Importing a used vehicle is risky business that requires careful attention to regulatory requirements imposed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. In this article, we'll focus solely on the importation of vehicles that are 25 years old or more.
The first step in any import is to establish the classification. Depending on the size of the vehicle's engine, the HTS will likely be either be 8703.23.0190 (1,501 cc to 3,000 cc) or 8703.24.0190 (3,001 cc or more), both of which provide for used vehicles principally designed for the transport of people and dutiable at 2.5%. That's about all you need to know for CBP purposes, your broker will handle the declaration accordingly, but this is only one part of the transaction.
Vehicles and their engines are also regulated by the DOT and EPA, respectively. Let's look at each one individually.
Department of Transportation (DOT)
One of many objectives of the National Highway and Transportation Administration (NHTSA), an arm of the DOT, is to ensure imported vehicles satisfy federal safety, bumper, and theft prevention standards. Pursuant to this, importers are required to complete DOT Form HS-7 certifying that the vehicle conforms to all requirements (or why it doesn't).
Fortunately, there is an exemption for vehicles at least 25 years old from the date of importation. Therefore, complete the form in its entirety, checking off box 1 and entering the date of manufacture in the space provided. If you don't know the port of entry, customs port code, customs entry number, or entry date, consult your broker.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Similarly, the EPA provides an exemption for vehicles that are at least 21 years old at the time of import. If the calendar year of manufacture is unavailable, the importer may substitute the model year or the year of first registration. For instance, to qualify in 2018, the vehicle must have been manufactured in 1997 or earlier. The burden of proof, however, is on the importer and substantiating documents, such as a title or a letter from the original manufacturer, should be at the ready.
Additionally, the vehicle must be in its original unmodified configuration. Vehicles at least 21 years old with replacement engines are not eligible for this exemption unless they contain equivalent or newer EPA certified engines. Assuming it has not been modified in any manner, no certification or CBP bond is required by EPA.
To declare this exemption, the importer must complete an EPA Form 3520-1 and declare code "E" on that form.
If you have any questions concerning what constitutes "modification" or "original condition" in this context, do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.