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Importing a car into the USA (or a really bad idea?)

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by four-thirteen, Jun 19, 2009.

  1. While there is a lot of hot rod material leaving US ports for other destinations, its a bit more rare that you hear of a car coming to the US.

    Does any one have any experince with this, with taxes, duties, customs and all the other bullshit needed to bring a car into the united states?

    Also, anyone have any experince with lining up a shipping company for large car shaped objects over the atlantic?

    Its likely a terrrible idea, but not having something over here to work on is killing me, and I'd like to make sure it can come home with me before I buy something.
  2. Harry Bergeron
    Joined: Feb 10, 2009
    Posts: 345

    Harry Bergeron
    from SoCal

    Anything built after 1966 has to be brought up to USA specs, don't bother.
    Import duties are low, and maybe none if it's over 75 years old.
    Get local advice on shipping, and a shipping agent/customs broker.

    EDIT: Good news, correction below!
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2009
  3. Dave, ALL your ideas are bad ideas!:p:D

    Personally I would look for a Model Y, Anglia or some cool Sporty car to play with.
  4. Not necessarily there, Harry. Anything 25 years old or older is currently exempt from the need for DOT/EPA conversion. One of my neighbors just imported a 1984 Mini from England without any issues or need for mods whatsoever. Also, there are Trabants from the late '70s that I know of in the US that are here legally, too, so there you go. Emissions standards first became an issue in the US in 1966, and the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) took effect in 1968.

    I've shipped a couple of US-built cars back to the US from Germany ('67 Plymouth and a '76 Pontiac), but that has been about 17 years since I did that. I had a overland transport pick up my cars in Germany, then take them to Bremerhaven for shipment to Houston. Shipped the reverse twice, also, with no problems. If you are shipping a US-spec car back and it was originally sold in the US, you have zero problems, regardless of year of manufacture. If you are shipping a US-built car that was NOT originally built to US specs (built originally for export), if it is 25 years old or more, again, that is not a problem. The 25-year age is a rolling break, so currently, the break year would be 1984. Duties are 2.5% for cars, 25% for trucks if it is not a us-built vehicle.

    Basically, if you are wanting to import to the US, a car or truck that is 25 years old (from the time of manufacture to the date of importation) is NOT a problem and you are in good shape.

    Japanese-spec (JDM) cars are built to a higher emissions standard than US-spec cars are, but their crash standards are more lax. Euro lighting and windshield glass standards are much better than US specs.

    US DOT webpage that will help you:

    Another helpful website that is easier to navigate:
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2009
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  5. godswill
    Joined: Jun 14, 2009
    Posts: 37

    from san jose

    i dont know if the rules have changed... but I imported my merc from mexico in 98.
    as long as it isnt driven on american soil before it gets registered your good. they have penalties for driving it around unregistered. customs and ins agents were cool, one of the ins agents offered me good money for it ... but I said no.
  6. What did you find, Dave? What have the Germans done to you? It's only been a month, are you goosestepping yet?
  7. ken1939
    Joined: Jul 5, 2008
    Posts: 1,558


    I have imported two from argentina. 31 Chevy Landau Phaeton and a 33 Chevy Standard 3 window. Its easy.

    They put them in the container, the second time I got smart and shared a box, its cheaper. Worked with the seller on who was handeling the paperwork, i.e. the carrier. In my first case, the car came into Baltimore. I live in Pittsburgh. The company I worked with sent me power of attorney letter to sign, so they could get it through customs. I went and got it.

    The second came in through New Jersey. Same deal. Paid to have the company take care of the paperwork, another $500.00 and had it flatbeded home.

    Both cars were drained of all fluids. So know this.

    I say call up the seller and see who he is shipping with and make the arrangements.

    The average I paid for the box and shipping was $2500 to $2800 us
  8. I had no idea you were in Germany. How long have you been there Dave? Gonna make it back for the drags?
  9. I haven't found anything yet, but I want to make sure this plan is workable before I go out seriously looking. And it lookes like it is, in fact do-able. I see I get a $400 customs deducable on return, and that oughta cover the kinda car I'm looking for.

    Shipping might kill it, but I've got 5 months to find a decent rate.

    I wouldn't bother importing something new that had to pass emissions or other stuff, really only something hamb friendly.

    I'll be here until december(got here on june 1), and the germans haven't done anything with me, except make me appreciate america all that much more.

    Thanks for the help guys, Dave
  10. Undercover Customs
    Joined: Mar 24, 2009
    Posts: 362

    Undercover Customs

    Check out Marcus' website. He is from Germany and has some good tips on what you are asking. He's a great guy and has helped my with my Opel. I shoot him an email, I think he is just getting back to Germany from here in the PNW..
  11. I can't seem to find his email address on his webpage. If you have it could you PM it to me?

    Edit: Found it thanks
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2009
  12. Border City
    Joined: May 19, 2009
    Posts: 25

    Border City

  13. Gordeaux
    Joined: Feb 4, 2009
    Posts: 12


    You know, I don't know if it's a really bad idea, but be prepared for a lot of unexpected expense. I just, (in March '09), imported a '51 Anglia from New Zealand. The price included shipping. However, shipping did not include the $450 off-load fee when it arrived in Seattle. Then there were the Dept. of Agriculture and Us Customs inspections which took almost two weeks and another $500. Each of those days cost me $125, paid to the Port Of Seattle for storage fees. They do give you five free days, but the "delays" seem to be a real revenue generator for the port.

    Of course, then there was the $280 for moving it from the port's yard to the customs brokers yard. There is a customs duty, but it doesn't amount to much. All tolled, I spend and extra $2300 getting the car in my hands. I think some POEs are easier, but Seattle will NOT let you claim you own vehicle if it is in a container. You MUST hire a broker.

    I am a bit poorer, but wiser. If I had to do it again, I would never choose to have a car shipped to Seattle. I would shop around and find a POE that would let me collect my own vehicle and take it through customs.

    A few years ago, I brought a '65 Mini woody in by land from Canada. Fifteen minutes and $350 later, I was motoring down a US hiway.
  14. Good to know. I think I will make sure the shipper I get will make sure that there will be no extra fees or customs bullshit involved.

    The quotes I have gotten thus far have involved port fees and other things that I hope would be all-inclusive. I think I will make sure to get it in writing that the car ends up in my hands for the price indicated, and if there is a wait for a customs inspection, that it will be on their time, not mine.

    Maybe I oughta buy a schwimwagen and just dump it off the boat before they get to port. Then i can just drive it home from there...

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