How to Import a Classic Car Into the USA

Filed under: Classic News |
Importing a classic car is not child’s play, but it is possible to do it if you have a plan and know what you’re doing. For situations where there might be a bumpy ride or flight, then there’s a type of automobile transportation that’s fully covered to protect the bodywork from dents and scratches too. So, they literally have got you covered when moving a classic vehicle over a considerable distance where getting it repaired post-delivery isn’t an option. Royalty Free Photo Let’s look at four approaches you can take to importing a classic vehicle to the United States for road use.

Going for Full Compliance

There is more than one federal agency that will need to approve a classic automobile for the U.S. roads, including the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There’s crash tests to get through, so you may need to import more than one vehicle with the first to get through testing (hopefully) and the second one to own or resell. The EPA will look at things like whether a diagnostics system is required in the vehicle (pre-1995 vehicles skip this requirement). The Transportation Department is looking more at the safety standards to ensure the vehicle is suitable for American roads.

Using the ‘Substantially Similar’ Option

One way to get around the stringent testing is if the vehicle can be shown to be close to the specification of a U.S. made vehicle. The situation is used often when a Canadian is moving to America for work and wishes to officially import their Canadian-made vehicle too. There’s likely a similar model to the one from Canada made in the U.S. which gets around much of the extensive testing that’s required because the American model has already been put through the same tests. The reality is that vehicles that are considered classics were often made in a single country, so it’s difficult to find one similar made in the States. Even when a model is fairly close, but not an exact model match, both the EPA and the Department of Transport will likely still need to run emissions and crash testing to make sure.

Quarter of a Century Young?

Vehicles that are older than twenty-five years are exempt from many of the same requirements, regulations and testing that newer vehicles must go through. It must have its original engine though or have one that is already certified by the EPA to cover that side of things. There are a couple of issues to be aware of here. Firstly, federal laws are one thing, but state laws can differ. It depends where you live whether you have other concerns with a 25-year-old vehicle. Secondly, if you live in California, which has even stricter rules on emissions than elsewhere in the country. The EPA may say that a 21-year or older vehicle doesn’t need to go through emissions testing, but in California, they have their own ideas about that!

The Newer ‘Show and Display’ Option

A newer federal requirement relating to high-end vehicles is where they can be imported, but only driven up to 2,500 miles each year. These vehicles are the likes of the Porsche 959 and Aston Martin models that have never retailed in the United States and there’s a list of approved vehicles for this. The idea is that these vehicles skip most of the usual testing requirements, but must still pass EPA testing nonetheless. However, mostly they’re not for regular use, but to ‘Show and Display’ as car enthusiasts. As a result, this option won’t apply to most people. Importing a classic car into the United States and being able to get it approved for driving on the roads is a process that takes time and careful planning. It’s often possible to do it, but it’s not a fast process. The quickest aspect is the transportation of the vehicle and then it’s all down to paperwork and testing compliance to get the vehicle approved for U.S. road use.