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Importing Used or Salvage Vehicles from the United States into Finland

By Mike Richards Updated: 07/27/2022 Posted: 09/16/2016

As a member of the European Union, the majority of used cars imported into Finland originate from other member nations. However, there is some room for used and salvage vehicles imported from the United States. The United States currently owns roughly a 7% to 8% market share of the second-hand vehicle market in the country.

If you’re considering importing U.S. salvage and used vehicles into Finland, though, there are several things you’ll need to know. First and foremost, Finland (like other E.U. countries) has incredibly complex tax laws for automobiles, particularly for used vehicles imported from abroad. Also, the Finnish used car market is different than it is stateside or elsewhere in Europe; you’ll want to understand its nuances. Below, we’re going to review all this and more, going over everything you need to know when importing used or salvage vehicles into Finland from the United States.


Purchasing Used or Salvage Cars at U.S. Auctions

The best way to get involved in the United States used and salvage vehicle market is to take advantage of online used car auctions. Through sites that offer this service, consumers and importer-exporters can gain access to car auctions that would ordinarily only be available to individuals and businesses in possession of a dealer’s license.

These online used car auction sites also offer an unparalleled level of convenience. Through them, you can search a massive inventory of used and salvage vehicles, looking for those that meet your needs specifically. Getting started is incredibly easy, too. One only needs to set up an account and make an initial deposit with the online car auction site. This deposit is only necessary to establish your bidding power, which will generally be ten times the size of the deposit.

Best of all, you’ll connect with an experienced auction agent or broker. He or she can help you throughout the entire process. Assisting you with research, and selecting appropriate bid prices. Also, locate those vehicles which you’re most likely to purchase. Be sure to take advantage of this agent or broker, too! He or she can give you access to an even wider array of car auctions not displayed to the public online.


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

Most major United States ports and many minor ports offer vehicle shipping to Finland. Depending upon the port that you choose, though, you’ll likely have the option of selecting either traditional container shipping or something that’s known as RORO shipping, short for “roll-on roll-off”.

If you’re looking for a shipping method that’s convenient and inexpensive, RORO shipping is your best bet. With this method, your used or salvage vehicle will simply be rolled onto the ship and then off once it arrives in Finland. However, if minimizing the potential for in-transit damage is a priority, say for an expensive or classic vehicle, then container shipping will likely be the best choice.

There are countless ports along the coastline of Finland that can serve as a destination for RORO shipping. If you’ll be shipping by container, though, then the best options are the Port of Helsinki and the Port of HaminaKotka. Both of these ports serve as the main container ports for Finland and are the ports to which you’ll have the easiest time finding shipping service in the United States.

For more information about the Port of Helsinki, Finland’s largest port, you can visit its official website here. For more information about the Port of HaminaKotka, you can visit their website here.


Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through U.S. Customs

Getting a used or salvage vehicle through U.S. Customs and off to Finland is a very simple process. As far as documentation is concerned, you will need the Original Certificate of Title for the vehicle as well as a certified copy of the title or two complete copies.

  • The Original Certificate of Title,
  • the copy or copies of the title,
  • and the vehicle presented to the U.S.

Customs at your port of departure at least 72 hours in advance of your ship date.

Once presented to customs, the documents and vehicle will both be inspected. Customs officers will verify that the title accurately reflects the vehicle by cross-referencing the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and they’ll also search the vehicle to ensure that there are no illegal items or substances being secreted away. Provided everything checks out, the vehicle will be cleared by U.S. Customs, loaded up, and then shipping to your port of choice in Finland.

If you have any questions about the U.S. Customs clearance process, you can consult their website here.


Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through Finnish Customs

Upon arrival in port, the following documentation must be provided to Finnish customs:

  • Your Driver’s License
  • Your Passport
  • A Commercial or Purchase Invoice
  • Proof of Insurance from the United States
  • Proof of Insurance Valid in Finland
  • Tax Declaration
  • A Declaration of Use (This Can Be Filed Online Here

The above documentation will be verified in order to clear Finnish customs. In addition, the vehicle must be deemed roadworthy for taxes to be assessed. There a number of different factors used to assess the roadworthiness of any particular vehicle, ranging from the condition of the paint to the state of the vehicle’s controls. To learn more about the roadworthiness assessment, please consult Finnish customs here.

There are several noteworthy restrictions placed upon used vehicles that are imported into Finland. First, note that only vehicles with catalytic convertors are permissible to be imported into Finland. Second, note that all used vehicles must be given emissions and roadworthiness inspection before they can be legally driven in the country. Finally, Finnish customs must authorize the vehicle before it can be moved under its own power on the country’s roadways.

In order to get in touch directly with Finnish customs for any additional information, please consult the following website for the appropriate customs contact.


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

Due to new environmental requirements in Finland and in the European Union broadly, import duties and taxes for used vehicles can be incredibly complex. For this reason, you may wish to work with a customs broker when importing a vehicle into Finland or another European Union member nation. This broker will be able to assist you with calculating tax rates and ensuring that you do not encounter any issues.

However, it is possible to handle Finland’s import duties and taxes for used vehicles on your own. The tariffs for vehicles imported into Finland are as follows:

  • Passenger vehicles are subject to a 10% tariff.
  • Trucks and buses are subject to a 10% to 22% tariff depending upon size.
  • New, used, and refurbished automotive parts are subject to a 4.5% tariff.

The tariff situation is relatively straightforward. However, the tax situation is not. All told, there are three different taxes that will be  when importing U.S. used or salvage vehicles into Finland:

  • Car Tax: The most complex of the taxes, the car tax is based upon the assessed carbon emissions of the vehicle. This tax ranges in size from 5% to 50% of the vehicle’s CIF (Cost, Insurance, Freight) Value.
  • Fuel Tax: This tax varies depending upon the fuel type that the vehicle uses. In 2011, Finland introduced new laws attempting to encourage the use of biologically-based fuels. To find out what the tax rate is for your car’s fuel type, consult this document.
  • Value Added Tax: This tax is currently set to a flat rate of 24% of the vehicle’s CIF value.

Note that there is no exception to the fuel tax for non-fossil-fuel-consuming (electric) vehicles. Instead, such vehicles are subject to a “vehicle tax”  calculated based upon the ‘driving power of the vehicle. Further, for rare and classic vehicles, the tax situation can become even more complex.

In these instances (which are highly uncommon), Finnish customs will use different methods to determine the vehicle’s tax liability.

Imported used vehicles can be used for three months or until a tax assessment has been completed. After-tax assessment there is a 15-day grace period until full taxes payment.

In some cases, there are exceptions to the taxes outlined above. In those cases, the following will be true:

  • The individual importing the vehicle must have lived outside of Finland for a period longer than one year and qualify for the duty-free import of household goods.
  • Owned and operated outside of Finland for six months or longer.

Note: The maximum value of the tax exception is 13,450 euros. Also, if you take advantage of the above tax exemption, then the vehicle cannot be sold for at least two years without the payment of exempted taxes.

As already mentioned, figuring out the taxes for a vehicle in advance of importation into Finland can be complex. To get a leg up, you can consult something known as the Mahti database. By inputting information about your vehicle, including its make, model and engine size, you can get an estimate of what your import tax liabilities will be. The database is in Finnish, though, so you will need to use an online translator to navigate it if you don’t speak the language.


Registering a U.S. Vehicle Imported into Finland

Imported used vehicles should be registered before a tax assessment has been completed and paid. Registration is easy and is by different businesses and institutions, including:

  • Financing Companies
  • Insurance Companies
  • Vehicle Inspection Sites
  • Car Dealerships
  • And More!

The Finnish Transportation and Safety Agency (TRAFI) oversees vehicle registration in the country. To read more about the process of registering your imported used U.S. vehicle in Finland, you can consult TRAFI’s website here.


The Used Car Market in Finland

In the Finnish auto market, whether you’re talking about new or imported used cars, the most important is fuel efficiency.

Low-emissions and fuel-efficient automobiles receive tax breaks. Most Finns search for these kinds of vehicles. Overall, Finns seek European makes and models that meet these efficiency requirements, but there is room for other non-European cars, particularly energy-efficient Japanese and Korean vehicles.

Looking ahead, though, there’s reason to believe that Finland (as well as other European Union countries) could become an incredible destination for electric vehicles. Due to the country’s cold climate, there has been some concern about the efficacy of electric vehicles in the country, though. However, recent technological advances have done much to assuage those concerns. And electric vehicles could be breakout sales in the years to come. In the meantime, though, hybrid vehicles have been seeing steady increases in sales year-over-year.


The Most Popular Used Vehicles in Finland

Volkswagen is currently the most popular make in Finland, with Finnish drivers prizing these vehicles for their comfort, style and energy efficiency. Currently, the German automaker owns a 29.1% market share in the country. There is, however, expanding demand for Japanese vehicles. Toyota and Nissan both combined for 20% of the market overall, with roughly equal shares of that percentage. In addition, the Czech automaker Skoda enjoys a significant market share in the country. As far as American brands are concerned, only Ford rated in the top 10 for Finland, with a 7% market share.

Model-wise, the Skoda Octavia is the most popular car in the country, with the Volkswagen Golf coming in a very close second. While not owning a huge market share as a brand, Nissan’s Qasquai is another popular car with Finnish auto buyers, as are Toyota’s Yaris, Auris, and Avensis models. Those looking for opportunities when importing U.S.-made automobiles into Finland should look to the Ford Focus and Ford Fiesta, which are the 9th and 10th most popular models in the country overall. To see a full list of the most popular vehicle makes and models in Finland, consult this website.

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