Rejected Imported Vehicle Title Problems

  • July 11, 2024
  • 6 min read

The Fight Over Certain Imported Cars
The fight over certain imported cars is increasing, and by import, I’m not talking about vehicles that are sold through a dealership. Let’s say like a Honda Accord is an imported vehicle from Japan. That’s fine; that’s a different type of import. We’re talking about imports of vehicles that were not originally manufactured for the US market, sometimes called gray market. One of the most common types of vehicles are these little Japanese mini trucks, right? These are vehicles that people love to have for alternate vehicles.

Federal Law and Exemptions
What happened is there was a federal law that gave an exemption for importing these vehicles if it was over a certain number of years—25 years in some cases. So, let’s say if you had a 1995 vehicle or older, you were allowed to import it without going through the same strict, stringent import requirements of normal vehicles. It didn’t have to pass all the same rules for things like bumpers and headlights and airbags and windshield wipers—the things that would be required on most vehicles to be imported. They let it slide at the import customs, border protection, EPA, all those things; it could come into the country.

State-Level Obstacles
But the problem is there’s two levels of obstacles to get a car on the road. You can get it imported, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your state will allow you to title and register it. For example, you can import a lawnmower, but that doesn’t mean that your state is going to give you a registration so you can drive your lawnmower on the street, right? The vehicle has to conform to your state’s specific requirements for road-legal use, and different states have different rules.

Variability in State Regulations
Some states let you drive golf carts on certain roads under 25 mph, low-speed vehicles. Some states let you ride dirt bikes on certain roads as long as you’re not driving it on a highway or on a main artery. Some states make it that every vehicle has to conform to the highest level of safety and vehicle conformity to what the government requires.

State Responses to Imported Vehicles
So, what does that mean? Well, a lot of states just kind of were vaguely passive about letting these imported cars go on the road. If you brought them the valid import paperwork for a Japanese mini truck or one of those vans or one of these other cars more than 25 years old, the state said, “Well, it was legally imported, so it must be okay,” and they just didn’t think anything of it.

Rising Concerns and Restrictions
Well, in the last four or five years, many states are now waking up to the fact that maybe they don’t want these cars on the road. Why not? Well, there are some insurance companies that are pushing back, saying these cars are dangerous, people are getting hurt, we don’t want to pay claims. There’s also the federal government that’s putting pressure on, saying, “Look, we don’t want these cars on federal roads because it could damage guard rails.” It’s also some pressure from automakers, saying these are taking away sales for our vehicles. There’s a lot of pressure going on state governments.

The Role of U AAMVA
So many states are now saying, not only can’t you register them on the road anymore, but some states are going to the extreme of pulling old registrations for more than three years. Enthusiasts living on the American Eastern Seaboard have been battling their states over the privilege to drive over 25-year-old vehicles on their state’s roads, but now it’s reaching the Midwest. Michigan and other states are doing the same thing.

Impact of U AAMVA Recommendations
What happened is U AAMVA, which is a group of state DMV administrators, recommended that states start banning any and every vehicle that doesn’t meet full standards. That was their official recommendation. AAMVA is a group of all the DMV commissioners. It’s not a government agency, but it’s also not a private agency; it’s not a company. It’s a trade organization of DMV commissioners, and after that recommendation, many states began changing their laws and started to revoke certain titles.

Varying State Policies
Some states allow you to grandfather; Pennsylvania grandfathered existing registrations. Some states allow you to drive it occasionally as an antique. Georgia and Texas are revoking. So now you have Michigan, and they’re not allowing these vehicles to be titled even as antiques. These vehicles are unroadworthy according to the DMV and for off-road use only.

The Future of Imported Vehicles
So, the question is, what’s going to happen with these vehicles? Well, if you follow what the government is trying to do, eventually they’re all going to be off the road in every state. It may be a while because some states want to fight back and let their citizens drive them for a while, but at the federal level, they’re starting to put pressure on these states. Maybe not giving them as much highway money, maybe requiring higher insurance requirements, maybe pressuring insurance companies not to insure them, and eventually, it’ll be a game of attrition. Over the next probably five to six years, all, if not most, states will have these cars off the road except for being able to be used in low-speed environments, for example, roads where the speed limit is less than 25 mph, just like you would a golf cart.

Advice for Owners
So, what do you do about this if you have one? Make sure it’s titled and registered so you can ride out the clock as long as you can, but start thinking about if the car does get pulled and the title’s revoked, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to use it as a farm truck, as a hunting truck? Are you going to sell it beforehand? Maybe you want to sell it before this happens. Remember, the import exemption is good, but it’s not the same as a title and registration exemption. It’s just because the government at the federal level says yes, it’s okay to bring it across the border, it doesn’t force the states to have to title and register it. That’s where the key obstacle is.

Conclusion and Call to Action
So, if we have one, make sure you get your title registration all ducks in a row now so you don’t have to worry about it. So if it gets grandfathered, you can keep driving it. But also think about what your alternatives are if this thing really gets bad. I know you have an opinion about this; let us know in the comments what you think.

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