As one of the world’s largest economic powerhouses, the United Arab Emirates presents an attractive market for the would-be importer of used U.S. vehicles. This is especially true due to the low tariffs imposed and the nonexistent import taxes. Before you dive in headfirst, however, it’s important to understand that there are some unique quirks and restrictions to be aware of when importing vehicles into the country.
Below, we’ll review everything you need to know about the process, from purchasing a used U.S. vehicle at auction to getting your vehicle registered and road legal in the United Arab Emirates. While there are some complexities along the way, you’ll soon discover that importing used vehicles from the United States into the United Arab Emirates is relatively easy… If you know what you’re doing!
Buying a Used or Salvage Vehicle at a U.S. Auction
There are a number of different ways to purchase used vehicles in the United States, but the best way is undoubtedly through online car auctions. Through an online car auction site, you can gain access to a tremendous inventory of used vehicles, all from the comfort of your own home.
Getting up and running with one of these sites is a cinch, too! Once you’ve created an account, you’ll merely need to make a deposit equivalent to 10% of your total bidding power before getting started. Once the deposit has been made, you’ll be connected with an agent who can help you through every step of the process and even bid on your behalf if need be.
The hardest part will be choosing the right vehicle or vehicles. As you search, be sure to keep in mind the various restrictions that the United Arab Emirates places upon used vehicles imports. Most importantly, remember that cars that have been in accidents are prohibited from being imported, so be sure you’re going over those vehicle history reports will a fine-tooth comb! (This means salvage vehicles will almost always be a no-go, too.)
If you’re having difficulty in your search, let your agent know what kinds of vehicles you’re looking for, and he or she can search databases that aren’t available to the public. And when you’ve found the right vehicle, bid on, and won that vehicle, talk to your agent about arranging shipping or transportation to your chosen United Arab Emirates port.
Arranging for Shipment to the United Arab Emirates
When shipping a used vehicle to the United Arab Emirates, you will have two basic shipping options. First, you can ship your vehicle via a traditional container. In addition, you can also consider something known as RORO shipping, which stands for “roll-on roll-off”. Through this method, your car is literally rolled onto the ship and then off again at the destination port.
RORO shipping has a number of benefits, but a few significant drawbacks as well. The biggest benefit is, of course, that RORO shipping is much cheaper than container shipping. In addition, getting your vehicle onto and off the ship is much more convenient than it is with a container.
However, the cost-effectiveness and convenience of this method may be overshadowed by the drawbacks, particularly as they pertain to the United Arab Emirates. Because your car will be exposed to the elements during shipping and may need to be moved, the likelihood of in-transit damage is much higher. This is a particularly significant problem when importing used cars into the United Arab Emirates, as vehicles with outside body damage are prohibited.
If you use RORO shipping to get your used vehicle to the United Arab Emirates and the vehicle does become damaged, you are not out of luck. However, you will need to file paperwork at the arrival port, something that will add to the time needed for your vehicle to clear customs.
Given the importance of the United Arab Emirates to the world economy, you should have no trouble locating a port in the United States that can ship your vehicle there. Major ports offering service include, but are not limited to:
- Houston, Texas
- Jacksonville, Florida
- Long Beach, California
- Miami, Florida
- Newark, New Jersey
- Savannah, Georgia
There are four main ports in the United Arab Emirates to which you can ship your used vehicle:
- Jebel Ali
- Khor Fakkan
- Mina (Port) Khalid
- Mina Rashid
- Mina Zayed
Both Jebel Ali and Mina Rashid are located in Dubai, the economic hub of the United Arab Emirates. Mina Khalid and Khor Fakkan are located in Sharjah, while Mina Zayed is located in Abu Dhabi.
Getting Your Used Vehicle Through U.S. Customs
When it comes to getting a used car through U.S. Customs, things are relatively painless. In order to have your used vehicle cleared, you will have to present it and the required documents at the vehicle’s port of departure to U.S. Customs. To find out precisely where U.S. Customs is located in your chosen port, simply get in touch with the Port Director.
As far as documents are concerned, you’ll need to have a Certificate of Title. This document should establish your ownership and correspond to the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or the Product Identification Number (PIN). In addition to the original Certificate of Title, you will also need to bring a certified copy or two complete copies of the document. Note that these copies must be submitted at least 72 hours in advance of the vehicle’s scheduled ship date.
If all the paperwork checks out, U.S. Customs agents will inspect the vehicle. Provided that vehicle passes inspection, it will then be cleared for shipping and loaded up.
For more information about getting your used vehicle through U.S. Customs, including for vehicles with foreign titles or no titles, you can consult the U.S. Customs website.
Getting Your Used Vehicle Through United Arab Emirates Customs
There is one vitally important thing that you must understand about importing used cars into the United Arab Emirates. The importer must either be a resident of any of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar), or the importer must an authorized resident of the United Arab Emirates. Alternatively, used cars can be shipped to businesses that are authorized to conduct the import and sale of automobiles.
Beyond the United Arab Emirates’ requirements for importers themselves, there are a number of restrictions that must be understood before attempting to import a used U.S. vehicle into the country:
- There must be no damage to the outside body of the vehicle.
- The vehicle’s steering wheel cannot be modified in any way.
- Vehicles that were once used as taxis or as police automobiles cannot be imported.
- Vehicles that have been involved in collisions, rollovers, fires, flooding, or any other kind of accident cannot be imported.
- Unless authorized as a business for the import and sale of vehicles in the United Arab Emirates, an individual cannot import more than one car per calendar year.
- The vehicle must meet the minimum safety standards for the United Arab Emirates.
Provided that you and your vehicle meet the above requirements, the process of getting a used automobile through customs is relatively straightforward. Before heading out to the port, you’ll want to gather the following documentation:
- Original Copy of the Shipping Receipt
- A Certificate of Origin
- Any Other Certificates from the Vehicle’s Country of Origin
- Invoice or Title for the Vehicle
- Passport, Visa and / or Driver’s License
- Proof from U.S. Authorities that the Vehicle Is Not Wanted for Investigation
The customs authorities will use these documents to verify your ownership of the vehicle. Once that has been verified, an inspection of the vehicle will be conducted. This inspection will focus on two things. First, the inspectors will ensure that the vehicle meets the requirements for a vehicle imported into the United Arab Emirates (outlined above). Second, the inspectors will assess the value of the vehicle for the purposes of determining the import duty, which will be 5% of that value.
The established import duty will be due immediately in order for the car to be cleared and released. So, make sure you bring cash or a checkbook. In addition, you will be required to pay a 4,700 AED fee for your clearance certificate, as well as another 700 AED for a container inspection should your vehicle have arrived by that shipping method.
Once all of the above fees and the import duty have been paid, you’ll be issued export plates for the vehicle and your Certificate of Clearance. The fee for each is 60 AED and 10 AED respectively. Once the plates are attached and the Certificate of Clearance is in hand, you’re free to go.
The next step will be to get the vehicle officially registered…
Registering Your Imported Vehicle in the United Arab Emirates
Vehicle registration is handled by local Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) offices in the United Arab Emirates. Before you head to a local branch in order to register your vehicle, though, there’s one important step you must first take.
Any vehicle imported in the United Arab Emirates must be tested to ensure that it’s roadworthy and safe. There are a number of testing sites that you can use, and the RTA would be happy to point you in the direction of some that they recommend.
At the testing facility, you’ll need to present a few documents. These include originals and copies of your driver’s license, passport and Emirates ID; all of your import documents; and the Certificate of Clearance. In addition, you will need to pay a testing fee, which will vary depending upon the vehicle being tested. If the vehicle passes the tests, you’ll then be issued a Vehicle Inspection Report.
With that in hand, you can proceed to a local RTA office to complete the registration of your vehicle. For this trip, you’ll need the following documents:
- The Vehicle Inspection Report
- Export Plates
- Proof of Insurance
- Proof of Purchase
- Certificate of Clearance
- Driver’s License and Copy
- Passport and Copy
- Visa and Copy (if applicable)
- Additional Proof of Residency
With these documents, you’ll need to complete a registration application form. Once the RTA has verified your documents and the completed form, you’ll be issued white license plates and a registration card. Remember that the registration card must be visible in the car at all times henceforth!
Import Duties and Sales Tax for U.S. Vehicles Imported in the United Arab Emirates
Unlike the restrictions outlined above, the United Arab Emirates keeps things simple when it comes to import duties and taxes. Unless the vehicle is a truck, the import duty is 5% of the car’s value as assessed by customs inspectors. If the vehicle IS a truck, then the duty is 12% of the car’s value as assessed by customs inspectors. In addition, you will also be required to pay 1% of the insurance plus the cost of shipping.
Beyond the above, there are no more duties or taxes to which imported used vehicles are subject. There is no Value Added Tax (VAT), luxury tax, tax based upon fuel type, or a Special Consumption Tax.
The Used Car Market in the United Arab Emirates
With almost no native automotive manufacturing to speak of, the United Arab Emirate imports virtually all of its vehicles, new and used alike. However the market for imported used vehicles is a little more rigid than it is elsewhere due to the numerous restrictions outlined above. As a result, the market is primarily constrained to buyers interested in classic and performance automobiles, although there is demand (however small) for other kinds of vehicles.
The Most Popular Imported Used Cars in the United Arab Emirates
Automotive trends in the United Arab Emirates follow those in the rest of the developed world. By and large, consumers are primarily interested in fuel-efficient, safe and reliable vehicles. For this reason, Japanese vehicles make up roughly half of those imported into the United Arab Emirates every year. By comparison, cars manufactured in the United States are the second-most commonly imported, by only account for 12% of the total market.
Those looking to take advantage of the above facts with respect to the used car market should consider cars like the Toyota Corolla and the Nissan Altima. Both continually rank near the top for resale value within the United Arab Emirates, making the prospect of importing these vehicles from the United States particularly appealing. For luxury, Lexus automobiles tend to enjoy the highest resale value. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Chevrolet vehicles tend to take the quickest and steepest hits to their resale value once driven in the country.