How Much Does a Car Import Cost?

How much does a car import cost?

Even though there are so many kinds of cars readily available in the U.S., there are many reasons you would want to import one. If you are moving to the U.S. from a foreign country, you may want to keep your own car. Another reason is that you can find many affordable used cars in good condition in other countries that you’d have to pay much more for them in the U.S. Finally, there are car enthusiasts who might have their eyes set on a car that isn’t available in the U.S.

But when you find the car of your dreams, there’ll be one big problem – it’s on the other side of the world. And the process of importing a car is something many people wouldn’t want to get into. It’s complex, paperwork-filled, and expensive. So you better consider getting help from one of the many vehicle transport services across the U.S.

Cost To Import A Car

Auto import to Canada or U.S usually costs between $2,500 and $5,000. And that’s on top of the car price! Factors like the make, model, year, law of the country the car are coming from and the country it is arriving in are these influential factors.

By reading this article, you will know the costs and complications of importing a car. It also helps you to decide whether you should handle the process by yourself or use one of the registered car importers.

We will now go through the process and break down the different steps of importing a car in detail and all the fees associated with each step:

Shipping cost

Importing a car from Europe to North America should only cost you around $1,000 – $1,500. But the maximum amount could go up to about $5,000, depending on the shipping method used. There are three main options for shipping: using a shared container, a private container, or a roll-on/roll-off service. Roll-on/roll-off is the least expensive shipping method, with nearly half the price of containers, but cars are more easily damaged in the process.

A car importer checking vehicle before export/ import in & near Blaine and Vancouver

Shared containers are more expensive than roll-on/roll-off containers. However, they’re not too costly as multiple cars can be transported in a single container, and the fees are split among all car owners.

A private container has the high-level security of a fully enclosed container with no waiting time for other cars. It’s the most expensive and the fastest option,  most suitable for classic cars.

Duty fees for importing vehicles

Whether new or used, vehicles made abroad are usually subject to duty when imported into the U.S. You can expect to pay 2.5% for a car, 25% for a truck, and 2.4% for a motorcycle. The duty is based on the price you paid for the vehicle.

Additional Costs:

The good thing about working with car importers is that you won’t be surprised by unexpected fees. However, if you’re trying the process on your own, here are some extra costs to consider:

International bank fees

Using an international bank account to make payments for vehicles may involve additional bank fees. Domestic wire transfers can cost around $20 to $30, but international wire transfers can cost more than $50. Also, smaller international banks tend to reroute funds through a number of banks, resulting in more fees.

Ground transport

Obviously, you want to keep your dream car in the same condition as when you purchased it. Most cars can be transported on an open auto carrier with no problem, but classic cars should be transported with enclosed carriers. This will protect your beloved car from bad weather, road conditions, rock chips, and in the unlikely case that it is parked underneath another car, which could leak oil, coolant, or other harmful fluids. An enclosed transport usually costs 1.5 to 2 times more than an open carrier.

Inspection Fees

The last thing anyone wants is to have their container pulled for a random inspection by Customs, but it can happen. If customs pulls the container for inspection, you as the shipper are responsible for paying all inspection fees.

How much does a car import cost?

A Customs inspection can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000, and even if your container passes inspection, you still have to pay all fees. However, random customs inspections are rare. Less than 10% of containers are ever pulled for a random inspection. But if your car does not pass, it will be exported, and that’s another reason you should work with trusted car importers.

Marine insurance

Shipping overseas is considered to be a safe and reliable method for transporting goods, but you wouldn’t want to be stuck with the bill if your container falls overboard. The insurance usually costs around 2% of the car value, so it would be less than 600$ for a 30,000$ car.

Other things to consider

In case you decide to do it yourself, there are many things to consider since the process involves many parties and can be complex:

Documentation needed:

First, you need to start with documentation.

  • Customs will require the following documents when you import a vehicle into the U.S.: Shipping Documentation, which includes the Shipping Original Bill of Lading and the Vehicle License Documentation. 
  • Passport/VISA (always keep a copy in case they need it)
  • EPA Form 3520-1 (the United States Environmental Protection Agency Website)
  • DOT Form HS-7 (PDF) 

When it comes to importing your car, understanding the laws based on whether it is under 25 years old or over 25 years old can greatly affect the process and costs. So you need to that:

If your vehicle is under 25 years old:

Then there will be additional documentation, and the process will be much more difficult and more expensive than if it was an older model. The vehicle must conform to the U.S. Safety and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission standards. If it doesn’t meet the requirement, you’ll need to contact one of the registered auto importers to make the necessary modifications. 

If your vehicle is Over 25 Years Old

If your car is more than 25 years old, you can import it into the U.S. regardless of whether it conforms to U.S. safety and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission standards or not.

Make Your Prior Arrangements:

If auto importers do not do the importing process, you, as the purchaser and importer, are responsible for making prior arrangements with your shipping carrier. Some say it is best to have a trusted connection in the exporting country, as sending money to people on the other side of the world can be stressful. But we believe that it is best to hire one of the registered U.S. car importers to assist you in handling the car entry.


Paperwork is probably the biggest concern you’ll have during this process. A step that doesn’t get a lot of attention but is one of the most challenging in the importation process. Auto importers can assist you with this complex and high quantity of paperwork that is not easily handled by an ordinary person unfamiliar with government processes.


This will be one of the last steps and is another important part of the process that you can work out with a car importer. Once customs has cleared your car and you have passed emissions testing and paid taxes, you will need to present your registration again.

How Can Car Importers Help You?

While all of this may appear to be relatively straightforward to some, it’s actually expensive and can be highly stressful. The process of finding a car from a reputable dealer and making sure that all the ducks are in a row before you get the car is no easy task. Remember you’re purchasing a 25-year-old, multi-thousand-dollar piece of equipment from a stranger. You don’t even know if the car runs before you get it!car importer

So if you feel the process is overwhelming, you’ll be happy to know that we are one of the trusted U.S. car importers, based in Blaine, WA. We will gladly handle all of these problems for you. We’ll find you a good car, manage all foreign affairs, and deal with CBP and shipping on your behalf. This is probably the most realistic path for most people who want to import a car.

Want to know how much it would cost to import your dream to U.S. or Canada? Contact us and get a free quote today.

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