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CARB (California Air Resources Board) if you are in California

CBP (US Customs and Border Protection)

DHS (Department of Homeland Security)

DMV (Local Department of Motor Vehicles)

DOT (Department of Transportation)

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)

NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration part of the DOT)

25 Year NHTSA Exemption

A motor vehicle that is at least 25 years old can be lawfully imported into the U.S. without regard to whether it complies with all applicable FMVSS. Such a vehicle would be entered under Box 1 on the HS-7 Declaration form to be given to Customs at the time of importation. You should note that the 25 year period runs from the date of the vehicle's manufacture. If the date of manufacture is not identified on a label permanently affixed to the vehicle by its original manufacturer, to establish the age of the vehicle, you should have documentation available such as an invoice showing the date the vehicle was first sold or a registration document showing that the vehicle was registered at least 25 years ago. Absent such information, a statement from a recognized vehicle historical society identifying the age of the vehicle could be used. http://www.importavehicle.info/2011/01/hs7-form-importation-of-motor-vehicles.html

21 Year EPA Exemption in Original Configuration

If the vehicle is at least 21 years old, there are no EPA compliance requirements upon importation. The age of the vehicle is determined by subtracting the calendar year of manufacture from the calendar year of importation. If the calendar year of manufacture is unavailable, the importer may substitute the model year or year of first registration. For instance, to qualify in 2001, the vehicle must have been manufactured in 1980 or earlier. The vehicle must be in its original unmodified configuration. Vehicles at least 21 years old with replacement engines are not eligible for this exemption unless they contain equivalent or newer EPA certified engines.

No approval or Customs bond is required by EPA. The importer must also prove to Customs, as required, that the vehicle or engine was manufactured prior to EPA regulation. Documents such as a title, or letter from the original manufacturer may be used for this purpose.The importer must file with Customs, upon entry, an EPA Form 3520-1 and declare code E on that form. http://www.importavehicle.info/2014/04/21-year-old-epa-exempt-vehicles-3520-1.html

Importing Questions

1) What cars are legal to import now?

A - Vehicles that are over 25 years old by month/year. So if a car was manufactured this month in 1997, it would now be over 25 years old and legal.

2) I want to import a 1998 R33 or 1999 R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R now.

A - Cars over 25 years old, from date of manufacture are legal to import.  January 1998 cars January 2023, etc

3) What about vehicles less than 25 years old?

A - Under 49 U.S.C. § 30112(a), a person may not permanently import into the United States a motor vehicle manufactured after the date that an applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) takes effect unless the vehicle complies with the standard and is so certified by its original manufacturer. This prohibition applies to both new and used motor vehicles, but does not apply to motor vehicles that are at least 25 years old (based on the month and year of manufacture).

If a motor vehicle was manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS, and bears a label certifying such compliance that was permanently affixed by its original manufacturer, there is no need for NHTSA approval before the vehicle is imported. However, the manufacturer would have to submit to the agency information identifying it and the products that it manufactures that are subject to our standards no later than 30 days after manufacturing begins. In addition, the manufacturer would have to submit to us information necessary to decipher the VIN that it must assign to each motor vehicle it manufactures for sale in the U.S. If the vehicle manufacturer is not located in the U.S. the manufacturer must also designate a U.S. resident as its agent for service of process.

If the vehicle is less than 25 years old and was not originally manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS, and/or was not so certified by its original manufacturer, it cannot be lawfully imported into the U.S. on a permanent basis unless NHTSA determines it eligible for importation. The agency makes those determinations on its own initiative or the basis of a petition from a registered importer. These are business entities that are specifically approved by NHTSA to import nonconforming vehicles and to perform the necessary modifications on those vehicles so that they conform to all applicable FMVSS. The petitions must specify that the vehicle is substantially similar to a vehicle that was certified by its original manufacturer as conforming to all applicable FMVSS and is capable of being readily altered to conform to those standards, or, if there is no substantially similar U.S.-certified vehicle, that the vehicle has safety features that comply with, or are capable of being altered to comply with, the FMVSS based on destructive test information or other evidence the agency deems adequate. Import eligibility decisions are made on a make, model, and model year basis.

An additional requirement for the lawful importation of a nonconforming vehicle is that it be imported by a registered importer (RI) or by an individual who has contracted with an RI to bring the vehicle into conformity with all applicable FMVSS. A bond in an amount equivalent to 150 percent of the declared value of the vehicle must be given at the time of importation to ensure that the necessary modifications are completed within 120 days of entry. A list of RI's can be found at https://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/import/ You might want to contact one or more of the listed RIs to obtain their opinion on the feasibility of conforming the vehicle that you seek to import to the FMVSS, and the costs involved in petitioning the agency to determine that vehicle to be eligible for importation, as well as the costs for conforming the vehicle to the FMVSS.

4) What about R34 Nissan Skyline?

A - The R34 Skyline GT/T were produced from May 1998. The R34 Skyline GT-R was produced from 1999-2002. They will be eligible for import in 1999+25 years = starting in 2024. There are also two R34 GT-R that are legal to import under the very specific Show or Display NHTSA exemption. The 1999 R34 GT-R Vspec in Midnight Purple II, and the 2002 R34 GT-R Mspec Nur. No other R34 have currently been approved for Show or Display. http://toprankjdm.com/BuyR34 How to Buy and Store an R34 GT-R in Japan until 2024

5) What about R33 Nissan Skyline?

A - The R33 Skyline GTS/T versions were produced from August 1993. The R33 Skyline GT-R was produced from 1995-1998. They will start being eligible for import in 1995+25 years = starting in 2020. The 1996-1998 Nissan Skyline GT-R is eligible to the US under VCP-32, however this vehicle must be modified to meet NHTSA and EPA requirements if under 25 and 21 years old. Please call or email us for more details.

6) Can you import a shell? No engine, no transmission?

A - No engine and transmission, missing any FMVSS related items is considered vehicle parts by the NHTSA. Unless it constitutes a disassembled vehicle, the EPA looks at it the same way. However, the problem with this is then legally turning the parts into a car is a tricky situation. We only want to be involved with importing legal complete vehicles. Imported legally means less hassles down the road.

7) Do you also import LHD Euro spec cars or just RHD JDM?

A - Yes, 25 year old vehicles from anywhere. Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand. If there is a particular car you are looking for, ask, and we should be able to locate one.

8) Can we change the engine or must it be left in original configuration?

A - The vehicle must be in its original unmodified configuration. Vehicles at least 21 years old with replacement engines are not eligible for this exemption unless they contain equivalent or newer EPA certified engines. 3520-1 Importation of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Engines Subject to Federal Air Pollution Regulations.

9) I want to import a vehicle for track use only in California, what is the process?

A - Vehicles over 25 years old are NHTSA exempt for import to the US. Vehicles over 21 years old in original configuration are EPA exempt for import to the US. Racing cars fall under different requirements for importation. There are no specific regulations for track use only, however California does identify racing vehicles as - "racing vehicle" means a motor vehicle of a type used exclusively in a contest of speed or in a competitive trial of speed which is not intended for use on the highways."

10) Is my imported car legal?

A - Check out this blog post, on what to look for on imported vehicles. Paperwork, and history are very important. Anyone owning a direct import vehicle should have the paperwork shown in this post. http://www.importavehicle.info/2011/11/is-my-imported-car-legal.html

Shipping Questions

1) How do you ship vehicles?

A - We mostly ship vehicles Ro-Ro or roll on roll off. This is the same way, and on the same ships as new vehicles. We occasionally ship vehicles via container, but the prefered method is Ro-Ro.

2) Can I purchase parts and put them in the vehicle that I am also importing?

A - If a vehicle is shipped Ro-Ro then no parts are able to be shipped in the vehicle. If we ship via container, then it is possible, however please contact us first.

3) Where do you ship to?

A - Toprank International Vehicle Importers ships our JDM cars primarily to the port at Long Beach/Los Angeles, California.

Cost Questions

1) What does it cost to import a vehicle that is not already in stock in the US?

A - If the vehicle is in stock in the US, there are no additional import fees. Contact us for an estimate on current shipping and clearing charges. (sales@importavehicle.com).Those fees are as follows: Purchase and transport costs in Japan, Freight forwarder in Japan, THD Fee, Express Mail and Money order THD, ISF Filing, Bond and Surety Fee, 2.5 % Tariff(of the invoice value), 0.3464 Processing Fee, Customs Entry Fee, local US Transport. Beware of price quotes from other importers that don't include all costs, if a car arrives in the USA, and money is due, you have to pay those costs or lose your car.

2) How much will an R34 cost in 2024?

A - It is hard to speculate on pricing years away. Nissan produced 43,937 R32 GT-R's - and 16,674 R33 GT-Rs - They are not producing any more, so the supply is limited. Demand for good cars is worldwide. In the case of the R34 only 11,577 were produced. We expect the R34 GT-R’s in good condition to be trading hands for $250,000 or more in 2024.

Buying Questions

1) Will the vehicle arrive directly to me? or a port near me?

A - Our vehicles primarily arrive at the Long Beach, California port. The customer can pick up in person or we truck to their location for additional cost. https://www.importavehicle.com/blog/nationwide-shipping-available

3) Do you finance?

A - We offer third party financing with as little as zero down. For best results we recommend a minimum credit score of 690 with several years of credit history. Multiple account types within your credit history, like credit cards, a car loan or other installment loan and a mortgage. Strong payment history with few or no delinquencies. Typical interest rates are between 3.69% - 7.49% at a five year term. Terms up to 84 months are available. Rates and terms are dependent on the results of your application. The car you wish to purchase can be in the United States or in our inventory in Japan.  Yes, we can finance vehicles in our inventory in Japan as long as they are stored with us. This financing option is only available to US residents. 

Please Email or call us for more information. sales@importavehicle.com or 844-523-2233 https://www.importavehicle.com/blog/financing-your-dream-import-car

4) Can I come and view the vehicle?

A - Please, we encourage it. We want you to be 100% certain of the vehicle you are purchasing. Please call 844-523-2233 or email sales@importavehicle.com for an appointment.

5) Can I drive the vehicle away from your location?

A - Due to California regulations, you are required to tow/transport the vehicle from our office in California unless you pay sales tax. If you pay California sales tax, you can drive away on a temporary registration.

6) Can I buy a car that is not 25 years old, and store it in Japan?

A - Yes. We now offer this service. There are several options, so please email us for more information. How to Buy and Store an R34 GT-R in Japan until 2024


1) Who can insure my car?

Every company handles insurance differently. Where you live, how long you have been driving, and the value of the vehicle are all factors It is best to contact your insurance company directly to find out how they will handle insurance. https://www.importavehicle.com/blog/insuring-your-japanese-imported-car

A couple of specialty insurance companies.



Title/Registration Questions

1) Can I title/ register this car in my state?

A - Every state has different title and registration requirements. It is best to check with your local laws for specific information on title and registration. Federally, for importation, vehicles over 25 years old are NHTSA exempt, and over 21 years old in original configuration are EPA exempt. https://www.importavehicle.com/blog/vehicle-title-and-titling-information-by-state

2) My imported car doesn't have a 17 digit VIN, can you help me?

A - Vehicles over 25 years old are not required to meet FMVSS standards. Each state handles title and registration. They may have some specific title requirements, but please read this newsletter from the NHTSA before they "assign" a VIN to your vehicle. http://www.importavehicle.info/2014/03/can-i-have-two-vins-on-my-car-or-vin.html

3) I didn't get a title with my car. What is an Export Certificate?

A - The export certificate is the Japanese equivalent of a title. Most states require a translated copy of the export certificate as it is mostly in Japanese.

4) Can you help me with title and registration in California?

A - Yes we will if we sell you the car. California has its own EPA called the ARB. Direct Import(or Gray Market) vehicles are vehicles, 1975 or newer, that were manufactured outside the United States for which the original manufacturer did not obtain California or Federal certification. The EPA normally covers direct import vehicles under the ICI program, but if a vehicle is going to be registered in California, it needs to meet the California Direct Import requirements. More California information. http://www.gtrusablog.com/2015/11/first-california-legal-nissan-skyline.html

Any vehicle 1975 or newer needs to meet these standards otherwise it is not legal to register it in California. A vehicle model year 1975 or older doesn't need a smog(in use test) in California. 1975 would need to meet direct import requirements(FTP testing), but then would not need to be smogged after the initial direct import requirements are met. 1974 or older non USA spec vehicles need to meet EPA requirements per 40CFR Title 85, Subpart P on the date of 11/15/1972.


1976 or newer needs to be smogged in California every 2 years

1975 or newer must meet Direct Import requirements(FTP testing)

1974 or older exempt from smog

1968-1974 Vehicles need to meet EPA requirements per 40CFR Title 85, Subpart P 11/15/1972

1967 or older are exempt from testing/import requirements

6) I have a Nissan Skyline R32,R33,R34 already in the states, could I get it registered?

A - Some states, people manage to title and register anything. However many states are going to require proof of correct importation. Those states are going to want to see customs documentation (7501,3461) that the vehicle legally entered the country. If you can't produce this information, they will not allow you to register the car. Sorry, you should have purchased a legal car from a reputable seller. Make sure the car wasn’t smuggled into the country.


1) What cars can I register in California?

A - We are now able to bring cars into California compliance. More information - http://www.gtrusablog.com/2015/11/first-california-legal-nissan-skyline.html California has its own EPA, called the ARB(Air Resources Board) often called the California Air Resources Board. The ARB sets California requirements. California is the only state to be able to set its own emissions standards, separate from the Federal EPA. So in the case of imported (direct import) vehicles over 21 years old, while they are Federally legal to import, the ARB controls the registration of vehicles though the California DMV. This makes this a difficult question to answer unless you go through all the questions below.

2) What are direct import vehicles?

A - Often also called grey market vehicles. § 39024.6. Direct import vehicle Direct import vehicle means any light-duty motor vehicle manufactured outside of the United States which was not intended by the manufacturer for sale in the United States and which was not certified by the state board pursuant to Article 1 (commencing with Section 43100) of Chapter 2 of Part 5.

Added Stats 1989 ch 859 § 1.

3) What is a used direct import vehicle?

A - 44200. Used direct import vehicle

For purposes of this chapter, used direct import vehicle means any 1975 or later model-year direct import vehicle not required to be certified as a new direct import vehicle pursuant to this part.

For purposes of this section, the age of a motor vehicle shall be determined by the following, in descending order of preference: (a) From the first calendar day of the model year as indicated in the vehicle identification number.

(b) From the last calendar day of the month the vehicle was delivered by the manufacturer as shown on the foreign title document.

(c) From January 1 of the same calendar year as the model year shown on the foreign title document.

(d) From the last calendar day of the month the foreign title document was issued.

Added Stats 1985 ch 1138 § 2. Amended Stats 1986 ch 248 § 154; Stats 1989 ch 859 § 6

4) What vehicles may be registered in California without certification?

A - § 44210. Vehicles which may be registered without certification

The requirements of Section 44202 do not apply to any motor vehicle having a certificate of conformity issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to the federal Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. Section 7401, et seq.) and originally registered in another state by a person who was a resident of that state for at least one year prior to the original registration, who subsequently establishes residence in this state and who, upon registration of the vehicle in California, provides evidence satisfactory to the Department of Motor Vehicles of that previous residence and registration.

Added Stats 1985 ch 1138 § 2.

5) I have a 1974 vehicle that I want to import, can I register it in California.

A - Not without meeting EPA requirements as defined here - http://www.importavehicle.info/2014/12/california-certification-procedures-for.html 1968 model year to 1974 model year vehicles: California does not recommend the purchase or importation of these years of NON-USA vehicles, even if currently registered in another state. These vehicles require compliance with USEPA requirements in effect on the specific date of 11/15/1972. This provision when written, was considered by the California legislature as a gradual phase-out of very dirty "non-collectable" types of imports, as this specific requirement was understood to become increasingly difficult to meet. Today, this requirement, while not impossible to meet, would require testing expenses and modifications that far exceed most vehicles' value and would make little sense from a collectors standpoint to attempt. Some limited exemptions apply to individuals moving to California with vehicles of these years registered in their home state for at least a year before moving to California. Contact us for more information.

6) What year non US spec vehicles are exempt from California emissions requirements?

A - 1967 model year vehicles and older: no modifications and testing are required to register the vehicle in California.

7) What about diesel vehicles into California?

A - 1979 model year and older vehicles with original-equipment diesel engines are exempt from Direct Import lab testing requirements. Please note that any vehicle converted to operate on diesel fuel is subject to lab testing requirements if it is a 1968 model year vehicle or newer.

Show or Display

1) What is Show or Display?

A - A rule permitting entry of nonconforming motor vehicles for purposes of show or display became effective on August 13, 1999. If you wish to import a vehicle for show or display, you must apply to NHTSA for permission to do so and establish that the vehicle is of such historical or technological significance that it is in the public interest to show or display the vehicle in the United States even though it would be difficult or impossible to bring the vehicle into compliance with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards.

This provision is intended to facilitate the importation of historically or technologically significant vehicles that were never certified by their manufacturer for sale in the United States. http://www.showordisplay.com/

2) I want to bring my 1999 Nissan Skyline in under Show or Display, how do I do it?

A - First check out this list, to see if the car is on there on the approved, or not approved list. http://www.showordisplay.com/p/approved-vehicles.html In this case we see the 1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R or the 1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R Vspec are on the NOT approved list. Since there were more than 500 made, these cars don't qualify.

3) I only want to show my car, how do I do it?

A - In determining whether a vehicle is eligible for importation for show or display, NHTSA will consider the following factors, among others:

  1. Whether a vehicle of the same make, model, and model year was manufactured and certified for sale in the United States.
  2. Whether a vehicle of the same make, model, and model year has been determined eligible for importation pursuant to 49 CFR Part 593.
  3. Whether the vehicle is currently in production.
  4. Whether more than 500 of the vehicles were produced.
  5. Whether the vehicle is a kit car, replica, or special construction vehicle.

If the answer to any of the above is affirmative, you should not expect NHTSA to grant permission for importation. If the answer to item 4 is affirmative, the applicant must establish that the vehicle is of exceptional technological and/or historical significance.

4) Can I drive a Show or Display car?

A - A vehicle eligible for Show or Display may receive NHTSA approval to be driven on the highway. The odometer must not register more than 2,500 miles in a 12-month period. NHTSA approval of limited on-road use is to allow the vehicle to be driven to and from nearby displays of similar automobiles. Another reason permission is granted is to maintain the vehicle's engine, braking, lighting, and other dynamic systems in good working order. The vehicle is still required to meet EPA requirements. If the original engine in the vehicle will be replaced with a non-original engine to meet EPA requirements, it must be identified in your application since it may impact on the technological or historical significance of the vehicle.

5) Do cars that meet the 25 year criteria that are approved by DOT and EPA still have a 2500 mile a year limit under the show or display rule?

A - Once vehicles are 25 years old, they are no longer bound to the insurance, and mileage requirements of Show or Display. A Show or Display car is FMVSS exempt, however must meet EPA requirements. At 21 years old, and in original configuration, a vehicle is EPA exempt.