Importing cars


Is it worth it to import into the USA a 2007 Alfa Romeo 159 that I purchased in Argentina and is still there today? I know the process is grueling and requires the use of a Registered Importer on the NHTSA list. I was wondering if anyone has any experience in this area.


I’ve never done it, I guess you need to decide if it’s worth it to you. I would check with an importer and get some idea how much cast/hassle is involved. Just curious, is it gasoline of diesel?


I suspect it will be a big problem, but that will depend on what pollution and or safety issues you may need to address before bringing it into the US. Since that depends on the car and the country from which you are importing from, few of us here have that information available. Checking with an import company may be the best way to start.


When they get done modifying it to meet U.S. requirements, it won’t be worth driving. The cost will be astronomical. And it’s still an upgraded Fiat that you can’t get parts for…If you live in a state that requires emissions testing it’s really out of the question…And you will have to keep it forever because NOBODY will buy it…


I know for a fact that the 2007 159 cannot be imported into the US. The only new Alfa that can be purchased and brought into the US is the $200,000 plus change Alfa 8C Competizione. There are some new Alfas in the States, this one, from the Alfabb forums is in Washington State, probably for testing at Microsoft.

There is talk of Fiat building Alfas in the US for sale here in a couple of years.


Assuming this is a non-USA spec model, I would strongly advise against it. Even if the car meet all European standards for safety and environment, it would still need a lot of modifications for the US.

We get a post on this every month or so, and usually all opinions are against it.

The only country worth bringing a car in from is Canada (tougher standards than US), and perhaps Mexico if it meeets all North American requirements.

A friend of mine wanted to import a Mazda 323 from Venezuela, and found the mods cost considerably more than the car was worth.

You can get all the info from NHTSA, but you will find it a nightmare if you want to go ahead with it.

So, the paperwork in gruelling, but the physical modifications to the car will be very expensive, if not impossible, especially since the are bringing in a real orphan with virtually no parts availble.

Save yourself a load of headaches, sell the car, and buy something more mainstream in the US.


I agree that it could be expensive, but I suspect there would be plenty of folks interested in buying it once someone else got it through the importation process. Just the fact that it is unique in the U.S. will make it very desirable for lots of folks. You can get parts for just about anything today. Remember how many “gary market” cars were on U.S. roads in the 80s?

For example, I keep shopping around for an early 80s benz diesel G-wagon (never sold in the U.S.), every-time one comes on the U.S. market the price goes through the roof. Even a very rusty one will bring $20K now, and those cars are relatively easy to import. These are not fancy cars, they are very basic old SUVs and the domestic equivalent is probably worthless by now. They are only expensive because they are rare in the U.S. (the same reason I wouldn’t mind owning one). Some day I’ll stumble across the right one. What’s the point of owning the same cars as everyone else on your street?


“Cannot” sounds awfully strong, I would still talk to some importers and find out what kind of “magic” they can perform. (-;


I have contacted several Registered Importers (under NHTSA), but most either don’t handle Alfa Romeo or are extremely pessimistic about the prospect of doing so. I was hoping to avoid calling all 150+ on the NHTSA list to find the needle in the haystack. Thank you to all responders for your input.


“Cannot” sounds awfully strong, I would still talk to some importers and find out what kind of “magic” they can perform. (-;

Only exceptions are… Non US citizen can bring a non NHTSA, EPA, DOTS, CARB car in for one year only. After one year, the car has to be exported or crushed. I have no idea on the Diplomatic side.

There was a family in Tennesse that Imported new Alfas and rebaged them as
Autodelta usa. The Feds arrested them.!OpenDocument


“Only exceptions are… Non US citizen can bring a non NHTSA, EPA, DOTS, CARB car in for one year only. After one year, the car has to be exported or crushed. I have no idea on the Diplomatic side.”

That sounds like it might have some possibilities, especially if it was purchased by another non-citizen after the first year or if the car took a little vacation outside the U.S. when the year was up. Of course, the U.S. government cannot even keep track of the people in the country (legally and otherwise), I wonder how diligent they are about keeping track of cars? Just a thought.


I think it is definitely clear that you can’t import such a vehicle and comply with federal law. However, the licensing and registration is done at a state and sometimes county level. A lot of the local offices don’t check whether a car is DOT approved or not. I know at my local county office, they usually have to enter the make, model and year by hand as opposed to pulling it out of a database. I’ve heard of people getting away with importing “new” Mexican-built air-cooled VW’s by simply having a foreign citizen get it across the border, having a highway patrolman fill out a little form that records the serial numbers and then registering it at their local DMV.

Now, there’s always the chance the thing might get seized, so I would be more eager to risk it with a cruddy old former taxi-cab Beetle than a basically new Alfa.


It does sound like a risk, but those little VIN tags do accidentally fall off and have to be replaced sometimes.


It looks like you’ll be the trail blazer for us. Let us know how your search turns out. The car does appear to meet stringent crash standards. It would still need air bags if it doesn’t have them yet, and that would probably be a deal breaker. You could sell it and get something comparable Like a BMW, Benz, or Acura. It’s not clear from the Alfa web site whether the 159 is FWD or RWD.


Here is some info on the alfa:


About 20 years ago there were Grey Market cars. You were allowed to import ONE vehicle every other year that didn’t meet the US EPA standards. That was eliminated years ago. So any car you import MUST MEET ALL EPA STANDARDS…And that could be very very expensive…


Mike, I agree that is the current rule for newer cars (with some loopholes), but I believe anyone can import older cars more easily.


The rule is that the car you’re importing has to meet all federal rules for it’s year of manufacture. So if you’re talking about importing something pre-1974 or so, there’s very few regulations it would have to meet. Although I wonder if you imported a 1981 model year car if it would have to have an 85mph speedometer.

The other way to import a Mexi-Beetle is to take all the parts and put it on an old beetle floorpan and then register it as the donor car from a model year that didn’t have to meet any emissions or safety standards.


In practice, just about the only part that would have to be original is the VIN tag. Look at street legal hot rods that a built from 40s/50s cars, how many original parts do you think are included in most of those cars?

I still have the original 85 mph speedometer that was in my '82 benz, if anyone needs one.


I believe there is a guy in Texas who actually buys old VW Beetle floor pans/bodoes in good shape and imports new parts from Mexico or Brazil and builds whole new Old Beetles out of them. Since the floor pan and body shell are the car, it is perfectly legal.