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Can You Get Around The 25 Year Old US Car Import Law?

This is a question we get asked everyday by people looking to import a car under 25 years old to the United States. The simple fact is that there are ways to import a car under 25 years old, but you many either not keep it here permanently, or you have strict limits on using the vehicle. Here are all of the reasons why you may see import cars which are under 25 years old on the roads or at the shows in the US.

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1. Limited Production Car Imported Under The Show & Display Law

Must be a limited production car of no more than 500 units, which fits the EPA requirements, and for which you have Show & Display approval from the DOT. Even if approved, you are limited to only being to register it for public road use of up to 2,500 miles annually. 

2. Tourist Owned Car In The Country Temporarily

If you're a tourist, you can request for a temporary import from the DOT which allows you to have the car in the country for up to 1 year. You must export the car after the year is over.

3. Temporarily Imported For Modifications

Vehicles can be imported temporarily for modifications and restoration work, but are required to leave the US within the year. 

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4. Temporarily Imported Under a Carnet

Some vehicles are brought into the US via a carnet, which is similar to a tourist visa for a vehicle. It allows the vehicle to be temporarily used before being exported from the US.

5. The Vehicle Was Modified To Meet US Laws & Regulations

The vehicle was extensively modified by a NHTSA approved registered importer to meet US specifications for road use. It's not as simple as changing a turn signal bulb in most cases, and requires expensive modifications to pass all required tests.

6. The Unofficial 21 Year Rule With Limits

Because the EPA requirement is only valid for vehicles 21 years and older, and the DOT law is for vehicles 25 years and older, you can have vehicles which are between 21 and 25 years old which can be legally imported via DOT's Show and Display law.

7. It's A Race Car

Race cars have no age requirement and can be imported of any year, but only if the car was originally produced by the manufacturer as a race car. This exemption is not applicable if the car is converted from a road car to a track car. It must have been a track car built by the factory. 

Gray Imports and Loopholes: Don't Even Try It

The US is serious about car imports and will catch illegal imports, confiscate the vehicles and destroy them. Some importers attempt to remove the engines and drivetrains from vehicles, and import them separately from the vehicle chassis to avoid the 25 year import law. This is highly illegal and the US government takes these "gray" imports seriously.