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Importing a car into California

Due to the lack of availability of Land Rover Defenders and the “better than it used to be” exchange rate, I’m thinking about importing a Defender into California from somewhere else (outside the USA). Does anyone have any experience of importing cars into CA ? How easy/expensive is it and are there any specialist customs brokers who can help me out ?

If you get a bad one or they break it on the trip over here, it could be a real semi-disaster. James Dean bought it, site unseen but you don’t have to.

Gray market cars were difficult in the “golden days” of importing (the 80’s) can’t see it being easier now,and I tried in the 80’s.

OP: After you import the Land Rover, please reply and let us know how it worked. I’m interested in hearing about your experience and I’m sure others are as well.

Thanks for the responses. My aim would be to import a very low mileage Defender (<10,000) possibly from a dealer. Does anone know of any companies that specialise in importing cars ? I know that Land Rover have a diplomatic sales team that deals with this sort of things but are there other private companies ? Realise I will pay a premium for the service but if they can take the pain away from the customs and tax agents (both in US and exporting country) it may be worth it. They may also have some kind of insurance ?

The bottom line is that the vehicle will have to be brought up to US Federal safety and emissions standards* (and possibly California emissions standards too), if it’s not already in compliance. There will likely also be various tariffs and such. The DEA will probably tear it apart looking for drugs, if it comes from certain areas. And finally, whether it’s new or used you probably have no warranty. Is a Defender such a good vehicle that it’s worth the hassle?

  • for that model year

All cars and trucks sold in the USA meet 50 states emission standards. I wouldn’t buy anything outside the USA unless you could verify that it meets emissions standards and safety standards. I’d say the chances are very low of buying outside the USA and being able to register it here.

A very early version might be acceptable based on grandfathering old cars and trucks. Check with the Cali DMV and make certain that the Defender you want can be imported.

You could pay many thousands of dollars to have someone modify it, but that’s just a waste of money IMO.

What if the vehicle must meet CA ULEV (Ultra Low Vehicle Emission) standards? That would be a pain.

All states currently have the same emissions standards. California had a running argument with the Bush administration concerning emissions standards, as did several other states that wanted more restrictive requirements.

All new vwhicles sold in the US must be certified as meeting emission standards set by the EPA or the CA standards or both.

Many NW States have chosen to meet the CA standards.The Fed. standards apply to the rest.

I am aware of the attempt by CA and other states to add CO2 as a tested for gas and the rejection of this attempt.

Did you look at CA ULEV standards? Perhaps I am reading old data.

The CA ULEV standards deal with more than addition of CO2,things are confusing.

Government is greedy!

What are you talking about?!

It may be possible to find what you’re looking for right here in the States… There are companies that specialize in Defender restorations and upgrades. Certainly they come at a price, but it eliminates the expense and hassle of importing one. One such company, found at random on the internet, is