Importing a Vehicle to India

A guide to which vehicles can be imported into India and how to go about it…

The regulations for importing used and new foreign cars, motorcycles, scooters and other non-commercial vehicles into India are quite strict. For example, new foreign vehicles can be imported only through the Indian customs ports in Mumbai (Nhava Sheva), Chennai and Kolkata. Used foreign vehicles can be brought in only through the Indian customs port in Mumbai.

Importing a non-commercial vehicle can be a costly affair because of the heavy customs duties imposed by the central government. They must also be tested for compliance with the government’s requirements.

Foreign passport holders and non-resident Indians (NRIs) who are moving permanently to India can import a used or new vehicle through the transfer of residence scheme.

Importing a New Vehicle

The government has the following requirements for importing a new vehicle:

  • It must be completely manufactured and assembled outside of India
  • It must be imported from the country in which it was manufactured
  • It must not have been registered, sold, leased or loaned before importation
  • It must have right-hand steering, controls and headlights suitable for driving on the left side of the road (applicable to all vehicles with the exception of two- and three-wheelers)
  • It must have a speedometer that displays the speed in kilometres per hour
  • It can be imported only via the Indian customs ports at Mumbai (Nhava Sheva), Kolkata or Chennai
  • It must conform to the provisions of the Central Motor Vehicles Act of 1988

Importing a Used Vehicle

The government has the following requirements for importing a used vehicle:

  • It cannot have been manufactured more than three years previously
  • It must have been previously registered, sold, leased or loaned before importation
  • It must have a roadworthiness certificate valid for at least five years after the date of importation
  • It must have right-hand steering, controls and headlights suitable for driving on the left side of the road (applicable to all vehicles with the exception of two- and three-wheelers)
  • It must have a speedometer that displays the speed in kilometres per hour
  • It can be imported only through the Indian customs port at Mumbai (Nhava Sheva)
  • It must conform to the provisions of the Central Motor Vehicles Act of 1988
  • Its cylinder capacity is no more than 3,000cc

Banned Vehicles

The following types of vehicle are banned:

  • Cars with an engine capacity of between 1,000cc and 2,500cc
  • Motorcycles with an engine capacity of between 50cc and 500cc
  • Scooters with an engine capacity of between 250cc and 800cc

Transfer of Residence

Foreign nationals and non-resident Indians (NRIs) moving to India on a “transfer of residence” for permanent settlement are allowed to import one car or motorcycle (new or used) under the following conditions:

  • The vehicle owner has resided abroad for at least two years and will stay in India for at least one year
  • The total stay on previous short trips to India has not exceeded six months during the two years before immigration
  • The vehicle owner has not imported another vehicle using “transfer of residence” in the preceding three years
  • Only one member of a family can import a vehicle using “transfer of residence”
  • A vehicle must be imported within six months of arrival in India and meet the conditions set by the government
  • The imported vehicle cannot be sold in India for two years
  • New or used cars (of any age) with an engine capacity of up to 1,600cc can be imported. Cars with an engine capacity of more than 1,600cc must be owned and registered abroad for at least a year
  • New or used motorcycles (of any age) with an engine capacity of between 75cc and 500cc can be imported

The imported vehicle will still be subject to the usual customs duties and testing fees.

Further Reading