How to import a classic car Guide

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Is your life long dream to own and drive a classic car? You may have been scouting around for that perfect vintage ride for a while now.  But what if your search takes you across the border, or even farther – across the ocean? Don’t get discouraged! Get ready for a vintage-car-importing quest.

A gamut of questions must be rushing through your head now:

Is it possible? What do I need to do and what are the best countries to import a classic car from? What are the requirements? How much does it cost?

We can state with confidence: yes, it is possible to import a classic car. You just need to do your homework: research and gather as much information and advice as you can. It is also important to be patient and not make any rash decisions!

In this post, we will share information on how to import a classic car and offer a few helpful tips to make this new journey as easy as possible for you.

What exactly is a ‘classic’ car?

As a big classic cars fan, I like to think about vintage vehicles around the world. I imagine a car covered in dust in an unkempt garage waiting to be restored to its former glory. In reality, this is not always the case. Most vintage cars you’ll find are well maintained by their current owners or dealerships.

So, how old should a car be to be considered classic? It depends, as rules vary from country to country. In the US, for example, depending on a state, the car needs to be between 20 and 25 years old, while in other countries such as Sweden, Brazil, or Singapore, a vehicle must be 30-35 years old to be considered a classic. For more insight, refer to a great post we published some time ago.

What are the best countries to shop for classic cars?

There are two factors you want to keep in mind before you target your search toward a particular country.

First, choose a region that is characterized by a dry and warm climate. Countries bordering the Mediterranean are a perfect choice for this matter. If you want to import your classic vehicle from a non-European country, consider New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

Second, mind the exchange rate and consider taking advantage of importing a vintage car from countries that are currently going through the economic crisis – explore Southern and Eastern Europe.

If you find a classic car that, in your opinion, is way underpriced, don’t be overly suspicious. In most cases, the deal is totally legit. Just browse through news and read about the economic situation of the region where you have located a classic car.

Hopefully, that will give you peace of mind and help understand why a car that looks underpriced to you is a fair business for a seller. But of course, you have to stay vigilant and pay attention as car buying scams are always a real danger, no matter the country.

What are the requirements for importing a classic car for personal use?

According to the US Customs and Border Protection, if the classic car is at least 21 years old, then you won’t need to follow any Environmental Protection Agency compliance requirements.

The importer needs to file an EPA form with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection upon entry, as well as comply with the Department of Transportation (DOT) pollution and safety requirements. For more information and to download the forms, visit the official NHTSA page.

If the vehicle is less than 21 years old, you might want to read the following rules. According to the US Customs and Border Protection:

  • If the vehicle is not old enough to be exempt from DOT requirements, the importer will have to provide proof that it conforms with DOT safety regulations. Options include a letter from the original manufacturer or sticker on the inside of the driver’s door indicating that the car was manufactured to U.S. standards.
  • If the importer is unable to prove that the car conforms to DOT requirements, it will have to be imported through a Registered Importer (RI). Classic or antique vehicles are subject to a 2.5% duty rate, which is based on its worth at the time of import. Canadian-made vehicles are generally duty-free, provided the importer has a valid proof of its origin.

Keep in mind that you will need to comply not only with the federal laws but also with the rules and regulations of your own state. That is why it may be a good idea to hire a shipping agent – someone who is familiar with the intricacies of importing a vintage vehicle.

How much does it cost to import a classic car?

The costs vary depending on which country you are importing your vintage vehicle from as well as how you choose to bring your car from overseas. You will have a choice between roll-on/roll-off and container shipping.

The roll-on/roll-off method is one of the most inexpensive shipping methods but also the riskiest. The car may suffer damage during loading and unloading and it will be exposed to a harsh marine environment for weeks before it reaches its final destination.

Moreover, in order to be able to pick this way of shipping, you need to make sure the car is in running condition. Otherwise, you have to move on to the next option: container shipping. It is a costlier but definitely more secure option for a non-running vehicle.

Charges to ship a vehicle may range from $3,500 to $5,500 from Europe to the East Coast and from $4,500-6,000 from Japan to the West Coast. There is also a $500 entry fee plus a 2.5% United States duty tax. And in case President Trump’s tariff proposal ever goes into effect, car collectors should prepare for a heftier import tax bill.

Insurance and registration

You are almost there. You’ve done all the research and gathered all the necessary information. You’ve got all the paperwork in order and made sure the car is ready for shipping. Once your prized possession clears the border, there will be nothing that can stop you. You’ve been waiting so anxiously for this moment!

The shipping company will take your car to a warehouse where you will be able to pick it up yourself or hire an auto transporter to deliver it to your home. Once you receive your car, you will need to comply with insurance and registration requirements of your state.

You’ve made it! So enjoy your victory, wake up that vintage engine, take your classic for a ride, show it off!

Are you ready to bring a classic from overseas?

Corsia Logistics vehicle relocation experts will be happy to assist you with importing a car from anywhere in the world. We’ll share our insight, so you can make educated choices. Classic cars are the carriers of history. They are treasures that show how our relationship with mobility has evolved over time, and they deserve to be treated as such.

Still having doubts about whether to invest in a classic car? Here is a post that gives you different reasons why investing in a classic car is totally worth it. Also, check out these ten most desired classic cars. Who knows what one of them may inspire you to do next!

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About the Author:

Juxhina Malaj - a wanderluster and bibliophile who loves photography, nature, documentary films, re-watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S, and drinking green tea.
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