Car Imports from Japan to the U.S.

Car Imports from Japan to the U.S.

Japanese cars are well built and look great, making them desirable for Americans over locally produced vehicles. Some U.S. citizens have lived in Japan and want to drive their car in the U.S. upon returning. Alternatively, perhaps you live in the U.S. and want to buy a Japanese vehicle online. However, before you start a deep dive into Google, you need to know the following details to import your chosen wheels across the U.S. border.

World-leading car producers

According to the Statista Research Department, China was the world’s leading light passenger car producer in 2020, with around 21.4 million units manufactured. Japan came in second with about 8.3 million units. Rounding up the list of the world’s leading car producers was Germany, India, and South Korea. The U.S. ranked sixth place producing 2.51 million. Most of these nations are home to the world’s leading passenger vehicle manufacturers including Germany’s Volkswagen Group and Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corporation. Statista defines passenger cars as vehicles with four wheels, used to transport passengers and to comprise no more than eight seats and the driver’s seat. These statistics explain car choice popularity.

Japanese auto imports into the U.S.

Breaking things down, how popular are Japanese-made motor vehicles in the U.S.? The statistics are self-explanatory.

The motor vehicles export volume from Japan to the U.S. in 2019 was around 1.73 million, up from about 1.53 million in 2010. Over the last decade, the export volume from Japan to the U.S. peaked in 2016 and 2017, to around 1.74 million units – especially compared to 2014 and 2015 when it was 1.54 million and 1.6 million respectively. The definition of vehicles includes trucks, buses, cars, and others.

Why Japan?

The next question is why U.S. citizens want to import Japanese cars rather than stick with local brands? The size of Japan vs. its dense population has demanded innovation from automakers. Cars must be practical yet ensure a small footprint. So, roomy, rugged, efficient, and compact!

Importing Japanese cars can involve much red tape if you don’t know U.S. import rules and regulations – as with any imports into the U.S. For vehicles, in particular, the issue revolves around competition and hence politics as well.

At one point, importing Japanese cars was not as complicated. However, the U.S. tightened the screws on security regulations, classifying some models as illegal for import into the U.S. For instance, JDM cars (vehicles produced for sale in Japan only) constructed for right-hand driving are unlawful as the U.S. has left-hand driving. As a result, nearly all 1997 or newer JDM cars are considered illegal. Owning or driving illegal JDM cars could result in worse penalties than possessing drugs or automatic weapons.

Why the strict rules?

The enforcement is according to the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act – the 25-year import rule. It prevents individuals from importing new foreign-market vehicles without undertaking a lengthy — and costly — examination and federalization procedure.
Those in favor of the law are adamant that the IVSCA aims to keep U.S. drivers safe. However, those opposed claim that consumer advocates did not lobby the law, but primarily by local automakers – clearly to fight competition and increase demand for U.S.-made cars. Also,  U.S. automakers complain that the situation is not fair as Japan implements protectionist policies that keep U.S. cars out.  However, the U.S. once had a thriving automotive grey market.
Points to note if you’re importing:
Look for a compliant car: Does the vehicle conform to U.S. safety and emissions standards, or can it be modified to work?
Inspect the vehicle for valid stickers: The vehicle requires two stickers to comply – a Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker and an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sticker.
Pay any duty fees: Pay duty rates according to the price you paid for the vehicle or its blue book value. Duty rates are 2.5% on cars and 24% on trucks.
Fill out the DOT Form HS-7: The Department of Transportation (DOT) form must be filled out by the broker during the import process and include all shipping documents required. Other information to be included is vehicle model, make, date, port of entry into the U.S. and the registered importer (RI – if applicable).
Complete CBP Form 7501: As with all U.S. imports, you cannot pass through the U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP) without this form with all the required details about the vehicle and its value.

The eezy way to import

eezyimport enables importers to self-file and save time and money throughout the import process – regardless of the type of merchandise being imported. In fact, many car imports pass through eezyimport’s online system as importers sail through the customs import process. Take the driver’s seat with eezyimport!

Want to learn more about importing a car from Japan? Visit

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eezyimport is an online platform and is not a licensed customs broker. However, we work closely with a third-party licensed customs broker who can assist with any entry-related issues.

eezyimport is an online platform and is not a licensed customs broker. However, we work closely with a third-party licensed customs broker who can assist with any entry-related issues.

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