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USA Customs Guide

Guide to USA car import regulations

Get the facts about shipping your car to the USA and know before you go to avoid delays and problems.

We're pleased to offer our comprehensive guide to USA customs requirements to help you understand any restrictions that may apply to your vehicle, and any regulations that must be adhered to when importing your car. We hope you find this useful and that it covers everything you need to know, however, we are happy to help if you need any assistance. If you have any questions contact us here.

Please feel free to call us on 0800 3890784 for any further information.

Download or Print our USA Car Shipping Guide Here.
NHTSA Declaration for Importation of Motor Vehicles Form HS-7
DOT Conformance Bond Form HS-474
EPA Importation of Motor Vehicles Subject to Federal Air Pollution Regulations Form 3520-1
Car Shipping checklist

Before you go

Import Regulations

Regulations governing the importation of motor vehicles manufactured outside of the U.S and that do not conform to U.S Safety and Emission standards, in the first instance, are dependent on the age of the vehicle. While there are stringent safety and emissions requirements that must be met by vehicles under 25 years old, if you are importing a car that is over 25 years old it qualifies for exemption from regulations governing both safety and emissions standards.

Vehicles more than 25 years old

Vehicles that do not need to comply with U.S safety and emission regulations

Motor Vehicles less than 25 years old

All motor vehicles being imported into the U.S that are less than 25 years old must conform to U.S safety and U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission standards. If your vehicle was not manufactured in the U.S or Canada and was not originally manufactured to conform to applicable U.S or Canadian standards, we would advise that you conduct research to find if any modifications may be required to bring your vehicle in line with the required standards. Vehicles manufactured to comply with applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) will have a certification label permanently attached by the original manufacturer.

Registered Importers

Before any modifications can be undertaken an RI needs to confirm with the NHTSA that the vehicle is eligible to be modified on the grounds of if it is capable of being modified to comply with the standards required. A list of non-conforming vehicles that have already been identified as being eligible to be imported by or through an RI is provided on the NHTSA website here.

Additional information, along with a list of Registered Importers who can assist with vehicle modifications, can be found on the NHTSA website here.

When importing a car using an RI that will require modification work to bring it in line with US safety and emission standards you will also be required to post a Conformance Bond with the Department of Transport (DOT) using NHTSA form HS-474 available here. Contact details for the DOT can be found on their website here

Preparing your car for shipment

Aside from preparing documentation to comply with documentary and regulatory requirements, the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) also have standards to which your vehicle must be cleaned to avoid the potential importation of dangerous pests. You should ensure that your vehicle is well cleaned before being shipped. If your vehicle is found not to be sufficiently clean on arrival, delays and costs may be incurred while your vehicle is cleaned to USDA standards. Examples of areas to which particular attention should be paid include:

• Wheels/tyres (including spare wheel and in spare wheel housing)
• Under wheel arches and around mud guards.
• In the corners engine bay also checking for insects and plant matter radiator and cooling fan
• Check for cobwebs (and any residents!) around corners of dashboard and under seats

For further information contact details can be found on the USDA website here.

Documentation we need

To ship your vehicle to the USA there are a few things that you will need to provide us with:

• A Copy of the V5 (Licence Document) for your vehicle – we do not need the original.
• A Copy of the photo page of your Passport
• A Copy of a valid MOT certificate will only be requested if you require us to arrange collection of your vehicle in the UK using an insured driver. If your vehicle does not have a valid MOT, or if you would simply prefer, we can arrange collection using a recovery vehicle or enclosed collection vehicle.

Arriving in the USA

Port and shipping line charges

When your vehicle arrives at the destination there will be charges payable to the shipping line/receiving agents for handling your vehicle at the port. There are also standard costs in relation to clearing your vehicle with the US customs and border services.

An indication of charges for these standard services that you should expect to pay when your vehicle arrives in the USA is provided below.

  Shipping by
20' container
Shipping by
Ro Ro
Compulsory Optional
US$573 US$150 X  
Transport to warehouse and container unloading US$525 n/a X  
Customs clearance US$165 US$165 X
Security filing and Bond fees US$200 US$200 X  

Benefits of Roll on Roll off (Ro Ro) Shipping

Benefits of Container Shipping

40' Container. Additional Benefits

Destination charges aside, for car shipping costs to the US, see 'how much does it cost to ship a car to the USA?' for more info.

Documentation required by US customs to import your vehicle

For all vehicles being imported into the U.S, basic documentation that U.S customs will need include;

• Copy shipping documentation: A Bill of Lading. We will provide you with your Bill of Lading when your vehicle has been shipped from the UK.
• A copy of your passport / Visa
• A copy of the vehicle licence document (V5)
• Completed NHTSA form HS-7.

Additional documentation required to import a non-confirming vehicle less than 25 years old.

• Completed EPA form 3520-1 available here
• Copy DOT Conformance Bond – to be attached to the HS-7 form.
• Copy contract with the RI in regard to completion of modification work – to be attached to your HS-7 form.

Duty and Tax

When importing your vehicle into the U.S you will be required to pay import Duty based on the value of the vehicle being imported to U.S customs. While duty rates may vary dependent on the type of vehicle and status of the person importing the vehicle into America, as a guide please see below duty rates generally applied to foreign made vehicles being imported into America.

Cars 2.5%
Motorcycles 0% - 2.4%
Trucks 25%

There are however, some instances where ‘Free Entry’ may be applied for where vehicles may be conditionally imported by certain individuals for certain periods of time or for certain purposes with payment of import Duty and Tax not being required. Further information regarding Duty and Tax and details on 'Free Entry' can be found on the CBP website here.


When your vehicle has been cleared with US customs and any applicable duty and tax has been paid, you will receive the CBP Form 7501 Entry Summary as evidence that appropriate declarations were made and duties and taxes have been paid to the U.S CBP. Make sure that you keep a copy of the form along with your NHTSA form HS-7 and, if required and issued, EPA form 3520-1 as you will be required to present these documents along with other vehicle documentation when you register your vehicle with your local state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.

DMV procedures and fees for registering your vehicle vary from state to state and we recommend contacting the local DMV office in your state of destination prior to shipment to familiarise yourself with their requirements and fees that you will be required to pay when registering your vehicle.

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