How to Import a Car From Europe Quickly and Efficiently

You can buy tons of foreign cars in the U.S. But just as many Europeans import classic American vehicles, muscle cars, or heavy-duty trucks, Americans also want to get their hands on some European gems. One question to ask is, how much does it cost to ship a car from Europe to the US?

You may be wondering how to import a car from Europe quickly and efficiently given the distance, different driving regulations, and other factors involved. Can it be done? Does it always have to be a nerve-wracking process?

The good news is, it can be done—if you use the correct approach.

It’s a matter of understanding the process, import eligibility conditions, not doing it yourself, avoiding scams, and learning how to overcome the biggest challenges. Read on to learn how to import a car from Europe to US soil.

Before You Import

Before asking international shipping companies to bring you a car from Europe, make sure that model isn’t already available in the U.S. Some manufacturers may release models with different features for European and American buyers, but there are plenty of crossovers on the market.

If the car you want wasn’t made for U.S. distribution, you might have no other option but to ship vehicle from overseas. Europe car import processes, however, can be complex due to the differences in regulations.

For example, not every car you want can be driven legally in the U.S. European and American emissions laws can differ greatly. Before you worry about how to import a car from Europe, you should be certain that you can bring it into the country and drive it.

Reviewing state emission laws is necessary when preparing to import a vehicle not originally created for driving in the U.S.

You may also want to consult with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) The NHTSA has an extensive list of vehicles eligible for import. This list even includes classic and vintage cars, for which regulations can be even trickier due to having older manufacture dates.

If you can’t find the car you want on the list, working with a Department of Transportation (DOT)-registered importer can be helpful.

Familiarizing yourself with EPA regulations is vital before engaging in shipping cars from Europe to USA for driving. Every vehicle that arrives at customs must meet specific hydrocarbon, nitrous oxide, and other particulate emissions ratings.

Some exceptions to this include various vehicles built before 1968 and categorized as classics or race cars.

It’s also worth noting that cars 25 years old can be considered classic these days and imported under this designation. This may allow you to skip some of the paperwork and complete the import process more efficiently.

Can You Import a Car From Europe That You Can’t Drive?

The good news is that you can import pretty much any car from Europe, even if you can’t legally drive it. It will, however, make the shipping process and clearing customs more complicated.

You can still do this as long as you convert the vehicle to U.S. standards. This could mean changing the odometer and exhaust system and making other modifications to help it pass DOT and EPA tests.

It’s not ideal if you’re gunning for a quick and efficient Europe car import experience.

Thinking About Shipping Cars Overseas? Here's The Only Guide You'll Ever NeedShipping Cars From Europe to USA Turnaround Times

Everyone wants to know the cost to import a car from Europe and how much it takes to get it. The truth is that turnaround times and costs vary a lot, and are based on multiple factors.

Distance is a big influencing factor. For instance, it can take as little as 30 days to ship a vehicle from the U.K. to the U.S. Shipping the same car from Switzerland might have a minimal turnaround estimate considerably longer or shorter.

When it comes to turnaround times and quotes, distance is a weird variable. Some carriers may bring your car from the U.K. in 30 days but can do it in 14 days if you’re importing it from France. Given the proximity of the two countries, this shouldn’t be the case.

But here’s why this happens. Not all shippers have the same connections, priorities, or work with the same ports. Thus, some carriers can bring cars from certain European countries faster than others and offer better rates.

The Cost to Import a Car From Europe

Shipping cars from Europe to USA may incur different costs than exporting cars to Europe.

So, if you’ve often wondered how much does it cost to ship a car from Europe to the U.S., know that distance isn’t the only aspect that matters.

For example, car shipping from USA to Europe may be well under $1,000 if the country of destination is the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and others. But bringing it in from across the pond can cost nearly twice as much, despite working with roughly the same distance.

Furthermore, where that country is located on the European continent also matters. It’s tempting to believe that Europe car import costs are cheap if you’re importing from a less-developed European nation.

However, the cost is often determined by geography. The more inland a country is, the more expensive it can be to import a car from there, especially via sea freight. Limited port access may require additional services, like road and air freight shipping.

Talking to an experienced international carrier is the only way to learn how to import a car from Europe while managing your costs and not burning a hole in your wallet.

Other Factors to Account For

Naturally, distance and accessibility aren’t the only variables that go into a shipping quote.

The cost to import a car from Europe can also be altered by the mode of transport you choose, how you want to crate and protect the vehicle, where you want it delivered, and the various international customs fees.

Typically, member countries of the European Union have the same customs fees. But other European nations may exercise higher export duties and value-added taxes (VAT) and require different paperwork. This is yet another reason to only work with seasoned international shippers when importing vehicles, especially from another continent.

Lastly, the vehicle dimensions and weight will also contribute to the final transportation cost.

How to Import a Car From Europe Faster – The Three Favorable Scenarios

If you work with a good carrier and importer, the shipping process and customs clearances can be streamlined considerably.

But there are situations when bringing a car into the U.S. from overseas can be even easier.

Antique and Classic Cars

Here’s a common mistake many people make. If the answer to the question, can I ship my car to Europe is yes, they assume importing a car is just as easy.

As mentioned previously, the different regulations can make this method challenging. One way to accelerate the process is to import classic and antique cars.

Collectors have an easy time bringing old cars into the U.S. because they don’t have to conform to DOT and EPA standards. Just make sure the car can be classified as a classic.

If it can’t, and the authorities find out, modifying it won’t always be an option. It could simply be taken away from you—after paying some hefty fines.

Government or Military Cars

Importing a foreign vehicle can go a lot smoother if it’s accompanied by official orders, like those issued by a foreign government or embassy. This will also allow you to avoid making modifications, but will often prohibit you from selling the car.

Temporary Imports

Every non-resident and visitor can import a car from Europe for one year. The only requirements in these situations are that the car and owner arrive simultaneously and the owner is there to clear it through customs.

Of course, a car brought into the U.S. this way can’t be sold, and sending it back within the year is mandatory.

This provision might help expats too, although you should talk to your international shipping expert for further clarification on your unique situation.

But temporary import is an important provision. It makes shipping cars from Europe to USA quick, efficient, and convenient for special tours, events, vacations, and races.

Avoid These Scams

Knowing how to import a car from Europe to U.S. territories or how to buy a car from Europe involves familiarizing yourself with common industry scams.

Sketchy Payment Methods

Some shipping companies and dealers will do anything to make a buck, including offering too-good-to-be-true alternative payment methods.

Before issuing a payment, check the company’s credentials and ensure it’s a legitimate business entity.

No Taxes

Unless you’re the leader of a religious movement or no longer among the living, there’s no such thing as no taxes.

Companies that try to sell their services by advertising no import taxes and fees are misleading you. Every European customs will have import and export duty taxes.

Shipping vehicles to and from the U.S. doesn’t happen without paying some fees. Even if a carrier were to get away with this by using specific paperwork, you could still get tangled up in the legal ramifications afterward.

When communicating with foreign auto dealerships, you should pay special attention to wording involving promises of no taxes.

No Safety Standard Checks

You’ll find no shortage of dealers and shippers willing to create and ship an unsafe and non-compliant vehicle from Europe to the U.S.

But remember that all imported vehicles must meet certain safety standards, emissions guidelines, etc.

If you must import a car that isn’t deemed safe, at least ensure it can be classified as a classic or antique, or that it’s legal to bring it as long as you commit to making the proper modifications.

Don’t get tricked into thinking you’ve found a secret loophole. Verify a car’s eligibility with your local authorities before importing the vehicle.

Get All the Paperwork Ready

There are certain documents that are mandatory for every car import, like proof of ownership, a copy of your photo ID, perhaps an employer identification number where applicable, etc.

That said, each country will have its own requirements, interpretations, and issue-specific paperwork. Sometimes you may need to request additional documents to ensure your car clears U.S. customs without a hitch.

That’s why it’s essential to discuss these things with an experienced carrier. They should be knowledgeable enough to inform you of what you need to put together to clear customs on both sides of the border.

What happens if the paperwork isn’t in order?

  • Your shipment can be delayed indefinitely
  • You may have to pay fines
  • The car might be put in port storage that you have to pay for until it clears customs
  • The shipment can be sent back without you being reimbursed

These are just some of the unfortunate scenarios you could experience, and none of them have anything to do with quick or efficient vehicle importing.

Master How to Import a Car From Europe Quickly and Efficiently by Choosing the Right Partner

Car shipping from USA to Europe can be very different than importing one. Learning how to import a car from Europe takes a lot more effort on your part. Nonetheless, it’s still worth doing.

The more you know and the faster you learn to navigate foreign vehicle imports, the easier it becomes to repeat the process successfully.

You’ll be able to bring what you want when you want, and do it in a way that agrees with your budget.

The secret to a fast, efficient, and safe Europe car import experience in the U.S. is to work with the right carrier.

International shippers have the benefit of having created large networks of partners in and adjacent to the shipping industry. They can guide you on where to find cars to import, help you sort out your paperwork, clear customs, and ensure you won’t run into trouble after you pick up the car.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, reach out for a quote or more information. Our services can cater to many international import and export needs, and our expertise and track record can ensure quick and efficient services.