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About Cartainer Ocean Line Customs House Brokerage

With COL CHB, you are ensured fast, professional customs clearance. Whatever your shipping needs, from one-time to high-volume, we are your team. We offer our service to importers of any size and can clear in ALL U.S. ports.

Brokerage is more than getting the details right. It’s also an opportunity to reduce duties, avoid penalties, and eliminate compliance risk. Our COL CHB team will work with you to streamline the clearance process and reduce your import cost and risk.

We will handle the ISF, Entry, Duty & Taxes, DOT/EPA and any other US formalities.

Let Us Do It All

Some of our Services

ISF Filing

U.S. Customs clearance

Customs Bonds


Trucking & Delivery

Door to Door service

Much More


Any attempt to import an auto onto American soil is an involved process. This article aims to clearly inform the reader about the various steps. If you’re the proud owner of a Ferrari 550 Marinello or a bargain-priced Volkswagen Eurovan, read on to understand what bringing your new prize home entails.

Every step of this process must be compliant with the rules and regulations set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) every step of the way. While there a few things to follow, adhering to the list structurally makes for a problem-free voyage for your new car and many less headaches for all involved. The EPA’s regulations covering vehicular pollution — emissions — and the DOT’s safety standards must be met.

EPA and DOT Compliance

The Agency’s testing requirements for imported autos begins in a laboratory. Emissions measurements are carefully gauged as its wheels turn at driving speed with the engine on while on a chassis dynamometer. A precise driving program designed to emulate a standard urban driving routine of 10.5 miles is applied to the car. While on a fictional 10.5 hour “trip, ” the car fuels up, starts and stops, accelerates and decelerates, cruises and idles while parked — all over a simulated time period between 15 and 35 hours.

The testing sequence above must comply with US Federal guidelines. Measured emissions of carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), nitrous oxide (NOx) and evaporative and particulate emissions are evaluated by state of the art computers. This test is mandatory and routinely costs around a thousand or more dollars. While not all vehicles require modifications, primarily based on factors like model and age, other basic changes required to bring a vehicle into compliance include but are not limited to:

Bumper strength testing and adjustment or replacement.

Headlights must be adjusted to meet US standards or replaced with ones that do.

Orange and red reflectors on the front and rear of the car must be installed.

The speedometer must be converted to display miles, not kilometers.

Upon confirmation of compliance, the owner submits EPA Importation Declaration Form 3520-1 to the United States Customs Service (USCS). This form must also be submitted for car parts and vehicles in states of disassembly, kit cars, light duty vehicles, motorcycles and motorcycle engines. It’s important to know that Form 3520-1 is not required for any brand new motorcar imported by their original manufacturer that is also accompanied by its previously assigned EPA emission control label and Certificate of Conformity.

Possessors of vehicles older than 25 years are likewise subject to fewer requirements by the DOT. Antique and vintage cars in a generally unmodified state face a relatively painless importation process. Form HS-7 is the form you will submit. Heavy-duty vehicles and engines, off-road and utility vehicles require Form 3520-21. Exclusions from filing of Forms 3520-1 and 3520-21 apply to:

Autos manufactured before 1968


Unregulated fuel vehicles

Vehicles that operate without chassis-mounted engines

Paying Duties

Many importers are wealthy auto collectors and enthusiasts who want a vintage car or one that is not yet available in the US. Duty rates differ based on vehicle type. The sale price of the vehicle determines the percentage you pay — keep this in mind if the specimen is an exceptionally valuable one. Motorcycles may still incur a 2.4% duty based on their cylinder sizes.

Cars: 2.5%.

Motorcycles: either free or 2.4%.

Trucks: 25%.


Importing an auto in the United States appears to be a time-intensive process. Yes, it is: it can take weeks or months. However, the time waiting will be the worst of it. Bringing your vehicle into compliance with US EPA and DOT standards and contracting a reliable, reputable ICI will get your new or antique car imported with relative ease.

Article Written By:

Matthew Young is a Boston based freelance writer. As an aspiring automotive journalist looking to make a name for himself in the industry, he is passionate about covering anything on 4 wheels. When Matthew is not busy writing about cars or new emerging tech, he usually spends time fiddling with his camera and learning a thing or two about photography. You can tweet him @mattbeardyoung