How to Import Classic Cars

Written by cee donohue
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How to Import Classic Cars
A car older than 20 years is considered a classic by the AACA. (classic car image by itsallgood from

The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) defines a classic car as one that is 20-45 years old, and an antique car as anything over 45 years. The law dictates that any vehicle that is at least 25 years old is not subject to importation restrictions, according to U.S. Customs. Generally, imported motor vehicles are subject to U.S. safety, bumper, and emission standards. However, if your classic car is at least 25 years old and being imported for personal use, you will not need to meet all these requirements.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Verify that your car complies with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Typically, vehicles that were manufactured to meet the FMVSS will have a certification label near the driver-side door.

  2. 2

    Contact a Registered Importer (RI). A vehicle without FMVSS certification is considered a "non-conforming" vehicle and the importer must set up a contract with a Registered Importer (RI) and post a DOT (Department of Transportation) bond for one and a half times the vehicle's dutiable value.

  3. 3

    Determine that your vehicle is capable of being modified to meet the FMVSS. This is done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Once it is verified as modifiable, the RI will make the modifications to comply with the FMVSS.

  4. 4

    File an HS-7 form which is available at ports of entry. Copies of the RI contract and the DOT bond must be attached to the HS-7 form. Contact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make sure your car meets the emissions standards.

  5. 5

    Contact your shipper or carrier to find out the vehicle's arrival date so that Customs can clear it. To clear Customs you will need the bill of sale, the foreign registration, the original bill of lading from the shipper and the EPA form.

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