The Joys of Importing a 4x4 From Overseas
I have been looking for a unique off-road rig for a long time, something to drive on and off the pavement. I went home to the Philippines recently and have found three great potentials: an older Toyota FJ- 40 (very rare here in Florida), an FJ-45 pickup, or an early-90s HiLux double-cab with solid front axle and diesel engine (all factory options that were not offered in the U.S.). My question is what hurdles and hoops do I have to go through to be able to register it and drive it here in the U.S. once I own the vehicle and have imported it?
Crystal River, Fl
There are plenty of hurdles and hoops awaiting you, though it will be much, much easier to import one of the older FJs you mentioned than the HiLux. That's because vehicles that are less than 25 years old (like the HiLux) must conform to all federal motor vehicle safety standards before they can be admitted into the U.S. legally. There are dozens of these standards, ranging from mirror placement and transmission shift patterns to bumper safety and side impact protection, and we can't really tell you which ones you'd need to satisfy since the standards are typically assigned by NHTSA on a case-by-case, per-vehicle basis. And best of all, you'll also need to post a hefty bond that can't be refunded until you've made all of the modifications the feds deem necessary.
However, if you're importing a rig that's older than 25 years, you don't need to conform to the federal standards. You'll still need to prove that it is sufficiently old to qualify for exemption, and if it's a right-hand drive, that's another can of worms that'll require a letter from the manufacturer stating that the vehicle is as safe to operate on the road as a left-hand drive version. And of course, you can't just show up at the dock and claim your rig once it has arrived-all importations have to be conducted by a registered importer, who will also need to co-sign your customs declaration form. You can find a list of importers at NHTSA's website (www.nhtsa.dot.gov), and we'd advise you to spend a little time reading some of the useful information there to get a better idea of what you'll need to make
Then, assuming you've gotten this far, you'll need to comply with whatever safety and emissions regulations your state may require. Check with your local motor vehicles department for those answers.