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The 25 Year Rule: Why you can’t bring a new car from overseas to the US

Many people believe that the achilles heel of auto enthusiasts, the 25 Year Rule, was established for the sake of safety standards and emissions requirements set by the US Department of Transportation. With this idea in mind, how is a 25 year old “classic” or “antique” vehicle more safe than a brand new car? Or is it that safety standards are exempt all together when a vehicle reaches 25 years of age? That doesn’t make sense either because then we would have some pretty sketchy cars and trucks rolling around our roads. So where did the 25 Year Rule originate from? Who’s to blame? Well, one example of this uprising in a legal action started in the 1980’s with a man named Douglas DeBoard. Often than not, auto enthusiasts in the US seek “euro-spec” or JDM parts for their vehicles as they often have more aesthetic or performance options that were not offered to the United States Domestic Market (USDM) vehicles. With this, Douglas began to bring brand new Mercedes vehicles from Germany to the United States to sell. This was fantastic as Americans now got the “euro-spec” vehicles they desired for a great price! Soon after, many other entrepreneurs began to follow in his footsteps and bring over European and Japanese market vehicles to the shores of the United States. What’s the issue with that? Well, after nearly 5 years of vehicles being imported, nearly 60,000 cars were imported to the US and ⅓ of those imports were Mercedes Benz vehicles. Still no problem right? Well Mercedes looked over their math and money for the US Market and found that they had lost nearly $300 million dollars in profits due to the importation of these vehicles rather than customers purchasing their USDM Mercedes Vehicles. The automakers took note of the losses and did not allow them to continue any further with the drafting and passing of the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act (IVSCA). This was established to set high standards for vehicles in the US that strangled the possibility of outside-market vehicles (Gray Market) to be declined entry into the US for importation. The big companies with their fancy lawyers and big money outfought the small importers scattered across the US and the act was enacted immediately making it near impossible for those importers to bring any imported car into the US. Even Canadian and Mexican market vehicles were affected to the point of being too difficult for the average consumer to bother bringing into the US. How is it that any imported car gets through the most rigorous of testing to be driven on a US street? Where does that leave us, the car enthusiast? In 1998, the 25 Year Rule was amended to the IVSCA which allowed any vehicle 25 years or older to be imported into the US as it would no longer be in competition with the new cars the automakers are focused on for selling. To make this longer story short, its not really about emissions or safety at all. It’s about the business! Even in the business of importing/exporting, surely there’s ways around this, right? Sure, there’s always a gate left open in a prison, but that doesn’t mean you should escape. Many “importers” have claimed to import legal gems such as Land Rovers, R34 GTR’s, Lamborghini’s and more! Most of these cars were either restricted to “Track Use Only”, “Display Only” or outright crushed for owners attempting to register/title them in the US. There are countless videos on the internet of these beautiful examples of imported cars being crushed as a scare tactic to consumers for the risk of importing a gray market car. Where does that leave the modern day consumer who wants an imported car? Open Air Imports specializes in the search, collection, and importation of just about any car (25 years or older) in THE WORLD! Volkswagens, Nissans, Toyotas, Audi, Porsche and so many more brands can be in your driveway. Just reach out to our team for your search and we can find just what your looking for or better at an amazing price that can’t be beat.


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