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Import regulations for used vehicles from Japan to The United States of America

Quick Reference:  ・25 years or older ・ Cheap and easy DIY import ・Legal in all 50 states ・Shipping to all major ports ・ Great resale market

Timeline

The entire process takes 1.5 – 2 months.

Register to see auction vehicles – Search – Send links for translation – Send deposit – Pre bid inspection – Bid – Win – Pay Invoice while vehicle is transported to nearest export yard – Payment confirmation – Photos taken at port – Booking requested – Booking details confirmed – Vehicle loaded – ISF filed – Wait and track boat – Get arrival notice from boat company – Pay the arrival notice invoice – Clear customs – Pay broker or customs – Pick up or hire transport for your vehicle – Be happy!!

Importing is easy and affordable
Importing a vehicle on your own is extremely easy and economical. There are two ways to import, informal and formal entry. If the commercial value is less than $2,500 the entire do-it-yourself informal entry process, including the filing of all documents, customs fees, and duty can be done for under $150! Formal entries require a customs broker. We work with several reputable brokerages nationwide to ensure a smooth import of your vehicle.

Details of the process are explained in this extremely helpful Import Blog written by our customer. It is extremely difficult, highly cost prohibitive and a ton of red tape to import a newer vehicle, but any import of a vehicle 25 years or older is exempt from federal transportation laws so you can drive your newly imported air-cooled 911, mini truck or Skyline from Florida to Alaska on any roads you choose!!!!

Costs
Duty based on vehicle cost:

  • Passenger Vehicles and most Mini trucks* – 2.5%
  • Trucks – 25%
  • Unloading – $80-$200

DIY Informal entry does not require a broker. Only 3 customs forms are necessary: Entry Summary 7501, EPA Form 3520-1 and the DOT HS-7 Form. Total customs clearance cost is Duty + .3464% + .125% = Less the $80

* When doing a DIY informal import 9 times out of 10 the customs agent will not consider a mini truck an actual truck and levy a 2.5% duty. In some cases a customs agent can levy a 25% duty on a mini truck. If you decide to use a customs brokerage to clear customs a 25% duty will be levied.

Formal entry requires the use of a broker, and JCD’s brokerage partners offer the cheapest service!!

Note on Vehicle Washing:
The cost of having vehicles washed at port starts at 25,000 yen and depends on the yard & size of the vehicle. We will arrange for washing when requested by the customer. As very few vehicles are flagged by US customs, and the washing price is similar there, we recommend shipping as is. If your vehicle is flagged it will not prohibit the import, but only delay it slightly.

Example estimate:

  1. Customs entry fee per shipment – $95.00
  2. ISF – $50.00
  3. EPA – $15.00
  4.  DOT – $15.00
  5. Duties – at cost
    A) 2.5% or 25%
    B) merchandise processing fee .3464%, min $25, max $485
    C) harbor maintenance fee .125% no min no max
  6. Bond – $30
  7. Account set up fee $50.00


DIY Import Process

Shipping takes 2-5 weeks, depending on the port. We will provide you with a Bill of Lading before the boat loads. You will need to file an ISF immediately after receiving the Bill of Lading from us. As your vehicle closes in on port the boat company will contact you from their local office with an arrival notice and request payment for unloading *usually $80-$200 per vehicle, depending on size and port. We will send you the required documents as the boat nears so you can fill out the customs forms. Once your vehicle arrives at port you must contact the arrival port of entry CBP office and inform customs of its arrival. The CBP will contact you within 24-48 hours and let you know when the vehicle will be available for pick up. DO NOT show up to port unannounced. You have 2 weeks to pick up so no rush. Bring the required documents and cash for duty then drive your vehicle off the lot! You can also have it arranged to be transported to your home. Should you chose to use a broker, they will guide you through the process.

ISF Filing
An ISF must be filed for all imports. In the case of informal/DIY import the importer/client is responsible for filing. easyisf.com is the cheapest and easiest way to do so. Here is a link to the description of and ISF and the regulations related to it, https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/ports-entry/cargo-security/importer-security-filing-102.

ISF filing – $25.00 – $80.00

Note on Port of Tacoma
The port of Tacoma now requires that a broker be used for all imports. Customs also requires a third party proof of manufacture for Kei vehicles registered in 1995. This proof of manufacture can be provided through JCD at a cost of 33,000 yen. This is for Kei vehicles only.

Note on WWO Shipping
When shipping to ports using WWO (Tacoma, Long Beach, Newport News), if the dimensions of the vehicle listed on the Export Certificate differ from the actual dimensions of the vehicle, the actual dimensions shall be used and an additional 20,000 yen fee shall be charged to the importer for official measurements to be taken.

Import Regulations

25 years or older
When importing Japanese used vehicles, of all the models over 25 years old mini trucks are the cheapest, and easiest to import because of the exemption. They can be imported without complying with any safety, bumper, theft prevention, or emission standards. Please read through the process here.

25 years or newer
It is nearly impossible for an individual to import something newer than 25 years old. If you wish to try and import a vehicle newer than 25 years old, you must use a Registered Importer (RI) to comply it with Federal safety, bumper and theft prevention standards. If the motor vehicle is less than 21 years old, you must additionally hire an Independent Commercial Importer (ICI) to comply it with EPA emissions standards.

When using a RI, there must be a “DOT Conformance Bond” posted worth one and a half times the vehicle’s dutiable value. When using an ICI, a “Customs Bond” worth at least the vehicle’s value is required by the EPA, if the vehicle is being petitioned. Customs may still require the bond regardless of EPA requirements. Additionally, only vehicles that are listed by NHTSA as eligible for importing may go through the process. If a vehicle is not listed, a RI must petition and prove to NHTSA that the vehicle meets, or can be modified to meet, all US Federal safety and bumper standards. The process includes providing crash test data which is a very expensive process. Because costs can become prohibitively high, it is very important that you thoroughly research your options to see if it is worth importing.

Required Documents for Customs Clearance:

Provided by JCD

Bill of Lading

  • Commercial Invoice
  • Export Certificate
  • English Translation of Export Certificate.

Filled in by Importer

  • Entry Summary 7501
  • EPA Declaration
  • DOT Form HS-7

Resources
For current state by state rules and regulations for use of mini trucks newer than 25 years old, please use the following link.
For all of the correct and up-to-date information about the rules and regulations to import a vehicle into the USA please contact the NHTSA & EPA. For your reference, please click on the links below:
US Customs Ruling website

Please read though how-to-buy and FAQ on our site to learn more about the business process.

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  • 10 stars for service! This was my first time importing, we used JPC on a recommendation from a friend and I was really blown away by the service which Andrew... read more

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    Jeff Cheok
    10/21/2021

    In a time were lots of exporters are trying to make a quick dollar and sell you a rusty car, Japan Car Direct looks out for you and makes sure... read more

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    10/01/2021

    Hey Matt, thanks for all the help in locating the perfect vehicle for our acreage. We cannot say enough good things about the service you provided. Your... read more

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    Angela Butler
    9/06/2021
  • After deciding to import a vehicle myself from Japan to the US, Japan car direct was one of the first names to come up. Of course this being the first... read more

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    LelandLs6 T
    7/28/2021

    I had a great experience with Japan Car Direct. Matt helped answer all my questions and guide me thru the process successfully. Buying a car sight unseen can be stressful... read more

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    Jake Metz
    7/19/2021

    Great to do business with. Mathew was very helpful and guided me through the process to import a Nissan Elgrande. I can thoroughly recommend them for anyone else... read more

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    Jonathan Pyne
    7/16/2021
  • I just bought a suzuki carry from Japan. Taylor was super helpful and supportive during the process, all the way up to picking up my truck at the port! Definitely... read more

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    Landon Sutherland
    7/01/2021

    This was my first time ever purchasing vehicles from Japan. Mathew was recommend to me by a friend and I would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone else. Besides... read more

    Jonathan Wells Avatar
    Jonathan Wells
    6/21/2021

    Mathew was great to work with and everything went well through the auction and export process. He was very patient with all my questions since it was my first... read more

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    Jack Wagner
    5/29/2021
  • JCD was great to work with. Mathew was patient with me as I searched for my dream vehicle. He explained the process and helped me understand how to eliminate as... read more

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    Greg Thompson
    5/20/2021

    Mathew was patient and professional from the start. Helped me understand the Japanese listings, arranged on-site inspections when I wanted a closer look. Vehicle was shipped without drama. Arrived safely.... read more

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    Galen Haye
    5/11/2021

    I live in Japan and buying a car can be a challenge but Yoshiro at Japan Car Direct really made this an easy process. His patience with me is worth... read more

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    Rai Yen
    4/21/2021
  • Great experience working with Japan Car Direct. Very helpful, great communication and very patient with a first time mini truck buyer and importer.

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    Sven MacAller
    4/06/2021

    Just awesome people to deal with...I started my search for a JZA80 Supra 2 years ago by just looking on JCD because I was really scared that I would go... read more

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    3/28/2021

    Worked with Matthew, Taylor and Scott to find a particular Daihatsu Hijet to import into Australia. Not only did I find the right vehicle using thier platform, they then helped... read more

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