The U.S. Import Process For Classic Cars

This is a supplement to the rest of the information out there, I am not responsible for the smoothness of the process. If you have any questions, or want to learn more about importing cars, or the customs brokerage process in general please feel free to email me at goldsteincustomsbrokers@gmail.com, I am very reachable. Most of the information provided below is based on submitting physical copy forms, generally speaking, this is an archaic process, in the year 2022, if you want to rent software to do this electronically, you can do so here, by clicking on the link below,


and you can also reach out to symcha@logisticaldatasolutions.com, for faster service. For the sake of the tutorial, we will examine the process submitting forms, instead of filing electronically using EDI software mentioned above, the electronic data equivalent of these forms is filed through the software via EDI exchange with U.S Customs and Border Protection. That’s really complicated language to basically just say the forms are filed electronically.

There are basically three government agencies involved in the importation of vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, more specifically, the National Traffic Safety Highway Administration, and Customs and Border Protection. For the sake of simplicity, it makes sense to import a vehicle that is older than 25 years old, as the regulatory compliance process speeds up quite fast for newer models. To import something newer than 25 years, you need to make sure the vehicle complies with all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). The DOT supplies the import community with the handbook, but navigating through all of the regulations, seems so burdensome, one has to wonder, whether the purpose is to so discourage those from importing vehicles like those entirely.

For the sake of this tutorial, we will only focus on importing models 25 years and older. For cars older than 25 years, you can claim an exemption from the extremely stringent EPA emission standards and Department of Transportation standards, by entering an E in field 9 of EPA form 3520-01(picture 3), and check off 1 on DOT Form HS-7(picture 2) with the date of manufacture for the vehicle.

An important reminder, remember to have the car’s undercarriage steam cleaned from pesticides so that the department of agriculture does not force you to reexport, we surely don’t want that.

Documents to have

  1. A valid proof of ownership, which is an original certificate of title, or a certified copy of the original.
  2. Manufacturer’s letter/certificate, stating that the vehicle conforms to EPA and DOT standards.
  3. A Bill of Sale

Shipping Process

If you don’t want to deal with a freight forwarder, you can elect to purchase a car on CIF(Cost Insurance and Freight), so you are only responsible for the customs process. The more of this process you do, and hopefully with the help of this tutorial, correctly, the less you will have to fork up. You will need to have an ISF or importer security filing completed, you can use the software mentioned above for that. If the buying terms are FOB(Free on Board) then you will need to contact a freight forwarder, you can use the company listed below for that.


Customs Process

I will go in chronological order from beginning to end, starting with 1.) U.S Customs and Border Protection requirements. 2.) Department of Transportation and finally 3.) Environmental Protection Agency requirements. Remember to secure a customs bonds for goods valued over $2,500, this is a given considering your importing a car, (I don’t know any vehicles less than $2500, at least none worth buying). You can use Epic Brokers for this, you can find them at the link below. Just a short snippet on Customs Bonds, Customs Bonds are required to insure the payment of duties to the federal government.


Forms to be Filled Out

  1. CBP Form 7501 Entry Summary
  2. DOT Form HS-7
  3. EPA Form 3520-1

-Be aware that there will probably be a customs exam, and therefore exam charges, which can amount to several hundred dollars, as customs is very quick to examine motor vehicle imports.

Here are instructions from Customs and Border Protection for filling out form 7501 and deriving the manufacturer identification code for block 13; together they give a thorough explanation for filling out all of the fields.




For some ease of reference, this is how much easier this is to do when you do this through ABI software. Below is a screenshot of what this looks like when submitting the partner government agency data, like EPA or DOT, but in the below case this is what it looks like for FDA data.


Avi J. Goldstein, Licensed U.S Customs Broker and Owner of Goldstein Customs Brokerage Exam Prep, LLC

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