Importing a Land Cruiser from Overseas: A Cross-Continental Adventure

The economy's come a long way since the 2008 collapse. And thanks to the strength of the US dollar, it's become increasingly affordable to import Land Cruisers - both left hand drive and right hand - from overseas.

Find The OEM Land Cruiser Parts You Need Here

1990 import cruiser Here's a 1990 Land Cruiser that's import eligible and has the steering wheel on the wrong side. Image courtesy LandCruisersDirect.com

Whether doing it yourself or working with an importer, here are some options for those looking to import a Land Cruiser to the US.

How to Import a Land Cruiser from Overseas

Unless you have the right connections, importing a Land Cruiser is...difficult. Here's the process of how to get one stateside from overseas:

  • Finding the Vehicle. Japan, Australia, Europe, and even Central and South America are all sources for used Land Cruisers. Depending on what you're looking for, each region provides something different. For example, Australia is teeming with specialty options like the HJ75 Troopys, and Europe is the best source for left-hand drive diesel Land Cruisers.
  • Inspection. Just like any other used vehicle transaction, it's important to get it inspected before purchasing. But when a vehicle is overseas, it can be harder to find a reliable mechanic to look at it for you.
  • Buying the Land Cruiser. Unless you're fluent in German, Spanish, or Japanese, your contract will need to be translated to English. You'll then have to arrange for payment terms, either in US dollars or the local currency. Currency rates can fluctuate, even mid transaction, so be sure to give yourself some leeway.
  • Shipping/Insurance. Shipping a car from overseas will likely cost $1,000, - $3,000. And if you don't live near a major port, tack on another $500 to have your Land Cruiser shipped by truck.
  • Customs Clearance. Once your Land Cruiser arrives, US customs will want to review all the documents that prove you're the owner of the vehicle and that it meets US standards. For example, the fender must meet DOT standards, the engine must meet EPA standards, etc. The vehicle is exempt from emissions standards if it's at least 25 years old, contains the original engine, or has an engine that's been previously certified by the EPA. No matter the vehicle's age, you'll need to fill out all the EPA and DOT paperwork to clear the vehicle with the US Customs and Border Protection. The process is outlined here.
  • Titling/Registration. Once your Land Cruiser finally arrives, you'll need to get it registered. US Customs and Border Protection outlines the process here.

No Time For Import Paperwork? Work With An Importer

If the process above seems a little overwhelming, that's understandable. There are importers that specialize in bringing Land Cruisers to the US from overseas. And guess what? They handle all the tough stuff for you.

They handle the search, inspection, paperwork, shipping, and even the titling of your Land Cruiser. All you have to do is arrange pickup or shipping and register it in your state.

Most importers charge a flat fee for the whole process. Often, if you're looking for something specific, they'll keep an eye out for you and notify you when something turns up. It's their job to wade through the nooks and crannies of the foreign market, and they'll be better prepared to strike when something comes up.

Finally, What You Want Might Already Be Here

You could, quite literally, pick up the phone right now and have your very own import Land Cruiser picked out by the day's end. Here are some very real options to choose from:

1987 LJ73

1987 import cruiser

This rust-free Spanish import has a removable hard top and removable door tops. As they say in Spain, “Me gusta mucho!”

1991 HDJ81

1991 import cruiser

This Turbo diesel 80 series has the 1HDT engine and a factory-electric winch to go along with it.

1990 HZJ77

1990 LC Direct Cruiser

This low-mileage LandCruiser might be the coolest thing to come out of Japan since Godzilla. And we're not talking about the American remake, either. With the original 4.2L diesel HZJ77, you'll be ready for the snow, wind, or rain - practically anything mother nature can throw at it.

Written by Jason Lancaster