Importing a Motor Vehicle (Jamaica)




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Jamaica Overview

Importing a Motor Vehicle

Published Feb 24, 2008

Last month I related my experience of buying a car in Jamaica. This month I looked at an alternative. If you have a love relationship with your present vehicle, you might want to bring it to Jamaica with you along with all your household goods. After reading this article you can come to terms with just how serious that love affair is. What you are about to read is the story of a friend who imported his 2006 Ford Freestyle from Florida and information from the Sunday Observer Automotive section dated February 17th, 2008.

The first thing Robert did was contact the Jamaican Trade Board to obtain the paperwork that included guidelines and requirements of importing a vehicle. The best way to obtain this information is on their website, If you purchase the motor vehicle import license online it costs less than applying in person. The online fee is slightly more than US $50.00 and nearly $5.00 more than if you apply in person.

Then Robert had to find a freight forwarder to ship the car from Florida to Montego Bay via Kingston. It is my understanding that freighters go to Kingston first as most foreign ports with service to Jamaica don't carry enough goods destined for Montego Bay. Montego Bay receives one freighter from Kingston per week which is made up from all the ships with a Jamaican destination.

Right from the beginning, Robert had a slight problem. His vehicle was too big to fit in a container, thus it had to be driven on the ship and secured. Had he been able to fit it in a container, he could have included other goods along with it. Before any vehicle is loaded on a ship it has to be x-rayed for the same reason your luggage is x-rayed at the airport. This tends to eliminate smuggling of guns or anything else into Jamaica.

Either through your freight forwarder or on your own, you have to acquire the services of a custom broker in Jamaica. Everything being shipped to Jamaica worth $5,000 US or more is required by law to have a custom broker. This broker acts as your agent when dealing with the custom agents at the dock. Their expertise is vital in negotiating a fair deal on the associated fees.

One important factor that must be addressed before dealing with customs is to obtain a TRN(Tax Registration Number). This is an easy process which can be done in a few minutes and is free of charge. However, this can only be done in person at one of the many Inland Revenue offices on the island. All you need to obtain a temporary TRN is a valid passport. The permanent TRN can be picked up on a subsequent trip to the island. No government fees can be accepted without this card.

"Import tariffs affixed to motor vehicles are linked primarily to the engine's CC rating and tonnage, in the case of trucks. According to the Trade Board figures, motor cars, including station wagons, under 1,000cc, attract a duty of 67% of the value of the vehicle. Cars exceeding 1,000cc, but under 1,500cc, attract 83% duty. For cars above 1,500cc rating but under 2,000cc the duty is 94%, while those above 2,000cc but not exceeding 3,000cc attract a 121% duties. Cars exceeding 3,000cc(gasoline) or 3,200cc(diesel) attract 180% duty."

This explains the fee structure which is used to establish what it will cost you based on the value of your vehicle. This is where your custom broker negotiates the best deal possible for you. The broker takes your notarized bill of sale and presents it to the custom agent. The custom agent then checks the blue book and other books to determine the appropriate book value of the vehicle. The agent can either accept your bill of sale or demand the book value. This is when the negotiations begin. An experienced custom broker, like a good defense attorney, can make a case for your lower bill of sale. But in the end, you are at the mercy of the customs agent. If you don't agree with the agent's assessment, your only course of action is to send the vehicle back, a rather costly alternative.

What can I ship into Jamaica? Any new car of course, but a used car can't be older than three years and four years for a commercial vehicle. One stipulation is you can't sell the vehicle for three years. This will be clearly noted on the title. You are also limited to importing two vehicles every three years. Caution: failure to obtain a proper import license can cause you to be fined "three times the value of the vehicle plus suffer the seizure of the vehicle!"

Now that Robert's car has been cleared by customs, he is free to drive it away. He did not turn in his motor vehicle plates in Florida because he knew he was allowed a few days to drive with them in Jamaica. Before he could drive on the roads, he first had to obtain car insurance. His first stop after leaving the wharf was to go to the Inland Revenue office to pay for a "fitness" test. From there, it was a 3-4 mile drive to the only inspection station in Montego Bay. It was there that Robert encountered a problem. His Ford Freestyle was designed for driving only on the right side of the road. Hence, his headlights were pointed somewhat to the right which kept the beams from shining into the eyes of oncoming drivers. Normally a quick trip to a repair garage to adjust the lights to the left is all that would be required. In Robert's case, he owns one of the few vehicles that cannot be adjusted. On returning to the inspection station, the inspector reluctantly passed the car's fitness test. Someone, somewhere, in the process neglected to take note of the fixed lights on this make and model car. This vehicle never should have been allowed in Jamaica.

From there the next stop was to get an "engineer's" report otherwise called a valuation report. This is required by the insurance company to establish a rate. My insurance company requires one every two years to assure them of the condition of the car. This is done to protect them in case I was in an accident and neither reported it or fixed the damage and later had a reported accident requiring the insurance company to total the vehicle. It really wouldn't be worth the full value at that point.

In the four years I have been writing these articles I have neglected to mention one very important thing for prospective drivers in Jamaica. You must have a written, notarized letter from your insurance company stating your driving record for the past 3 years. Without this, you would have to pay the highest premium for your coverage.

Now that you know most of what is involved in importing a vehicle you can make some calculations on your own vehicle based on Jamaican requirements. Keep in mind these calculations are only for the vehicle's tariff. You would still have to add the fees for the freight forwarder, custom broker, licensing and inspection, and insurance. Now with all this knowledge you can determine the love affair with your present vehicle. Most people think it is cheaper to buy in Jamaica than to import. What do you say?

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21 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

Aug 15, 2010 9:32pm [ 1 ]

The Jamaican government is a CROOK! they make it mandatory to go through a lot of processes for the sole reason of getting maximum amount of cash from you the buyer. I don't see why i should buy a car, ship it all the way from japan and the total cost is $650,000 then turn around and pay over a million dollars in total charges. Its rubbish. You can hardly find a car out here that can fully satisfy your list of criteria and yet they are over priced. The wharf fees needs to be seriously adjusted.

Sep 22, 2010 8:39pm [ 2 ]

what if i bought the car in an auction and got it for far lower than its blue book price and why does one need to go through so much paper work some unecessary to import a car

Killy G
Sep 25, 2010 8:41am [ 3 ]

I am very greatful to you for the information regarding, what it takes to send a car/transport to Jamaica. I agree with the previous comment, relating to the economic cost involed with such tranactions. If the government or for that matter 'the people of Jamaica' wants Jamaican abroad to return, creating jobs as well as brining new/fresh ideas for a better Jamaica, then the cost of returning home must be reasonable. The government past and present (exclude Manley in the 70s) of Jamaica DO NOT LIKE BLACK PEOPLE its is call self-hate. I ask that you/we keep the preasure on the government of Jamaica to favour their own country men/women over outsiders. Make it Jamaica for Jamaicians, able to bring a little of what they have earnt away form home back without the greed and corruption that is unfourtunately Jamaica today.

Oct 12, 2010 8:45pm [ 4 ]

Bwoy when Jamaican people done they wonder why crime and violence is so extremely high in Jamaica. You see the government makes it so difficult for people who can't afford to purchase a vehicle locally with all these high fees and restriction on the year of the vehicle. So poor people can't purchase a vehicle locally because it is too expensive, and when they purchase a vehicle overseas they can't pay to clear it. So what you think will happen next? They will just thief someone else own. This is what the government creates in Jamaica, thieves and criminals. I hate Jamaican government system so bad.

Oct 22, 2010 11:46am [ 5 ]

The motor vehicle importation regulations are clearly stated. The Jamaican Government tries to get the maximum amount of money from each importer. Note that the import duties are too high. However, if you dont want to give your money to the government think about buying the vehicle in the country or you will be paying an arm and a leg. My personal view is that, it would appear that the vehicle one imports is too good for such individual, hence he/she is hit with a consequence of high fees.

roland comet
Oct 25, 2010 7:59am [ 6 ]

Dear Sir

Wish to ship van to Jamaica. Suzuki van 1.3 litre 2006 for comercial use

Could you please tell me 'estimate' price to clear Kingston wharf

Nov 19, 2010 11:22pm [ 7 ]

I am a Jamaican born Renewable Energy Systems Engineer who was considering returning to JA to open an Alternative Energy / Green Technology Construction company. Therefore, I went to the island and stayed for two months to do my research, however my findings were very discouraging, to say the least. As far as I can understand from what I encountered it would cost me too much to move back to Ja, so why bother. There is no encouragement in the form of government incentives for people with advanced technological expertise to establish residence in JA. Most of all the corruption was so evident, it made me extremely angry. My team of well experienced engineers are responsible for designing and installing multiple renewable energy systems and construction of green techno homes in the US, Germany, South America and parts of the Middle East. The Jamaican government is not ready to attract new innovative expertise and thats quite shameful for a country that needs an industrial boost. Jamaica has so much cheap energy capabilities but without the right people to show them the way, hey will always be paying outrageous electric power and fuel bills.

Jan 19, 2011 7:35am [ 8 ]

people live abroad in the stresses of overseas dont want to come home to one bag of stupid red tape and bureaucracy for just clearing a car that u might already own.the prices they charge is not fair ,if u get the car cheaper and have proof they should allow your price and not be force to pay all that blue book fee ,why should you be at the mercy of this unfair game.The other option buy in jamaica ,what a joke ,after these cars being marked up double you are then forced to buy them, just because them the goverment might have friends or them self own stakes in these car lots just utter rubbish ,but what can u do ,nothing thats good ole jamaica for you

Jan 22, 2011 3:34pm [ 9 ]


Please keep your Western/African American lifestyle and ways that you have adopted to yourself nuh! We are out of many one people remember that. Get it right too when you are posting rather than taking up online space and bandwitdth. The Jamaican government is for them selves period and discriminate heavily towards all ppl in Jamaica, primarily the poor and then the businesses. Otherwise, thanks for posting this great article it was quite useful sans the dumb and misguided. Peace!

Jan 24, 2011 10:02am [ 10 ]

This article have been truly informational and I appreciate it very much.

Want to clarify information on TRN - you do not need to physically be in JA to apply for a TRN#. You can prepare a notorized letter asking a friend/relative in JA to do it for you. They can also pick up your card and mail it to you if you will not be returning to JA soon. Also, you need a valid ID to receive a TRN (not a passport), since you do not need to be a Jamaican to apply for a TRN. (I know article did not say JA passport but it could be assumed).

I am still uncertain to whether shipping or buying a car in JA is cheaper.... did you know that the mark-up on cars sold in JA is almost 3 times as much as what they cost in the US; (and yes, converting JA dollars to US). The questions is, will I be able to live with paying for an overpriced car? Not sure but this is definately my dilemma!

Jan 24, 2011 10:32am [ 11 ]

I just did a basic calculation.... this is absolutely absurd on how much it will cost to ship a vehicle (under 1000cc - the cheapest) to JA. It's call greed... the JA govt is rediculous. A vehicle costing $15k in the US will cost you approximately $30k - 35k by time you clear it in JA. As if it is not difficult enough to be able to buy a car for $15k cash and ship it--- you have to turn around and pay over $10k to clear it too. Absolutely absurd and if JA keep at this rate it will not be any better. And to think that I want to move back home... sometimes I really question my decision. Moments like these just gets me really really angry.

Joan Foster-Burlin-Ebanks
Feb 9, 2011 9:04am [ 12 ]

It's such a shame that the duty is so high when clearing a car of the wharf. In jamaica a lot of used cars are sold and poor jamaicans are been ripped off by their own people - government. The care dealers who shiped these used cars are making a fortune. Japan flood the country with their used cars and the poor jamaicans spend there hard own cash to buy something that the western world dont want. Why does the government allow this to happen to it's people.

Well as the saying goes europe is set up for euprpeans and third world countrys is set up to destroy there nation. I will not buy a used car in Jamaica or furthermore will not pay several millions dollars for a new car when I can get it in Britian for half the cost. Those who wish to purchase a car and shipped it can get the VAT back and that would go to some of the cost of the duty. Good luck folks!

Lee Johnson
Feb 15, 2011 9:53pm [ 13 ]

Great reporting Mr. John Casey, you hit it right on the MARK

jesus christ
Mar 4, 2011 3:29pm [ 14 ]

good god almighty,the only place in the world that you basically have to buy back the vehicle from the govt. when you ship to jamaica.a 1994 carrolla in the us cost 300-$500 in jamaica its 300.000`to $500.000 a crying shame.

Mar 21, 2011 6:48am [ 15 ]

Dear Sir,

Can people lobby the government to change these crazy duties. I know it is poor country but they can not expect to extort money out people who bring goods in into the country. A car 67% on the for 1000cc and under is excessive.

Mar 29, 2011 10:26am [ 16 ]

This is why jamaica cannot be any better than it is and we wonder why the country is the way it is. Because the government is greedy and where is all that money going????

Jul 10, 2011 3:32pm [ 17 ]

I think we should be able to a 10 year car, and a 12 year old commercial vehicle to jamaica, also the tax on these vehicles needs to be reduce to a lower amount , this would help us who want to bring our cars and other vehicles could do so without this huge charges. The goverment and custom officers are a bunch of criminals. We ( the jamaican living abroad) contribute alot to the Jamaica enonomy. The government need to sit and take notice of our comments.

Feb 12, 2012 8:54pm [ 18 ]

It is clear that the jamaican government are thieves. The price an indiviual is expexted to pay is rediculous. They are trying to make money to inprove the economy, but yet they make it more difficult for people to import. if they have less import, then they make less. how smart

Greta Hamilton-radells
Aug 21, 2012 9:17am [ 19 ]

I'm a Jamaican livig in Lodon but I do go to Jamaica every year - staying for some of the winter months - I experience great difficulties in getting around on the Island - I can buy a great secondhand car for £1000 and it would be great to be able to take a car to Jamaica so that I can use it for my holidays - but. all the comments I've read about the govermental proceedures with importing cars is true - it saddens me about this restrictions. I would love to be able to return home but, all the strange restrictions I would not consider it.

Sep 5, 2012 11:54am [ 20 ]

I agree with all that has been said. Our government ought to take our concerns into serious consideration. I live in China for 17 years and the incentives the government put in place for Chinese to return home is remarkable. I know we can't rival these countries however don't punish us for wanting to return. Many of us have gain our education and major in many diverse fields abroad and are willing to return and work towards making our island proud. Is our government so dumb to realise that there are some brilliant minds that will never consider returning because of their greedy policies and unattractive nonpackage. Stop shooting yourself in the foot and let us come home and help.

Apr 2, 2013 8:55am [ 21 ]

I have read all the comments posted and am truly enlightened on the car corruption in Jamaica, if i wasn't before! I have just returned back from Jamaica 2 days ago after trying to find a reasonable car for my aging father and what i found was ridiculous, overpriced sub standard vehicles, so I didnt bother! I was after a low budget car due to finances and what I was offered was a Diahatsu Charade (for those who know), which is a car that was probably scrapped 15 years ago in the UK, the car was missing 2 door handles, bald tyres, worn out shock absorbers and when you started the engine, it sounded like an asthmatic child who'd been smoking Cuban cigars! Needless to say the dealer wanted £2,400 for it! I don't think you would have gotten £150 scrap value for it in the UK. I'm looking at shipping a Toyota pickup over but may have to bite the bullet on duty costs as at least I can guarantee the vehicle will be roadworthy and work for my father!! Is there a way to ship a pickup as an agricultural vehicle, to reduce the duty costs?? Any help would be appreciate as my folks are getting on in years & this would be a great help to them.

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