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Car Import for Show & Display: How It Works & Which Cars Are Eligible

The Show and Display Law is a special exemption under the US import regulations that allows certain non-compliant vehicles to be imported into the United States. This law makes it possible for car enthusiasts to import rare or historically significant vehicles that do not meet the US Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. Here’s a closer look at what the Show and Display Law entails and when you can use it to import cars into the US.

What is the Show and Display Law?

The Show and Display Law was enacted in 1999 to permit the importation of vehicles that hold historical or technological significance.  It was actually Bill Gates who helped get the law passed when he could not find a way to legally import his Porsche 959.

These vehicles typically do not comply with US safety and emission standards, but under the Show & Display Law, they can be imported under more strict conditions. The key points of the law include:

  • Historical or Technological Significance: The vehicle must be of significant interest due to its historical importance, technological innovations, or rarity.
  • Limited Usage: Vehicles imported under this law are restricted to limited use. They can be driven no more than 2,500 miles per year. This restriction ensures that the vehicles are primarily used for exhibitions, shows, and other display purposes.
  • Approval Process: The vehicle must be approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The importer must submit a detailed application proving the vehicle's significance and the intended limited use.

When Can You Use the Show and Display Law?

You can use the Show and Display Law to import cars into the United States if you have a car that is exceptionally rare or has historic significance, such as a prototype, a one-of-a-kind model, or a unique vehicle. View the full list of cars eligible to be imported under the Show & Display Law here.

Note that vehicles under 21 years old are required to meet EPA compliance. Luckily, some of the modern collectible cars such as the McLaren Speedtail were manufactured to meet the EPA requirements. You should look for the US emissions sticker as outlined here.

If your vehicle is 21 years and older, you are not required to meet the EPA compliance.

Application Process

To utilize the Show and Display Law, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Submit an Application: Provide a detailed application to the NHTSA, including evidence of the vehicle's historical or technological significance, the intended use, and a plan for ensuring limited mileage. Apply by email: importcertification@dot.gov.
  2. NHTSA Review: The NHTSA will review your application and determine if the vehicle qualifies under the Show and Display Law. This process can be thorough and may require additional documentation.
  3. Compliance Agreement: If approved, you must agree to the usage limitations and other conditions set forth by the NHTSA.
  4. Importation: Once approved, you can proceed with importing the vehicle.

The Show and Display Law provides a unique opportunity for car enthusiasts and collectors to bring historically significant vehicles into the US, even if they do not meet modern safety and emissions standards. By adhering to the guidelines and restrictions, you can enjoy these rare and exceptional vehicles while preserving their historical value.