Import A Vehicle Into The US In 3 Steps

Import A Vehicle Into The US In 3 Steps

Importing a motor vehicle into the US can be difficult. However, we have broken down the process into three steps for those who want to engage in this venture independently.

1. Ensure the Vehicle is Admissible for Vehicle Import

Contrary to popular belief, just because a particular vehicle make and model is driving on US interstates, it doesn't mean that an identical vehicle from out of county will be allowed to.

Instead, each vehicle will be reviewed by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other Partner Government Agencies (PGAs) to ensure that the specific vehicle conforms with US government regulations and safety standards.

Factors in Determining US Vehicle Admissibility

US Customs will review if the vehicle is appropriately marked and bears all labeling requirements. Factors that are assessed include:

Vehicle Age. Vehicle standards are split into two age categories: over 25 years old and under 25 years old. The requirements change depending on which category the vehicle falls into.

For example, a truck manufactured in 1954 will not require as many labels as a truck manufactured in 2023.

Vehicle Type. On-road and off-road vehicles have different requirements as well. For example, a dump truck will require more details on the Customs invoice than a truck built for passengers.

Vehicle Modifications, Recalls, and Titles. There are limitations in place for the import of vehicles with modifications or unaddressed recall notices, as well as vehicles with salvaged or rebuilt titles. Depending on the type and age of the vehicle, it may be inadmissible for entry.

Unsure if Your Vehicle is Allowed Into the US? Get an Import Assessment.

Vehicle Original Manufacture Labels. Vehicle manufacturers affix labels to each vehicle indicating its conformity with all applicable safety laws. When determining admissibility, these labels are an important factor. 

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) decals or stickers are required for some vehicle types and years of manufacture. For example:

  • If the vehicle is 25 years or older, it is exempt from the DOT certification sticker.
  • If it is over 21 years or older, it is exempt from the EPA certification sticker.
  • If the import vehicle is without a DOT sticker but does have a CMVSS Canadian Maple Leaf, it may still be eligible for import; by contacting the Manufacturer for a "Letter of Confirmation," which will only work for personal use imports.
  • Commercial imports will require the vehicle to be imported through a registered importer and are required to hold the vehicle for a minimum of 30 days after importation.
  • Import vehicles with missing EPA stickers will not be allowed into the US without contacting the manufacturer of the engine for a replacement.
  • In limited instances, a vehicle that is a salvaged, repaired salvage or reconstructed motor vehicle will be deemed admissible. More investigation is required to determine admissibility.

2. Create/Obtain the Required Documentation

Since US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the DOT and EPA are involved with vehicle imports, and it is important to understand that each agency has specific documentation requirements. The following list of forms will need to be accurately completed and submitted:

Video: CBP Info Center FAQ: How To Import Your Automobile

3. Have the Vehicle Steamed, Sprayed, or Cleaned Thoroughly Before Shipment

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that the undercarriage of the imported vehicle be free of foreign soil to safeguard against the importation of dangerous pests.

Wherever you may be in the purchasing process, whether you are currently ready to import a vehicle to the US or still contemplating and need assistance, we can help. Download our vehicle import guide below to learn more about the import requirements for specific years and types of on and off-road vehicles, engines, and tires.

Share this post
About Author
Gina Crews

Gina Crews has over 25 years of US and Canadian Customs brokerage experience. Following a whirlwind nationwide tour providing sales and marketing support to Warner Brothers for their "Bugs Bunny Film Festival," Gina entered the logistics & brokerage industry. With an entrepreneurial heart, Gina has been a small business owner herself a few times over and now helps small and medium-sized businesses understand the cross-border process. Gina holds her US Certified Customs Specialist designation, is a dual citizen of the US and Canada fully versed in Customs regulations for both Countries.

While we strive for accuracy in all our communications, as the Importer of Record it is incumbent upon your company to ensure that you are aware of the requirements under the new regulations so that you maintain compliance as always.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.