Importing a race car into the US

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Importing a race car into the US
Importing a race car into the US

Importing a race car into the US

When importing a race car into the US, the first thing you must take into consideration are the requirements of the Federal Government. These are requirements of:

  1. The NHTSA
  2. THE EPA
  3. The US ICE / Customs / Homeland Security

To import an automobile legally in the eyes of the NHTSA, you need to fill a HS7 form. On it, you have a series of boxes / options for the imported automobile. For race / off-highway vehicles there are boxes 7 and 8.

Box 7 confirms your automobile is not built according to FMVSS, but you’re importing it for competitive racing events, investigation, research, training, or demonstrations. Your vehicle will be in the United States on a temporary basis, and the NHTSA must give you a letter of permission. The racing event’s competitive aspect is very important. In case of temporary imports, after the allotted period expires, the vehicle must either be destroyed or exported.

When permanently importing a race car into the US, click box 8. These are automobiles created specifically for racing purposes, without being converted from street cars. In general, the EPA and NHTSA will want manufacturer statements saying the automobile was created for racing.

You can declare an automobile originally built for racing as an off road vehicle on the HS-7 Declaration under box 8, which you will give to Customs (Bureau of Customs and Border Protection) when importing the vehicle. An automobile like this can be imported permanently into the U.S.

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Importing a race car into the US on a permanent basis, requires that you do the following:

Gain a letter from the automobile’s manufacturer stating it was made as a racing automobile. Upon entry, check the Box 8 of the HS-7 Declaration you will file with customs, stating the vehicle was not created to be used primarily on public roads. Therefore, the vehicle you are importing must not necessarily comply with Federal theft protection, bumper and safety standards.

To the HS-7 document, add a copy of the letter from your vehicle’s manufacturer to be given to Customs.

Importing a race car into the US on a temporary basis, requires you do the following:

Apply for a letter from the NHTSA allowing you to import the automobile temporarily. Upon entry, file a HS-7 form with Customs, and check the box 7, indicating the automobile does not comply with federal theft prevention, bumper, and safety standards, but is imported for the sole purpose of participating in racing events. Attach to the HS-7 form a NHTSA permission letter copy which you give to customs.

EPA Requirements

Racing vehicles may be imported into the United States by anyone interested in doing so. The EPA defines them as being automobiles modified extensively for the purpose of racing, which cannot be used practically and safely on a highway or street, since they do not possess features necessary to practical and safe highway and street use.

These are not limited to, but include a differential, a reverse gear (only applicable to cars), and other features required by Federal Law and / or state. A customs bond is not necessary for the EPA, but a written approval must be gained before obtaining a Customs clearance.

Some race automobiles must comply with emission requirements. Whether or not this is the case for your automobile depends not on the intended use but on the vehicle’s capability. When applying, you must provide this information:

  1. The daytime phone number, address and name of the importer;
  2. Information regarding the vehicle (VIN, model year, make and model);
  3. List of lacking street features which would be necessary for the vehicle to be driven on the highway and / or street;
  4. Racing features list which make the automobile fit for racing;
  5. A minimum of 4 photographs showing each side, the rear and the front of the vehicle. If the vehicle has an interior, photographs of it will be necessary as well;
  6. A racing event schedule, as well as locations and dates where the automobile will participate;
  7. The competition class and sanctioning body’s name;
  8. A racing license copy;
  9. Proof the automobile is unusable for highways and streets, like a state’s DMV (department of motor vehicles) letter explaining the automobile cannot gain a license for public roads’ use, and explains the reasons behind this.

Upon entry, you must speak to Customs and give them a 3520-1 EPA Form and attach a letter of approval from the EPS. Make a copy of the approval letter and keep it in case you need to prove the EPA’s exclusion in the future.


  1. After importing a race car into the US, you may not license or register it for use, nor can you use it on highways and public roads;
  2. If you convert a racing vehicle imported from abroad into a motor automobile fit for street use, after licensing and registering it, you can be considered the manufacturer of the new automobile and forced to pay a daily penalty of $25,000 for not meeting the emission requirements of the EPA.
Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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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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