Vehicle import & export

How to bring you car to the US

Vehicle import & export

If you plan to import a motor vehicle or motorcycle, first make sure that you’re aware of the latest regulations. Taking a new or relatively new car to the US is usually an expensive exercise and moreover exporting a car from the US is a relatively simple process and usually yields huge savings, particularly exports to most European countries, where car prices are up to twice as high as those in the US.

All imported motor vehicles must meet certain standards under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966.

They must also conform to bumper standards under the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972, and meet air pollution control standards under the Clean Air Act of 1968. Unless a vehicle manufactured abroad conforms to the required standards, it’s unlikely to meet the regulations.

If a vehicle is unable to meet the emission standards, hasn’t passed the US safety (crash-control) and bumper tests, or doesn’t meet the US theft prevention standards, it is refused entry or is destroyed at the port of entry. Always check the latest regulations before attempting to import a vehicle.

The duty on foreign-made cars (new and used) imported into for personal use or resale is 2.5 per cent and on motorcycles 2.4 per cent. A non-resident can import a car without paying duty, although if it’s sold duty must be paid. Savings can be made when importing some cars and motorcycles, although generally it isn’t worth the time, trouble and expense involved.

For further information contact the Department of Transportation, National Highway Safety Administration, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20590, 202-366-0123, ) or the Environmental Protection Agency (Ariel Rios Building, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20460, 202-272-0167, ) who publish an Automotive Import Facts Manual, which can be downloaded from their website. US Customs publish a pamphlet, Importing or Exporting a Car, available from the ‘Travel’ section on the US Customs and Border Protection website ( ).

Vehicle Export

Cars purchased in the US have usually been manufactured to US specifications and are left-hand drive (apart from right-hand drive collectors’ items) and cars exported to some countries may need expensive modifications to meet local ‘type approval’ regulations.

For a car to qualify as a ‘personal export’ (or personal import), many countries insist that it’s driven (a short distance is usually enough) in the US, and that you personally arrange for the export of the car. Taxes for personal car imports vary considerably from country to country and may include car tax, import duty and value added tax (VAT). However, the bottom line is that after paying all expenses (shipping, taxes, duty, etc.) you often end up with a car costing around 25 to 30 per cent less than the local new price (even greater savings can be made when buying a used car).

However, before exporting a car from the US, thoroughly investigate prices, registration requirements (type approval), taxes and import duty, shipping costs, and foreign regulations and residence requirements.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in America. Click here to get a copy now.

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