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How To Import Cars From Japan

What's in this article?
  1. Best Car Companies In Japan
  2. Is Importing Cars From Japan Cheaper
  3. How To Import Cars From Japan
  4. Eligibility Of Car
  5. Total Cost On Import
  6. Shipment
  7. If Buying Car From Auction Houses
  8. 25 Years Import Law
  9. What Are Nhtsa And Fmvss
  10. Taxes On Importing Cars From Japan
  11. Conclusion
How To Import Cars From Japan

Japan is renowned for its vehicle industry and gorgeous natural landscapes. The nation was in ashes following its loss in the Second World War. Still, it was able to revive its economy by working hard in the automobile industry. Thanks to its creative motor sector, which has helped revive Japan’s economy. And it’s no longer shocking that Japan is at the top of the automotive world.

With an annual production of 9.9 million vehicles in 2012, Japan ranked third among all automotive manufacturers. It’s all because of its cutting-edge technology and original concepts in the automobile industry. Not only that but over the past several decades, its investments have boosted the auto industry in many nations.

Many consumers from other nations import automobiles from Japan due to their ingenuity, dependability, and affordability. In 2020, the number of motor cars shipped from Japan to the U.S. was estimated to be at 1.4 million, dropping from 1.43 million in 2011. In the past ten years, 2016 - 2017 had the highest automobile exports from Japan to the United States, totaling over 1.74 million.

These Japanese-made cars are in high demand worldwide, including in the USA, because of their brilliant and efficient performance, reasonable pricing, excellent functionality, and usability.

Are you confused about how you can import cars from Japan? Then worry no further as in this we will tell you about everything you need to know to get this job done. Firstly, let’s look at Japan’s best car companies!


Best Car Companies In Japan

Have you ever wondered where the attractive and eye-catching Toyota and Honda vehicles you see on the roads are produced? Not only is Honda a Japanese brand, but so are Toyota, Lexus, Suzuki, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Daihatsu.

Japanese automakers are at the forefront of technology, revenue, and manufacturing. These top 10 Japanese car brands are the most well-known names in the worldwide automotive business because of their best features that keep the customer’s demands in mind.

The two most popular brands worldwide among these are Toyota and Honda. Why do other countries export Toyota and Honda mainly? Toyotas are exquisitely built, dependable vehicles that are unmatched in fuel efficiency. The Toyota Corolla has earned a spot on the list of the most popular cars ever sold worldwide.

Since 1959, Honda has produced the most motorcycles in the world. What products does the U.S. import most frequently from Japan? Japan shipped $112 billion worth of goods to the U.S. in 2020. Cars worth $32.6 billion, vehicle parts worth $6.09 billion, and actual construction vehicles worth $3.03 billion make up the bulk of Japan’s exports to the United States.

Is Importing Cars From Japan Cheaper

The exciting point of importing cars from Japan is you don’t have to import a brand new car. If you cannot afford it, you can import a used car too. The cost of the vehicle you purchase from Japan in used cars online auctions is considered the cheapest. The reason is that Japan is a hub for manufacturing new cars, so the Japanese frequently change their vehicles. They care for their cars, so even the used ones are in far better condition.

The other reason is in Japan, a car must undergo a thorough inspection after three years of ownership. The examination determines if the vehicles are safe to drive on public roads. After then, the car must pass a test every two years for up to ten years. Each of these examinations might run the owner through the roof. This is called the Shaken system. As a result, owning a used car in Japan soon becomes incredibly expensive.

Importing a car from Japan costs about $2,000 in total. However, the model, size, and type of the car affect the overall cost of importing a car from Japan. The method of shipping and the firm you select for shipping can also affect the price. The cost might also be impacted by the distance between the dispatch site and the final destination.


How To Import Cars From Japan

For Importing cars from Japan, you need to follow specific steps:

Eligibility Of Car

You must ensure the car you wish to import from Japan satisfies the FMVVS requirements first. It would help if you researched the kinds of vehicles imported into the USA. There won’t be any complications if the car you’re importing from Japan is built in the U.S., and you can easily import it.

The initial stage of the procedure is maybe the most crucial because it will affect all the others. Every country has its standards for the safety and emissions of on-road vehicles. In the U.S., these regulations are maintained and enforced by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (DOT).

Vehicles must follow the rules of both agencies to be allowed to use public highways in the United States. Make sure the car you choose for import complies with the requirements established by these departments.

Perhaps you have heard of the 25-year rule? If you haven’t, scroll down because we have already stated that for you. You have to be exporting a 25-year-old vehicle from Japan. If a car is 25 years old, let’s say it was built in 1997, then, by the legislation, it qualifies as a classic vehicle and is exempt from EPA and DOT requirements. Under THIS LAW, automobiles made before July 1997 may be imported into the USA.

Most individuals desire to import Nissan, Honda, and Toyota brands. Over the next ten years, as they are allowed to enter the country, these cars will gradually start to be imported from Japan to the U.S. and spread throughout the market.

Bringing in automobiles from Japan temporarily, say for a year, with the requirement that they are removed within that time frame, is another option. The car does not need to be altered for this kind of import.

Total Cost On Import

The next step is to look for a company that can import a car for you, connect you with Japanese car auction houses, and negotiates the entire procedure’s cost with the import business. The size, model, weight, shipping route, and distance between the dispatching and dropping locations of the car you are importing will affect the import price.


You will receive all of the cost of import estimates from the import company you choose.

The most important thing here is to ensure the selected car fits the criteria NHTSA and FMVSS have set. If not then it is better to choose another one.


The shipping company will receive the car from the dealer in Japan and prepare it for export to the USA whenever you decide to move forward with them. You will then be sent a Bill of Lading notification with the ETA as soon as the ship departs the port.

An automobile from Japan usually takes 8 to 10 weeks to ship. You can pick up your car after the shipment has cleared customs once it arrives in the USA. Or the delivery service might leave it at your door.

You must obtain the necessary paperwork, such as the EPA Form 3520-1, Standard Import Documentation, and NHTSA Form HS-7 (which attests to the vehicle’s compliance with DOT and EPA rules).

  • A CBP clearance certificate, a bill of lading, a bill of sale, and a foreign registration are needed for importation into the U.S. The HS-7 form, which certifies the vehicle complies with EPA and DOT regulations, must be submitted with these papers.
  • The U.S. agricultural department inspects vehicles entering the country. Therefore, it’s essential to wash your car thoroughly. It guarantees that the vehicle will transport no dirt, sand, soil, or plant matter.

If Buying Car From Auction Houses

It’s a 7-step purchasing process; the steps that are involved in this purchase are

  • The first step entails creating an account on the dealer’s website. You must enter your information before receiving an email confirming your registration. The website or portal’s registration process is free.
  • This process is simple and easy. Customers must enter their desired price and bid range on the website or portal. Your car dealer agent will place the bid you set for the vehicle in the auction. The customer will not be required to give the dealer money if their request is unsuccessful.
  • After placing a bid, the auction’s results are posted online to let clients know. The consumers receive these results through email at the given email addresses. If your request is accepted, you will receive an invoice with the CIF (Cost of Insurance and Freight) and the available payment options.
  • Payment must be made for the invoice your auto dealer created and submitted if your bid is successful and the results are emailed to you.

25 Years Import Law

You would have realized by now that the 25-year law is the major obstacle to importing cars from Japan.

This regulation prohibits the importation of Japanese automobiles and vehicles that are older than 25 years. Any car under 25 years old can enter the U.S. without meeting state-imposed requirements. Furthermore, it is legally banned to import any vehicle into the United States that is 24 years old or younger.

The law’s purpose is for American automakers to build vehicles following the FMVSS regulations. The design of the cars takes into account the American traffic and road infrastructure. Plus, it considers technologies for preventing accidents, impact resistance, survival in accidents, Fuel consumption standards, and EPA environmental compliance standards.

The 25-year import law is in place because Japanese automakers do not design their vehicles with the American traffic system. So, this strict law prevents many Americans from importing cars from another country.

What are NHTSA And FMVSS

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is a department of the USA Federal Gov. “Save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce vehicle-related crashes” is its goal statement. They are the last arbiters of what is lawful and unlawful on American streets and work for the Department of Transportation.

The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) are prescriptive federal laws in the United States that outline the standards for motor vehicles’ structure, performance, and durability. The safety standards establish the minimum performance requirements for manufacturers and the machinery used to create a car.

Taxes On Importing Cars From Japan

  • Following the amount you paid for it, you must pay a duty fee on your car. For vehicles, the duty rate is 2.5 percent, while for trucks, it is 24 percent.
  • A 2.5 percent auto charge, a 24 to 25 percent truck duty, and a 2.4 percent motorcycle duty are all applied to imported vehicles into the U.S. The cost determines the amount of responsibility.
  • Certain imported vehicles are liable to U.S. gas guzzler taxes, depending on the type of your car. Pay those taxes if your car gets fewer than 22.5 miles per gallon, as assessed by the manufacturer or a third-party expert in the U.S.
  • Visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles to register your imported vehicle and obtain state license plates (DMV). Please inquire what paperwork they require from you or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are needed to complete these procedures for a foreign vehicle.


Due to the various state department-imposed laws and regulations in America, importing a car built in Japan can be challenging. A vehicle over 25 may struggle to enter the United States; only specific circumstances allow it. Like importing it for a year and then returning it.

The NHTSA and FMVVS have such rigorous restrictions that most individuals cannot import cars from Japan. People prefer to buy new vehicles rather than ones that are 25 years old.

The taxes and clearness process itself makes the import of Japanese made cars very difficult. Contact any reputable shipping firm if you wish to purchase a 25-year-old vehicle, and they will provide detailed instructions on importing it.

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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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Edison, NJ 08837
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