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HOW TO IMPORT CARS TO THE UNITED STATES FROM OVERSEAS

For the past 15 years, we've imported all types of different vehicles to the United States. Our specialized team are experts in handling classic cars, collector cars, track cars, motorcycles, RVs and prototype vehicles. We provide door to door service via shared & dedicated containers, roll-on vessels, and air freight. 

Request a quote now to import your dream car to the US.

US Car Import Quote

Import Cars to the US: What You Need to Know

Our team strives to keep the import process simple and effortless. From the strict US import laws, customs and documentation requirements, consumers and businesses require expert guidance when importing vehicles to the US.

We work with customs, the NHTSA, DOT, EPA, and the DMV to ensure that all types of vehicles listed below are imported safely and legally:

  • Classic & collector cars
  • Race cars
  • Motorcycles
  • Boats
  • RVs & campers

We have experience in providing logistics support for events, rallies, shows and auctions. Tourist and temporary imports are also supported. We can help with your tourist entry documentation,  allowing you to use your foreign vehicle in the US for up to 1 year.

We currently offer shared container shipping to the US from Europe. We arrange for transport from anywhere in Europe, to your door in the US.

CAR IMPORT SERVICES

  • Container, RoRo & Air Freight service
  • Secure container loading & crating options
  • Export & US import customs clearance
  • Door to door delivery
  • Short-term & long-term secure storage
  • Auctions
  • Temporary, permanent & event imports
  • Returning US vehicles

IMPORT TIMELINES

  • 2 weeks to clear customs, load into a container and onto the ocean vessel
  • An additional week for shared container service
  • 2-3 weeks sailing from Europe to New Jersey
  • 5-10 weeks sailing from Europe to California

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US Car Import Laws & Regulations

Under the Over 25 Year Law

Federal Restrictions

  • Vehicle must be over 25 years old
  • Original engine or EPA certified engine

State Restrictions Vary by State

  • Some states require seat belts, headlights and certain emission standards.
  • For example, California requires vehicles manufactured after 1975 to be certified to operate in the state.
Temporary Imports
  • For tourists visiting the US who can prove that the vehicle belongs to them. Car must be registered to the individual and not a company.
  • Vehicles still require EPA approval which must be approved prior to shipping
  • Ability to keep the vehicle in the US for up to 1 year
Race Cars
  • Vehicle can be of any year
  • Requires EPA approval prior to shipping
  • Must be a track/race car originally built by the manufacturer (road to track conversions are not supported)
Returning US vehicles
  • Vehicle must have originally been build for the US market
  • Vehicles shipped from the US overseas and then returned back to the US by the original owner can request duty exemption
Show & Display Law

The car has to meet the following criteria:

  • Production run didn’t surpass 500 examples
  • Never been offered for sale in the US
  • Must be out of production
  • Must not be a kit car or a replica

Even after getting it into the US, you have other laws to follow:

  • You are not allowed to sell the vehicle without the permission of the NHTSA
  • You are also not allowed to drive more than 2,500 miles per year.

A list of previously approved & disaproved cars can be found here.


What Is Required To Import a Car?

Tackling Import, EPA &  DOT Requirements

For cars less than 25 years old, the Environmental Protection Association (EPA) requires that your vehicle meets US emission standards. Take a look at this article to find out if your vehicle meets US standards.

Cars under 25 years old also have to conform to the Department of Transportation (DOT) standards. This includes safety standards, bumper standards, and theft prevention requirements. It is unlikely a car obtained overseas can meet all of these requirements, unless the same vehicle was originally made for the US market. Vehicles manufactured for the US will have a manufacturer's certification label near the driver’s side door of the vehicle, specifically denoting the vehicle as certified to meet US standards.

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. 

If your car does not meet the US car import requirements, the vehicle can only be imported by a registered importer. The car must also be modified into compliance, which can be an expensive and lengthy process.

On a positive note, if your classics or any vehicles are over 25 years old and are also unmodified, then they do not have to comply with DOT or EPA requirements.

You can avoid the 2.5% import duty in the US ONLY IF:

IMPORT DUTIES

The duty rate for vehicles manufactured abroad and imported to the US are as follows:

  • 2.5% for automobiles

  • 2.5% for motorcycles and auto parts

  • 25% for pickup trucks due to the Chicken Tax

DUTY-FREE IMPORTS APPLY IN THESE CASES:

  • The car was built in USA
  • Vehicle was purchased abroad over a year ago

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED TO IMPORT

To import a car to the United States, the US Customs and Border Protection requires the following documents:

  • original bill of lading

  • bill of sale

  • Foreign registration or US title

  • Letter of approval from the NHTSA

  • EPA Form 3520-1

  • DOT Form HS-7

CARGO DAMAGE PROTECTION

The cost is calculated from the vehicle's value. Contact us to get a rate.

REQUEST A RATE

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US Customs Clearance

Once your vehicle is imported to the US, your paperwork is cleared through US customs. The customs office reviews your paperwork and looks for irregularities, mistakes and simple laziness. If the customs officer approving your paperwork believes you did not put in the time to produce high quality scans of the vehicle's documentation, he may request a detailed review which can result in a customs exam. The simple reason of the paperwork having illegible handwriting, may be enough of a reason the customs officer will flag your vehicle for a customs exam, and review your paperwork and vehicle in greater detail. 

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Registering the Vehicle in the US

To import a car to the US, we suggest providing the original title issued overseas along with a bill of sale. If a title is provided, it will be stamped upon import approval by US customs. If there's no physical title provided, only an electronic record of the import entry will be available which may be an issuer for your local DMV to register the vehicle. While DMV requirements to register an import car vary by state, the DMV office will usually require the original foreign title, the original import documentation stamped by US customs, and the bill of sale.


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What Are The Costs to Import a Car?

These are some of the costs involved when importing a car to the United States from overseas. Contact us today for a bespoke quote.

  • Local Transport - Transport to the port or loading warehouse via open or enclosed transport.
  • Export Declaration - Documentation filed which notifies the governing body for the country of export that the vehicle is leaving the country.
  • Export Charges - Loading and transport charges
  • Booking Cost - Cost paid for the ocean or air freight booking.
  • Customs Exams - Possibility of random customs exams upon departing overseas and arriving to the US.
  • Import Duties - Calculated at 2.5% of the cargo value, unless the vehicle is a pickup truck which is taxed at a much higher 25% due to the Chicken Tax. Duties are applicable even if taxes were paid on the vehicle overseas. If the vehicle is imported for a sale in the US and is exported from the US upon sale, a duty drawback may be possible.
  • HMF (Harbour Maintenance Fee) - This is a fee applicable from all US ports. Calculated at 0.125% of the value of the commercial cargo shipped through identified ports. HMF is not collected on cargo imported or transported via air.
  • MPF (Merchandise Processing Fee) - Calculated for all imports to the US at 0.3464 percent of the cargo value. Fee shall not exceed $614.35 and shall not be less than $31.67.
  • US Customs Bond - The customs bond is purchased and non-refundable. US customs typically asks for a deposit at 10x the value of the vehicle to ensure the car is properly imported. If for some reason the vehicle is not exported, or they discover any type of issues with the value claimed they would pursue keeping that deposit. Instead of risking an enormous deposit, importers typically buy a bond that covers them. The bond can be purchased for a single car, or for a number of years.
  • Cargo Damage Protection- optional cargo damage protection which covers the vehicle during shipping.
  • US Port Charges - Additional destination terminal and port charges which depend on the port, terminal and carrier.
  • Import Charges - Cost paid to truck the container from the port in the US.
  • Unloading Charges - Unloading the vehicle from the container or crate at our warehouse.
  • Local Delivery - Open or enclosed transport to any location within the United States.

There are over a dozen charges involved with importing a vehicle to the United States. We make it simple and provide a door to door service which includes most charges.  

CONTACT US TODAY TO IMPORT YOUR VEHICLE
GET YOUR RATE

About Us

We pride ourselves in safe and reliable international car shipping for consumers, dealers, collectors, and wholesalers around the world. We speak English, German, French, Dutch, Russian, Arabic, & Spanish.

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