Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Hermosa Beach, CA
Buying and importing a car from Europe
Points to consider:
-#1 advice- hire an experienced shipping agent/customs broker in the US- they can help you navigate all the following:
-Importing a car younger than 25 years old is illegal, unless it was specifically manufactured for the US market. Don't try it.
-1968 cars and later "may" have to meet basic EPA emission standards. (my car was not subject to any additional scrutiny on this account even though it was titled as a 1968).
-How are you going to pay for a car in Europe? Are you going to wire funds to a complete stranger? Don't expect to use a credit card for any portion of the purchase or shipping-wire only or cash. I felt comfortable wiring money because I met the seller and he was an established dealer. Some shipping agents offer overseas escrow services (for $$) if needed.
-What exchange rate on Euros are you going to get? You will NOT get the spot inter-bank Euro conversion rate you see on Google. You can expect to pay another 2 1/2%-5% for the car just for the retail conversion rate. The best rate was actually using my local banks' international rate-yes you can get a slightly better deal using a currency service, but a time-drain. Also, watch the daily Euro/Dollar rate fluctuations, they can add to (or subtract from) the price of your car at an alarming rate.
-You can use one of the blue-chip brokers in the US to arrange shipping and you will get blue-chip service and pay a blue-chip price. I used a shipper recommended by the seller (Marlog) and their US customs broker (CFR Rinkens). I was extremely satisfied with the price and services. Use a shipper that specializes in classic car shipping (ask).
- 2 types of car shipping-RORO roll-on, roll-off (think car ferry) and enclosed container (more expensive). Ask the shipper which way is faster, if it matters. I got a fantastic deal sharing a container with three other cars- total for the ocean voyage $1600 US from Rotterdam to Los Angeles. About 30 days. You can track the progress of the ship just like a Fedex package.
-Insurance. The shipper does not carry insurance for acts of nature or accidents during transportation. Hagerty and others do. The shipper can also recommend a 3rd party insurer. Expect to pay about $500 per $100,000 value. Covers voyage and warehousing on both ends too.
-You don't have to use a US customs broker, you can do all the paperwork yourself, but they will make sure you don't make a mistake and you don't have to be there when the car arrives.
-Roughly, total customs fees and bonds can run about $1500 plus a flat US duty of 2.5% of the value of the car. My container was selected for random x-ray screening for an additional cost (to me!) of $75. Using a broker could add a $1000 or more to that total for their services. Again, rough estimates.
-A word about values. You are expected (for customs duty and state DMV purposes) to put down the price you paid for the car, supported by a bill of sale, and that's what I recommend you should do. The actual customs documents ask you to state the value of the merchandise. I think if you can point to a nationally recognized car valuation service (like Hagerty's) and your purchase price falls within their current valuations, you should be safe. You may find trouble if you value falls outside that range (my opinion only).
Coming next: Part 2, How to avoid California sales tax legally on an imported car.
'62 Giulietta Sprint Normale
Last edited by phila3885; 06-02-2016 at 10:23 AM.