Importing Jeeps Into North America

Mahindra Grille
Jeep fans in North America often suggest that "real" Jeeps are those built by Willys-Overland and their successors in Toledo, Ohio. Similar vehicles built under licence by manufacturers in other countries (see Jeeps Around the World) are often considered merely curious variations. But bringing one of these variations (such as a long-wheelbase CJ-3B) to North America can still be an appealing idea. And the lure of the "brand new CJ" continues to tantalize potential American buyers, although as of this writing, only Mahindra in India is still regularly producing Jeeps outside the U.S. (the photo shows a Mahindra KZ4 assembled in Greece in the early 1990's.)

Stories circulating on the Internet in the late 1990's described large lots of new right-hand-drive military CJ-3Bs for sale at bargain prices, but no photographs or documentation of these "mystery Jeeps" ever surfaced. Most observers doubt that these particular Jeeps ever existed, but the stories were persistent. (One enterprising liquidator claiming to offer these Jeeps for sale, faxed some photographs to potential customers. The fuzzy black & white pictures turned out to be photos of Joe Caprio's 1963 Navy CJ-3B, downloaded from CJ3B.info and printed backwards to look like right-hand-drive.)

Anyone contemplating buying a vehicle for import into the United States should be aware of a number of government regulations which can make the process difficult and often prohibitively expensive. A February 1997 U.S. Customs auction in New Orleans offered 70 confiscated non-compliant Mahindra Jeeps apparently intended for Dolly Parton's "Dollyland" theme park. The auction was advertised on the web (although they didn't quite get the spelling right -- see the ad below), but it's unknown whether the vehicles were ever sold.

Jeeps for Auction, 28 Feb. 1997

U.S. Vehicle Import Regulations

U.S. Customs Publication No. 520, "Importing a Car", reads in part:

"Most vehicles manufactured abroad that conform with U.S. safety, bumper, and emission standards are exported expressly for sale in the United States; therefore, it is unlikely that a vehicle obtained abroad meets all relevant standards. Be skeptical of claims by a foreign dealer or other seller that a vehicle meets these standards or can readily be brought into compliance.
"Nonconforming vehicles entering the United States must be brought into compliance, exported, or destroyed.
"Since Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation requirements are subject to frequent changes, we recommend that you contact these agencies before buying a vehicle abroad."

And here's a little paragraph that's perhaps particularly relevant to Jeeps: "To safeguard against importation of dangerous pests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the undercarriage of imported cars be free of foreign soil. Have your car steam-sprayed or cleaned thoroughly before shipment."

U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Importation Requirements are available on the web.

A 2015 web page from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency covering Procedures for Importing Vehicles and Engines into the United States includes the PDF document Overview of EPA Import Requirements for Vehicles and Engines.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection also has a page of inform ation and links on Importing a Motor Vehicle.

Older Vehicles

On CJ3B.info, see Ben Wallace's story of importing a jeepney from the Philippines to Texas, which suggests that in some states at least, importation of a vehicle may not be a big problem if it is over 25 years old.

Jeremy Gerrish said recently, "I imported my '56 from the Swiss Army 3 years ago when I got out of the Air Force. I bought it in the Netherlands and shipped it out of Antwerp, Belgium into Port Hueneme, California. The shipping was about $1,000 but I got all that back when I claimed it as part of my move for taxes. I had to clear customs but all the lady did was review the paperwork. I didn't have to modify it at all, I believe because of its age. A newer vehicle might be subject to emissions laws but most newer ones are diesel so it might not matter.

"Another consideration with them is other laws like side impact stuff, basically the same reason VW Beetles couldn't be imported from Mexico. I don't know a lot about that kind of thing. When I was planning my move back to the States I tried to call and e-mail customs, EPA and a few other regulatory agencies to get the scoop on importation procedures, without much luck. Basically they told me that they would have to have the vehicle sitting in front of them to make a determination as to what it needed. As it turned out I didn't need anything. I think there was a $75 importation fee but that's nominal. Good luck whoever does this."

Importing "Parts"

In 2002, Terry Sizemore had this suggestion for an approach that might work for importing a newer vehicle:

"I'm a design engineer (on 4x4/driveline systems) in Detroit. In my career I have worked with many of the FMVSS requirements, which are the main loopholes for importing vehicles into the US. Several people in the USA are selling the new Mexican VW Beetles. I tracked down a few and had some discussions with them (because of my desire to import a Mahindra Jeep).

"FMVSS requires all automobile manufactures that intend on selling vehicles in the USA to completely comply with all the FMVSS requirements, if that manufacturer manufactures over 100 vehicles per year, which Mahindra does. But you can import parts and sub-assemblies to the USA. GM and Ford do it every day.

"Many VW Beetle fans that want the new-old style Beetle that is still being manufactured for Mexico, import the car without the wheels, steering wheel and seats. They import it as a single part. Assembly is finished here in the USA and they title the car with a name like "2002 Grasshopper" and they sell less than 100 units per year. Other VW importers take the VIN Plate (from a clear titled old VW), steering wheel and hubcaps to Mexico, put the few old parts on a new VW and claim they had their old VW restored and that most of the parts on the vehicle were replaced while they were there. I have always wondered about doing that with Mahindra Jeeps.

"I have not tried any of these options yet."

Importing Vehicles Into Canada

Revenue Canada charges duty on vehicles imported from countries other than the U.S., and requires that they be either brand new or more than 15 years old.

A document on "Importation of Used or Second-Hand Motor Vehicles" states that:

"Vehicles less than 15 years old, manufactured to comply with the safety standards of neither Canada nor the United States, do not comply with Canadian safety standards, are not eligible for registration with the Registrar, and are not eligible for importation."
"The current Motor Vehicle Safety Act requires vehicles to comply to Canadian safety standards at time of importation and be so certified by the original manufacturer. The onus rests with the purchaser/importer to determine the compliance status of the vehicle being imported into Canada."

See Transport Canada's guide to Importing Vehicles Into Canada.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) requires that "All regulated commodities must be washed free of sand, soil, earth and plant residue in the country of origin."

The above information reflects what I have been able to find as of the date of this update. Further or updated information is welcome. -- Derek Redmond

For more details on the variety of Jeeps built under licence outside North America, see Jeeps Around the World.

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Last updated 27 December 2015 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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