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How To Import a Car From Australia

Importing a vehicle to the USA from Australia involves a series of steps and requirements to ensure compliance with regulations and standards. There is a lot of information online which causes the potential for confusion. West Coast Shipping are very experienced in the import process and can assist in guiding you to understand in the first instance if your vehicle may be eligible for importation. 

There are 3 practical questions that we will ask that will help us understand if it is eligible.

  1. Is it a vehicle that is over 25 years old and 100% original with no modifications?
  2. Is it s a US vehicle?
  3. Is it a race vehicle, built by the manufacturer?

If the vehicle falls into the category of one of the areas above one of our experienced team will be able to assist in advising what paperwork you will need.  

Examples are as follows:
  • If an overseas vehicle evidence  of ownership in the form of a registration document
  • Declaration of value or a Bill of sale
  • If originally a US vehicle then it should have the original title 

West Coast Shipping are able to assist with a complete service including picking up anywhere in Australia.

We offer containerized shipping to where our 3 ports are located being:
  • Oakland, CA
  • New York/New Jersey
  • Miami 

On arrival into the USA, we will take care of all of the local services including drayage , unloading , customs clearance and evaluate the taxes.

All in all, you will only need one vehicle shipping specialist when looking to ship a vehicle from Australia to the US.

Vehicles over 25 Years Old

Generally, vehicles that are over 25 years old (manufactured more than 25 years before the date of import) are exempt from federal emissions and safety standards. This means you can import these vehicles into the U.S. without needing to modify them to meet U.S. standards. However, you still need to follow the customs and importation procedures.

Vehicles between 21 and 24 Years Old

Vehicles that are between 21 and 24 years old can also be imported into the U.S., but they must comply with EPA emissions requirements. This typically involves having the vehicle tested to demonstrate that it meets U.S. emissions standards.

Vehicles Under 21 Years Old

Vehicles that are under 21 years old generally need to comply with both EPA emissions standards and NHTSA safety standards. Importing newer vehicles often requires working with a Registered Importer (RI) to modify and certify the vehicle to meet these standards.

Keep in mind that regulations might change over time, and it's essential to verify the most up-to-date information from official sources such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before importing a vehicle.

It's crucial to research and understand the specific requirements and regulations that apply to your situation. This process can be complex, and it's recommended to consult with customs agents, import specialists, or legal professionals who have expertise in vehicle imports to ensure a smooth process. Additionally, refer to the official websites of the DOT, EPA, and CBP for the latest information and forms.

Additionally, the process and regulations could vary based on factors like the specific type of vehicle (e.g., passenger car, motorcycle, commercial vehicle), its origin, and the specific importation purpose (temporary or permanent). Always consult with experts who are knowledgeable about vehicle imports or contact the relevant U.S. agencies for accurate and current information.

Check Eligibility and Compliance

Ensure that your vehicle complies with U.S. regulations, emissions standards, and safety requirements. Vehicles not originally manufactured for the U.S. market might need modifications to meet these standards. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide guidelines and regulations.

Confirm Vehicle History and Title

Ensure the vehicle has a clear title and history. Verify any outstanding loans, liens, or other issues that might affect the transfer of ownership.

Select an Import Method

You have a few options for importing a vehicle:

Temporary Import: If you're a non-resident, you can temporarily import a vehicle for up to one year.

Permanently Import: If you're a resident or plan to stay in the U.S., you'll likely need to permanently import the vehicle.

Choose a Registered Importer (RI)

For permanent imports, you'll need to work with a Registered Importer (RI) who is authorized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The RI will help ensure your vehicle meets safety standards and make any necessary modifications.

File Necessary Documents

Prepare and submit required documents, which may include:

  • Proof of ownership and title documents.
  • Bill of sale.
  • Manufacturer's statement of compliance (if available).
  • Emissions and safety compliance documents.
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) entry form (Form 3461).
  • EPA declaration form (EPA Form 3520-1) for vehicles not originally manufactured for the U.S. market.

Pay Import Duties and Fees

Import duties and fees will apply. Be prepared to pay customs duties, excise tax, and any other applicable fees.

Vehicle Modification and Testing

Depending on your vehicle's compliance, the RI might need to make modifications or conduct testing to ensure it meets U.S. safety and emissions standards.

Emissions and Safety Compliance

The EPA and NHTSA have specific requirements for emissions and safety. Your vehicle might need emissions testing and modifications to comply.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and Labeling

Ensure your vehicle has a U.S.-compliant VIN and that all required labels and placards are attached.

Customs Clearance

Clear your vehicle through U.S. Customs and Border Protection. You might need to present your documents and have your vehicle inspected.

Register and Title the Vehicle

Once your vehicle is compliant, you can register and title it with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Insurance and License Plates

Get insurance coverage for your vehicle and obtain U.S. license plates.