Overseas car conversions not legit; people should be aware of standards

Robert Szostek
U.S. European Command

Americans in Europe must beware of dealers who offer overseas conversions to U.S. standards for cars or motorcycles. The Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency only accept work done and warranted by licensed companies in the United States. They do not accept the work of individuals or overseas companies. You will probably lose the money paid for work done and suffer fines, bonds and storage fees if you try to import a vehicle “converted” overseas. U.S. Customs routinely perform computer checks of vehicle identification numbers to detect false conversions.
“It is nearly always cheaper for people to sell a foreign-specification car abroad and buy a replacement stateside,” said Bill Johnson, deputy director of the U.S. European Command’s Customs and Border Clearance Agency. Shipping, paperwork, and conversions cost at least $6,500 per vehicle and up to $25,000 for exotic cars. “It is tempting to save some expense by doing work here in Europe,” he added. “But car shippers must realize that overseas conversions are not licensed by U.S. agencies.” DOT work must also be warranted for eight years and for a $2,000 parts defect. Emissions conversions must be warranted for 50,000 miles or five years, whichever comes first.
Under EPA regulations, nonconforming vehicles less than 21 years old may only enter the United States through an independent commercial importer. These vehicles must be tested and adapted to the emission standards in effect at the time of production. Vehicles that are 21 years old or older do not require tests or conversions.
Get the “Importing a Car” pamphlet from a military customs office for more information on shipping foreign vehicles. Or consult the military customs Web site at www.hqusareur.army.mil/