How to Import Cars From the UK to the USA

by Clemie Nye
vintage cars 2 image by Leticia Wilson from

Importing a car to the United States can be a lengthy process, but if procedure is followed correctly, you won't find it difficult to import your vehicle from the United Kingdom. Both the USA and the U.K. have strict safety requirements for vehicles registered in their lands. As a standard measure, all vehicles being imported into the U.S. are required to conform to U.S. safety, bumper and emission standards.

Step 1

Notify the U.K. authorities. Before exporting your U.K.-registered car, you will need to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency that you wish to export your car permanently. The U.K. considers vehicles taken out of the country for more than 12 months as permanently exported. Fill out the "Notification of Permanent Export" section of your vehicle's registration certificate and sent it to the DVLA. The DVLA will the send you a certificate of permanent export as confirmation of your vehicle's registration. It is important to retain the rest of the certificate as you will need it to register your car when it arrives in the U.S.

Step 2

Arrange shipping. Use a reputable international shipping company to import your vehicle. The company you use will advise you of when and where your car will arrive in the U.S. and how to collect it. It is important to obtain your certificate of permanent export because without it, U.K. customs officers may perform checks on the vehicle for any outstanding finances, delaying transportation.

Step 3

Clear customs. When you car arrives in the U.S, it will have to clear customs at the first port of entry. You will be asked to present your shipper's bill of lading, the sales receipt, the U.K. car registration certificate and any other supporting documentation you may have. You will also need to declare that the emission and safety standards of your car meet those required in the U.S. by completing an Environmental Protection Agency form 3520-1 and a Department of Transportation form HS-7, which can be obtained from their individual websites. Vehicles that meet U.S. emission requirements will indicate so on the manufacturer's labels they bear.

Pay entry duty. Regardless of the condition of the vehicle being imported or its intended purpose, you will be required to pay duty on your U.K. car. Duty is levied at the rate of 2.5 percent of the value of your car. Duty is based on the price you paid, if your car is new, or the current market price. If you are a returning U.S. resident, you may wish to apply your customs exemption, calculated at $400 per person, towards the charge.


  • Make sure you have the undercarriage of your car thoroughly cleaned of any soil as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To avoid the possibility of importing dangerous pests, no foreign soil or earth of any kind is allowed into the United States without prior permission from the USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine Permit Unit.


  • For safety reasons, you are advised against using your car as a shipping container. Most shipping companies will not accept a vehicle loaded with for your personal belongings, destined for the USA.

Items you will need

  • Car registration documents
  • Certificate of Permanent Export
  • Shipper's bill of lading
  • Money

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