago has attempted to curb the import of used and new vehicles with larger-capacity engines. As such, the MVT jumps up significantly for used vehicles with 2000 cc and above engines.

In addition to the customs duty and the MVT, there is also a Value Added Tax (VAT) assessed on imported used vehicles in Trinidad and Tobago.

This VAT is equal to the sum of 12.5% of the imported vehicle’s CIF value, customs duty, and MVT.

For more information about customs duties and taxes when importing a used U.S. vehicle into Trinidad and Tobago, please consult the country’s Customs and Excise Division.

The Used Car Market in Trinidad and Tobago

Both the new and used car markets in Trinidad and Tobago are dominated by Japanese and other Asian automakers. With 80% of the market overall. Currently, the most popular automotive make with car buyers in this island nation is Nissan Tiida, Toyota Corolla, Mitsubishi Galant, L200, Wagon, and Lancer following close behind. Overall, the popularity of Asian makes and models reflects an increasing interest in light automobiles in Trinidad and Tobago. Also popular such kind of cars as pickup.

Speaking of the used car market specifically, sales have exploded in recent years. 5,000 used cars, sold in the country in 2010.

This number ballooned by three times in only four years, with Trinidad and Tobago seeing used car sales skyrocket to 15,000 in 2014.

As one of the richer nations in the North American region, there is a notable demand for luxury automobiles in Trinidad and Tobago. BMW has seen ever-increasing sales in the island nation in recent years, with this growth expected to continue for many years to come.

Of course, the economy of Trinidad and Tobago is somewhat volatile. As such, there’s a broad expectation that the used car market in the country should continue to be strong for many years to come.

If you’re looking to capitalize on this market, then definitely heed the trends. Look into what opportunities exist for importing light Asian automobiles (Hyundai, Kia). As well as what opportunities might exist for luxury American makes and models.

See our Vehicle AuctionsCar Auctions, and Education Centre.