- How Does the Vehicle Import Process Work?
- What Countries Do Imported Vehicles Come From?
- What is the Most Imported Car in the US?
- What is the 25-Year Rule?
- How Can I Import a Vehicle?
Motor vehicles are consistently among the most imported products in the United States. In 2022, nearly $330 billion of automobiles were imported from international markets. Vehicle imports represented 9.8% of all imports.
This market share shows that the import of vehicles remains a robust industry. The cars imported include light, pickup, mini, commercial, exotic, and gray market vehicles.
US Customs does not make the vehicle import process easy, and the auto industry will always pass along the cost associated with this process to the consumer unless you are importing from a private seller.
But companies like A1 Auto Transport are here to do the heavy lifting for you if you are buying a car that requires importation from another country.
How Does the Vehicle Import Process Work?
Numerous hurdles in the import process involve several United States government organizations and regulations, including the following:
- Road vehicles under 25 must comply with Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation regulations. This ensures that the same federal safety and emission standards apply to imports as to domestic content. The EPA sets minimum standards for everything from emissions to air conditioning systems in automobiles in the United States.
- The transportation method must be chosen. Many vehicles are imported on cargo ships that use a container to ship goods, so a port of entry must also be selected. US Customs provides an interactive port-of-entry map.
- Imported cars must clear US Customs. The entire contents of vehicles must be declared to avoid seizures. It's best to remove all personal belongings from any vehicles before importation.
- Documentation must be in order, and all duties must be paid.
- Vehicles must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles and obtain license plates and stickers.
What Countries Do Imported Vehicles Come From?
In 2022, the United States imported cars from 78 different countries.
Here are the top ten countries of origin for vehicles imported to the US in 2022, along with the total value of the imports and their percentage of the imported auto market:
- Mexico: $36.5 billion (21.7%) - Mexico attracts many foreign brands to build their vehicles there because of Mexico's low labor costs, low energy costs, free trade agreements, and other incentives. American car companies like Ford Motor Company build many vehicles in Mexico.
- Japan: $33.5 billion (19.9%) - Japanese cars are wildly popular in the United States. Japanese brands like Honda Motor Co, Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corporation have collectively claimed up to 40% of the total US auto market share in recent years. Some Japanese brands have even set up shop in the United States. Nissan North America is headquartered in Tennessee. They do research and development, vehicle exports, automotive design, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution, and manufacturing.
- Canada: $26.4 billion (15.7%) - Our neighbor in North America, Canada, represents a healthy percentage of US vehicle imports. Thanks in part to a favorable exchange rate, free trade agreements, and differences in sticker prices of thousands of dollars on near-identical vehicles, Canadian-made cars in the United States are more common than most people think. And because of thousands of miles of a shared border with the United States, neither country has to worry about a lack of port cities for shipping.
- South Korea: $22.2 billion (13.2%) - Home of the Hyundai Motor Company, South Korea has made huge inroads into the US import market since they first started shipping in 1986.
- Germany: $19.5 billion (11.6%) - German car brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Porsche have dominated the luxury car market in the United States for decades. The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is a legendary part of Mercedes-Benz G-Class history, and Mercedes-Benz USA is headquartered near Atlanta, Georgia. The Audi TT has had a 25-year run in the roadster and compact coupe markets.
- United Kingdom: $6.5 billion (3.8%) - The United Kingdom car brands you might see on the public roads here in the United States include the newly revitalized Mini Cooper, Land Rover, the luxurious Bentley, and the legendary Lotus sports car.
- Slovakia: $4.7 billion (2.8%) - Slovakia may not be best known in the United States as a car-manufacturing country. Still, brands like Kia, Volkswagen, and Peugeot use Slovakian factories to assemble some of their cars.
- Italy: $3.6 billion (2.1%) - Alfa Romeo has been another mainstay among foreign brands in the United States and even had a heyday of appearing in several American movies in the 1960s and 1970s, including The Godfather.
- Sweden: $3.4 billion (2%) - One word: Volvo. The safest car in the world is built in Sweden.
- China: $2.6 billion (1.5%) - Imports from China have shot up 41.4% over the last year. Ford is now manufacturing some of their Lincolns in a Chinese factory. Meanwhile, Hong Kong is a prolific manufacturer of OEM parts.
What is the Most Imported Car in the US?
Tracking the most imported make or model into the United States can be challenging. Still, the Toyota Camry has consistently been the most imported foreign-made vehicle over the last several years. The Camry is famous in the US and worldwide, making it one of the best-selling cars ever.
Other popular imports include Toyota Corollas, several Honda Motor Co., Ltd. models, and Nissan Skylines, Altimas, and Rogues.
The last few years have also seen many foreign luxury cars land on American soil. Personal preference will always play a significant factor in how luxury cars come into the United States, but import rules, digital trends, and suitable ports also play a part.
What is the 25-Year Rule?
The 25-year import rule prohibits importing vehicles under 25 years old that don't comply with American safety and emissions regulations. The Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988 became law in the winter of 1988, effectively banning any vehicles that were not new or over 25 years old from coming into the United States.
This controversial law rationalized that vehicles over 25 could be considered "classic" or "antique" cars and were suddenly exempt from current safety and emissions regulations. Because of this 25-year import rule, people in the United States often celebrate their dream car's 25th "birthday" since they can finally import it on or after this date.
Cars like the Toyota Chaser and its powerful 243-pound-feet of torque only recently became eligible for import into the United States.
It should be noted that gray market vehicles (vehicles that enter the United States through channels other than the maker's official distribution system) usually come from countries that also have right-hand drive. As a result, fewer imports in this market come from places like South Africa or Caribbean islands like the Caicos Islands.
How Can I Import a Vehicle?
Because of the complicated import process, using a reputable, privately owned transportation company like A1 Auto Transport is essential. Their experts understand US Customs and Border Protection laws and can assure the successful importation of your vehicle into the country.
They can guide you through every step of the import process. The first step is estimating how much it will cost to travel from its origin country to its destination. Then, they'll review a business model and the legal requirements for the best way to ship the vehicle to you.
This includes the best mode of transport, the relevant documents needed from you, and organizing a time frame to receive your new vehicle securely.
They'll also arrange to pack the vehicle, whether it means getting their team to the car's origin location or liaising with the seller's team and delivering the vehicle to you conveniently with door-to-door service.
It all starts by visiting A1 Auto Transport to get a free quote.