How To import a JDM from Japan to USA

Avishka Chandeepa

Posted 15 March 2024


Importing your dream JDM from Japan shouldn’t have to be complicated and nerve-wracking. We understand it could be, and that’s what this article and extension, we are here for. During this article, we will take you through the entire process if you were to purchase and import with ZervTek Japan, along with the charges to be expected.

Can you legally import a JDM car to the US?

The United States can legally import any vehicle that is 25 years or older from the date of manufacture (month AND year). Under this law, the vehicles are classified as “classic vehicles” and thus do not need to meet EPA and DOT regulations.


Purchasing a JDM

 Most customers who contact us already have a general idea of what vehicle they want and how much they are willing to spend. It’s okay if you’re not sure yet, we can give you some suggestions, check some data, and work together to find something you would like.

The Japanese Auto Auctions

We use a method by which we source vehicles through Japanese auto auctions together with the customers. The Japanese auctions are a dealer-only buy/sell network. When a customer buys through us, they are essentially buying a vehicle at JDM wholesale/market price. The auctions also give customers a lot of options to pick and choose from while adjusting their budgets per vehicle.

We will go through upcoming vehicles in the auctions, and provide you with translations for the Japanese auction sheet (condition report). For the ones that you do like, we can inspect to get additional photos and videos before narrowing down further and proceeding with the bids.

Cars lined up in USS TOKYO auctions

ZervTek takes care of everything up until the destination port. Once a bid is won and payment is made in full, the vehicle is picked up and transported from the auction house to the port. Shipping is arranged by us and will be waitlisted until the shipping line contacts us with a confirmed booking.

Vehicles are usually shipped individually in RoRo (Roll on Roll off) carriers. This is often faster and cheaper as the vehicle is driven on and off the ship thus mitigating additional cargo unloading fees and X-ray inspections by the US customs. While containers are also possible with multiple cars and/or parts, they have been a bit more expensive, especially in recent years at the time of this article. It might change so feel free to ask the agent if you think it’s something you want to pursue.


The Import Process

There are two ways to import Japanese vehicles into the US; formal and informal entry. Import duty is the same regardless of the method you choose to use.


  • Passenger vehicles – 2.5% 
  • Trucks – 25%

Informal entry

For shipments with a commercial value of less than $2500, the importer (you) can do the import process yourself without requiring a customs broker.

Documents required to be filed

The ISF is required to be filed within 48 hours of the ship leaving Japan. You can fill it out using a copy of the Bill of Lading we receive from the shipping line after the ship leaves the port in Japan.

In addition to duty, a harbor maintenance fee and merchandise processing fee will be incurred.

Calculate the Harbor maintenance fee (if required) by multiplying the value of the vehicle by 0.125% with no minimum. The merchandise processing fee is $6.

When the ship is close to the port, the local shipping agent will contact you with an arrival notice and request payment for unloading. You will also have to contact the CBP office and inform customs of its arrival after which you have 15 days until you have to pick it up. If the vehicle is not picked up within that period, it will be sent to the general order warehouse where storage charges will incur (really expensive storage charges). 

Formal entry

You will require a customs broker for shipments with a commercial value of more than $2500, which most shipments are. The documents required to be filed out will be the same forms with a few differences which your broker will assist you with.

Estimated rates for these services are:

The following charges are applicable when importing a car from Japan to the USA.

  • $200.00   Customs Entry Fee
  • $55.00     Single-entry bond
  • $45.00     ISF Processing (10+2)
  • $50.00     ISF Bond (10+2)

In addition to duty, harbor maintenance fees and merchandise processing fees will incur.

Calculate the Harbor maintenance fee (if required) by multiplying the vehicle’s value by 0.125% with no minimum. The merchandise processing fee is calculated by multiplying the value of the vehicle by 0.03454% up to a max of $485.

You can also purchase a continuous bond (which is good for a year of multiple entries) that covers both the entry and ISF bond. However, a single-entry bond is much cheaper if you’re only importing one vehicle.

The customs brokers will take care of pick up and usually can also arrange inland transport directly to your house.


Documents provided by ZervTek Co., Ltd

ZervTek will provide:

  • Commercial invoice
  • The Bill of Lading
  • The export certificate
  • English translation of the export certificate

The Bill of Lading is created just after the ship leaves the port and is required to release the vehicle at the destination port. The original Bill of Lading either be sent via DHL or it could be surrendered. When a Bill of Lading is “surrendered” the local agent of the shipping line will contact you and provide you with the document needed to release the vehicle.

The export certificate is the title of the vehicle, which, alongside an English translation (in most states) is required to register the vehicle.



We are here to make a process that is seemingly complicated very easy. Whether it’s purchasing the vehicle itself, breaking down the costs, or arranging shipping, we are here for you.


Getting Started