Tips about Importing a Classic Car

Should you buy a vehicle overseas, you’ll have to do 3 things: Have it returned home, get it through customs and get it documented in your city.

To move the car, you’ll need the services of a global freight forwarder. car shipping companies are agents specializing in transferring consignments. They also have connections with agents and shipping firms around the globe that could transfer the car from whatever city it’s in to the nearest port; make sure that numerous export paperwork are completed the right way to conform with local practices laws; and see that the car is properly secured within a shipping container, loaded on a ship going to a port in your area and also sufficiently covered against rogue waves, pirates as well as other risks of the sort that afflict consignments ships.

Once the ship reaches the United States, the container as well as its contents – your car – will need to undergo customs. If you’re not an expert on United States importation laws, make sure you hire a customs dealer to be certain that this approach goes smoothly. Amongst other things, a customs adviser will post a bond to ensure payment of all federal costs, taxes and duties, and fill in and submit a plethora of forms to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, United States Customs and even the Border Patrol. Customs brokers are well versed in current E.P.A. emissions and D.O.T. safety specifications, and will also be able to inform you of whether your car is susceptible to, or free from, these conditions dependant on its year of produce.

When your car clears customs, the freight forwarder will prepare to have the container trucked to a warehouse, from where it could be moved to your dwelling, car port or Batcave.


Ever since registration and, in particular, emissions testing specifications change state by state, it’s advisable to seek advice from your local department of motor vehicles at the outset of a vintage-car-importing mission as opposed to at the conclusion. Figure out just what documents your local Department of Motor Vehicles requires. If it needs United States Customs forms, learn which ones, because there are many. If it needs original paperwork from the car’s country of origin, such as original title or bill of sales, confer with the car’s seller and also with your freight forwarder to ensure that those documents are packed up with the vehicle or couriered to you quickly.

So what does it cost to import a classic car from overseas? All in all, including shipping and customs charges, I paid out about $5,000. This involved transport from Rome to the port of Civitavecchia on a flatbed truck; Italian port entry fees; something known as an A.M.S. security filing; Italian customs export clearance; ocean shipping costs (the price of shipping in the container, in other words); a fuel surcharge; bill of lading; insurance protection; a “special service” (not really certain exactly what that was); ocean freight expenses; the United States Customs entry fee; a customs security fee; United States Customs cargo release fee; and inland shipping costs (trucking the container from the Port of Oakland to a warehouse in San Francisco).

Your own outcomes will change depending on numerous factors, among them: the length your car needs to be trucked to the overseas port; whether the port is a main shipping hub or a smaller port that may support only feeder ships; whether you ship a single vehicle within a 20-foot container, or two to three vehicles inside a 40-foot shipping container; whether and how intensively customs examines the container; along with the length from the port to a storage place with a loading dock.

One last note. As you call around and request estimates, be sure to ask the shipping company about their experience with cars.