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Thread: How To: Import a Car Into The USA (Shipped)

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2016-04-14 02:52:48
How To: Import a Car Into The USA (Shipped)
First off, let me just say that my situation was a bit unique, however many of the processes are universal. To stay completely up do date with the latest policies regarding vehicle imports, please visit the following sites at the very least...

Importing a Motor Vehicle | U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Vehicle Importation and Certification Requirements

Customs and Boarder Protection FAQ Video

The purpose of this thread is to better help those of you interested in importing a vehicle into the USA. Many import business that you can go to online do have fine print about some of the unquoted charges that you can incur. These can add up very, very, very quickly.

I will be posting some of the required forms however these are for reference and I encourage you to go to the CBP, DOT and EPA websites to get the latest versions.

The Vehicle

I will tell you up front that my situation will not pertain to most of you but many of the fees will still apply. I recently imported my old US Spec 1998 200SX SE (Maria) that had been my overseas project car for the past 11 years. I originally exported it from the US to the UK back in 2005. Now over the past 11 year she has been modified to within an inch of her life, most notably for this thread; the engine (GA to SR20DET) and front end. Yes the front end, where those all important VIN and EPA stickers are located. Not only that but as many of you know, I was unable to get her running. My employers transportation contract was only for the shipment of running vehicles. This type of vehicle shipping is referred to as "roll-on roll-off" (RORO). This method is much cheaper and a little smoother of a process since the vehicle can move on its own. The other method is containerized (that's what I am calling it since I am not aware of a proper or colloquial term used by the industry).

For both methods the vehicle must be prepared for shipment. This is not an all inclusive list but here are the major examples (read; failure points) of what you must do before it will be accepted for shipment.

- <1/4 Tank of fuel
- Absolutely NO LEAKS!!!
- Cleaned and vacuumed inside and out (This is no joke. It needs to look like it did when it rolled off the factory floor)
- No personal items; every trinket, un bolted amp, sub, cup holder, tissue box, floor mats, rags, extra fluids, tools, basically anything and everything that wasn't included in the car from the dealership.
- Battery and connections secured
- Tire tread condition and pressure
- Annotate any inoperability; e-brake, door locks, steering lock, etc.

An inspector will then mark on a form every single scratch, dent, ding, swirl, smell you name it. These people would make Simon Cowell cry. Don't take it personally though, its just business. If you are purchasing the vehicle from someone else in another country, this is probably going to be one of those line item charges. I cannot speak about the amount though. If you are doing it yourself at the port of departure you are looking at $20-$50 for the fuel drainage and $200-$300 for the cleaning which I do recommend as the businesses that do this typically know where the inspectors look and the money is definitely worth it.

The Paperwork

Now before you even prepare your vehicle there are some forms that you must fill out. You will also need copies of the following;

- Title
- Bill of Sale (If less than one year)
- Registration*
- Insurance


- CBP Form 3299, Declaration For Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles
- DOT HS-7, Importation of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Eq Subject to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety, Bumper and Theft Prevention Standards (yea, that's the real title)
- EPA Form 3520-1, Importation of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Engines Subject to Federal Air Pollution Regulations
- Supplemental Declaration For Unaccompanied Personal and Household Effects


- Any applicable Power of Attorney
- EPA Memorandum if missing the EPA sticker
- Photo Copies of your Drivers License and or Passport

The Charges

There are many chargers that will be included in the quote from the shipping agency. However these are only the standard charges and they can vary from country to country depending on dock fees and of course the local exchange rate.


- Cleaning $200-$300
- Fuel Purge <1/4 tank $0-$50
- Collection Fee From Seller to Port $0-$500
- Port Fees $200-$500
- Ocean Freight $2300-$3000 (RORO will be less, however just because the vehicle "runs good" when you purchased it. If it takes more than a jump to get it started they will box it up and you'll be met with container charges)


- Customs Entry Service and ISF Fee $200
- Container Drayage T/F Warehouse $400
- Container Unloading & Handling $175
- Land Delivery/Port to House $300-$1500 (Varies based on distance from the port to your house)


- Customs & Boarder Protection Fees
If you are a "first time importer" then you will definitely be flagged for an X-Ray. These range from $150-$350 or more
If they are not satisfied with the X-Ray and want to do a hands on inspection you are now looking at $1500-$2500

- Marine Insurance $0-$1000+ (Check your current policy, if using a third party it will be based on a percentage of value by either NADA or you can set a higher amount)

- Transaction Fees $90-$250 (Depends on your bank and how many wires you need to make)

Miscellaneous BS you need to think about...B]

- Communications

The first thing that comes to mind on this is the time zone difference between you and your perspective vehicle of desire. You need to make sure you can set aside time in your day or night to coordinate by email or phone. I setup an alert on my phone so that when any of the specific people emailed, fireworks, cannons and clowns went off so I could wake up and respond. This just helps speed up the process. Hopefully your spouse or live in significant other is as understanding as mine.

- Payment Issues

I had to spend around 30 minutes on the phone to my bank to alert them and setup "pre-authorizations" so when the shipping companies ran my card the charges could go through. This just helps alleviate any hassle should your card get locked and you then are stuck on hold for 2 hours trying to get the card unlocked before the shipping company that's in a different time zone closes for the day.

- Tracking

Make sure to ask your shipper to provide you the information as to how you can track your shipment. You can google some sites that update the GPS tracking of the vessel every now and then and they do the job good enough. The container tracking only works when the container is at the dock. If shipping RORO, you should be given a tracking number as well.

- Long Term Storage

This most likely does not apply to any of you but if you do find yourself needing to live outside the US or in a situation that you cant store your car at your house for family and friends house here are some things to consider.

1. Climate Controlled Storage; This can cost a buttload but if you are ballin like that then cool. You're going to be looking at $130-$250 per month depending on local rates and term agreements
2. Parking Space; If you only need to store the car temporarily this could be a good option. The downsides are obviously exposure to the elements as well as less physical security. You're looking between $20-$50 per month, local rates & all that
3. Enclosed Trailer; If you are needing a long term solution but are also not wanting to chuck out around $200mo in storage, this may be a good solution and investment. I found a decent enclosed trailer on craigslist for $4000. the car will be stored inside the trailer, out of the elements and its own locks. It will be parked at the local storage unit at the trailer parking rate which is $35mo. This scenario saves money over the climate controlled storage rate with the added bonus of buying a trailer and having that immediate method of transportation upon reuniting with your beloved. Obviously you will need to math this out for yourself to see if its worth it for your situation.

Last edited by Mattick22 on 2016-04-15 at 01-56-52.
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