Import Vehicle Title Problems

  • June 4, 2024
  • 4 min read

Importing and Titling Vehicles in Rhode Island
So can you title an imported vehicle? This new controversy in the state of Rhode Island gives you some insight as to what are the realities of titling a vehicle that’s been imported.

The Process of Importing a Vehicle
There’s two parts of an import vehicle titling. First, you have to get the car physically imported to the US. Now that doesn’t mean just physically brought here because a lot of times vehicles are brought into the US without being imported. How does that work? Well, if you’re going on vacation from Canada, Mexico, or even Europe, you can bring a car here, drive it around. It does not have to go through import, right? You’re not making it like a citizen, a domicile of the US. You’re just bringing it here to drive around and then you leave. But if you want it to be here for titling or ownership purposes, you actually have to go through the importation process.

Exemptions for Older Vehicles
Where it gets tricky with these older vehicles: if the vehicle’s older than 25 years old, you can skip some of the inspections at the import process like EPA and some DOT stuff. The problem is that doesn’t make it legal to title or register in all 50 states. Many states have requirements that the car has to have met the manufacturing criteria for that year that it was built in the US.

The Case of Japanese Mini Trucks
So these you see on the screen, these little Kai Japanese mini trucks, a lot of people like to buy these because they’re cheap, they’re cute, they can drive around town and they think they’re going to be clever because they’re more than 25 years old. The problem is most states don’t allow them on the road because they’re unsafe. They weren’t built to be on the road; they’re built for farm trucks or driving around little towns in Japan. People think, “Well, I can get an exemption for importing it, so it must be good.” Well, it’s good to import it, but it doesn’t mean that your state will allow you to title it.

State-Specific Requirements
And that goes for any imported car. You have to make sure that it’s legal to meet the standards of titling in your state. It probably has to go through inspection. And if you inspect it in your state and it doesn’t pass because the bumper is too low, it doesn’t have airbags, it doesn’t have a rear camera, it doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, any of the criteria that needed for that year have to be met for that vehicle. And you might say, “Well, gee, if I had a 1969 Camaro, it doesn’t have airbags.” Well, in 1969, in the US, that was not a requirement. So keeping that in mind, if you’re going to import a vehicle, make sure that you’re certain that the criteria and construction of that vehicle meets the standards of being eligible to title and register in your state.

Changing Regulations and Compliance
Also be aware that many states are changing the rules. This is a good example right here. If you look at what it says on the screenshot, it says owners must turn in registration to DMV. What does that mean? Well, in Rhode Island, there were 30 of these little Kai vehicles that were previously titled and Rhode Island realized, “No, wait a minute, that was a mistake. These cars should not be on our roads. They’re unsafe.” So they’re pulling the registration. So anytime you import a vehicle that was not originally manufactured for the US market, be aware that it could be pulled at a later date.

Seeking Professional Guidance
If you do have questions about registering, importing, or titling a non-US vehicle, you can click the link below and arrange a consultation.

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