Home to one of the safest ports in all of West Africa, Ghana has a bustling economy that’s become particularly attractive to importers of used U.S. vehicles. In fact, the majority of cars that are imported into Ghana every year originate in the United States. Before attempting to purchase and import a used vehicle into Ghana, though, there are a few things you should know.
Most importantly, you’ll want to get a handle on the tariff situation with respect to used vehicles, which is a bit more complicated than it is elsewhere. Further, you’ll want to know precisely how to get your vehicle through customs, as well as how to register the vehicle upon arrival. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know when importing used or salvage vehicles from the United States into Ghana.
Buying a Used or Salvage Car at a U.S. Auction
Without a doubt, the best way to get involved in the U.S. used auto market is to participate in an online used car auction. Sites that offer this service present the opportunity to save up to 70 or 80 percent on the value of both used and salvage title vehicles. As such, this makes the potential for turning a profit on used U.S. vehicles imported into Ghana all the more possible.
To get up and running with one of these sites, you’ll need to first create an account and make a deposit. The size of your deposit will determine your maximum bidding power. Generally speaking, the deposit size is 10% of your total bidding power, so a $500 deposit would yield a maximum bid price of $5,000.
Once you’ve established an account and made a deposit, you’ll be assigned an agent who can help you through the entire process. From here, you can begin to search the online used car auction site’s extensive database of used and salvage vehicles, looking for the ones that appeal to you. In addition, your agent can connect you with vehicles and auctions that can’t be displayed publically. All you have to do is ask!
Bidding is handled in the same manner as any other online auction. Should you wish, though, you can have your agent handle the bidding process, after establishing your maximum bid with the agent beforehand. Once you’ve successfully won an auction, it’s all a matter of arranging shipping to Ghana and getting the proper documentation in order…
Arranging for Shipment to Ghana
When shipping vehicles to Ghana, you’ll be able to choose between traditional container shipping or “roll-on roll-off” shipping, known more commonly as RORO shipping.
RORO shipping is cheaper than traditional container shipping but also less secure. This is due to the fact that the vehicle will be exposed to the elements and might need to be moved during shipping. Note that because the vehicle may need to be moved at some point, it will need to be operable. Also, be aware that this shipping option is subject to availability.
In the United States, the following ports offer service to Ghana:
- Baltimore, Maryland
- Bayonne, New Jersey
- Galveston, Texas
- Houston, Texas
- Jacksonville, Florida
- Long Beach, California
- Miami, Florida
- Newark, New Jersey
- Oakland, California
- Portsmouth, Virginia
- Savannah, Georgia
All vehicles shipping to Ghana will arrive in the Port of Tema, which is regarded as the safest port in West Africa. To learn more about the arrival port, you can consult the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority website here.
Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through U.S. Customs
Once you’ve determined which port you’ll be using to ship your used vehicle to Ghana, the vehicle must be presented to U.S. Customs at that port. In terms of documentation, U.S. Customs only requires what’s necessary to establish ownership of the vehicle and to corroborate the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or Product Identification Number (PIN).
To do this, you’ll need to present U.S. Customs with the vehicle’s Certificate of Title or Salvage Title. Note, however, that you will need multiple copies, and that documents must be submitted at least 72 hours in advance of the shipping date. Along with the original Certificate of Title, you can choose to submit either a Certified Copy of the original or two complete copies of the original.
Provided all the paperwork checks out, the vehicle will then be presented for inspection. To find out where this will take place at your vehicle’s departure port, simply contact the Port Director.
Should you have any further questions regarding clearing U.S. Customs, please consult their website here.
Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through Ghanaian Customs
Unlike in their neighboring countries, the process of getting a car through Ghanaian customs is relatively simple. Upon the vehicle’s arrival, the importer will need to provide the following information and documentation to the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS):
- Customs Form C
- Driver’s License
- Original Copy of the Purchase Invoice
- Original Copy of the Insurance Policy
- Certificate of Title
- Original Copy of the Bill of Landing, which must include:
- Chassis Number
- Engine Number
- Engine Size
- The Home Delivery Value of the Vehicle
- Name and Address of Car Manufacturer
- The Year When the Car Was Manufactured
Provided all of the above documentation is in order, your vehicle should clear customs quickly. If there is a problem, though, please note that you will only have 60 days to clear the vehicle through customs. After 60 days, the government will seize and confiscate your vehicle.
As far as restrictions are concerned, there’s really only one worth noting. Currently, Ghana does not allow for the import of right-hand steering cars. There are exceptions to this, but the appropriate authority must grant such an exception prior to a vehicle’s arrival. Failure to observe this rule could result in the confiscation of your vehicle.
Import Duties and Sales Tax for U.S. Vehicles Imported in Ghana
Depending upon a number of different factors, the duties and fees one will need to pay in order to import a used vehicle into Ghana will vary. They are all dependent upon the Cost-Insurance-Freight (CIF) value of the car.
To calculate the CIF value of a used vehicle, Ghana begins with the Home Delivery Value (HDV) of the vehicle. The HDV is then depreciated based upon the age of the car, and then handling, freight and insurance are added to that total in order to arrive at the final CIF.
To determine the rate of devaluation applied to a vehicle’s HDV, the vehicle’s age must be determined. This age is determined based on the date of manufacture and NOT the date of sale:
- Between 6 Months and 1 Year: 85% of the HDV
- Between 1 Year and 2 Years: 70% of the HDV
- Between 2 Years and 5 Years: 60% of the HDV
- More Than 5 Years but Less Than 10: 50% of the HDV
Note that used vehicles older than 10 years are subject to an overage fee. This fee is based upon the CIF value and not the HDV:
- Between 10 and 12 Years: 5% of the Vehicle’s CIF
- Between 12 and 15 Years: 20% of the Vehicle’s CIF
- Older Than 15 Years: 50% of the Vehicle’s CIF
For buses and heavy equipment, the average fees vary. You can consult this website to learn more.
With all of the above in mind, here are the duties and fees one will need to pay when importing a used car into Ghana:
- Import Duty of 5%, 10% or 20% of the Vehicle’s CIF
- Import Value Added Tax (VAT) of the Vehicle’s CIF plus Duties
- The National Health Insurance Levy of 2.5% of the Vehicle’s CIF plus Duties
- Export Development (EDIF) Levy of 0.5% of the Vehicle’s CIF
- Economic Community of Western Africa States (ECOWAS) Levy of 0.5%
- Examination Fee of 1% of the Vehicle’s CIF
As you’ve likely noticed, the only place where you’ll encounter variance is in the import duty. The percentage that you will need to pay is determined primarily by engine size, but also by seating capacity.
- Cars with Engines 1900cc or Smaller: 5% Import Duty
- Cars with Engines Between 1900cc and 3000cc: 10% Import Duty
- Cars with Engines Larger than 3000cc: 20% Import Duty
When factoring in seating capacity, you may find that there are some exceptions to the above:
- Cars Capable of Carrying 10 or More Passengers: 5% Import Duty
- Cars Capable of Carrying 30 or More Passengers: No Import Duty
Finally, regardless of engine size, Ghana requires only a 5% duty for vehicles whose sole purpose is the transportation of goods.
Registering Your Imported Used or Salvage Vehicle in Ghana
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) handles used vehicle registration in Ghana. Like customs, the process for getting a vehicle registered in the country is incredibly simple. One simply needs to visit a local DVLA branch with the appropriate documentation and pay the requisite fees:
- Certificate of Title
- Bill of Sale
- Customs Clearance Form
- Proof of Insurance
- Sales Contract (When Applicable)
The above documents will be verified to ensure that you are indeed the legitimate owner of the vehicle being registered. Once verified, a vehicle inspection will be conducted to ensure the roadworthiness of the vehicle. If everything checks out, you will then be provided with license plates and sent on your way.
For more information about used vehicle registration in Ghana, you can consult the DVLA’s website here.
The Used Car Market in Ghana
The market for used vehicles in Ghana is incredibly strong, due in no small part to the fact that there’s virtually no domestic automobile manufacturing to speak of. As a result, virtually all of the vehicles on Ghanaian roadways are imported, with a high percentage of them being used. Used vehicles are particularly popular, as they come at a lower price point and appeal to many who cannot afford to secure automobile financing for a new vehicle.
While used Japanese makes are incredibly popular, there is also a strong demand for United States makes as well, particularly for sports utility vehicle (SUV) and sedan models. Like Japanese vehicles, the popularity of United States vehicles is largely tied to the ready availability of spare parts for these vehicles within the Ghanaian marketplace.
Aside from consumer vehicles, there is also a strong demand for earthmoving equipment like tractors, bulldozers and dump trucks in Ghana. As before, those pieces of earthmoving equipment, for which replacement parts can be easily obtained, are particularly desirable. Further, buyers of used earthmoving equipment look first to U.S. brands when making a purchase.
Potential Problems in the Ghanaian Used Car Market
The relative ease with which used cars can be imported from the United States and other countries has created a strong an vibrant used car market in Ghana. While this is undoubtedly a good thing for the savvy exporter, it’s important to remember that this vibrant economy means there’s increased competition. As such, used car buyers in Ghana expect to pay much lower prices than they might in other neighboring countries.
Given the competitiveness of Ghana’s used car market, there’s another important consideration for importers, particularly those dealing with salvage vehicles. When conducting a valuation, Ghana treats damaged cars just the same as it does new ones. This policy was put in place due to importers attempting to cut costs by damaging cars in superficial ways in order to avoid higher tariffs. Because of this, the economics of importing damaged vehicles into Ghana are much less cost effective than they are elsewhere in Africa.
The Most Popular and Least Popular Used Cars in Ghana
As in other African nations, Japanese automobiles are incredibly popular in Ghana, with buyers in the used auto market prizing them for their fuel efficiency. In addition, Ghanaian used car buyers have a strong preference for Japanese makes due to the ready availability (and cheapness) of replacement parts. As mentioned above, American automobiles are also popular with Ghanaian buyers, particularly fuel-efficient sedans and rugged SUVs.
Overall, Nissan is currently the most popular make with Ghanaian used car buyers, having overtaken Toyota in the past several years. When looking for earthmoving equipment, Ghanaians will look to dependable American brands like John Deere and Caterpillar.
On the other side of the equation, there’s a strong aversion in the Ghanaian used car market to makes perceived as being high maintenance. Makes like Volvo, Audi and Volkswagen fall under this umbrella. Generally speaking, one will find that a vehicle for which replacement parts are either hard to come by or expensive to be a tough sell in the Ghanaian used car marketplace.