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Importing Used or Salvage Vehicles from the United States into Qatar

By Mike Richards Updated: 05/23/2019 Posted: 11/30/2016

As a major economic and political partner of the United States, many have found themselves relocating to Qatar or otherwise doing business in the country. As such, there has been a growing interest in the process that must be undertaken in order to import used vehicles from the United States into Qatar.

To put it bluntly, there are a number of restrictions that Qatar, as well as other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, have put in place to restrict the importation of used vehicles from the United States and elsewhere. Still, while these restrictions may be in place, it is still possible to ship some used vehicles into the country.

Below, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about importing used or salvage vehicles from the United States into Qatar. In addition to reviewing Qatar’s restrictions, we’ll also discuss the process for customs clearance, what duties and taxes are payable, and even how you will need to register your vehicle.

Qatar’s Restrictions for Used Vehicles Imported from the United States

Like other members of the GCC – an economic union that lists Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia as its members – there are noteworthy restrictions placed upon the import of used vehicles. It’s important that you be aware of what these restrictions are before purchasing a used vehicle in the United States for the purposes of importing it into Qatar.

Most notably, Qatar prohibits the import of used vehicles that are more than five years old. Note that a vehicle’s age is not determined by the date of purchase (when it was new); instead, a vehicle’s age is based upon the model year. Although this shouldn’t an issue for vehicles imported from the United States where the following is standard, all vehicles imported into Qatar must also be left-hand drive.

In addition to the above, there are a number of safety and environmental standards that your used U.S. vehicle will need to meet in order to be allowed into Qatar. These standards are the same for all GCC member nations, and the GCC Standardization Organization administers them. To learn more about these standards, you can consult the GCC Standardization Organization’s official website here.

Finally, in order to import a used vehicle into Qatar, you must first obtain a residency permit, as only temporary or permanent residents are allowed to import motor vehicles. If you do not already have such a permit (or are not otherwise a resident of Qatar or another GCC nation), you can visit Qatar’s Ministry of the Interior to begin the process. Do note, however, that it generally takes about six weeks or longer to both file an application for the permit and to then have that permit processed and granted. Therefore, you’ll want to start this process as soon as possible.

Purchasing Used Vehicles at U.S. Online Car Auctions

Used car auctions have long been the best way to get incredible deals on vehicles in the United States. However, these used car auctions have typically been restricted to those with dealer’s licenses…

Online car auctions have changed all that! By listing vehicles from certain dealer-only auction houses on their site so that you get access to this inventory at great prices, online car auctions have opened up U.S. used car auctions to everyone!

To get started, you only need to create an account as you would with any other retail website. In addition, you will need to make a deposit. This deposit is only necessary in order to establish your potential maximum bid. In most cases, online car auction sites allow you to make a deposit that’s equivalent to one-tenth of what your maximum bid could be. For example, were you to deposit $600, you would then be able to bid up to $6,000 on used cars!

Once your account is created and funded, you can browse an extensive database of auctions taking place across the country every day. In addition, an auction agent or broker can assist you through the process and can even connect you with other used car auctions that are not displayable online. All told, online car auctions are the best way to get an incredible deal on used cars in the United States. In fact, some have even found that they’re able to save upwards of 70% on the total cost of a vehicle. That’s incredible!

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

Qatar and the United States enjoy a close economic partnership. As such, finding a port in the United States that offers shipping service to the nation should be a relatively easy affair. The real decision that you’ll have to make is in regard to your preferred shipping method.

First and foremost, you can opt for container shipping, which offers the greatest level of protection for your used vehicle, but which is also rather expensive. Alternatively, you might also consider something that’s known as RORO shipping, which stands for “roll-on roll-off”. If you ship via this method, your used vehicle will simply be rolled onto the ship at your chosen U.S. port and then rolled off of the ship once it arrives in Qatar.

As you might expect, this shipping method involves significantly less labor. As such, it’s much cheaper than container shipping. There is, however, one drawback to this method of which you should be aware. Because a container will not be there to protect your vehicle from the elements, the possibility exists for damage occurring during transit. Further, since it may be necessary for ship workers to move your vehicle while the boat is underway, damaged could occur through human error too. All told, though, the risk of damage occurring is incredibly minor.

There are a number of different ports to which you can ship your used U.S. vehicle to Qatar along the country’s east coast. The Port of Doha serves at the country’s primary container port, and will be the place to which most vehicles are shipped into the country. However, there are a few other options, especially if you will be shipping your used vehicle via the RORO method. For more information about the Port of Doha, please visit the Qatar Port Management Company. In addition, a new major container port, Hamad Port, is beginning to open up to commercial traffic. You can learn more about this port and availability by visiting this website.

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

Before presenting your vehicle to U.S. customs at your chosen port of departure, you will first need to gather the relevant documentation. This will include the vehicle’s Original Certificate of Title, along with one of the following two choices:

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

At least 72 hours before your chosen ship date, you will need to present this documentation and your vehicle to customs at your port of departure. To find out where this is, simply contact the Port Director.

Once U.S. customs has taken possession of your vehicle, they will conduct an inspection to ensure that the vehicle is clear of any foreign objects. In addition, they will also review your documentation, ensuring that it is in order and reflects the car being presented. (To do this, they will check the VIN numbers present on the vehicle and then cross-reference those with the documents you have provided.)

If everything checks out, U.S. customs will clear your vehicle and send it on its way to Qatar. Should you have any additional questions about this process, or if there is anything unique about your vehicle or situation, please direct your questions to U.S. Customs and Border Security.

Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through Qatar Customs

Provided that your used U.S. vehicle meets the restrictions for importation into Qatar (outlined above), you should find that processing your vehicle through Qatar’s customs is a relatively easy affair. Aside from paying the appropriate duties and taxes, which are outlined in the next section, you will also need to furnish the relevant documentation. This will include:

  • Proof of Ownership at Origin
  • The Vehicle’s Original U.S. Registration
  • The Original Certificate of Title
  • The Original Bill of Landing
  • A Document Professing the Value of the Vehicle
  • Proof of Insurance

As mentioned, import duties and taxes will be payable upon clearance of your vehicle. Do keep in mind that banks are closed in Qatar on Saturday and Sunday, as failing to account for this might delay your vehicle’s clearance.

For more information about clearing your imported used U.S. vehicle through customs in Qatar, you can consult the country’s official website for the General Authority of Customs.

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

Compared to other GCC member nations, the import duties and taxes paid on used vehicles are incredibly low. In fact, you are only required to pay a 5% customs duty on a vehicle imported from the United States into Qatar.

Do note, though, that Qatar’s General Authority of Customs has sole discretion when it comes to determining the depreciated value of any used vehicle. In fact, this determination is often left to the sole discretion of the customs officer overseeing the importation of your used vehicle. Therefore, you may wish to provide documents that corroborate the value of your vehicle when clearing it through Qatar customs.

How to Register an Imported Used Car in Qatar

Before you will be permitted to drive your imported used U.S. vehicle on Qatar’s roadways, you must first register the vehicle. The Ministry of the Interior oversees all vehicle registrations in the country.

Prior to submitting your paperwork for registration, though, you will first need to submit your vehicle for inspection. Vehicle inspections are conducted by Fahes, which has a number of different offices throughout the country. To locate one that is most convenient for you, please consult Fahes’ website. In addition to this information, their website also provides helpful tips for ensuring that your inspection goes off without a hitch. Do note that the typical inspection fee is QR 75.

Provided that your vehicle has passed its inspection, you can begin the registration process in earnest. To get started, you will first need to download a registration form through Hukoomi, which administers much of the government’s business through its website. You will then take this completed form to a local office of the Ministry of the Interior along with the following documentation:

  • Proof of Insurance
  • Photo ID and Residency Permit (If Applicable)

The above documents and forms will be examined and then stamped. If everything is on the up-and-up, you will then be charged a registration fee of QR 100 and provided with your official vehicle registration card.

The Used Car Market in Qatar

Outside of industrial goods, vehicles of all stripes are widely imported in Qatar. In fact, Qatar imports roughly $2.72 billion worth of cars every year. This largely due to the fact that Qatar has virtually no domestic automotive manufacturing industry to speak of.

As elsewhere in the GCC, there is a strong appetite for Asian auto makes and models in Qatar. For this reason, Asian countries like Japan and South Korea account for nearly half of all vehicles imported into Qatar every year. In fact, Japan is the single largest exporter of vehicles to Qatar, accounting for nearly 35% of the market on its own.

While not as large a player as Japan, the United States holds its own when it comes to exporting vehicles (both new and used) to Qatar. According to statistics tabulated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the United States accounts for 13% of the import market for vehicles in Qatar. In total, this share of the market is valued to be in excess of $340 million.

As you likely well know, the environment of Qatar can be exceedingly harsh. As such, there’s a strong predilection in the country for easy-to-repair vehicles and for ones that are able to withstand the elements. As such, Toyota remains the most popular make in Qatar, accounting for nearly one in every three cars sold in the country year over year.

The Toyota Land Cruiser has become exceptionally popular, accounting for nearly 14% of the total automotive market overall.  Also, assisting Toyota’s market dominance is the Hilux, which itself accounts for roughly 7% of the market. In the luxury sector, Lexus has been making moves in Qatar in recent months and years. Most notably, the Lexus LX has shot up the ranks to become the fourth-best-selling car in the country thus far in 2016.

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