If you’re a car collector who loves foreign makes and models, there’s a good chance that you’ve wanted to import a car to the USA. Unfortunately, most collectors shy away after looking into the rules and regulations that make importing cars to the USA somewhat difficult. This shouldn’t be the case. Although importing a car from abroad takes more work than buying a collector car locally, it’s a worthwhile endeavor if it means you’ll finally get your hands on the car of your dreams.
To help make the process of importing easier, we put together a short guide on how to import a car to the United States. Read on to find out how to get a car across the border, how much it will cost, and how to speed up the process.
US Vehicle Importing Laws and Regulations
For decades, the US has maintained strict regulatory standards when it comes to importing vehicles from abroad. According to US car import laws, vehicles that are 25 years old or less must comply with the various rules set forth by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
Otherwise known as the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act, the “25-year import law” is a US regulation that prohibits individuals from buying and importing new foreign vehicles without first going through stringent testing. The law is designed to keep American drivers safe from potentially hazardous or unreliable vehicles.
The rules regulating car importing in the USA are very strict about all foreign-made motor vehicles that are 25 years old or younger. All such vehicles must be compliant with the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) safety standards and receive a sticker affixed to their vehicle’s bumper denoting their compliance.
Foreign vehicles must comply with the following regulations or pieces of legislation. If any foreign motor vehicle fails to comply with the standards outlined in these laws, then the vehicle will either be exported or destroyed:
- Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act (1972)
- Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1966)
- Importing Vehicle Safety Compliance Act (1988)
- Clean Air Act (1990)
Show or Display Rule
The “Show or Display Rule” is an amendment to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. It exempts certain makes and models from the 25-year import ban if they are deemed “historically or technologically significant.” Since they don’t have to meet the 25-year rule, many tend to be high-performance sports cars and exotic vehicles.
Importing Cars 101: Everything You Need to Know
American Collectors Insurance has dealt with countless collector cars imported to the US and we will share some of this knowledge gained over the years below. Far too many collectors are intimidated by the process of importing a car, but the truth is that the process is neither difficult nor intimidating. Below, we’ve outlined some need-to-know aspects of the vehicle importing process before you get started importing foreign vehicles.
What’s a Port of Entry?
The import of a foreign vehicle is facilitated through a shipping company, which physically transports the vehicle through a US port of entry. You must be physically present at the specific port of entry when your vehicle arrives so you can sign for it under the supervision of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).
What Documents Do I Need?
Clearing Customs and Border Patrol may seem daunting, but it’s a relatively straightforward process if you have the correct documentation. At a minimum, you should have the shipping firm’s bill of landing on your person when you arrive at the port of entry. Additionally, you should have the following items:
- Foreign registration
- Bill of sale
- Proof of insurance
- EPA Form 3520-1 (completed)
- DOT Form HS-7 (completed)
Dealing with Import Fees
Duty fees apply to any foreign vehicle entering the US. Although importing a car from Canada is free, vehicles from other foreign markets are subject to the following fee structure:
- Automobiles (2.5%)
- Trucks (25%)
- Motorbikes (Up to 2.4%)
The values listed above are the percentage of the vehicle’s cost that is applicable upon entry into the US. US citizens can bring their US-registered vehicle back from a trip abroad without incurring any charges from CBP.
Importing Collector Cars by Country and Region
Importing From European Countries
Importing cars from European countries tends to be popular with car collectors, especially for aficionados of old-school, hard-to-find Porches, sporty Italian Alfa-Romeos and more. However, as a car collector who’s importing a classic or antique vehicle from Europe, you’ll still have to fill out the required paperwork and abide by US Show and Display laws.
Importing From Japan
We’re often asked: “how much does it cost to import a car from Japan?” Given how far away they are from US soil, Japanese domestic market (JDM) vehicles are notoriously expensive to import and make compliant with FMVSS regulations and consequently, very few newer JDM vehicles are imported within the “25-year import law” period. Often, you can expect to pay between two and five thousand dollars on top of the car’s market value to have the car purchased, cleaned, and shipped overseas to a US port of entry on the west coast.
If the vehicle is less than 25 years old, you will need to have the bill of lading from the shipping company, as well as the English translation of the Export Certificate, the English version invoice, and the original car title.
Importing From Canada
If you’re wondering how to import a car from Canada, you must obtain a tag and insurance from whichever Canadian province or territory where your Canadian vehicle is imported from. To import a car from Canada to the United States, you must also obtain a certificate of origin, vehicle identification number (VIN), and the Canadian bill of sale.
Importing From Australia
To import a collector car from Australia, you’ll still need to file form HS-7 and form 3520-1. Classic cars older than 25 years old do not need to conform to EPA and DOT restrictions like newer cars do.
Remember to Insure Your Imported Collector Car
With a little know-how, you can import a classic car from Japan, Europe, Australia, or any other foreign market without any headaches or hassles. Once you have your documents collected and your duty fees prepared, importing a foreign vehicle is mostly a waiting game as your vehicle ships to the port of entry.
Once your vehicle has arrived, get a free quote from American Collectors Insurance and get started protecting your new passion. An imported collector is more than a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. With the right classic car insurance policy, you can ride with confidence and excitement knowing that your imported vehicle is protected.