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Shipping your car to South Africa: What happens on the other side

(Partner content) When shipping your car internationally from the UK, specific procedures need to be followed.


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There are customs requirements and specific documents that are required before you ship your vehicle as well as when your vehicle arrives at its destination.

Shipping your car into South Africa

Before you leave the UK, there are several strict regulations that you need to be aware of. Here is a summary of the documents you will need to import any vehicles into South Africa and the procedures required to obtain these import papers.

Documents required for shipping

  • A copy of the photo page of your passport
  • A copy of the vehicles licence document (the V5)
  • A copy of the Letter of Authority
  • A copy of the Import Permit

Arriving in South Africa

Following departure from the UK, the shipping company will provide you with a copy of the Bill of Lading covering shipment of your vehicle. This document proves that your vehicle has left the United Kingdom. In addition to a copy of shipping documentation, your shipping agent will also re-confirm anticipated arrival details for the car in South Africa and contact details for the receiving agent at the port.

Ahead of time, agents will be in contact with you in South Africa before the ship is due to arrive. This will allow you to begin making arrangements to prepare for the completion of local arrival and customs clearance and import formalities.

Duty and tax for returning South African residents

Returning South African residents or immigrants changing their place of permanent residence to South Africa may import one motor vehicle free of duty and are also granted exemption from VAT. On arrival, South African customs will require you to make a declaration to apply for exemption from duty and VAT.

To be eligible to import your personal motor vehicle into South Africa under exemption from duty and VAT you must:

  • Be the registered owner of the vehicle for a period of no less than 12 months
  • Be changing your permanent residency to South Africa
  • On importation you must not sell, hire, exchange or otherwise dispose of the vehicle for a period of at least two years

For vehicles or persons that do not qualify for exemption, the rate of duty payable is calculated based on the value of the vehicle. Further information on import duty and VAT in South Africa can be found on the South African Revenue Service website.

Registration of your vehicle

After shipping, and once your vehicle has been cleared through customs and any duty and tax levied have been paid to the South African Revenue Service, you will be issued with a Customs Release Notification form. Be aware that in order for your car to be registered for use on South African roads it must be registered at a vehicle licensing office and must pass a road worthiness test.

To register your vehicle you will be required to complete the application for motor vehicle licence form ALV. You will need to present it to a vehicle licencing office together with the Customs Release Notification form.

A registered testing centre will complete a road worthiness test and issue you with a road worthy certificate. If your vehicle fails you will typically be entitled to one free re-test provided that any work needed is completed and your vehicle can be re-tested within 14 days. Further details on road worthiness certificates are available on the South Africa Government Services website. 

Take the next step

For all your queries and concerns about customs, insurance and costs, contact AutoShippers. Their experts will be able to answer any questions you may have and will be able to guide you along the way.