Sometimes you can’t find the car of your dreams locally. You may have to expand your search radius when looking for a particular brand and model. When you’re looking for a classic car, you may find yourself importing it from overseas. It’s not impossible to purchase a vehicle from Europe or other continents, but there’s a lot of paperwork, laws, and logistics to navigate.
Check the NHTSA List of Approved Vehicles
Not all classic cars are eligible for importation into the United States. You should check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration List of Approved Vehicles to determine what classic cars can be imported. Purchasing a non-approved vehicle will require you to hire a Department of Transportation (DOT) certified Registered Importer. This specialist will make the necessary modifications, so the car conforms to crash and safety standards. You can get a copy of the DOT Form HS-7 to see if the vehicle stands up to bumper and safety standards.
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It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidelines for importing vehicles. All cars are required to meet the EPA’s emissions standards before they can be imported and driven. Your vehicle will undergo emission testing procedures to measure the number of hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide, and particulate emissions from the tailpipe. Several types of cars built before January 1, 1968, may be excluded from emission requirements, such as race cars and classic cars. You’ll need to get a U.S. EPA Form 3520-1 proving the car meets EPA requirements. U.S. Customs officials will need this form before they can give a permit to enter.
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Make Arrangements With U.S. Customs
You’ll need to get an arrival date from the carrier or shipping company to notify the U.S. Customs office. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires the undercarriage of all imported cars to be cleaned. You’ll need to hire a reputable car wash or detail shop to clean or steam wash the undercarriage of your vehicle to prevent any soil, insects, or foreign matter from entering U.S. soil. Once your car is shipped, you need to prepare your documents. Customs will need to be presented the original bill of landing, bill of sale, and old vehicle registration in addition to the EPA Form 3520-1 upon the arrival of your car. You will need to pay the appropriate duties or fees for the import, usually based on 2.5 percent of the car’s purchase price.
Importation laws can be complex, especially when multiple government agencies and policies are involved. Therefore, unless you have experience importing vehicles, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney. In addition, you may consider making your car purchase with the help of a customs broker.