Importing Cars

To complete the process of clearing your vehicle when importing cars, you will need any documents covering the vehicle, including the carrier's original bill of lading, the bill of sale, and foreign registration. In addition, you should consult your local automobile club or an international automobile federation about obtaining the international registration marker a permit that must be displayed on all imported cars.


Importing Cars Safety and Emission Standards

An auto manufactured abroad may not be in compliance with U.S. safety or emission standards. Therefore, you will be required to produce the foreign manufacturer's statements verifying that the vehicle conforms with U.S. safety and emission control standards. U.S. emission requirements apply to all 1968 and later model year gasoline-fueled vehicles, 1975 and later model year diesel-fueled vehicles, and motorcycles manufactured after December 31, 1977. Since safety and emission requirements sometimes change over the years, it is recommended that you contact one of the resources below for the most up-to-date regulations applying to your vehicle.

Importing Cars

For a copy of the free "introduction handbook for complying with regulations of imported vehicles / importing cars" and for information on safety standards, contact:


U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, NSA-32
400 Seventh St. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590, U.S.A.

National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration Hotline: (800) 424-9393
To call from Canada: (202) 366-0123
Fax: (202) 366-1034

For the EPA's fact sheet on emission control standards or for other inquiries regarding the importation of a vehicle / importing cars, contact:


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Investigations / Imports Section Manufacturers
Operations Division (EN-340F)
Washington, D.C. 20460, U.S.A.
EPA Hotline: (202) 233-9660
Fax: (202) 233-9596

Below are some other important tips for clearing a vehicle through customs: 

  1. The United States Department of Agriculture mandates that all imported vehicles be free of foreign soil. Consequently, you must have your car steam-sprayed or cleaned thoroughly before shipping.
  2. Do not transport personal items in your vehicle.
  3. Any modifications that must be made to a vehicle imported into the United States are based on the purchase price or the invoice price. Contact your local customs office for the current duty rate. When a U.S. resident comes back from traveling, working, or going to school, he or she can use his or her $400 customs exemption and the exemptions of family members who went with him or her to pay for the value of the vehicle if it meets the following requirements: 
    The vehicle accompanies you on your return to the United States. It is imported for personal use. The vehicle was purchased during your stay outside the United States. 
    After this exemption has been applied, the next $1,000.00 of the vehicle's value is dutiable at a flat rate of 10%, and the remainder is dutiable at the regular rate.
  4. You are entitled to import a foreign-made car if you are a U.S. citizen employed abroad or a government employee returning from temporary duty or on voluntary leave. These citizens may import a foreign-made car duty-free if they claim non-resident status, enter the United States for a brief visit, and export the vehicle when they depart. 
    A civilian or military employee of the U.S. government returning to the United States at the end of a duty-free assignment of more than 140 days may include a conforming vehicle among their duty-free personal and household goods provided the auto was purchased abroad and was in the owner's possession prior to his departure to the United 
    States. Navy personnel serving on a U.S. vessel may be entitled to the free entry exemption after an intended overseas deployment of at least 120 days.
  5. A vehicle may be imported by a non-resident if the vehicle is for personal use and is imported in conjunction with the owner's arrival. Vehicles conforming to these 
    restrictions may remain in the United States indefinitely. If the conforming vehicle was imported under duty-free exemptions, it is dutiable if sold within one year of importation. This duty must be paid before the sale is completed. Vehicles that don't meet the rules can't be sold in the US and have to leave the country within a year. 

  6. A car imported by a non-resident for purposes other than personal, such as racing, repair, or as a sample for taking orders, is subject to specific customs regulations. Check with your local customs office for guidelines pertaining to unusual situations and exceptions.


Federal Tax

Federal tax Some imported automobiles are subject to the "gas guzzler tax" stipulated in section 4064 of the internal revenue code. The liability for the tax is the responsibility of the individual importing the vehicle, and the tax rate is determined by the epa's fuel economy rating. This rating may differ from the fuel economy rating cited by the manufacturer. Additionally, before registering and titling your vehicle, many states require proof that you have paid the "gas guzzler tax" in cases where it is applicable. For information on the "gas guzzlers' tax," contact:

Internal Revenue Service
Room 5314
1111 Constitution Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20224, U.S.A.
Phone: (202) 622-3130
Fax: (202) 622-4524

You may also contact it for information on determining fuel economy rates. Ask for section 4064 of the code; revenue procedure 86-9, 1986-1 cumulative bulletin 530; revenue procedure 87-10, 1987-4 internal revenue bulletin 29, and revenue ruling 86-20, 1986-1 c. B. 319. It should be evident from the foregoing information that importing a vehicle is difficult. An individual may not be able to import one if it is not in compliance with EPA and DOT requirements, unless a company approved by the entities is the importer of record. The EPA and DOT should be contacted before you attempt to bring your vehicle into the United States.


Importing a Motor Vehicle

Imported motor vehicles are subject to safety standards under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, as revised under the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988; to bumper standards under the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972, which became effective in 1978; and to air pollution control standards under the Clean Air Act of 1968, as amended in 1977 and 1990. (for more details Importing a motor vehicle)


Importing a non-U.S. version or non-conforming vehicle or car into the U.S.

What is the process for importing a non-U.S. version or nonconforming vehicle or car into the U.S.? 
The federal agencies that regulate the importation of non-U.S. version or nonconforming vehicles are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—See IRS Federal "Gas-Guzzler" Tax. These agencies do not encourage the importation of non-U.S. version or nonconforming vehicles for on-road use because converting a non-conforming vehicle is typically very expensive and, in some cases, impossible or impractical. It is possible for a car to meet the requirements of one agency but not those of another.

Entry has been denied on the vehicle because of the replacement engine. In 1983, the Land Rover engine was replaced (was 2.25L, replaced with 2.5L).

Denial Letter - Land Rover