Should I be bringing my car to Israel?
Hebrew: האם כדי לי לייבא רכב לישראל
Should I be bringing my car to Israel or should wait and buy a car in Israel? This is a question olim often ask us. Importing your car might sound like a good idea when you’re sitting in the comfort of your home abroad making Aliyah preparations and decisions. According to your Aliyah emissary (Hebrew: shaliach) the import procedure seems relatively easy…. but, in actual fact, it is a lot more complicated than you’d expect. The Ministry of Transport (Misrad Ha’Tachbura – משד התחבורה) allows you to import a vehicle for your personal use only.
We are not trying to encourage or discourage you from bringing a car to Israel, we are just sharing valuable information based on the experience of other olim.
Oleh benefits for buying a car
Olim are entitled to import and ship a motor vehicle, to Israel, for their own personal use and they are entitled to a tax reduction up to three years after their date of Aliyah. The shipment does not count as one of their three tax-free shipments. Verify current Aliyah benefits with your local Aliyah office. They will give you the most up-to-date information with regards to the tax benefits.
Hidden costs involved in bringing a car to Israel
$$$ – Obviously a car is going to take up a huge chunk of your container space. There are two shipping container sizes and you will have to have the bigger container in order to accommodate your personal possessions and your car. Obviously that costs more.
$$$ – Then there is the cost of insuring the car while it is on the water.
$$$ – Remember, you do not get a complete tax exemption on your vehicle. You still have to pay some taxes.
Now lets assume you decide to bring your car. Your shipping agent has taken care of all the shipping paperwork and the import licenses and the car is set to arrive in Israel a few weeks after your arrival.
$$$ – In addition to all the regular Aliyah paperwork you will be required to take care of during your first couple of weeks in Israel – getting your Teudat Zehut, Teudat Oleh, joining a Health Fund, opening a bank account, getting your kids into the school system and registered etc….. you will also have to make sure you have a valid Israeli driver’s license in order to get your car released. You need to convert your driver’s license. Since 2017, if you have had a driver’s license for 5 years or more, you can convert your license without taking any extra lessons. If not you will be required to take lessons and possible re-testing. Irrespective of your license, Israel road conditions, drivers’ temperaments and road etiquette differ and a few lessons are advisable. Budget for this additional expense.
Hallelujah! You’ve taken care of all the licensing paperwork and have a valid driver’s license in your possession.
$$$ – Your car is due to arrive in the Israeli Port (either Ashdod or Haifa) and you have to be present to have it released. You might have to rely on public transport to get to either port. Depending on where you are living in Israel, it can be really time consuming traveling from home to the port. Time is money (and bus fare) .
$$$ – One of our members imported her car from Belgium; finally after 3 trips to Ashdod Port and being shunted backwards and forwards, she released her car. 3 x $$$! Each trip to Ashdod and the time spent sorting out car-related paperwork meant she had to skip valuable Ulpan classes.
Servicing your imported vehicle
$$$ – Do you know if the make and model of your vehicle can be serviced in Israel? Do you know if parts are available? Are you sure that there are mechanics who are qualified to work with your make and model of car (especially if you are bringing your Lamborghini)? Jokes aside. If your car is not available locally, you will need to get written assurance from an auto repair establishment in Israel, stating that they can/will repair your car. If spares have to be specially imported, you will have a significant waiting period before your car can be repaired. If this happens you may have to rent a car or make other transport arrangements while your car is in the shop as our Belgian friend discovered when her car needed repairs.
Left-hand-drive & Right-hand-drive Vehicles
If you are bringing a car from Europe, the USA or Canada to Israel, you have no problem. Olim from the United Kingdom, Australia or South Africa your vehicles are right-hand-drives and therefore cannot be imported.
$$$ – Compulsory insurance, 3rd party insurance and comprehensive insurance all need to be bought and paid for before you put the key in the ignition and drive away.
Buying a car in Israel
The other option is to buy a car in Israel at your leisure. Once you have settled in, adjusted to your new life (even if only a little bit), learned some Hebrew, taken some driving lessons, converted your driver’s license, know that you can afford to run a car as you also have a job, then it may be a good time to buy.
You can either by a brand new car with your oleh tax benefit or you can buy “passport-to-passport” i.e. an oleh selling to another oleh so that taxes do not have to be repaid.
Car Resale Value
If you bring in a car that is not generally sold in Israel, will you be able to sell it one day? Who will want to buy a car from you and take on the responsibility of arranging for special spare parts etc.? How will you determine the vehicle’s value when it comes to selling? The Levi-Itzhak price-guide only lists the book value of cars available locally.
Bringing a Used or New Car?
You have a car and it’s a few years old. Is it worth bringing in a used car taking all the above into consideration? Is it worth your while bringing in a new car to Israel taking all the above into consideration?
- Once, Aliyah was easier. Lynn Durlacker was the first olah to bring a car to Israel. From Zambia to Israel in her ’63 Morris Minor Traveler
- Aliyah and relocation shipping – bring your stuff from Point A to Point Israel
The Israeli Sussita – FYI
In the early 1950’s, Israel’s first car manufacturer – Autocars, built the Sussita, the Carmel and the Gilboa. The Sussita, made from fiberglass was very popular at the time. The story goes like this – Israelis would drive down to the Sinai in their little fiberglass Sussitas, park them on the side of the road and go off on a hike. To their horror when they came back, they found their cars had been destroyed by wandering, hungry camels and goats who had chewed, chomped and taken chunks out of the car.