I’m going to give you an overview of how to import a car into the USA and some agencies you should contact for more information.
The key is to work with a Registered Importer who has experience with modifying vehicles not manufactured to USA regulations to meet the USA EPA and DOT regulations - or providing certification that the regulations are met.
This can be expensive, the gas you save will never pay back the many thousands of dollars you will spend to import the vehicle that was not manufacturer certified to meet USA standards.
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You need to set up a way to ship the vehicle. You need to know the
arrival date so Customs can clear the car for entry into the US.
“Shipments are cleared at the first port of entry unless you arrange
for a freight forwarder abroad to have the vehicle sent in bond to a
Customs port more convenient to you.”
You will need the Shipper or carrier’s original Bill of Lading, the
Bill of Sale, the Foreign Registration, and any other documents
pertaining to the vehicle. You also need written prior approval from
the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Prior approval can come in
the form of an approval letter from the EPA, or a manufacturer's label
in the English language affixed to the car, stating that the vehicle
meets all U.S. emission requirements
You can also use a ICI (Independent Commercial Importer). ICIs can
only import certain types of vehicles, however, and in general, their
fees are very high. I would only recommend this if you’re REALLY
unsure of doing this on your own and can afford it.
(DOT Standards – DOT = Department of Transportation)
(Plates and permits information)
You will need to have the undercarriage cleaned before importing your
car into the US. This is a Dept. of Agriculture Requirement.
You can not ship anything inside the car.
You may be taxed on entry of the car. The average rate is 2.5 % of the
value of the car on the bill of sale.
You must meet safety and bumper standards set by the DOT. You must
file DOT HS-7 ( http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/import/hs799short.pdf
) at the time of entry. “Vehicles that do not bear a certification
label attached by the original manufacturer must be entered as a
nonconforming vehicle under a DOT bond for one and a half times the
vehicle's dutiable value. This is in addition to the regular Customs
You should speak with a DOT Registered Importer (RI) to make sure you
car meets these standards and is eligible for importation.
(List of RI’s)
“DOT requires that the vehicle model and model year must, prior to
entry, be determined eligible for importation. A DOT RI can advise you
whether your vehicle is eligible; if it is not, the RI can submit a
petition in your behalf to have your vehicle considered for
eligibility, if you so desire. Understand, however, that fees must be
paid at the time such petitions are filed.”
You must meet emission standards. You may want to find out the state’s
emission standards before you decide to import the vehicle and make
sure your car meets those standards or your willing to pay to have it
converted. You must meet the state and EPA standards both.
“Beginning with the 1974 model year, vehicles that were originally
manufactured to meet U.S. emission requirements, if driven outside the
United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Taiwan or the Bahama
Islands, may be required to have their oxygen sensor and/or catalytic
converter replaced. You may import your U.S.-version vehicle under a
Customs bond and have any qualified mechanic perform the necessary
work. You should contact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
directly for detailed requirements and options before shipping your
(EPA website regarding this topic)