How Do I Import a Car into the United States? Automobile Import Procedures for Returning USA Military and Residents.

How Do I Import a Car into the United States? Automobile Import Procedures for Returning USA Military and Residents.

We deal with hundreds of customers each year, and one of the most popular questions people ask us is how to import a car into the United States.  Short answer to that question is, it is very difficult!  Unless you are shipping a USA return vehicle (i.e. you are returning a USA vehicle you shipped abroad), you will run into some major costly headaches.  In order to dispel some of the rumors surrounding international car imports into the USA, we provide the following simplified guidelines for the everyday layman…

The (Non) Official Layman’s Guide to International Car Imports into the USA

First, in order to determine if this guideline will be useful you will need to answer the following questions: 1). Is your car a USA return vehicle? (I.e. this vehicle was manufactured and bought in the USA, is under USA guidelines and specifications, and was previously exported from the USA and you are now bring the vehicle back) 2). Are you a returning US resident? (A returning resident is someone who is returning from travel, work or study abroad) AND  3). Has your car been modified in any way while overseas?

If you are able to answer “YES” to the first and second question and “NO” to the third question, you are in luck!  Continue to read below for more information on how to import a car into the United States with K International Transport.

What to Do Before You Ship Your Car Back to the United States and How to Get an International Car Shipping Rate to Import Your Vehicle into the United States

Before you ship your vehicle you will need to make sure you perform the following important steps.  First, make sure you check on the export regulations, including export customs clearance, for the country you are shipping from.  Whether you are looking to ship your car back to the United States from Germany, Italy or South Korea, you will need to follow the laws and procedures for your country of export.   Second, check the cost to ship your car to the United States from a reliable international car shipping company – like K International Transport!  

Make Sure you Have All the Documentation Needed to Clear Customs in the United States

When shipping your car back to the United States, one of the biggest hurdles (besides dealing with customs in the export country) is dealing with import customs in the United States!  If you were able to answer our above questions correctly, you should have no problem clearing your car through customs.  The easiest and most affordable way to clear customs, is to do it yourself.  When your car arrives at the port, you can clear customs the same day you go to pick the car up.  Customs even prefers this!  If you physically cannot pick-up your car, you will have to pay your international car shipping broker to do it for you.   In order to clear import customs for your vehicle you will need to prove the car was previously owned and registered in the United States.  How do you do this?  By simply providing proof of a state-issued registration card or a bill of sale from the USA dealership.  In addition to proving your vehicle is from the US, you will also need to provide the original bill of lading (shipping document provided by your international car shipping company) and an EPA form 3250-1 and DOT form HS-7.  To help you out you can click here for the EPA form and here for the DOT form.

How to Prepare Your Car for its Return to the United States

Now that you have all the information, documentation and prices you need to ship your car – make sure your car is properly prepared for its trip back to the US!  The  US Department of Agriculture requires the undercarriage of your vehicle is thoroughly cleaned before you ship.  Your car should also have no leaks and should have no personal effects loaded inside!  If your car arrives with any personal items inside, you are subject to costly penalties and the seizure of your car (of course to release the car back to you is not cheap…no free lunch with the USA customs office!).

Ready to ship your car back to the United States?  As one of the world’s best automobile shipping companies, we can help!
If you follow the above simple guidelines, you should have no problem importing your car back to the United States.  For a brief version of the above, here is the list of items you will need to import your car back to the United States:
  • Make sure you meet all the criteria in order to import your car to the USA without a problem.  You must be a US return resident and your car must be a US return vehicle that has not been modified while your car is abroad
  • Check the price to ship your car from the foreign country of export to the United States.  Receive a free international car shipping quote to the United States from K International Transport
  • Check with your local export country to make sure you perform all necessary export customs clearance and documentation
  • Prepare your car for overseas car shipping to the United States – the outside and inside of your car should be free of dirt and thoroughly cleaned, your car should have no leaks and you should not load any personal items inside the car.
  • Be prepared for USA import customs.  If you are able to pick-up your car, you can clear customs yourself.  You will need to show proof the car is a USA return vehicle and provide customs with the EPA form 3520-1 and DOT form HS-7

The above is a simplified version of the import car procedure in the United States.  If you try to import a non-USA return vehicle be prepared to have your car modified to meet American standards (this means coughing up some major money to meet the regulations of the EPA and DOT).  Non-conforming vehicles that arrive into the USA are not allowed to enter the country until the car is reconfigured to meet American standards.  In our over 20 years of experience in international car shipping, we have had a record 0 customers who are able to have their international cars modified to USA specifications.  If you are a non-resident worker, you may be able to import your vehicle under special regulations.  However, you must provide specific  paperwork in order to do so and you must export the vehicle from the US within a year.  Most non-residents  find it is easier to come to the US without their car.  If you are importing a car for other purposes such as races, or display at a show, you must have written approval from the DOT. 

Importing a car into the United States can be a tricky process, but if you are a return USA resident or military officer bringing your car back to the USA from Germany, South Korea or Italy, the import procedure is relatively easy!  For more information on how to import your car and to receive car shipping quotes for US return vehicles from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East to the United States, contact us at, give us a call at 212-267-6400 or reach us on Skype at kinternationalny.  We can only quote the cost to import USA return vehicles!  For more information on importing other vehicles, please refer to the website for Customs and Border Protection at:

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