If you are familiar with the USA 25 year import law, then you may be frustrated by how it limits your ability to purchase a foreign car. However, the entire purpose of it is to help protect consumers from the dangers of poorly constructed import cars.
The USA 25 year import law, also known as the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act (IVSCA) of 1988, was passed for two reasons. The first is that domestic car manufacturers were losing profits from cars being imported from foreign countries. The second is that these imported vehicles were not properly manufactured.
Many imports were downright unsafe due to how they were manufactured. Certain safety features would be missing, like airbags, and extra parts were often added to make a vehicle seem like a newer model. This is important because some import vehicles were sold as a newer model year, but were actually just an older model with unsafely added features.
These two factors put together created a scenario where domestic car manufacturers were losing money to unsafe and fraudulent imports. This posed too much of a risk to public safety, which prompted the passing of the 25-year import law (IVSCA).
The IVSCA is a federal law that bans the import of any vehicle that was not manufactured for the specific purpose of being sold within the U.S. The 25-year portion of this law is that cars that are over 25 years old are deemed an antique/collector car. Vehicles that are antiques or collectors do not need to meet federal safety law requirements, which makes them importable.
What cars does the 25-year import law apply to?
The 25-year import law applies to all vehicles that are not made for the U.S. market. Cars like many Honda hybrids and other similar vehicles with advanced technology do not apply because they are made specifically for use in the U.S. This is important because these models are manufactured with U.S. federal safety requirements in mind, which the typical import is not.
What import cars are illegal in the US?
Any import vehicle that has been manufactured in a foreign market (like Japan and Europe) within the last 25 years is illegal to import to the U.S. Cars that are older than 25 years (by manufacture date) are deemed a collector/antique, and are no longer illegal to import. This means that there are new cars every year that become legal to import to the U.S.
Are JDM cars legal in the US?
Japanese domestic market (JDM) vehicles are not technically illegal in the U.S. The big caveat here is that the car must have been manufactured more than 25 years ago. After this mark, the vehicle no longer needs to adhere to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and (Environmental Protection Agency) EPA safety laws, which makes them driveable within the U.S.
What cars can you now import under the 25-year import law?
Every year, there is a new batch of cars that become eligible for import because they are more than 25 years old. As of 2019, the newest year model you can import is a 1994 vehicle. Any cars made during the 70s, 80s, and 90s up through 1994 are allowed to be imported.
Does a car have to be 25 years old to import? Yes! This is the cutoff, so any import car will eventually be old enough to import. 23 years old is not old enough, nor is a 24-year-old vehicle. In 2020, you can begin to import foreign vehicles from 1995.
Importing cars over 25 years old is typically fairly expensive. A fee of more than $5,000 should be expected for importing cars to the USA from Japan. This is just to get the vehicle to the U.S., which doesn’t even include the price of the car itself. Considering that these import cars are now collector models, highly sought after, and often made in very limited supply, the full price to purchase an import car can get quite expensive.
Below we’ll cover some of the most popular import models that have recently (or will soon) become available for import to the U.S. due to their production age exceeding 25 years.
Nissan Skyline GT-R
The Nissan Skyline GT-R series is arguably one of the most popular import series around. This applies specifically to the three newest generations, the R32, R33, and R34. The first two generations were manufactured during 1969 and 1973. The last three are a complete redesign and cater to a different market.
We’ll cover the R32, R33, and R34 because these are the desired Skyline models for import. Currently, only the Nissan Skyline GT-R R32 is fully available for import, but the R33 will be available next year. If you can hold off for a few years, the R34 will be available in 2024 and is well worth the wait.
After a long break, the Nissan Skyline GT-R model was revived in 1989 with the introduction of the R32. This sporty car features a 2.6L twin-turbocharged six-cylinder RB26DETT engine capable of making 276HP. It is paired with a 5-speed manual transmission, uses four-wheel drive, and is only available as a coupe body style.
The R32 has an extremely sporty body style that still looks good today. With the raw speed and power this JDM import possesses, there’s no question as to why it is such a sought after vehicle.
There were less than 44,000 models ever produced, making it fairly rare as well. The R32 stopped production in 1994. This means that it is the only “newer” Skyline GT-R that is available for import (for all model years).
The R33 was manufactured starting in 1995. In 2020, the first iteration of R33s will be available for import. This model is very similar to the R32 but has a few minor upgrades.
First, the appearance was changed and resembles more of a street racing vehicle. Second, the engine received minor improvements that make the car faster. And third, the R33 has more stability thanks to a stiffer body and better distribution of weight.
While these changes are fairly minor, they will certainly make for a noticeably more enjoyable drive. The R33 is even rarer than the R32. It totals in at less than 17,000 models produced until the end of its run in 1998.
While the R34 won’t be available for import until 2024, it’s still worth mentioning because it is the best Skyline GT-R that you can find. It still uses the same 2.6L RB26DETT engine as its predecessors, but it is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission.
The R34 offers better performance because it has a shorter wheelbase and improved body design. However, the biggest change between the R34 and previous models is the addition of an LCD display screen on the dashboard. This shows readings for numerous vehicle statistics, which makes the R34 stand out compared to the R32 and R33.
This model was manufactured until 2002, after which the GT-R transitioned into its own separate model. Not only is the R34 the best performer of the three, but it is also the rarest with less than 12,000 models ever made. There will surely be a high demand for it when it becomes available for import.
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