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  #1  
Old 08-27-2012, 01:47 AM
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Importing from Italy to U.S.

Assume that you have found a Ferrari, Maz, or other Italian beauty (or not...yet) that you want to purchase in Italy and bring over to the U.S. How is it done? Several very nice F Chatters have given me some limited guidance and I am positive some of you have actually done this. I want to pass on what VERY little I know so far and hope those of you who know exactly what's involved will chime-in ad lib.

If there is another thread that covers the process from start to finish, please link it, as I have legitimately searched for one many times, reading several hundred posts from dozens of searched threads, and only gleaned small details without any clear process emerging. If such a thread exists, my apologies for the redundancy.

In my case, I'm looking at importing a 1976 308 euro car that has been registered in Italy since day one. I'm negotiating the private (no dealer) sale now and am in the process of vetting the car. I've not yet committed to buying. I'd like to start this thread in order to develop a plan for me and others with similar thoughts. Because this is about buying and importing technicalities, I suggest we skip too many assertions of how much of a pain this can be and if they must be made, let them come from someone who has actually done this first-hand semi recently. The problem with my searches on this topic are that so much information is second-hand or speculative. Statements such as "it can't be done without spending a fortune" and "just buy the car in the U.S., it'll save you the headache" are not always helpful. Let's go about this with the understanding that I WANT to do this...my one-owner Italian car is worth it to me. So I need help. Thank you all in advance!

PURCHASE:

I found this thread on purchase and documents very helpful:

http://www.maserati-indy.co.uk/alfieri05.htm

Feel free to comment on the validity and correct as needed.

Questions that come up after reading it: 1. Since it appears the seller is the only one to sign the Dichiarazione di Vendita in front of the Notary, does the buyer even need to be present in Italy to make this happen? 2. If I wanted to do this all without going to Italy, can it be done? 3. There is mention of temporary plates being issued but only valid for 48 hours. Does that mean we have 48 hours to get a car to port after sale? Or does flatbed/trailering make this irrelevant?

Other questions I have: 1. Is there a safest way to transfer funds to make a purchase. In other words how do you arrange this so that a seller doesn't get your money and simply fail to complete the paperwork? Is there a form of escrow or an accepted way to do this or many ways? I have someone in Italy, family, that can potentially pay and escort the seller to the local officials for recording the sale but I would like to know if it can be done without this.

SHIPPING:

Can cars be picked up at a sellers residence or garage and then taken to port by the same shipper that brings the car to the U.S? Or will there need to be separate entities involved? Here is where advice and recommendations would be very helpful. Who have you used and why? What companies to stay away from?

DOT/EPA/CUSTOMS:

DUTY: I believe in most cases, duty will be 2.5% of purchase price. There are exemptions listed on the Homeland Security web site that can make this less expensive.

GAS-GUZZLER TAX? I saw this somewhere. What is the amount? I assume a 308 gets worse than 22 MPG which appears to be the cutoff?

DOT: Cars older than 25 years do not need to come into compliance. Comments?

EPA: States have entirely variable laws here, we may not need to get into them here. I will be checking with my state, Arizona. U.S. EPA may be a different story. What is involved with that?

I'll stop here for now. Thank you in advance!
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  #2  
Old 08-27-2012, 08:09 AM
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I did this 13 years ago with a 1989 BMW M3 convertible. The easiest way is to contact a registered importer / coversion place such as JK Technologies in Baltimore. They can help you arrange shipping, customs and importation paperwork, and all of the necessary DOT paperwork.

If the car is over 25 years old, it's a cakewalk. It's still worth using a registered importer to navigate the process, but nothing needs to be done to the car.

If it's less than 25 years old, you will have to have (at a minimum), lights, gauge cluster, bumpers changed out for US parts and cats installed. Lots of newer cars are built as "world" cars and are already US compliant, but in the early to late 90s, most weren't and you can be in for some real expense bringing them into compliance.

I bought my car in Switzerland, had the seller arrange shipping to the port and then it was on a ship to Baltimore. JK picked it up from Customs and took it to their shop and began the conversion. They installed US spec gauges and lights, Swiss cars had the same emissions gear as US ones for 1989 so I didn't have to fool with that.

If you would like to discuss further, contact me at philcat7NOSPAM@NOSPAMcomcast.net (just remove the NOSPAM) It's been a while but the process is still the same...
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Old 08-27-2012, 09:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hannibal308 View Post
Assume that you have found a Ferrari, Maz, or other Italian beauty (or not...yet) that you want to purchase in Italy and bring over to the U.S. How is it done? Several very nice F Chatters have given me some limited guidance and I am positive some of you have actually done this. I want to pass on what VERY little I know so far and hope those of you who know exactly what's involved will chime-in ad lib.

If there is another thread that covers the process from start to finish, please link it, as I have legitimately searched for one many times, reading several hundred posts from dozens of searched threads, and only gleaned small details without any clear process emerging. If such a thread exists, my apologies for the redundancy.

In my case, I'm looking at importing a 1976 308 euro car that has been registered in Italy since day one. I'm negotiating the private (no dealer) sale now and am in the process of vetting the car. I've not yet committed to buying. I'd like to start this thread in order to develop a plan for me and others with similar thoughts. Because this is about buying and importing technicalities, I suggest we skip too many assertions of how much of a pain this can be and if they must be made, let them come from someone who has actually done this first-hand semi recently. The problem with my searches on this topic are that so much information is second-hand or speculative. Statements such as "it can't be done without spending a fortune" and "just buy the car in the U.S., it'll save you the headache" are not always helpful. Let's go about this with the understanding that I WANT to do this...my one-owner Italian car is worth it to me. So I need help. Thank you all in advance!

PURCHASE:

I found this thread on purchase and documents very helpful:

http://www.maserati-indy.co.uk/alfieri05.htm

Feel free to comment on the validity and correct as needed.

Questions that come up after reading it: 1. Since it appears the seller is the only one to sign the Dichiarazione di Vendita in front of the Notary, does the buyer even need to be present in Italy to make this happen? 2. If I wanted to do this all without going to Italy, can it be done? 3. There is mention of temporary plates being issued but only valid for 48 hours. Does that mean we have 48 hours to get a car to port after sale? Or does flatbed/trailering make this irrelevant?

Other questions I have: 1. Is there a safest way to transfer funds to make a purchase. In other words how do you arrange this so that a seller doesn't get your money and simply fail to complete the paperwork? Is there a form of escrow or an accepted way to do this or many ways? I have someone in Italy, family, that can potentially pay and escort the seller to the local officials for recording the sale but I would like to know if it can be done without this.

SHIPPING:

Can cars be picked up at a sellers residence or garage and then taken to port by the same shipper that brings the car to the U.S? Or will there need to be separate entities involved? Here is where advice and recommendations would be very helpful. Who have you used and why? What companies to stay away from?

DOT/EPA/CUSTOMS:

DUTY: I believe in most cases, duty will be 2.5% of purchase price. There are exemptions listed on the Homeland Security web site that can make this less expensive.

GAS-GUZZLER TAX? I saw this somewhere. What is the amount? I assume a 308 gets worse than 22 MPG which appears to be the cutoff?

DOT: Cars older than 25 years do not need to come into compliance. Comments?

EPA: States have entirely variable laws here, we may not need to get into them here. I will be checking with my state, Arizona. U.S. EPA may be a different story. What is involved with that?

I'll stop here for now. Thank you in advance!
Your car is old enough that there won't be issues on importing it. Having said that, don't try to do it yourself. Pay up a bit and use an experienced shipping/importing agent, it cheaper in the long run. I have used Cosdel with excellent results, though given the value of your car and their costs(which are essentially fixed) the percentage will seem high. BTW declare FULL VALUE for customs purposes or risk seizure of the car. Also consider what will be the final destination for shipment to the USA. Depending upon the state where the car will be delivered you may be liable for payment of use tax, also different states Motor Vehicle codes may come into play. Determine this before purchase and initiating importation. Good luck.
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Old 08-30-2012, 02:50 AM
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Philcat and 375+: Many thanks!

A point that keeps returning to the forefront of this topic: Use an experienced shipping company/freight forwarder. Got it!

Regarding the declaration of full value otherwise risking seizure; this makes sense but is that because customs will assume you are trying to get out of paying some duty? I guess an important point here is should I declare my purchase price? That seems fair. Paying duty on U.S. market value does not. Thoughts? Or, is the right answer actually described in Customs code?

Insurance, on the other hand should be replacement value in U.S....

WHAT I FOUND OUT ABOUT INSURANCE:

So, one of the freight forwarding companies I first contacted would insure my vehicle comprehensively for door to door transit for 2% of value. $500 deductible and covered pretty much everything based on my review of the contract. A few grand to ensure for likely 60 days or so of transit seemed fair enough, but I decided to call my insurance company just for grins.

Enter USAA. These guys have been around for a while. Pretty near every car owned by a military family or service person shipped to and from all sorts of strange lands has been insured by USAA at some point. They do this for us all the time.

So I called USAA. I explained clearly what I intended to do to the first agent. I.e. ship a Ferrari that I purchased from an Italian from his house in Italy to my house in Phoenix, and that I would never be with the car. She said no problem, and connected me with international policy service. The next agent listens carefully to my explanation. She very quickly said "no problem". She asked for the Italian city of origin, year, make, model, VIN, sticker price when new, and estimated current U.S. market value. She gonculated on the USAA version of the WOPR for a minute or two then gave me a quote: $14.71. I said "excuse me! Can you please say that again?" ... $14.71...per month.

As you can imagine, I spent the next 20 minutes grilling her on what was covered and not covered. The bottom line is that NOTHING is not covered, except the deductible. Here's why: The car is placed on an Italian policy the day I call USAA and tell them I'm buying the car. From that time, since the car will not be driven on roads as a means of transportation, the car can be placed on a "storage" policy. This policy costs $14.71 per month. It allows the vehicle to be started and moved for the purpose of storage as well. So, if Mario in Genoa starts my car to move it from a flatbed to a sea cargo container and runs into a boat anchor that's lying around, we're still covered. I actually asked these questions. As well as....the container falls off the boat (covered), Mario smells petrol in my car but doesn't care and starts her up anyway so she blows up and burns to the ground (covered...as well as Marios medical bills), Marios buddies like Ferraris too and want to take parts off the car to show their kids (covered), some of Marios other buddies hate Ferrari owners and vandalize the car (covered)...on and on...COVERED! I'm not joking...I was thinking like I was writing a terrible movie script and my job was to come up with the most exotic ways to hurt a Ferrari in transit. No matter what I asked, she assured me it would be covered...minus the deductible...except glass..that was covered with NO deductible...nice! The bottom line as she explained it was that USAA does this all the time for its members and that they know you expect your car to get home to you in the exact same condition it left you, regardless of whether you are there with the car when it leaves its origin. She said the policy changes to a U.S. policy the day I tell them it is due to arrive in port stateside. That simple. Since I already knew the VIN for the car I'm looking at, I set up the policy and it's "armed" and ready to fire at my first phone call.

I know this is a long story. I figured it might be worth sharing in case a few $K seem worth saving by asking your own established insurer what they can do for you. I plan to use the saved $ on the best shipper/freight forwarder I can afford. I figure that's a form of insurance as well.

MISSING INFO: The very BEST and SAFEST way to carry out the money transfer. I know I asked this before, are there automotive versions of escrow companies? Sounds crazy, but maybe there should be (see thread on $3.X million Ferrari with fraudulent title...).

Has anyone ever done a notarized letter of "Intent to Transfer"...I made that up, but can simply say: I Luigi affirm to transfer ownership of Car XXXXX to Hannibal on or about XXSEPTEMBER2012 promptly after the sum of $XX,XXX can be verified to have been tranferred from Bank XX in the U.S. to my account #XXXX at Bank YY in Italy, with verification being documentation from EITHER bank that the funds have been sent OR received.

I'm sure there are legal/enforcement problems with what I wrote, but I'm sure the idea makes sense. Or, am I over-thinking it? The fear is that Luigi gets money and Luigi disappears with money and car! Thoughts? BTW, I don't get any bad feelings in this deal at all..very nice owner, very nice local mechanic has taken care of this car for 25+ years. If they burn me, I know where they live...I can always drop a bomb on their house, I suppose.

I'll keep posting here as I work through this adventure. Thank you again for your contributions.

Ciao!
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Old 08-30-2012, 10:29 AM
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One additional thought, spend a bit more on the shipping and get a container just for your car. My car was not in a container, it was loaded with others and sustained some minor scratches due to being out in the open. You might be happier with it in it's own container, just talk to your shipping company.
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Old 08-30-2012, 06:15 PM
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Back in the day, I used to ship them "bare" but now I would use a container. Just make sure it's tied down properly. A while back I shipped two Ferraris in one container and they "mated" inside the container. Many thousands of dollars worth of damage.
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Old 08-30-2012, 07:02 PM
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Thank you all. I am looking into a single vehicle per container arrangement. More to follow.
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Old 08-30-2012, 09:11 PM
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I would check your home state regarding requirements. If you were to bring your car to CA it would need to meet CA smog requirements. In CA only cars MY 1975 and earlier are smog exempt, and you would obviously have to spend some $ to bring it into CARB compliance. Anyway, don't forget to check your home state requirements - not all states are the same!
Jes
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Old 08-31-2012, 11:28 AM
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Good thread. Depending upon car's value, consider having a local EU attorney arrange for escrow service. For wire transfer, consider signing up for an XE.com account to get best exchange rates; acct. is free. Dot / EPA not relevant for over 25 yrs at federal level; state level may still require smog checks. Definitely don't fudge the purchase price amt as listed on bill of sale--need this legit for customs clearance. Do recommend using a customs broker first time round (aka importer). US customs assesses the 2.5%, while your state DMV and county personal property tax (if applc) will base value off of either your declared sales price or some blue book. Getting state antique car regis. plates should save on property tax. Ensure bill of sale between you and seller is comprehensive--everything that should come with car in writing; perhaps notarize your signature (in USA) to make it more formal. You should not have to set foot aborad to purchase the car.
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Old 08-31-2012, 08:01 PM
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I have experience, having imported five cars from Europe. I hate wiring money, it takes several days and you have to really trust the recipient. So, I never deal with individuals. I always seek a dealer based transaction. I don't know of a safe alternative.
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Old 08-31-2012, 08:46 PM
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Hans 2 and Kens:

Thank you.

I'm looking into my bank doing the exchange from $ to Euro and wire transfer.

I understand the fear factor here, hence the subtopic in this thread. I like the idea of an attorney acting as escrow. I at least feel that an attorney in Italy drafting some form of "Intent to Transfer" document that identifies each of us by name and address, states the sending and receiving bank with account/routing numbers, a description of the property being transferred and for what amount would serve as a form of protection. It's not a guarantee. However, I feel that a seller willing to sign such a document drafted by an Italian attorney and do so in front of a notary, who requires identification, is more likely to be legit.

I'll keep the thread updated when I learn more or move on this.

Ciao!

Hannibal
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Old 08-31-2012, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Hannibal308 View Post
Thank you all. I am looking into a single vehicle per container arrangement. More to follow.
Just don't plan on it during the winter at a cold weather port.

At Pennsauken NJ they claimed that their yard truck ended up wedged on top of my car inside of the container; took them almost a week to get it out. Turns out they used the yard truck to push cars around since all of them had their fuel drained and batteries disconnected.
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Old 09-03-2012, 02:56 AM
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I'd cry if that happened to my car...on the inside, of course, like a Ninja!
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Old 09-08-2012, 12:33 AM
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Apologies for the time since my last post...I'm getting close to leaving for Afghanistan again and getting everything ready is taking up a lot of my time.

I just received a shipping quote from a reliable freight forwarder based on references from other F-Chatters...PM me for the name if interested...I just don't want to list it with the quote.

Here it is for reference/comment. Please chime in if there seems to be something askew...too expensive or not expensive enough, etc.

• Flatbed Pickup from central Italy /Loading & Lashing / 20’ to Los Angeles Port: $ 4390.00
• L.A. Terminal Charge: $ 420.00
• Importer’s Security Filing: $ 75.00
• Customs Entry: $ 175.00
• EPA / DOT Clearance: $ 300.00
• Pier Pass Fee Paid to L.A./Long Beach Ports: $ 61.50 per 20’
• Container Delivery to our Carson Depot: $ 290.00
• Unloading/Unlashing: $ 300.00
• Car Carrier Transport to Phoenix Door: $ 975.00

Total (excluding Bond, Duty and Insurance): $ 6986.50

• Customs Bond: $ 6.90 per $ 1000.00 based on 3X the Purchase Price (Minimum $ 119.00) ANY INPUT OR COMMENTS ON THIS WOULD BE APPRECIATED…i.e. IS THIS ABOUT RIGHT?
• Duty: 2.5% PLEASE SEE ABOVE POSTS REGARDING DUTY
• Marine Insurance (optional – All risk Coverage): 3.5% of the Value Declared (Minimum $ 75.00) PLEASE SEE POSTS ABOVE REGARDING OTHER INSURANCE OPTIONS

Thank you all who are reading and contributing to this post!

Ciao,

Hannibal
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