How to Import Antique Cars


Familiarize yourself with your state's automobile regulations in order to ensure that the importation process goes smoothly. For example, California residents must ensure that the car they plan to import will pass the state's rigorous emissions tests, which are more complex than in any other state.


Contact the car manufacturer for a letter that states that that car you want to import is compliant with all U.S. federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS). The letter they send to you must reference the car's VIN. In rare cases, you might need to modify/repair the car if it is found to be not FMVSS-compliant. Common improvements needed prior to importation include updating safety features like headlights. Improvements are usually only required when the car is less than 25 years old.


Make sure the proper documentation is in hand at the time of importation. Customs officials will need to see a bill of sale, shipper's information, any registration from a foreign country and proof that the car will meet EPA emissions regulations.


Fill out Form HS-7 with U.S. Customs at the time of importation. This form is required when importing from all foreign countries and is used to prove that the imported car is in compliance with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. Generally speaking, antique cars are not subjected to as many regulations as those cars less than 25 years old.


Prepare to pay a duty of about 2.5 percent. You also might have to pay the so-called "Gas Guzzler Tax." See in the References section for further information about fees you might incur.


Coordinate the importation process with an RI (registered importer) or an ICI (independent commercial importer) who can walk you through the complex process of bringing a car from another country onto U.S. soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • If you are importing antique cars specifically to sell at a profit, you might be subject to additional fees and red tape. Contact your local DMV for more details.
  • Antique cars are beloved by car collectors not only for their age, but also for their elegant and powerful designs. Great car companies like Aston Martin, Fiat and Austin-Healey have produced some of the most beautiful cars the world has ever known. If you are interested in importing an antique automobile, there are a few things that you will need to keep in mind.