Bringing a vehicle into China is not always the easiest of tasks, however it’s worth persevering as the savings on a new car can be substantial, up to 20-25% of the purchase price of the same car inside China. That’s because the Chinese tax regime for personal vehicles is among the highest in the world, and the local car market is not very competitive.
What you need to know:
You can bring a car into the country if you meet the following criteria:
You hold a “z” visa known as a residency permit, holders of tourist and business visas are not eligible to bring their own cars into China. You can still rent or buy a car inside the country without a residency permit but you won’t be able to import one.
You must also hold a “foreign expert” certificate which will be issued by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the visa issuance authority; this is commonly issued to all expats that are working in the country in a role with a high educational requirement.
Alternatively you may own a Wholly Owned Foreign Enterprise (WhOFE) which depending on the number of employees you have may come with permission to import one or more vehicles into China.
If you don’t qualify, you can always engage someone who does but doesn’t wish to bring their own vehicle into the country but you won’t be able to be the legal owner inside of China until 6 months after it arrives.
Remember you can only ever import one vehicle based on your personal status, so unless you are looking for a mid-range executive model to a high-end luxury car you might want to hold off until you can save the most money.
The car itself must be no more than a year old and in good condition to qualify, China is purposely excluding older models to protect the domestic market and because they have a “green” focus on vehicles and don’t want decrepit gas guzzlers adding to their already substantial pollution problems.
While the whole process will save you money, you should remember that it is not without cost itself. You need to source the car, ship the car to China, pay all the necessary taxes and fees (many of which are hidden and/or difficult to obtain prior to import) and register it with the local authority to receive a local number plate and authorisation for it to be driven on the roads.
It can be complex negotiating your way round the ins and outs of the system, and many people find it easier to work with a local partner to cut through all the hassle but a brave few do press on alone and find that despite the time consuming bureaucracy they’ve done it in the end.