Buying Vehicles from North America

There is tremendous opportunity for dealers in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East and elsewhere to import vehicles from North America. Dealers who import vehicles from North America attract buyers to their showrooms and gain an advantage over competitors because no one else sells the same vehicles. North American vehicles typically sell at a premium and help a dealer stand out in local markets. This is a great time to attract customers by buying inventory from North American suppliers.

Dealers on other continents buy from North American suppliers for 3 reasons:

  • They can provide unique products that are not normally sold in other markets. Many models sold in North America are not sold in other markets, such as pickup trucks, SUVs and sports cars.
  • There may be a price advantage buying from a North American supplier. Vehicles can sometimes be sourced from North American suppliers at more competitive prices, even taking into account shipping and costs of bringing the vehicles into compliance with local safety and emissions requirements.
  • North American vehicle safety and emissions standards are widely recognized and accepted globally.  Vehicles built to Canadian and American standards and supplied from North America can usually be modified and certified to standards in foreign markets.

The Opportunity

Vehicle dealers overseas buy North American vehicles because they are able to put cars into their showrooms that no competitor has in inventory. The automotive retail business is highly competitive. Dealers fight aggressively for business. They try to stand out and be unique in the market.

Vehicle dealers in all markets, in general, sell standardized products at relatively uniform prices. Putting North American models in a showroom is one way for overseas dealers to be unique, create a brand for their dealership and excite customers. Dealers who sell something different are able to entice buyers to their showrooms, particularly since North American vehicles that are shipped tend to be high-end models, which interests dedicated car enthusiasts.

Some dealers import only a few North American vehicles each year to bring people into their stores in order to develop relations with a wide consumer base.  Dealers want to turn these people into sources for leads and customers.  They also profit when they sell the North American inventory at a premium.

Some overseas dealers invest heavily in North American models. They have developed a special niche in their market and focus primarily on these vehicles.

Dealers on other continents who may be interested in buying inventory from North American suppliers should try this market.  This market is profitable.  Visit North American suppliers.   Come to the annual conference for vehicle importers and exporters hosted by the North American Automobile Trade Association (NAATA).  Meet vehicle exporters who can supply these vehicles and meet dealers from around the world who are already buying North American models for foreign markets.  There is a tremendous opportunity for you to explore.

How to Buy from a North American Supplier

The process of importing and the manner in which suppliers and buyers do business differs for each company. However, there is usually a common structure which is followed in most transactions.

A knowledgeable and experienced vehicle exporter can help a buyer with this process.  NAATA would be pleased to recommend a knowledgeable and experienced exporter to help you.

Once an overseas buyer decides to buy a vehicle from a North American supplier, the supplier is contacted for a quote. Prices are quoted, sometimes with freight to port.

Suppliers often require deposits, depending on the model purchased and the business relationship between the parties. Buyers do not want to pay excessive deposits, particularly for advance orders that have not yet been manufactured, while suppliers do not wish to be left with unwanted inventory if the buyer does not complete the purchase. These interests have to be reconciled through negotiation.

The supplier then buys the vehicle requested, installs any parts if necessary, completes export documentation, customs clearance, arranges insurance if requested and arranges trucking and shipping.

The supplier confirms the vehicle has been shipped. Vehicles are usually delivered by ship, occasionally by air freight. There are two ways to ship by boat:

  • container; and
  • roll-on, roll-off vessels specifically designed for car shipment.

The most appropriate method of shipping depends on the cost, delivery schedules, which ports are used, and size and quantity of vehicles shipped. The service history provided by the shipping company is also a factor.

Buyers typically transfer funds to the supplier once the vehicle has been received by the shipping line. When the supplier is paid, the car will be released to the forwarder. Buyers and sellers sometimes make other arrangements. Sometimes buyers pay for vehicles in advance of shipping. Normally buyers want the security of knowing that a vehicle has been received by the shipping line.

The freight forwarder arranges delivery, unpacking of containers, inspection, trucking and paperwork. Import tariffs have to be paid and the vehicles have to be inspected and certified as complying with local safety and emissions standards with some modifications if necessary. Local taxes have to be paid, warranty coverage arranged and the vehicle is ready for sale by the overseas dealer.

Smart Business Practices

Again, it is important to work with a reliable and experienced supplier. An experienced supplier can help you through the export and import process.  Our trade association is a good source for a referral.

Some buyers have difficult experiences when they prepay for vehicles in advance of delivery. Not always, but it is common for buyers to pay after delivery to the shipping line and the bill of lading has been received. This gives some security to the buyer for their funds. Other buyers pay in advance based on the history, relationship and reputation of a supplier.

Theft verifications should be conducted and proper insurance on the shipments should be arranged.

Paperwork, trucking and unpacking containers should be left to forwarders who are the experts. They charge fees based on services provided.

Next Steps for Buying a North American Vehicle

Contact trade associations, like NAATA, for referrals to reliable suppliers. Buyers should get involved with associations to familiarize themselves with people and processes.

Service providers should be organized and put in place so that buyers can focus on what they do best, buying and selling.  There are safety certification experts, shippers, forwarders, foreign exchange providers, insurers and warranty companies who are able to make it easy to buy from a North American supplier.

Start with one or two vehicles to test the market. Promote the vehicles heavily and wait for car enthusiasts come in the door. It will be a short wait.

North American Automobile Trade Association

The North American Automobile Trade Association started in Canada in 1996, where there was already a growing vehicle export trade. With the Canadian dollar at low levels and an ample supply of vehicles built to safety and emissions standards that were recognized internationally, a strong vehicle export industry was established in Canada. Vehicles were exported to the United States and around the world.

The North American vehicle export industry is still thriving. Canadian based exporters continue to serve markets around the world. The vehicle export industry in Canada is based on a solid foundation of expertise and experience. It is also diversified to ensure that vehicles are sourced wherever there is a buying advantage for customers. Canadian based exporters are able to source vehicles in any market.

Whether buyers of North American vehicles are interested in price savings or want vehicles that are not otherwise available in domestic markets, this is the time to take a hard look at buying from a North American supplier. For the ultimate consumer, there is the chance to drive a vehicle that no one else has on the road. For dealers, this is an opportunity to put a car in your showroom that no one else is selling on the market. You will create excitement and generate business as car enthusiasts are drawn in by interesting and unique models. These are the people you want coming in your door.

We invite you to attend our annual International Dealer Conference.  This is the ideal place to meet suppliers, dealers, importers, exporters, homologation experts, trade officials, shipping and transportation companies, foreign exchange providers and others who are an integral part of the international vehicle import and export community. You are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Visit our website and sign up for our free electronic newsletter for vehicle exporters and importers.

Vehicle importers and exporters are able to offer a real tangible benefit to dealers and consumers. It is important for dealers to experience the excitement of showing product that is not otherwise available in the local market.   Congratulations for joining the vehicle import and export community. It is the right place to be.

American Automotive Shippers Association

The American Automotive Shippers Association has a long, rich history of more than 20 years of association programs for members that include conferences, meetings, access to premier shipping agents and has in the past offered cargo insurance at a discounted rate to members.  Many programs and initiatives have successfully been implemented over the course of many years, to continue providing programs and planning for the importing and exporting of motor vehicles around the globe.

The rich history of AASA are the results of one strong advocate of the exporting industry, Mr. Tino Max-Antoine Ruefenacht, who as previous President of AASA was the driving force behind the establishment of the organization at the onset.  The Board of Directors for AASA, along with Max, developed strong relationships with US based service providers and industry professionals, to remain at the forefront of the industry.

Prior to the passing of Max, the Board of Directors and Max entered into a reciprocal membership structure with the North American Automobile Trade Association – to improve benefits to members through strong collaboration with the two leading associations in the industry.

In 2013, through new leadership and as Joint Venture Partners, both AASA and NAATA continued to be the leading organization to support the industry of importing and exporting of motor vehicles.

In 2017 the organization continues under the name NAATA to be the leading organization to support the industry of importing and exporting of motor vehicles.

Naata has increased its impact on reviewing policies at the Federal and State level – to ensure the viability of business model of our members continues to be a thriving market.

Become a member today and take advantage of the exclusive opportunities and initiatives that NAATA can provide to its members.

For more information, please contact Michael O’rourke – Executive Director at