Should you buy an imported used car?

Wanted to own that fancy Lamborghini Gallardo or Chevrolet Camaro in India? Thinking of importing a used car and running it in India? Well, here’s a look at why it isn’t a good idea in most cases, although there are some deals that are definitely worth a look.

CarToq takes a look at the travails of buying an imported used car. There are two parts to this. One is where you are looking at shipping a car that you or a relative used abroad into India and using it here, and the second is to buy a car that has already been imported – either by an NRI or from consulates disposing off their staff cars in India.

toyota landcruiser 200 vs india photo

Importing a used car

Import duties on used cars are killing, and hence there are very few who actually go ahead an import a used car to India. Duties on imported used cars can be has high as 159%, calculated on the ex-factory price of the car, with very small percentage of depreciation allowed based on the age of the car. Used cars cannot be more than three years old and have to conform to right-hand drive market configuration (steering wheel on the right). Cars that cost more than $40,000 don’t need to undergo homologation, but any car that costs less than that will need to be homologated by ARAI.

Unless you have a sentimental attachment to a used car, it is definitely not worth importing a used car, as you would end up paying the same price as that of a new completely-built unit car or sometimes even more for the used car. This duty structure has been created to prevent India from becoming a dumping ground of cheap imports (like some African countries), and to shore up the domestic automobile industry, adding to job creation and infrastructure growth in the country. Also read: Buying a used Toyota Fortuner

Buying a pre-imported used car

Now if you have your eyes set on an old Land Rover defender or a Toyota Landcruiser in India, it may be worth taking a second look at it. These vehicles are usually sold in the second-hand market by consulates or UN missions that may have imported them for staff use. The prices on these vehicles are quite attractive. For instance a Toyota Landcruiser Prado, that’s about 10 years old and has done about 60,000 or 70,000 km, could be up for grabs for about Rs. 10 lakh or so (a new one would cost you Rs. 60 lakh). A 10-year old BMW 316i would cost as little as Rs. 6 lakh.

These are definitely attractive prices for the kind of status value attached to these cars. But is it worth spending that much on a used BMW or LandCruiser?

The key deciding factor here is in the long-term upkeep of the car. You may be able to get the car at a throw away price and that will definitely give your image a boost, but the question is when it comes to servicing the vehicle, it may pinch. Regular service such as oil changes and filter changes won’t cost much, but when you need spare parts, prices could be nearly five times more than your average luxury car being sold in India. Also since these vehicles are not made in India, companies are not likely to stock spare for them – and you will have to get them ordered through specialist garages. That would mean plenty of downtime if something goes wrong, as you would end up keeping the car in the workshop for over a month, waiting for parts to be imported for it.

If you can live with that headache, as long as you have another car for daily use, it is worth looking at an imported used car – purely for image value or recreational purposes. Even if it is your daily car, be prepared for some delays especially around service and inflated service bills. But for a vehicle like a LandRover or LandCruiser, that’s a small price to pay. Isn’t it? Also read: Five reasons to buy a used car instead of a new one

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