PWD Register

There are some really excellent reasons for not owning a car in China. These include the mind-snapping problems that arise if you have an accident, as well as the threat to your mental health if you live in Beijing and decide to take to the roads. However, we assume you’ve considered all this and the scales still tilt in favor of your personal set of wheels. Here are the answers to some questions about owning cars, together with a couple of alternatives.

Can I import my car?
You have a car in your home country and you think it will be lonely without you. So... can you import it? There are two answers to this question: (a) Yes, and (b) Don’t even think about it.

In theory, it is possible to import a used personal vehicle to the People’s Republic of China. But why would you want to? They make perfectly good ones here. The transport and taxation costs of importing a used car are huge, and you have no guarantee that you would be permitted to register it when it arrives. It will be subjected to an emissions test, and if it’s more than a year or so old, the chances are it won’t meet local standards - especially if you plan to drive it in Beijing. Besides all that, the paperwork is enough to make strong men weep.

Of course, new imported cars can be bought through dealers in the same way as in other countries.

How do I buy a car in China?
With the explosive growth of the automotive sector in China, there is a well-developed new and second-hand car market, and there are no barriers to resident foreigners buying vehicles. Second-hand cars may be transferred through dealers, or by private sale. For both new and used cars, the paperwork is similar to that required in the West, but it’s helpful to involve a Chinese-speaking friend in the process.

The first thing to do is check the rules and regulations in your town: the following advice is general only, and there may be special rules that are local to your city.

In the larger urban centers, dealers (new and second-hand) are often co-located in enormous ’’car cities,’’ which makes comparative shopping a lot easier. There are also car brokers, who will bring cars to your home or office to inspect or test drive, and who will handle the paperwork for you. If you are buying by private sale, you will need your passport, and the seller will have to provide the bill of sale, together with certificates of title and registration.

If you buy through a good dealer, they should help you with the paperwork, which goes like this:

• Take the car for a safety and emissions test, which all used cars and many new cars have to pass. (Some new locally-manufactured cars are exempt in their first year.) Any rectifications have to be made before the car is registered. The tests are renewed annually.
• Register the car at the relevant agency. In Beijing, it’s called the Automobile Administrative Office . You’ll need (at a minimum) your passport, residence certificate, registration form and bill of sale.
• Pay the required charges and taxes, which will vary from city to city.
• Pay the insurance. Third-party liability insurance is compulsory, but be warned: this scheme does not operate in the way you may be accustomed to back home. In China, third-party victims of accidents are entitled to prompt compensation through insurance companies under new rules introduced in 2006. However, if the driver is later determined to have been at fault, the insurance company is legally entitled to take action against the driver to recover its costs. Other insurance (for theft, damage etc.) is also available. Premiums are generally lower than in the West: full coverage will cost you between RMB 2500-5500 per year, depending on the vehicle.

Can I lease a vehicle instead of buying one?
Yes, there are plenty of firms that offer leasing services. The financials are similar to deals you might have made back home: the outgoings are higher than with a straight purchase, but they are spread evenly over the year, you have the option of low-cost purchase at the end of the deal, and there may be tax advantages. Hours of fun for you and your accountant.

Can I rent a car in China?
Yes, but if you’re after a self-drive car, it’s not as simple as you might think. There are countless rental firms across China, from two-car mom and pop operations to swish showrooms with piped music and marble counter-tops. All will arrange self-drive rentals, but almost invariably a foreign or international license cuts no ice: only a Chinese license will do, along with a residence permit.

However, the bad news ends there. Most firms will rent you a car with a driver at surprisingly affordable rates: a no-frills car-and-driver rental can be arranged in Beijing for around RMB 400 per day, with costs dropping dramatically for longer-term rents. You’ll pay much more for a limo and uniformed chauffeur, but it’s still way below what you would pay in the USA or Europe.
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