We get so many calls and emails about importing Rovers we have set up this page to give you the basics. This page is set up for folks new to the Land Rover community. We post this information so that a potential new buyer of a Land Rover knows what to look out for. If you have, or wish to obtain, a black market vehicle that falls outside the rules, do so at your own risk. There are plenty of folks out there who will supply you with whatever you desire.
This page is posted not for those folks, but is for the new buyer who needs to figure out the facts so that he/she can make an educated choice on their potential new purchase. In our opinion, the more Rovers the better, we love them all and the more that are here in the USA the more we have to potentially service and upgrade.
Please keep in mind we have not imported a Rover since 2008, so these rules and regulations may have changed. Please use this material for reference only.
We do not offer any import services for vehicles, sorry. This page is just for your information. We do not import vehicles.
If you don't feel like reading all the text below here are the basics:
Over 25 years old, and still basically stock...
No problem, some forms, but easy to do. The DOT has a 25 year cut off and the EPA has a 21 year cut off, so on an older Rover you are all set, no real hassles. However the 110 has to be in original form. No engine swaps, no huge modifications from the way it came from the factory.
If you think putting the VIN from an older truck onto a newer truck, or taking an old truck and "rebuilding" it with all the parts from a new truck will get you into the clear have a look at what happened to people doing that before:
If you believe the numerous UK companies out there that say they will fully restore an older 110 to fully new specifications and that this is legal, have a look at this letter from the NHTSA:
Also check here:
If it is in another country, and not 25 years old or older...
It has to be a certain year and model.
For a list of the years and models that can be imported go here: (They call it "the good list")
You can see that only the 1993 Defender 110 and the 1997 Defender 90 are on that list.
If the model you want is not on that list... forget it.
It would take an act of Congress and more money than you have to get it on that list. If it is on that list the next step is that it MUST be imported/ brought up to snuff through a "Registered Importer" and meet all US DOT and EPA requirements. You can't do it yourself, nor can we do it for you.
There is a list of Registered Importers (RIs) here:
You CAN NOT import a 2004 or any other year Defender (unless it is 25 years old).
If you want to try and see if having an overseas company rebuild a Defender to updated specifications and then import it will work for you. Have a look at this:
Newer than 25 years old and here in the USA...
Open the driver's door and look for the NHTSA/DOT plate that is affixed to all legal imports. If you don't see the plate, call the DOT with the VIN and ask them if it is legal. They have records of ALL legally imported Rovers.
Here you can see the DOT decal as placed on a legally imported 1993 Defender 110, just inside the driver's door. The top red arrow points to a very important point for imports, as you can see it clearly meets all DOT codes for the model year imported. If a vehicle was legally imported it will have this decal affixed from the manufacture, or from the Registered Importer that did the work.
Keep in mind that all RI's, or Registered Importers are located here in the USA. This work can not be done overseas. This is the important piece of information you need. You need to know that the Rover is certified for road use in the USA, not weather it has a title or not.
VINs (Vehicle Identification Numbers):
The second red arrow points to the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). The VIN on a Defender, or any modern car for that matter, has 17 digits, just like the one above. If you are buying a Defender and it does not have a 17 digit VIN, you are likely being taken for a ride, and the truck you are about to purchase is most likely illegally imported and worse yet, not legal for road use in the USA. This needs to be considered carefully. Some states do have different assigned VINs that are used when a wreck is rebuilt and some of these do not have 17 digits. An easy way to check for an assigned VIN is to look at the title. It will clearly say "rebuild" or "salvage" on it and the information will also be cataloged with that state, as assigned VINs are given out by the DMV or the State Police. The bad news about these cars is that when you go to sell them you will not get a high price due to the "rebuild" stigma, but the good news is that when you buy them they go for much cheaper.
Remember that to get a "title" is easy, but having a title does not make a Rover road legal for the USA. States like Florida will title anything, legal or not.
A vehicle must be titled and should have DOT/EPA and NHTSA approval before you should even consider buying it, or you assume a massive liability and maybe even a vehicle that will not be able to get tags in your state once you get it home. It is very easy to obtain a title in a lot of states. The fact that a vehicle has a title in no way means that it automatically will pass EPA, your states emissions tests or your state inspection. A number of shops will import parts and create a new vehicle out of them. Then get a rebuild or other type of title through one of those easy states. The DOT however clearly states that a vehicle that is created must meet all the standards for the year in which it was most recently built. A lot of hobbyists take the risks and just focus on if a Rover has a title or not and if you are one of them we wish you well, but to the letter of the law it would also have to meet DOT standards. We are not stating you should live your life to the letter of the law, but if you are going to buy one of these vehicles you need to be aware of the ups and downs associated with them. Here again, the good news is that these built up cars are cheap, but when you go to sell they will not bring back what you likely spent.
We even know of a case where a Rover owner bought an illegal import that had a Utah title (and no DOT certification) and drove it around. Sometime later that vehicle had a bad accident where the driver was at fault. Under accident investigation it was found that the Rover was not DOT certified because the police officer investigating the accident could not find a 2001 Defender 110 in his crash estimating books. They also had issues because the Rover had a chassis # that indicated the vehicle was a 2001 Defender 110 (RHD, 300 Tdi) and a VIN that indicated it was a 1975 Series III 109 (LHD, 4 cyl) and the actual vehicle was a Defender 110 (LHD with an EFI V8). The Rover owner's insurance company refused to pay the claims against him. He lost his shirt because he was sued by the others involved in the accident, and he had incorrect insurance coverage, but that won't happen to you... right?
Importing a Rover from another country such as the UK is not hard, but there are some very strict rules that the United States Government has set upon us. The basics are as follows:
25 years old or older: Any Land-Rover manufactured 25 years ago or more is exempt from D.O.T. (Department of Transportation) import laws. We assume this is done because the DOT does not want to deal with tons of paperwork on old vehicles, so they have set a rolling 25 year cut off. To import a Rover that was built more than 25 years ago is a simple process and IS LEGAL, a few forms, shipping costs, duty fees and you are Rovering Stateside in your 25 year old classic.
Newer than 25 years old: To import a Land-Rover manufactured less than 25 years ago, like Defenders or Discoveries is a completely different problem. Only certain years and models can be "Federalized". For a list of the makes and models that have the ability to be "Federalized" go here. (and don't forget they'll need to be left hand drive, or converted to left hand drive for importation) That means if you find a LHD 1993 Defender 110 in Europe and want to bring it in, you can do that if you go through the process correctly. If you want a 2005 Td5 Defender 130 you can not import one (Don't blame us, we didn't put this crap into law). If the Rover you want to import is on the "good list" with the DOT you can import it through a "Registered Importer" and have it brought up to D.O.T. codes. However; ONLY Registered Importers can do this type of work. You can not bring in a 110, do the work yourself and call it "Federalized", nor can a company in the UK do this work. A list of Registered Importers is on the D.O.T. web site, or go here. If the company you are dealing with claims they have imported legal vehicles, and they are not on this "Registered Importer" list, call the D.O.T. before you send them a check.
All this being said, even if you did go through the legal importation process, what are you buying? A European (or other world) Rover that is over a decade old (Raise your hand so we can know who you are if you don't think Rovers rust or age in other countries). These old Rovers will have lived hard lives and will need work to make them nice again (added cost), then they will need to be imported (added costs) and Federalized by a RI (added cost) then repaired and tricked out the way you want (added cost). In the end wouldn't it have been easier (and maybe even cheaper) to just buy an NAS version? That will depend on just what you find and what all the costs are with your RI, but before you buy that beauty that "looks good in the pictures" in Europe be sure you have explored all the costs involved.
Also, just as a side note... The last time we looked into importation and bringing in more Defenders... you know who shut us down on that? Land Rover North America. They don't want any more Defenders in the USA and they did everything in their power to shut us down. Luckily we don't do anything illegal so they couldn't, but they did try.
Still think it will be an easy process?
There are also E.P.A. concerns and other issues to deal with, but the D.O.T. is the first concern, so best to check them first. EPA is a major hassle though. Unless the vehicle is over 21 years old, don't expect to breeze through EPA.
These quotes were taken directly from the DOT and NHTSA web site. If you think importing a Defender is easy, check out these quotes, then check out their official web sites:
"Imported motor vehicles are subject to safety standards under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, revised under the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988; to bumper standards under the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972, which became effective in 1978; and to air pollution control standards under the Clean Air Act of 1968, as amended in 1977 and 1990. Most vehicles manufactured abroad that conform with U.S. safety, bumper, and emission standards are exported expressly for sale in the United States; therefore, it is unlikely that a vehicle obtained abroad meets all relevant standards. Be skeptical of claims by a foreign dealer or other seller that a vehicle meets these standards or can readily be brought into compliance.
Nonconforming vehicles entering the United States must be brought into compliance, exported, or destroyed."
"Both the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency advise that although a nonconforming car may be conditionally admitted, the modifications required to bring it into compliance may be so extensive and costly that it may be impractical and even impossible to achieve such compliance. Moreover, under Federal Regulations 49 CFR parts 591 through 594, effective January 31, 1990, some vehicle models are prohibited from importation. It is highly recommended that these prohibitions and modifications be investigated before a vehicle is purchased for importation."
Kit Cars and SPCV's:
According to the D.O.T.: It is NOT legal to import a vehicle as parts and assemble it in the USA and then register it for road use. This is a crime and is it NOT legal. It is also NOT legal to import parts that constitute a vehicle (such as 1 gearbox, 1 frame, 2 axles, 1 body) this too can be a crime if the intention is to assemble the parts.
Here is a NHTSA ruling on this:
According to the States of: Maine, New York, New Hampshire and California (and these are the only ones we called) Registering your Land-Rover as a "kit car" is NOT legal. A kit cat is a vehicle such as Bradley GT that you build on a VW chassis. The manufactures of these "kits" are registered with the D.O.T. and putting together a production style vehicle such as a Defender 90 is NOT legal in any way shape or form. A few companies are currently using this method to build 110s, but they won't last long, and if they checked with the D.O.T they would find out it is NOT LEGAL.
Some unscrupulous dealers will also try to sell you a Defender or other Rover that is built up as a SPCV (Specially Constructed Vehicle). This is NOT a loophole, and does NOT apply to a production based vehicle such as a Land-Rover Defender. The companies using this are in VIOLATION of DOT and NHTSA rules. The shops using this method are classified as "Manufactures" by the DOT, and therefore the Defender or other Rover they are importing/ building would need to meet all current NHTSA and DOT requirements. These requirements would include driver and passenger air bags and anti-lock brakes just to name a few.
For more information on this you can search the DOT's web site. They have copies of the actual letters written to these fly-by-night operations explaining to them that they are in violation.
WARNING about VINS:
Altering the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) on any vehicle, (Land-Rover, Lexus, Porsche, anything) is a SERIOUS CRIME. You can not take the VIN from a Series II 109" and place it on a Defender 110 and import it as a 25 year old vehicle. The U.S. Custom agents are not stupid, they will find your vehicle and impound it. If you did happen to get the vehicle through and onto US roads you would face massive liability issues if you ever were in an accident with a vehicle with an altered VIN. A thief driving a stolen BMW with a different VIN is just as guilty as you are if you alter the VIN of your Rover.
If you have a USA legal vehicle, known as an NAS vehicle and it suffers and accident or needs replacement parts you can rebuild that vehicle as long as you consider all the DOT and EPA laws during your rebuild. People restore Camaros and Mustangs everyday and it is legal to make your old pile of junk into a nice car again. If your Defender 90 rusts out and you rebuild it you are not swapping a VIN.
USA VINs: Some hybrid projects where you use a Range Rover frame under a SIIA can be legal, but using the axles from a Range Rover under your imported Defender 130 and calling the truck a Range Rover is in no way legal. The liability here is huge if you were ever in an accident. Builder Beware. If you take an old Series IIA 109 and rebuild it completely with upgrades this too is illegal, but if you actually did the work and didn't just swap the VIN then you get into grey areas that the DOT has no real definition on. You can build a hot rod from parts and no one cares, but if you build a Defender from parts people will blast you. The DOT basically has a law to limit you from doing anything fun or cool to any vehicle. The EPA has even more laws that mean you can't change anything under the hood of your car from its stock form. These rules need to be considered, but how far you take the letter of the law is up to you.
Altering your NAS Land Rover (NAS is: North American Specification) can be done in many ways. If you want to install a different engine in your NAS D90, or remove your NAS roll cage the U.S. Government says you have the right to do that, within certain legal limits of the vehicle still be road worthy as defined by your state and Federal exhaust laws. If you want to build your Series IIA into a monster truck, or take your 90 apart and build it up as a Defender 130 you have that right. This is how the ECR 110s and 130s are built, a variation of modifying an existing USA, previously titled, vehicle that was imported by Land Rover North America after it complied with all the needed regulations, just like those companies that build limos.
However, you can not import a non conforming vehicle from overseas and put an older VIN on it. This is a felony.
The main difference between a good number of the other shops vehicles and ECR vehicles is that we are, without exception, always restoring a vehicle that was imported by Land Rover North America. We do not import entire vehicles (unless they are 25 years old or older), we do not supply titles and we do not put vintage Rover VINs on modern vehicles. We only rebuild, modify and restore vehicles that are already here in the USA that Land Rover itself issued the title for and that have already been correctly imported and have already gone through their needed DOT and EPA certifications. Exactly like a shop that restores an old Corvette. We do not "create" any new vehicles. We only restore and modify what Land Rover North America went to the correct efforts to import in the proper way.
There are many many ways to have all kinds of fun with your Rover, and complete your Rover projects LEGALLY! Make sure you don't get caught up in anything that might cause you trouble, or at least be comfortable with the laws you may be breaking.
For more detailed information directly from the United States: Go to the D.O.T's web site, here!
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