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Importing Used or Salvage Vehicles from the United States into Russia

By Mike Richards Updated: 03/24/2022 Posted: 11/07/2016

As the Russian used car market continues to expand, especially in relation to its new car market, there’s growing interest among many who would like to break into the market. While there’s certainly opportunity, there are a number of complexities that make importing used cars from the United States into Russia much easier said than done. Below, we’re going to outline what you’ll need to know, paying particular attention to Russia’s import duties, taxes and fees for used vehicles, which can quickly become prohibitively expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Purchasing Used Vehicles at U.S. Online Car Auctions

If you’re looking to score the best possible deal on used and salvage cars in the United States, your best option is without a doubt online car auctions. Through sites that provide this service, you can gain access to used car auctions taking place across the country, and all without the need for having a dealer’s license. This is great news, because through used car auctions, you can save up to 80% on the cost of a used vehicle.

To get started with an online car auction site, you simply need to set up an account and make a deposit. After doing so, you’ll be able to browse an extensive database of used car auctions, all while receiving the help of an experience auction agent or broker. This agent or broker can help you throughout the entire process and can even search databases of used car auctions that cannot be displayed online.

Needless to say, with this level of convenience at your fingertips, finding the right used U.S. car at the right price has never been easier! This is especially useful when importing used cars into Russia, as the country’s taxes and duties can often be quite expensive!

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

Russia is one of the world’s great powers and economic hubs and, despite ever-present tensions, has a close trading relationship with the United States. It will, therefore, be relatively easy to find a U.S. port that offers shipping service for your used vehicle being imported into Russia.

The only real choice that you’ll have to make is your shipping method. You can naturally opt to ship your used vehicle to Russia via traditional container shipping. However, after seeing the prohibitive import duties and taxes that Russia assesses for used cars, you may wish to consider a cheaper option. Thankfully there is one, and it’s called RORO shipping.

With this shipping method, your car will literally be rolled onto the ship upon departure and then off of the ship upon arrival. Because there are no containers involved, this method is significantly cheaper than other options. In addition, it’s also incredibly convenient, giving you much quicker access to your imported U.S. vehicle than you’d get with container shipping.

There are some risks with RORO shipping, given that your vehicle won’t be protected by a container and may need to be moved by ship workers. However, those risks are minimal, and the savings on shipping that you’ll get will definitely help soften the blow of Russia’s import duties and taxes.

Selecting an arrival port in Russia is merely a matter of your convenience, as you’ll want to select one closest to your ultimate destination. If you’re shipping from the East Coast of the U.S., the Port of St. Petersburg will likely be your best bet. When shipping from the West Coast of the United States, you may wish to consider the Port of Magadan.

For more information about the Port of St. Petersburg, please consult its official website right here. For more information about the Port of Magadan, please consult its official website right here. To research other options, please consult this handy website.

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

Before you can get your used vehicle on a ship bound for Russia, you’ll need to clear it through U.S. customs. To do this, you will need to present your used vehicle along with the appropriate documentation to U.S. customs at your chosen port of departure. To find out where this location is at the specific port you’ve selected, simply contact that port’s Port Director.

As far as documentation is concerned, you will need to provide U.S. customs with the vehicle’s Original Certificate of Title along with one of the following two options:

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

U.S. customs will inspect these documents and make sure that they accurately reflect the vehicle that’s being exported. In addition, they will also conduct a thorough inspection of your used vehicle, ensuring that nothing has been illegally stowed away on board.

If there are any issues, you will be notified. Otherwise, the vehicle will then be cleared by customs and then sent to be loaded onto the ship. If you have any additional questions about the U.S. customs clearance process for used vehicles, simply consult this website provided by U.S. Customs and Border Security.

Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through Russian Customs

Without a doubt the hardest part about importing a used vehicle from the United States into Russia is dealing with customs duties and taxes. Much easier, however, is actually getting your used vehicle cleared through Russian Customs.

In order to clear your vehicle through customs, you will need to pay in advance the associated duty, taxes and fees, which we outline in the next section. Along with your payment of these, you will be required to furnish the following documentation to Russian customs authorities at your chosen port of arrival:

  • The Vehicle’s Original Certificate of Title
  • The Vehicle’s Original U.S. Registration
  • Proof of Ownership
  • Form of Identification (Driver’s License, Passport)
  • An Invoice for Payment of Duty, Taxes and Fees
  • The Original Bill of Landing (When Received)
  • A Certificate of Conformity

The last piece of documentation is important to clearing your car through Russian customs. This certificate attests that the vehicle being imported meets all of Russia’s safety and environmental standards. To learn more about what those standards are and whether or not your used U.S. vehicle complies, consult this website.

When all the appropriate fees are paid, the vehicle has been inspected, and your documents verified, Russian authorities will clear your vehicle. If you have any further questions about this process, please consult the official website for the Russian Federal Customs Service.

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

By far, the most complicated step when importing a used U.S. vehicle into Russia is dealing with customs duties and taxes. Russia’s duties and taxes for imported used vehicles are incredibly complex, and they can also get quite expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing. For this reason, we’d recommend working with a customs broker or agent when importing used vehicles into Russia. If you do wish to go it alone, though, here’s a basic overview of how the duty and tax system works.

The basic tariff percentage for imported used vehicles less than three-years-old is 25%. There is also a fee of 1 to 2.35 euros per cubic-centimeter of engine volume tacked onto this flat percentage, resulting in the total import tariff. But, that’s not all.

There is a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 18% assessed on imported used vehicles. In addition to this tax, though, there is also an excise tax. The excise tax is calculated based upon the horsepower of the used vehicle’s engine:

  • Engines of less than 150 HP: 41 rubles per one horsepower
  • Engines of more than 150 HP: 402 rubles per one horsepower

(As an example of the above, a used vehicle with a 100 HP engine would incur an excise tax of 4,100 rubles.)

In addition to the VAT and the excise tax, there is also a recycling fee. If you’re merely an individual importing a used vehicle, the recycling fee will be 2,000 rubles for cars younger than three years and 3,000 for cars older than three years. If, however, you’re importing a vehicle as part of a business or for an institution, the recycling fee can be significantly higher, ranging from 17,200 rubles to 700,200 rubles depending upon the age and size of the used car.

Russian customs also assess a processing fee for vehicles arriving in port. This fee is assessed on a sliding scale relative to the total cost of the vehicle. At the low end, the fee can be 5,500 rubles; at a maximum, it can be 100,000 rubles. This fee, as well as all of the taxes and duties outlined above, must be paid in advance of your vehicle’s arrival in port.

Once your used vehicle has been registered in Russia, you will also be subject to a transportation tax. Russia’s various regional governments assess this tax, and as such it varies from place to place. In addition to this tax, though, you may also be liable for a luxury tax on your vehicle if it has an assessed value of 3 million rubles or more.

As you can see, Russia’s import duties and taxes for used vehicles are quite complex. In fact, for certain vehicles, the total of these duties and taxes can be in excess of the car’s value. Therefore, be sure to gain a better appreciation for these things before arranging to import a used U.S. vehicle into Russia. For more information, you can consult this overview of import duties and taxes provided by Russia’s Federal Customs Service (FCS). To visit their main website (offered in English), go here.

How to Register an Imported Used Car in Russia

Vehicle registration in Russia is overseen by the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate (abbreviated GIBDD in Russian) and is handled by local offices throughout the country. When presenting your vehicle for registration with GIBDD, you will need to provide the following documentation:

  • A Photo ID
  • Proof of Vehicle Ownership
  • Proof of OSAGO Insurance
  • The Vehicle’s Certificate of Title
  • The Original Vehicle License Plates
  • All Documents Provided by Customs at Port

A local branch of GIBDD will inspect these documents and verify that they accurately reflect the car presented. Following the inspection of the car and documents, you will be provided with a completed registration application along with an invoice for a 2,000 ruble registration fee. This fee will need to be paid at a designated bank before you can complete the registration process.

Once the fee has been paid, you will submit the completed application along with proof of payment to the local GIBDD branch. After that, you will be provided with license plates for your used vehicle and proof of registration. Take note that you will want to provide your insurance provider with your Russian car registration number after completing the above.

Should you have any further questions about registering your used vehicle in Russia, simply consult the website for the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate here. (Note that this website is only offered in Russian.)

The Used Car Market in Russia

According to statistics provided by Price Waterhouse Cooper, the used car market in Russia continues to outpace the market for new cars. In fact, it was found that the ratio of used cars to new cars sold has increased significantly, from 2.6 in 2014 to 3.8 in 2015 – this even as sales of both new and used cars declined overall.

The decline in sales of both new and used cars has had a lot to do with the increase in price for vehicles in Russia overall. That said, the price of used cars has been increasing at a much slower rate than new cars, something to which the strength of the Russian used car market owes some credit.

Far and away, the most popular automotive make in Russia is Lada, a brand that’s owned and operated domestically. When looking at sales of both new and used cars, you can easily see how this make’s various models absolutely dominate the market.

That said, other makes have been enjoying success in the Russian automotive market. Most notably, Toyota owns a significant share of the Russian new and used car markets, with its cheap and fuel-efficient vehicles appealing the Russian buyer. In addition, both Ford and Chevrolet enjoy respectable sales in Russia, with these makes more durable vehicles – particularly SUVs – enjoying success.

Still, there’s no escaping the fact that Russia’s incredibly high import duties and taxes have had an adverse effect on the import market. In fact, these high taxes have led to many countries threatening trade sanctions in order to get the Russian government to relent.

Despite this, though, Russia shows no signs of alleviating the burdensome duties and taxes, particularly for used vehicles. In fact, as tensions continue to boil over between Russia and Western nations, it’s entirely possible that the situation with used car import duties and taxes could get even worse.