Importing a car to Singapore: A complete guide

Elle Kasser

Spotted a used car bargain on your holidays, or want a particular make and model you can’t find in Singapore? If so, you’ll need to look into importing your dream car into Singapore.

In this handy guide, we’ll walk you through all the essential steps for importing a car to Singapore. This includes customs, taxes and other costs, plus the practicalities of shipping your new car into the country.

We’ll even throw in a handy tip which could make paying for your car a little cheaper. To cut down the costs of paying overseas, use Wise. With Wise you can open an account for free and you can send money overseas for low fees using the mid-market exchange rate.

This could work out much cheaper than using your bank, so your new set of wheels will cost less overall.

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But first, let’s look at the paperwork and costs involved when you import a car to Singapore.

📝Table of contents:

Is it possible to import a car to Singapore from overseas?

You can ship cars and other vehicles into Singapore from a foreign country, but there are strict rules you need to follow. Firstly, you can only import cars that are brand new or less than 3 years old¹.

If you import a used car, there’s a hefty fee of S$10,000¹ to pay.

You’ll also need to apply for an assessment of the vehicle’s customs value, pay customs duties and relevant taxes, then register your new car with the Land Transport Association (LTA). And that’s after you’ve arranged all the logistics of having your car shipped and delivered to Singapore.

If it sounds like a lot of paperwork, don’t worry. We’ve broken the process down into a step-by-step guide below.

Importing a car to Singapore - a step-by-step guide

Ready to buy your car and ship it to Singapore? Here’s what you need to do¹:

  1. Find a car you want to buy and check with the LTA that it meets registration and other technical requirements. Remember that you can’t import cars over 3 years old, and that used cars and those with high emissions will trigger extra charges.
  2. Make sure you have the required documents - such as a manufacturer invoice proving the car is brand new, proof that the car meets emissions standards and all other technical specifications.
  3. Get shipping quotes and arrange for your car to be shipped to Singapore using a shipping agent - by sea is usually the cheapest option.
  4. Apply and pay for an Inward Cargo Clearance Permit (ideally through your shipping agent) from Singapore Customs.
  5. Apply to Singapore Customs for an assessment of the vehicle’s customs value (OMV). For this, you’ll need to provide the following:
    • Original purchase invoice
    • Freight and insurance papers
    • Receipts relating to any other incidental charges
    • Exhaust emissions test and windscreen test documents
    • Original foreign vehicle registration documents (for used cars)
    • Letter from the manufacturer containing the date the car was made.
  6. Pay the Excise Duty, Goods & Services Tax (GST)
  7. Collect your car from Singapore Customs.
  8. Start the registration process - submit your car for vehicle approval to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and pay the application fee. You should have all the documents mentioned so far to hand for this process.
  9. Send your car for inspection at an LTA-Authorised Inspection Centre - once it passes, you’ll receive the Vehicle Approval Code (VAC) needed to register the car.
  10. Bid for and secure a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) in the correct COE category for your vehicle.
  11. Take out a motor insurance policy for your car - you’ll need this in order to register it.
  12. Make an appointment with the LTA to officially register your vehicle, making sure you have your own ID documents ready along with the VAC and paperwork relating to your car.
  13. Pay the registration fee and additional registration fee (ARF).
  14. Fix your new registration number plates to your car - and hit the road!

For any fees or charges we’ve mentioned here, skip onto the next section for a handy table of costs. It can be expensive, as we’ll discover in just a moment.

If you’re put off by the costs and the process, you may want to instead consider buying a parallel import car in Singapore. A licenced parallel importer could do all the hard work for you, while you benefit from a great model at a lower cost.

Singapore car import tax and other key costs

So, how much does it actually cost to import a car to Singapore? Here are the main costs you may need to pay (not including the price of the vehicle and shipping costs):

Import steps Cost¹
Used car surcharge S$10,000
Vehicles Emissions Scheme (VES) surcharge (if your car is in a high emissions category - rebates on ARF are also available for low emissions vehicles) S$10,000 to S$20,000
Excise duty 20% of the OMV (customs value of the vehicle)
Goods & Services Tax (GST) 7% of the total cost, insurance and freight and Excise Duty
Application for LTA vehicle approval S$286.50
Certificate of Entitlement (COE) Up to S$62,190²
Registration Fee (RF) S$220
Additional Registration Fee (ARF) 100% for first S$20,000 of OMV140% for next S$30,000180% above S$50,000

Buying a car from overseas? Save money on the purchase price with Wise

As you can see from the table above, there are a lot of costs related to importing a car to Singapore. It can easily become very expensive, so you’ll want to take advantage of anything that could save you money.

One handy trick to have up your sleeve is Wise. Open a free Wise multi-currency account before you actually buy your car from overseas, and you can send the international payment for just a tiny fee. It’s easy, quick and secure.

Better still, you’ll get the real, mid-market exchange rate, without any expensive mark-up added on top. This could make it far cheaper than making an international transfer using your bank.

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Importing a car into Singapore isn’t cheap, and there are a lot of different steps to follow and forms to fill in. You’ll need to be organised and have all your paperwork ready.

But once you’ve negotiated the process, you’ll be able to hit the road in a fabulous new car that you possibly couldn’t get hold of in Singapore. So, it can be worth it. Good luck!

Sources used for this article:

  1. Procedures on Importation and Registration of a Car in Singapore
  2. COE Prices and Bidding Results - AA Singapore

Sources checked on 29 April 2021.

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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