How Do You Import a Car From Italy to the U.S.?

Here's how you can experience la bella macchina at home.

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Perhaps it was a vineyard tour behind the wheel of a vintage Fiat 500. Maybe it was the trip to the Ferrari museum. You've acquired a taste for an Italian car—and not a brand new Alfa Romeo Stelvio you can buy off a dealer's lot. You want something a little more exotic.

Aside from some pazienza, what does it take to import a car from Italy to the U.S.? Let's explore.

How Do You Import a Car From Italy to the U.S.?

You can't import just any car to the U.S. A general rule of thumb is that the car must have been assembled at least 25 years before it hits American soil, though there are some exemptions. Even with an older model, you may face additional hurdles when it comes to registering the car in your name and passing an emissions test, if one applies to where you plan to register it. The patchwork of local regulations means a call or visit to your local vehicle registration office is a good start.

Finding a car in Italy isn't that different than looking at one remotely in the U.S., though you may want to have an Italian-to-English dictionary handy. Popular classified ad websites such as and tantalize with everything from cheap Fiats to beautiful Maseratis. An older car may carry certification from the Automotoclub Storico Italiano, which can provide some comfort in knowing that the vehicle meets certain historical standards.

As with any purchase, an inspection by a qualified mechanic is a good idea even if you can view the car in person. Trade between European countries is common, so a dealer or even a private seller may be familiar with the paperwork necessary to export a vehicle out of Italy. At the very least, the seller will need to acquire a Single Document of Circulation and Ownership (DU), which is essentially an export title for the car.

Shipping a Car From Italy to the U.S.

The biggest logistical hurdle involves moving the car from Italy to the U.S. According to the NHTSA, all vehicles that are eligible for importing must be imported by a registered importer.

A novice importer may find it easier to hire an all-inclusive cargo firm that will coordinate pickup of the vehicle from the Italian seller, followed by:

  • Transport to a shipping port
  • A spot on an ocean vessel or airplane
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) paperwork
  • Transport of the vehicle from the port of entry to your door

What Does it Cost to Import a Car from Italy to the U.S.?

It's expensive, and it can be difficult to estimate since shipping costs vary. A logistics firm can provide a detailed quote breaking down the physical movement of the car via trucks and boats. A vessel will cost far less than air freight, though it will take several weeks rather than a day or two.

One thing is for certain: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will levy a 2.5% duty on the vehicle's purchase price. They may also detain the car for further inspection and even cleaning if they suspect it contains foreign soil or if they just choose to do a more thorough inspection. You will likely be on the hook for extra charges if this happens. You also want to make sure that you have the accurate documents.

A cargo firm may collect and remit these duties on your behalf, though they may also charge a fee.

What Paperwork is Needed to Import and Register an Italian Car in the U.S.?

You'll need the original bill of lading, the bill of sale, foreign registration (the DU certificate), the EPA Form 3520-1, the DOT Form HS-7, the Italian export title, any other documents specific to the car necessary for importing (paperwork to prove it meets an exemption to import as a NCV), and a certified translation which is necessary to present to the CBP before you can offload the vehicle, and can be submitted to your local motor vehicle office for registration.

You may also need a vehicle identification number (VIN) inspection and an emissions test form. Another vacation to Italy may be cheaper and easier than the costs to import the vehicle.

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Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz has had cars in his blood ever since he gnawed the paint off of a diecast model as a toddler. After growing up in Dallas, Texas, he earned a journalism degree, worked in public relations for two manufacturers, and served as an editor for a luxury-lifestyle print publication and several well-known automotive websites. In his free time, Andrew loves exploring the Rocky Mountains' best back roads—when he’s not browsing ads for his next car purchase.