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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

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 highly cost prohibitive and a ton of red tape to import a newer vehicle, but any 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!!!!

ISF Filing

An ISF must be filed for all imports. In the case of informal 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, //www.cbp.gov/border-security/ports-entry/cargo-security/importer-security-filing-102.

ISF filing – $25.00 – $80.00

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

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

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

* 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.

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 1994. 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.

DIY Import Process

Shipping takes 2-5 weeks, depending on port. As your vehicle closes in on port the shipping 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. Once your vehicle arrives at port you must contact your CBP office at the port and inform them of its arrival. The CBP will contact you and let you know when the vehicle will be available for pick up. Bring the required documents and cash for duty and drive your vehicle off the lot! You can also have it arranged to be transported to your home. Here is a link to get an inland transport quote from the port to your place: www.uship.com Should you use a broker they will guide you through the process.

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 for driving on public roads, 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

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
www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/import/
www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/import/elig060109.pdf
www.epa.gov/otaq/imports/quiktext.html

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

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  • review rating 5  A few months ago I set out on my goal of importing a vehicle from Japan through an auction. After tons and TONs of research and countless emails, I decided to use Japan Car Direct as my exporter in Japan. From the beginning of my interactions with JCD, I was thoroughly impressed. My contact, Yoshi, was amazing...definitely a huge asset to the JCD team. He answered all of my questions promptly, translated dozens of auction sheets for me, and advised me of what to watch out for when looking for a vehicle. He was beyond helpful! I picked up my Kei truck at the port in Newport News a few weeks ago and couldn't be more pleased. Since then, the truck has made it to its final home in Charlottesville, VA on my farm. Yoshi and the other guys at JCD are now my go to team for more of these soon. Thanks again JCD and keep doing what you guys do! You all are the real deal.

    thumb N W
    10/15/2019

    review rating 5  A few months ago I set out on my goal of importing a vehicle from Japan through an auction. After tons and TONs of research and countless emails, I decided to use Japan Car Direct as my exporter in Japan. From the beginning of my interactions with JCD, I was thoroughly impressed. My contact, Yoshi, was amazing...definitely a huge asset to the JCD team. He answered all of my questions promptly, translated dozens of auction sheets for me, and advised me of what to watch out for when looking for a vehicle. He was beyond helpful! I picked up my Kei truck at the port in Newport News a few weeks and couldn't be more pleased. Since then, the truck has made it to its final home in Charlottesville, VA on my farm. Yoshi and the other guys at JCD are now my go to team for more of these soon. Thanks again JCD and keep doing what you guys do! You all are the real deal.

    thumb N W
    10/15/2019

    review rating 5  Since a kid the FD RX7 has always been a dream car but i didn't pursue it till i graduated high school but the prices just for the shell over here in california was over 15k!! I kept looking around until I decided i would just import one. I found JCD while looking for the top 5 importers you could trust and they stood out more than all the other ones, and for a couple months of more research on their page until I ultimately decided I would go through them. Although this was my first time getting a car from Japan and having an endless amount questions spanning a couple hundred emails until it would freeze up and i had to make a new email thread .. Mathew always answered every question and helped me though every step. I didn't have all the funds in the beginning but they were very patient with it until i was fully ready, then after a month of having Matt give his thought on some of the FDs i was looking at we finally won the auction for a 94 Efini type R Fd3s. As we picked it up from Long Beach till the drive home I couldn't believe that it was here and soo much better just looking at the picture but i defiantly would recommend JCD to anyone looking to import their dream car too and and want to thank matt and the whole team with getting me my RX7.

    thumb Erwin Contreras
    10/10/2019
  • review rating 5  I'd been looking to buy an RF series Honda Stepwagon to convert into a mini camper for a while but the UK prices always seemed too high. I had joined a few JDM import sites to get an idea of auction prices and costs (including Japan Car Direct) but just couldn't bring myself to take the next step, it seemed such a risk ! Finally after reading so many good reviews for JCD (and Mathew in particular) I took the plunge and contacted Mathew. After he answered my many questions regarding costs, fees etc I felt confident enough to pay the deposit and start hunting the Japanese auctions for my Steppy. My budget for the Steppy was pretty low (pathetic even !) but I felt Mat still put the same effort into replying to my questions and queries as he would have done if my budget had been into the tens of thousands. The result was I now have a very tidy Stepwagon with lower mileage than any vehicle I've ever owned, I've paid far less for it then I would have done buying in the UK and I've got a bigger budget now for the camper conversion. I wouldn't hesitate to buy through them again, and hope to do so soon.

    thumb Matt B
    9/30/2019

    review rating 5  5 star experience from start to finish. Transparent and easy process, and Mat was very patient to answer plenty of questions I had during the purchase! Can’t wait to do it again because the Japanese cars from this era are pure automotive art and these guys hold the keys to the museum!

    thumb Ross C
    9/13/2019

    review rating 5  After an initial inquiry several years ago, I still wanted to get a Japanese Delica or Hiace. Matthew was immediately in contact and helped with all the details. His videos were perfect for my search. Matthew was able to answer all of my questions and my wife and I were able to make decisions based on the great information he provided. I would recommend Japan Car Direct to anyone interested in getting the right car at the best price.

    thumb Zach Matheson
    8/27/2019
  • review rating 5  The staff at Japan Car Direct made what I thought would a a difficult process very easy. Matt explained every step thoroughly and his advice on details of cars was spot on.

    thumb nick creece
    8/20/2019

    review rating 5  I imported a van though JCD and they made the process super straightforward. They were amazing at communicating and quick to answer any of my questions. If you are looking to import a car I would highly recommended them.

    thumb William Bender
    8/02/2019

    review rating 5  Awesome experience !! Their service was extremely good and efficient. Yoshiro was soo patient with my many requests for information and translations. The vehicle purchased was better than expected. I would definitely consider using their services again.

    thumb Rafael Cuadros
    5/20/2019
  • review rating 5  All I can say about the experience is AMAZING! I worked with Matthew and he was helpful through the whole process of bidding, purchasing, and shipping the car to me. He had an answer for every question, and was always quick to respond. Enjoying my new Mercedes and I will be using them again!

    thumb chris casali
    5/15/2019

    review rating 5  All around exceptional experience! Matt was great to work with and guided me through the entire process with ease. As a first timer, importing was a bit nerve racking but JCD did a great job providing a cool little truck I can enjoy here in Delaware. I look forward to picking up the next toy/vehicle through them.

    thumb Jesse Wencius
    5/14/2019

    review rating 5  The experienced, grizzled veterans of the import scene. They were very accommodating with all my questions and concerns. It was my first time importing, so everything was confusing and intimidating, but I'm happy to report everything went as planned! I'm definitely calling them back when I finally come up with an excuse to import another!

    thumb Joey Rodriguez
    4/12/2019
  • review rating 5  Mathew was great to work with and made what could be a scary daunting experience very easy. I am super happy with my car and am sure I will be importing with them again!

    thumb Kayla D'Ambrosi
    3/18/2019

    review rating 5  Working with Mathew and his team was an absolute pleasure. I went from never knowing you could import your own vehicle to owning my own Suzuki Cara within 6 months. Mathew was so helpful and completely transparent with me during the entire process. We spoke on the phone and via email and he helped me pick the perfect car exactly within my requirements. He dealt with my excitement and inexperience with patience and understanding. I couldn't be happier with my experience and will absolutely use Japan Car Direct again when it's time for another project. I highly recommend Mathew and Japan Car Direct.

    thumb Tristan Gilbert
    3/05/2019

    review rating 5  Just purchased my second car through Japan Car Direct. Could not be more pleased with their customer service. Matt went above and beyond to help me find the right car. Translating countless auction sheets, messaging sellers, requesting vehicle inspections, putting up with me and my requests well after his time in the office, etc. I can happily and honestly say that I would recommend this company to anyone looking to purchase a car from Japan and that you will not be dissappinted. Very kind, helpful and professional. Can’t wait for vehicle number 3.

    thumb Tanner Himmel
    2/23/2019
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