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Importing Used or Salvage Vehicles from the United States into Poland

By Mike Richards Updated: 08/10/2017 Posted: 09/26/2016

While there is interest throughout the European Union in used cars imported from the United States, Poland has proven to have strong demand. This has a lot to do with the fact that imported used U.S. vehicles often come at a much lower price point than used vehicles available domestically in the country. Further, Poland is a land of old vehicles, with the overwhelming majority of cars in the country being at least six years old or more.

If you’re considering breaking into the used Polish auto market by exporting used and salvage vehicles from the United States, then you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’re going to review everything you need to know in order to import U.S. used vehicles into Poland, from how to purchase them at steep discounts to clearing customs on the other side.

Purchasing Used Vehicles at U.S. Online Car Auctions

When you want to get the best deals on U.S. used and salvage vehicles to import in Poland, there’s only one option to consider: online car auctions. Sites that offer this service offer you and others the chance to access used car auctions across the country that had previously only been available to those with dealer’s licenses. Best of all, by participating in these auctions, you stand the chance of saving up to 80% on the total value of a used or salvage vehicle.

Getting started is incredibly simple, only requiring that you create an account and make an initial deposit. This initial deposit will represent 10% of your total bidding power, meaning that you could deposit as little as $100 in order to bid up to $1000 on incredible used and salvage vehicles.

With an account set up, it’s as easy as browsing the extensive databases of online car auctions. If you’re having trouble finding what you’re looking for, simply get in touch with the auction agent that’s been assigned to you. He or she can help to refine your search and even to connect you with car auctions that cannot be displayed through the website publically.

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

When shipping a used U.S. vehicle to Poland, you will have essentially two options. The first is traditional container shipping, and the second is something that’s known as RORO shipping.

RORO shipping is an attractive option if you’re looking for a shipping method that’s less expensive and more convenient. RORO stands for “roll-on roll-off”, which refers exactly to how your used vehicle will be loaded and unloaded from the ship. Given that there’s no container involved, there’s less overhead and your vehicle can be quickly accessed once it arrives at port in Poland.

There are some drawbacks to this method, though. Because a container will not be protecting your vehicle, your vehicle will be exposed to the elements while in transit. Also, it may be necessary for workers aboard the ship to move your vehicle while the boat is in motion. This necessarily opens the door to damage taking place.

Still, the small risk may be worth it, particularly if you’re shipping a low-cost vehicle or vehicles. For more expensive and luxury vehicles, though, it may be advisable to protect your investment by springing for the more expensive container shipping option.

Whatever you choose, you should have no problem finding convenient U.S. ports that offer either service. In addition, you should have little difficulty finding a port that offers shipping service to Poland, as the country (being a member of the European Union) is a major trading partner of the United States.

When shipping a used U.S. vehicle to Poland, it’s recommended that you select one of the two following major ports:

(For more information about either port, simply click on its name above and you’ll be taken to its official website.)

The above two ports serve as Poland’s two major container ports, and both are located near one another. If you’re taking advantage of RORO shipping, though, there are other smaller ports that you can ship to along the Polish coastline. However, service to these ports from the United States will be subject to availability.

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

Getting a used vehicle through U.S. customs is an incredibly easy process. At least 72 hours in advance of your ship date, you will need to present the car to customs at your port of departure, along with the following documentation:

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

To find out where U.S. customs is based at your port of departure, simply contact that port’s Director.

Once presented, U.S. customs agents will inspect the vehicle and verify your documentation. Provided everything checks out, the vehicle will be cleared for loading and then sent on its way to the Polish port that you’ve chosen.

Should you have any further questions about clearing a used vehicle through U.S. customs, simply consult United States Customs and Border Protection here.

Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through Polish Customs

When presenting your vehicle upon arrival to Polish customs, you will be required to present the following documentation:

  • Your Passport
  • Original Certification of Title
  • Original Vehicle Registration
  • Proof of Insurance
  • Proof of Residence (In Poland or the United States)
  • Original Bill of Landing
  • Your Polish Tax ID Number (NIP) or an Application

In addition to the above, you will also be required to submit your vehicle’s make, model, VIN, and engine number as part of your Inventory List.

With respect to the NIP, if you do not already have one, then you will find the application here or at any local tax office. You should fill this out in advance of your used U.S. vehicle’s arrival in Poland if possible, as this will speed up the customs clearance process.

(Please note that if you are a Polish citizen who is returning to the country with a used U.S. vehicle, then you are subject to one restriction. The vehicle must have been in your possession in the United States for at least one month, and it must be registered in the United States as well.)

In Poland, customs is overseen by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is known as the Służba Celna. Should you have any questions about clearing your used U.S. vehicle through Polish customs, you can consult their official website here. (An English translation of the website is available by clicking the British flag in the top right corner.)

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

You’ll find that the import duties and taxes are roughly the same as they are elsewhere in the European Union. However, there are some things that are particular to Poland.

With respect to tariffs for used U.S. vehicles imported into Poland, things are the same as they are elsewhere in the European Union:

  • There is a 10% tariff for standard used vehicles.
  • There is a 22% tariff for trucks.
  • Auto parts are subject to a 3 to 4.5% tariff.

Things differ when you turn to the taxes assessed to used vehicles imported into Poland. There is a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 23%. This tax is assessed on the total value of the imported vehicle (i.e. the cost of the vehicle plus the tariff paid). In addition to the VAT, there is also an excise tax assessed. Like the VAT, this tax is assessed on the total import value of the vehicle. However, the excise tax varies depending upon the vehicle’s engine size:

  • Passenger vehicles with an engine smaller than 2000 cc are subject to a 10% excise tax.
  • Passenger vehicles with an engine size greater than or equal to 2000 cc are subject to a 18.6% excise tax.

(Note: This excise tax was put in place in order to incentivize the import of vehicles from nearby European Union nations. However, it hasn’t done much to curb the market for U.S. vehicles in Poland.)

It is possible for you to import a used vehicle from the United States duty free into Poland. In order to do this, you and your vehicle must meet the following qualifications:

  • You must plan to reside in Poland for at least six months.
  • If you’re a returning citizen, then you must have lived abroad for at least one year.
  • The vehicle must have been owned and registered for six months.

Should you take advantage of this duty exemption, do keep this in mind. You will be prohibited from selling your vehicle for a period of one year.

Other Costs When Importing U.S. Used Vehicles into Poland

Any used vehicle that’s imported from the United States into Poland must be modified in order to meet certain safety and environmental standards. These modifications will include:

  • Rescaling the speedometer to kilometers per hour.
  • Meeting requirements for vehicle lighting.
  • Adjustments to the turn signals.
  • Changes to the exhaust system necessary to meet Polish environmental standards.

When exporting used and salvage vehicles to Poland from the United States, it’s important to factor these modifications into your pricing. Note, however, that these changes need not be made before shipping the vehicle to Poland. Instead, you can ship your used and salvage vehicles as they are, and then make the modifications after the vehicle has arrived in the country.

Finally, there is a “recycling fee” which you’ll be required to pay upon import of your used U.S. vehicle into Poland. Currently, this fee is set to 500 zloty, though that fee may be higher or lower at the time of your shipping, as it is subject to change.

The Used Car Market in Poland

While not comprising a significant percentage of the Polish auto market overall, the United States does export a significant number of used and new vehicles to the country every year. In fact, Polish auto buyers have a strong preference for vehicles imported from the United States, particularly because they come at a much lower price point than those made in country or imported from elsewhere in the European Union.

All told, older vehicles significantly outnumber newer vehicles in the country. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission, roughly 20% of Polish vehicles are between six and 11 years old. But, that’s just the start. Vehicles between 12 and 15 years old comprise over 23% overall, and vehicles that are between 16 and 25 years old comprise over 30%. Needless to say, this is welcome news for someone looking to import used and salvage U.S. vehicles from the United States into Poland, as there’s certainly a demand and a standard.

Potential Problems in the Polish Used Car Market

If you’re looking to break into the Polish used car market by importing used vehicles from the United States, be sure to pay close attention to political developments over the next few years. Poland is to be part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, referred to as TTIP. While this is absolutely distinct from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (known as TPP), the two are often woven together in American politics.

Because of their interrelatedness and prevailing anti-trade sentiment in the United States, a failure to ratify the TPP (which has become a political hot button) might also lead to a failure to ratify the TTIP. If this happens, one can expect an adverse effect on the import market for U.S. used vehicles in Poland. This is, of course, not to say that this will necessarily happen; it is, though, something of which to be mindful.

The Most Popular Used Vehicles in Poland

In Poland, there’s a strong preference for smaller vehicles. In fact, a significant portion of the Polish vehicle fleet overall is comprised of cars with engines that are 2000 cc or smaller. In addition, there’s also a strong demand for vehicles with diesel engines. Again according to statistics provided by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Trade Association, roughly 4.11 million vehicles in the country used diesel as of 2011. All of that said, there is some movement toward converting cars from diesel to LPG.

Skoda and Opel (a General Motors brand) are firmly entrenched as the most popular makes in the country. However, there is also interest in fuel-efficient and smaller Japanese cars, like those produced by Toyota and Nissan. As far as American makes are concerned, Ford has been increasing in popularity of late. For example, the Ford Focus has quickly been climbing the charts in terms of popularity, as has the Ford Mondeo. In the luxury category, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are the leading brands, and demand for vehicles from both of these makes have been rising sharply in recent years.

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