Red Classic Car in the Sunset - Import Cars from Europe to USA

How to Import a Classic Car from Europe to the USA

It’s not uncommon for the Americans to crave a European classic car and wish to take it home with them across the Atlantic. Luckily, importing cars from Europe to the USA is not nearly as dramatic as the introduction suggested. Surprisingly enough, it’s easier and much less expensive to import a classic car than a relatively new or brand new car to the USA.

Classic Car Import Regulations

According to the US laws, any car older that’s 25 years old or older is considered ‘’classic’’. When bringing your classic beauty to the US, here’s what you need to do:

  • Possess documentation stating the age of the vehicle, unless the age is affixed to your classic car by the manufacturer.
  • Possess documentation proving your ownership of the vehicle.
  • Declare code E on for 3520-1 for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

What you don’t need to do:

  • Comply with EPA requirements for imports if your classic car is 21 years old or older.
  • Comply with DOT’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards if your vehicle is 25 years old or older.

Once you have dealt with the customs, you’ll have to abide by your state’s requirements regarding insurance, vehicle registration, etc. Since you will probably possess no bill of sale or any equivalent you will obtain in Europe, use the registration document to prove ownership.

Finally, even if you have imported a 25-year-old roadworthy classic beauty from Europe, it has to comply with US safety and crash standards put forward by the EPA and DOT. You should be ready to modify your classic vehicle if necessary to meet the safety and crash requirements.

Overview of Classic Car Shipping

When it comes to classic car shipping, there are two reliable methods: RoRo (Roll-on/Roll-off) Shipping and Container Shipping.

RoRo vs. Container Classic Car Shipping

With RoRo shipping, your classic car is driven to the deck of the ship, where it is strapped down for stability during the journey overseas. This shipping method is less expensive, probably even due to the perceived risks associated with it. Namely, some car owners fear their classic vehicle will be exposed to external factors such as the weather, and suffer from the exposure to the maritime environment. However, all vehicles are tied securely below deck and have protective covers, so this risk is largely unfounded.

Additionally, RoRo shipping allows for fixed departure and arrival dates. There are fixed dates and times on which the car has to be driven to the port, regardless of whether the owner will drive it or will they have someone else do it. This is one of the reasons why RoRo shipping is the preferred means of classic car shipping for many car owners who want to import their car from Europe to the USA.

One other hand, container shipping is more expensive because vehicles are shipped in a closed container, hence there are fewer risks of damage from external factors. Moreover, the contents of the container are unknown to the crew, so there is considerably less risk of theft.

When it comes to container shipping, classic car owners who wish to import their car from Europe to the USA can choose between shared container shipping and exclusive container shipping. As the names suggest, the difference is in the number of vehicles per container. With shared container shipping, there are a few vehicles in a single container, whereas there is only one vehicle in an exclusive container.

What classic car owners sometimes see as an advantage of container shipping is the fact that it allows for spare parts and tires to be shipped along with the car, unlike RoRo shipping, which does not. Nevertheless, unlike RoRo, container shipping doesn’t guarantee reliable departure and arrival dates.

Overall Cost

The overall cost will be determined by a few things:

  • shipping charges
  • entry fee
  • US duty tax
  • modification cost (if necessary as required by EPA and DOT regulations)

Final word

Finally, it all comes down to careful planning. To import cars from Europe to the USA, you need to get familiar with the local, state and federal requirements, estimate the overall cost and hire a trustworthy shipping company.

Ship Overseas has a 3-decade strong track record in shipping classic and new cars across the Atlantic to the USA. Our team can advise you on what steps to take and how not to make a mistake, not only regarding car shipping but also importing procedures. Contact us today for reliable information and impeccable services.


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