Since the arrival of the Fast and the Furious in the early 2000s, those living stateside have been obsessed with tasting that sweet forbidden Japanese fruit. Arguably none more than the legendary Nissan Skyline.
Originally produced in 1957, it wouldn’t be until the eighth-generation R32 that would take the U.S. by storm thanks to the introduction of the internet and Japanese culture in teenage America. However, after the introduction of the 25-year ban rule imposed on all imported vehicles in 1989, American teens had to wait until 2014 before legally acquiring an R32 Skyline.
Although gray market importers could skirt the law through registered importer status and were the first to bring these JDM icons to the shores of America, it takes millions of dollars to achieve the title of registered importer due to the extensive crash testing needed to present to the NHTSA these cars were safe enough for American roads.
Thankfully, the 25-year mark has since come and gone, begging the question: how much does it really cost to import a Skyline from Japan?
How The 25-Year Ban Came To Be
But before diving into the costs associated with a JDM imported car, it’s important to know how the rule came to be. Because before 1989, Americans were free to import any vehicle their red, white, and blue hearts desired.
Enter Douglas DeBoard, an American expat living in Southern Germany, land of Mercedes-Benz. Douglas realized in the early ‘80s the desire his fellow Americans had to own the more powerful — and better looking — European-spec MBs.
Advertising his gray-market cars on Autoweek, DeBoard soon made a killing importing cars thanks to rising stagflation in the U.S. By 1984, it was reported that the importers cost the American arms of Mercedes around $300 million in sales. Of course, this was deemed unacceptable and by 1989, all gray-market importing ceased thanks to the passing of the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act in Congress, otherwise known as the 25-year ban rule.
The NHTSA elaborates that “A motor vehicle that is at least 25 years old can be lawfully imported into the U.S. without regard to whether it complies with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. You should also note that the 25 year period runs from the date of the vehicle’s manufacture.”
However, it doesn’t end there, because if you happen to be an unluncky individual who doesn’t have a label permanently affixed to the vehicle from the manufacturer, the NHTSA stipulates that in order to establish the age “you should have documentation available such as an invoice showing the date the vehicle was first sold or a registration document showing that the vehicle was registered at least 25 years ago.”
Auction House Or DIY?
Although the passing of the 25-year ban brought a screeching halt to the importing business, it was resurrected after the introduction of the internet and car culture movies, mentioned earlier.
Because even though it’s possible to import a car yourself, the ensuing headaches versus the flat-fee most professional importing businesses charge isn’t worth the hassle. As a result of the increased popularity, the price of Skylines has skyrocketed in the last 10 years. A quick search through Japanese auction houses shows Skylines beginning at remarkably low prices, but tend to fetch well over $20,000 once the gavel has dropped.
Save for the laundry list of fees associated with getting the car from said auction house, to your driveway. The auction house’s fee to even submit a bid can cost near $1000, not to mention another $300 in auction fees after the purchase of the car.
Fees Upon Fees
But it doesn’t end there, because it takes $150 just to have someone deliver the car to the boat where it’ll cost $1000 to arrange a shipping vessel. Once the boat arrives on U.S. land you’ll have to pay another $400 to clear the vehicle through customs, and around $200 to pass through the customs terminal upon clearance. Finally, $100 to have a company escort you around the maze-like American port once the car has passed inspection.
For the sake of brevity, let’s say you’re able to score an R32 GTST for around $16,000. That means, in order to legally own and register the car, it’ll take another $3,000, for a grand total of $19,000. For those with less time to devote to the long, arduous process reputable JDM dealers are available across the country. Those diligent enough should have no issues finding a similarly conditioned GTST for less than $20,000 and have it shipped to your door for less than $1,000.
Is the $1,000 surcharge worth it to avoid the headaches between a language barrier, bureaucratic red-tape, and scam-artists? We sure think so.