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How to Import Cars into the U.S.

Picture of RORO Vessel off loading imported cars

Importing cars and vehicles into the U.S. requires a knowledgeable Customs Broker who can provide proper guidance into the specific requirements and documents needed in order for your car to successfully clear customs when arrived.

It is strongly advised not to ship your car or vehicle into the U.S. until you know for certain that it meets all the DOT and EPA guidelines and regulations. To put in simplest terms, cars and vehicles are either conforming, or non confirming according to DOT and EPA, which CBP can have the right to refuse entry of your car upon arrival.

So what is a Conforming Vehicle? In order to be conforming it has to meet the requirements of both NHTSA (DOT) and EPA.

1. NHTSA: requires your vehicle to meet all FMVSS when manufactured, and should bear such a label near the drivers side door.

2. EPA: requires your car or vehicle's engine to meet emissions standards and should bear such a label on the engine or compartment area.

3. Similar clause: if your vehicle is not originally manufactured to FMVSS standards, the importer may present a case along with letter from the manufacturer of the vehicle for similar clause. This process can be lengthy and hard to prove in most cases if there is no precedence.

If your vehicle was built at the time of manufacture according to U.S. FMVSS standards set forth by NHTSA and EPA, you will need to provide your customs broker the proper vehicle labels, documents and information for them to precheck all info to minimize any issues when arrived to port.

Cars or vehicles which do not have the proper certifications or labels, are considered non conforming, and would have to go through a special import process with either a RI or ICI to bring the vehicle into compliance. Bringing a vehicle into compliance to meet the FMVSS and emissions standards can be a difficult to near impossible task and is not recommended if possible. Non conforming vehicles may also be entered on a non commercial temporary basis for trade shows or displays. For vehicles which are over 25 years of age, they are exempt from the NHTSA and EPA emissions rule as long as it contains the original engine at time of import.

If you have a car or vehicle you wish to import which was manufactured to meet the U.S. standards, or is over 25 years of age and looking to import into the U.S., feel free to give us a call or email to help you get started. ISF Filing and Customs Entry are required to CBP, NHTSA and EPA for car and vehicle imports.

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