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DIY: How to Import an E30 Touring

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    DIY: How to Import an E30 Touring

    Several members have asked for it, so I do hope some people find this to be of use. This will cover buying remotely from Europe, shipping to Baltimore, Maryland, USA via roll on, roll off carrier (RORO), using a broker/clearing the car yourself in person, picking up the car from the port as arranged by the broker/in person/using a self-contracted transporter and registering the car in Maryland.

    THIS GUIDE IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE and is a relation of the processes/experiences during the import of my four tourings.

    Buying Remotely Overseas:

    Remember, any car 25 years old (from year of production) may be imported without use of a registered importer, and will not require any modifications to be legal for importation (state registration may be another matter). At this moment it does not appear that Customs & Border Protection [CBP] cares about the specific month/day of production. However, there are certain restrictions, but none should apply to E30 tourings if you import one from the usual suspects in Western Europe or Japan. Be aware that importing more than one car at once will require following a different method than those listed below, and failing to do so will probably result in your shipments being flagged/impounded, as well as fees associated with improper filing.

    You're pretty much on your own when it comes to buying, just know that you should ask for pictures of everything, and walk if anything bothers you. But keep in mind that these people probably aren't selling the car for a premium price, so be reasonable with your requests.

    You will most likely have to wire money directly to the seller/exporter as this is how most non-local business is done in Europe, and this can be somewhat of a leap the first time, so do your due diligence before buying. Sellers normally have to drop the car off/arrange transport to the port/sometimes set up shipment and file the required paperwork to legally export the car. Some people will be very much unwilling/unable to do so, and if this is the case just move on. I have only personally purchased from Ivo Christov, but did attempt to work with others several times before to no avail.

    I do suggest buying from Ivo Christov in the Netherlands, not only is he a reputable BMW enthusiast, but he is pretty easy to work with. He goes by ovide on forums, and he has a site which can link you to his current inventory (although it is out of date at present):

    Importing Using a Broker (not a registered importer!!!):

    Why use this method: If you cannot visit the port in person. Brokers can handle all of the import paperwork for you.

    The broker will set up the shipper, fill out the required forms, will arrange for transport from the port to your final destination, and will provide you with copies of the required forms to register the car. You may be required to fill out a limited power of attorney so they may act on your behalf during the import process. This method may add approximately $1,000 USD or more to the price of the process, and may delay the actual date that you will have your car. As I was highly dissatisfied with the broker I used for the first import I cannot recommend a specific company, and would encourage you to take a more hands on role in the process. Be aware that brokers will want to use your SSN as an identification number for your shipment, but it is possible to use your drivers license number as a substitute.

    For states that require import documents (only CBP documents generally need to be stamped, CBP says that they will not stamp the DOT declaration or EPA form after the fact [EDIT:12/13/16 according to r3v member Vic they will now stamp them]) to be stamped you will need to be sure that you will be provided with a stamped copy beforehand, or you will need to work with CBP by emailing them your electronic release (CBP 3461) along with a prepaid mailer to get a stamped copy sent to you. This can add some time to the process of registering the car.

    CBP phone for questions: 1-877-CBP-5511
    CBP email for stamped copies:

    Your broker will provide you with the following documents, ideally with customs stamps:

    Bill of Lading; CBP 7501; CBP 3461

    Your broker may provide you with the following, although some will not (in which case you may fill them out yourself and submit them directly at the DMV/MVA);

    EPA 3520; DOT HS-7

    Before Arranging Shipping:

    You will need a proper bill of sale for the car showing your address (should be the same as your desired delivery address)/description of the car/VIN/price (for tax reasons)/seller signature or endorsement, copies of all titles/registrations from the country of export, and a copy of your photo identification. If your seller/exporter is arranging shipment you should You should also understand which port near you will be most economical for your shipment.

    Be certain that the car is just that, a car, and not being used as a container for additional things that do not belong (unless you container ship the car). That included spare sets of tires/wheels as inclusion of additional cargo is unlawful and will potentially result in impound/fees. Also be very sure that the car is reasonably clean and free of organic matter both inside and out before shipment as a dirty car is more likely to be inspected, and may fail agricultural inspection.

    Also arrange for the local title/registration documents and any additional service history to be sent to you via certified post at this time.

    Importing Only Arranging Shipping:

    Why use this method: If you are near enough to your local port to visit it in person or have time to do so.

    In an ideal situation the seller/exporter will arrange the shipment. However, if you are exporting a car you have owned overseas or if the seller is unwilling/unable to do so you, the buyer, may arrange shipping. Thus far I have been completely satisfied with NMT Shipping and can recommend them to anyone planning to use RORO.

    In addition to shipping I suggest that you have your shipper (or seller/exporter if they have that ability, as in the case of Ivo) file the Import Security Filing (ISF), while this is theoretically possible for an individual to do it will not be covered here. Typical ISF filing fees range from $80 to $200.

    Shipping is typically $1,200-1,500 from Europe to the Eastern USA, and will undoubtedly be more to the Western side.

    You may opt for containerized shipping or RORO. I have only used RORO, have been happy with the results, and have not had a car damaged in the process. However, if you are shipping an expensive car I would suggest that you get specific insurance to cover your shipment, and you should consult your shipper for information.

    The shipper will need to file a notification of arrival with CBP, the ISF, and possibly other paperwork, none of which should require any involvement on your part after you have provided them with your personal information. Be aware that shippers like to use your SSN as an identification number for your shipment, but it is possible to use your drivers license number as a substitute.

    Your shipper will provide you with several documents, which you will need to clear customs:

    Bill of Lading; Sea Arrival Notice; Delivery Notice

    Clearing Customs in Person:

    Before you can clear the car through customs it must have arrived and have been cleared for release by CBP. Be aware that a car may be subject to extra inspections on a random basis, and you may be liable for fees for certain inspections. Your shipper should notify you of the customs release when you receive the Sea Arrival Notice. However if you do not hear from them within three business days of expected arrival contact your shipper to verify, as cars that sit for more than seven days at the terminal are often subject to storage fees.

    You will not be allowed in to the port unless you have a Transit Workers Identification Card (TWIC) or an authorized port escort. For the Port of Baltimore the only port escort agency is A-1 Escort Service, and they charge $50 per hour, from start to finish, including waiting in lines, for their service. If you have a reflective safety vest you should bring it with you as you will be required to wear one in the port, although the escort agency will sell you one for a nominal fee.

    Do not use your cellular phone in the customs office as this is against regulations, which should be clearly posted. You may however use your phone to take pictures at the port within reason, although doing so is also technically against regulations.

    At the customs office you will need the following:

    Photo identification; payment (2.5% of value on Bill of Sale + $9 processing fee) in the form of cash, check or credit (depends on the port, bring exact change in cash if in doubt); Bill of Sale; Bill of Lading; Sea Arrival Notice and title of the car.

    You will fill out the following forms on paper:

    CBP 7501; EPA 3520; DOT HS-7

    CBP officer may fill out the following form or may ask you to do so:

    CBP 368

    All forms filled out at in the office will be stamped, along with the Sea Arrival Notice, Bill of Lading, Delivery Notice and potentially the Bill of Sale. The CBP officer may provide you with copies of documents for use at the cargo terminal. Expect this part of the process to take under one hour if there are no real delays entering or exiting the port.

    Picking Up the Car in Person:

    If you do not intend to flat trailer the car from the port, and in addition to the forms obtained at the customs office you will need the following if you intend to drive the car out of the port or utilize a tow dolly:

    Temporary tags/registration; proof of on road insurance for the imported vehicle; anything you believe will be needed to get the car running

    You will need to immediately notify your contact at your shipper that you have cleared the car through customs, and that you would like them to clear the car for release at the port terminal. If they are unable to do so in short order (remember that some of their head offices are not in the same time zone as you are, ask in advance if unsure) you may have to leave the port and come back later in the day or another day entirely. Do you best to inform your shipper of your intentions in advance and of when you plan to collect the car.

    Once at the cargo terminal present the person in charge with your documentation and they should take the required forms or copy thereof. They will then inform you of the location of the cargo, possibly provide keys (although they should be in the car) and you may then proceed to pick up your car.

    After getting the car running/loaded on to the trailer you may then leave the port. Be aware that staff at the entrance/exit of the port may decrease at lunch time, resulting in a delay and additional expense in the form of port escort time. When you get to the port exit present the officer with your documentation, and head back to the port escort service to pay them.

    Arranging Transport from the Port:

    This can be a less expensive way of removing the car from the port as it mitigates the potential delays and associated costs of using the port escort agency as well as trailer/tow vehicle expenses. Be aware that using a non-TWIC holding transporter will be more expensive as they will also need to use a port escort at the same rate as if you were to collect it yourself.

    If you wish to arrange for transport of the car from the port you will need to do the following:

    Obtain the terminal release from the shipper; inform the shipper of the agency/agent you plan to use to collect the car and the date of expected pick up; provide the transporter with the documentation (they will tell you what they need if they are competent)

    The transporter I have used with great success has been ABC Auto Transport in Dundalk, MD. You may contact Stan Lohoski, the owner/operator by doing a simple google search of "ABC Auto Transport Dundalk, MD." Expect to pay about $200 to have your car delivered to a location near Baltimore, or less if you collect it from their storage lot in Dundalk. Do inform your transporter of any special starting/loading/unloading requirements of your vehicle in advance.

    Registering Your Import:

    The majority of states need the CBP 3461 (either in electronic form or with stamp depending on the state), HS-7, EPA 3520, foreign title, bill of sale and nothing more to register the car. However, some states will require a certified translation of the foreign title (if other than English), if this is the case you may be able to get one from the country of export as many offer titles in English. Otherwise it should be the standard practice in your state of VIN rubbing, State Police inspection or otherwise. Residents of California intending to register their imports in state will need to have them emissions certified, a process which is expensive and most likely not worth it for your average E30 touring.

    Forms You Should Understand and Example Photos:

    CBP 3461 Customs Release - clears car for entry to the US
    CBP 7501 Customs Entry Summary - itemizes and describes cargo to be cleared
    CBP 368 Customs Collection Receipt - receipt for payment of import duties
    DOT HS-7 Declaration (pg2) - declares car to be 25 years old or older and exempt from safety/theft standards
    EPA 3520 Declaration (pg2) - declares engine to be 21 years old or older, and exempt from emissions requirements
    Delivery Order - notifies the customer of intended final destination of cargo and arrival dates
    Sea Arrival Notice - cargo arrival notification
    Bill of Lading - cargo/routing manifest
    Bill of Sale - shows price/identification of cargo and value for import duties
    Foreign Title - non-US title showing VIN and description of car

    Helpful links:

    CBP Importing a Car:
    EPA Importing Cars/Engines:
    DOT HS-7 .pdf:
    EPA 3520 .pdf: (LINK BROKEN -if you have a new one PM me)
    Last edited by roguetoaster; 09-07-2017, 05:22 PM.

    An excellent and thorough post - thanks for the contribution. :)

    I'll add that finding a touring is really easy - there have been plenty to choose from for as long as I've been looking - but the hard part is recognizing a really good example when you see one, with a seller willing to cooperate.

    We used a buyer's agent to import our new car, and the cost of importation into Canada more than doubled the total cost of the car, but once we found the car we wanted and secured it with the buyer, the remainder of the process (including getting it from the middle of southern Germany to the port) was handled for us neatly.

    Well worth the effort for the right car in my opinion. ;)


      Glad you liked it. Absolutely, the right car is usually worth it.

      Should mention that if this needs correction/revision/clarification, or if you'd like to add something that I didn't cover post up the info or PM me and I'll include it.


        Super RT. A real service and benefit!
        ACS S3 Build / Dinan 5 E34


          Although I don't plan on doing this(that I know of!)'s an awesome write up! Two thumbs up!
          Originally posted by Matt-B
          hey does anyone know anyone who gets upset and makes electronics?


            Awesome write-up, I wish this had been around years ago when I shipped my Jaguar lightweight.

            A couple of points from my experience:

            The 25 year exemption applies to DOT requirements, EPA exemption is 21 years. Not really relevant but there for completeness.

            If you have owned the car for a minimum of 11 months then Customs import charges are stamp duty and fees only, about $120 when I shipped my Jag which saved me a small fortune considering the value of the car.

            Get your paperwork straight, if your imported car is rejected then you will be charged Customs storage charges (an arm and a leg per day) and have a limited time to export the vehicle after which it can never come back, ever.

            Alternatively USC will destroy the vehicle for you and charge you for the service, about $800 last time I looked. Talk about rubbing salt into the wound.

            I shipped my Jag 15 years ago, regulations may have changed but these were my stress high points for a while.


              This is a god sent! I imported a touring from Ivo back in March, and my hold up with getting it registered here in Indianapolis is that my local BMV they are requesting stamped dot and epa forms... I kept arguing the fact that the vehicle is 25 years old and that I had the cbp release form.

              Well they kept asking me for the stamped forms that I didn't have (and still don't!) and they printed off the 3520-1 and asked that I contact the epa to get it stamped by them... complete misinformation!

              My question is... This all went through a broker and had NMT (shipping company) ship it directly to me, why didn't I get those stamped forms to begin with? I was so close to parting this thing and taking it on the chin. Thank you so much!


                Brokers allegedly have the ability to file some sort of electronic claim that bypasses the HS7/3520 starting that the car is exempt from DOT/EPA requirements. This is truly unfortunate for the end user as they are left out in the cold when the MVA requires stamps as most brokers will give you a 3461 paperless (which technically has release authorization on it) unless you specifically insist on physical, CBP stanped copies of all documents.

                It would be nice if MVAs would understand that these are legal declarations and should not need any approval aa they are made on an individuals claim without being checked in most cases. However, they will be stamped when submitted by a broker as long as they do not e file, or iif done in person.

                Fortunately for me, when I ended up with a paperless 3461 I was able to extract the process to get a stamped copy from the guy at NMT. However, when I called CBP they explicitly said that they won't stamp non CBP forms, but YMMV as their rules seem less set in stone than you might think.

                Who was your contact at NMT? They may be able to provide you with some further info on how to get the HS7 and 3520 stamped by someone, but I don't definitively know how you would do that.


                  Nice write up Gaelan!


                    I just checked my Jag registration documentation, the forms needed for DMV are issued by US Customs, either CF 3299 or CF 7501 (I had both for some reason).

                    These forms are now CBP3299 and CBP7501.

                    Just checked with NY dmv where I originally registered the car and Mass RMV, their imported vehicle registration policies both quote either of these docs.

                    Your dmv is talking out of its rear end.


                      3299 is the form you'd need if you are declaring free items within your vehicle. However, I am not sure if that would fly if you didn't own the vehicle overseas.


                        Thank you so much for your response I really wanted to pm you months ago but, I wanted to remain patient since I knew this write up would come.

                        It sounds like I'm screwed... When I contacted Jason at NMT I stressed to him what I needed and he sent me all forms that were involved in the importing process and mentioned that an electronic release was filed. None of what he sent was stamped.

                        It's extremely frustrating having to deal with this and feeling like I'm a stamp or two away from legally being able to drive my touring and it has put a halt to continue wanting to import them. Ivo offered me a sweet malachit Green touring (325is) after I missed out on the one you purchased I held off.

                        My BMV will not at all assist in this process and it sucks! feels like I've spent money on a paper weight. I'll make some calls Monday and see what gives. Thanks again for your help.


                          Nice writeup.

                          Having done this both dealing with USCBP and clearing importation through a broker, I can strongly suggest the latter. The fees were eminently reasonable: Customs entry fee $125 and Bond fee and service $50. Of course, the bill from the broker will be higher since they will pay the US Duty to be paid on your behalf and other fees that you'll have to pay with or without a broker.

                          If the forum overlords allow it, I am happy to post my broker's contact info for Baltimore.

                          During one pickup, the ports people demanded payment of certain unpaid fees and they would not accept cash, credit card or personal check. This is Friday at 3 pm and they keep banker's hours. Seeking a cashier's check at that time was impossible. I called the broker and she posted payment on my behalf allowing me to retrieve the vehicle.

                          Soviet-era bread lines' customer service was FAR better than what you will experience at the ports. I am not kidding or exaggerating. They are perennially pissed off and could care less about your pretty little import.

                          One last thing, in Baltimore if you are picking up at Amports, at 2901 Childs Street, you do not need a TWIC escort to get in and pick up or drop off a car. This is where Hoegh vehicles come in. If you have to go to the Dundalk Marine Terminal, then you need a TWIC escort.


                            The first car I used a broker for cost just under $1200 without the duty cost, and included a transport inland of a mere 18 miles. To me that just wasn't worth it at all.

                            Can confirm that Hoegh does use the Ceres terminal.

                            Are you talking about lines/payment at the terminal or at the customs office? In each case I never had to wait more than 5 minutes, but have had to wait up to 30 minutes at the port escort.


                              Excellent writeup, great job!

                              We have sold a 325iX Touring to a customer in Michigan. Shipping in about 3 weeks. The cost for the broker/import agent usually comes in at around $500 to $700. Imo I'f you aren't really bothered to learn all the ins and outs about importing, and don't live near a port, hiring an agent sure does make things a lot easier.
                              Euro car and parts export business based in the Netherlands, specialized in E30 Tourings!

                              Instagram: @garage30_ WWW.GARAGE30.NL