sfhksejhefjk
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2021 10:44 am

Importing EU i3 to US

Fri Jul 09, 2021 10:54 am

Hi all, I realise this is an odd question, as usually people are interested in importing i3s in the other direction. But: I'm currently in the US for work for a couple of years, and am looking to get a car here. My dad in Europe has an i3 that he's not currently using.

So I'm thinking instead of spending a few thousand dollars on a crappy used car here, maybe it would make as much or more sense to spend the money on shipping the i3 here instead. I've been looking into how that might work, but I just cannot see my way through all the DOT and EPA and CBP rules around importing a car.

Does anyone here know if it would be possible to import an i3 to the US, and how complicated it would be? Do I just need to fill in a few forms, or do I need to pay a commercial importer? I would want to keep the car for more than a year, so the temporary import exemption doens't apply unfortunately.

Thanks everyone!!

3pete
Posts: 142
Joined: Tue Mar 19, 2019 9:03 pm

Re: Importing EU i3 to US

Fri Jul 09, 2021 4:04 pm

I don't know much about importing cars but a couple thoughts:
1) The charge port on a European i3 would use a different connector (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_2_connector) than all the charge points in the US (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAE_J1772). This may not be a problem if you bring the EVSE with the car and can adapt it to our outlets, but then you're stuck only using that EVSE and never a public charge station which would be a big deal. You could maybe get the car's connector changed to type 1, but that leads us to the next point:

2) I can't imagine this would be the best approach from a financial standpoint even with the inflated prices in the (used) car market right now. Shipping the car would alone be a large sum. Is it going back to Europe afterwards? Then double the shipping. Depending what you're willing to spend on a car in the US, you could either buy something on the used market that will depreciate very little (Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Tesla Model 3) and sell when you leave, or you could try to buy something really cheap that you'll drop off at a junkyard when you leave (20 year old Honda Civic, 20 year old Toyota Camry, Nissan LEAF with a severely depleted battery)...

What I DO know about importing cars is that it should theoretically be easier to bring an i3 than something like a Zoe since the i3 was actually sold here. But knowing bureaucracy, I'm going to guess it's still not worth it...

alohart
Posts: 2424
Joined: Sat Nov 01, 2014 7:36 pm
Location: Honolulu, HI

Re: Importing EU i3 to US

Fri Jul 09, 2021 5:19 pm

3pete wrote:
Fri Jul 09, 2021 4:04 pm
1) The charge port on a European i3 would use a different connector (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_2_connector) than all the charge points in the US (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAE_J1772).
An option would be to buy a charge port adapter which would probably be much less expensive than replacing the charge port. However, this adapter supports only AC Levels 1 and 2 charging but not DC fast charging.

You might be required to install the yellow front and red rear side-facing reflectors that U.S. i3's have but E.U. i3's don't. U.S. spec headlights might also be required which would be an expensive retrofit. I don't know whether a European instrument panel that displays kilometers could be configured to display miles and whether this would be required. When I imported a U.S. car to Sweden, its instrument panel was required to display kilometers.

A European i3 would not connect to the Internet because its telematics module would have a European SIM. This would prevent BMW's Connected Services from functioning, but U.S. authorities wouldn't care. Also, the navigation system maps would be European, not North American. I don't know whether North American maps could be installed on a European i3.

Any existing BMW warranties would be invalid in the U.S.

Considering everything, I wouldn't try to import a European i3 into the U.S.
Aloha,
Art

2014 BMW i3 Arravani Grey, Giga World, Tech + Driving Assist, Parking Assist, DC Fast Charging, JuiceBox EVSE

EvanstonI3
Posts: 64
Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2020 9:11 pm

Re: Importing EU i3 to US

Fri Jul 09, 2021 8:05 pm

Oddly enough there is a way around this that I am familiar with and have known others to do it.
Think about Canada for a moment. Another Country. Like any other European Country.
But you can drive across the border easier. With a Canadian car registered in Canada to a Canadian with Canadian plates.

You can do this with a "Tourist visa" for pretty much any car for up to one year.
You can then extend that visa for another year if needed.

I know people who have done this with other vehicles and then.....the car is just forgotten. They can't legally title the vehicle in their name in the USA, but the cars generally end up in private collections so nobody cares.

So, if you want to drive YOUR DAD'S car around for a year or so, you CAN do it. But your Dad has to prove he is bringing it with him from Europe. There is some paperwork involved (don't ask me to walk you through it) and your Dad would need to provide some sort of proof he is coming to the USA for some period of time. He can go back and forth to Europe but leave the car here for "his use" (wink, wink). The car will have to be registered in Europe, with European plates and Insurance. Last I looked, PROGRESSIVE would deal with this type of insurance.

That is the cheapest and easiest way I know of to accomplish what you are asking for but it still may not be cost-effective for what your needs are.
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sfhksejhefjk
Posts: 2
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Re: Importing EU i3 to US

Sat Jul 10, 2021 5:41 am

alohart wrote:
Fri Jul 09, 2021 5:19 pm
You might be required to install the yellow front and red rear side-facing reflectors that U.S. i3's have but E.U. i3's don't. U.S. spec headlights might also be required which would be an expensive retrofit. I don't know whether a European instrument panel that displays kilometers could be configured to display miles and whether this would be required. When I imported a U.S. car to Sweden, its instrument panel was required to display kilometers.

...

Considering everything, I wouldn't try to import a European i3 into the U.S.
Ah, okay - thank you!! So there are differences between the US and EU versions of the i3, I didn't know that. That's exactly the kind of information I needed. If it needs a retrofit it definitely wouldn't be worth it. If it was just shipping fees, things would have been different. So there's presumably also no chance the EU i3 will already be DOT/EPA certified, and no point in checking if it has any such certification stickers anywhere, right?
EvanstonI3 wrote: Oddly enough there is a way around this that I am familiar with and have known others to do it.
Think about Canada for a moment. Another Country. Like any other European Country.
But you can drive across the border easier. With a Canadian car registered in Canada to a Canadian with Canadian plates.

You can do this with a "Tourist visa" for pretty much any car for up to one year.
You can then extend that visa for another year if needed.

I know people who have done this with other vehicles and then.....the car is just forgotten. They can't legally title the vehicle in their name in the USA, but the cars generally end up in private collections so nobody cares.

So, if you want to drive YOUR DAD'S car around for a year or so, you CAN do it. But your Dad has to prove he is bringing it with him from Europe. There is some paperwork involved (don't ask me to walk you through it) and your Dad would need to provide some sort of proof he is coming to the USA for some period of time. He can go back and forth to Europe but leave the car here for "his use" (wink, wink). The car will have to be registered in Europe, with European plates and Insurance. Last I looked, PROGRESSIVE would deal with this type of insurance.

That is the cheapest and easiest way I know of to accomplish what you are asking for but it still may not be cost-effective for what your needs are.
Ah, okay, so this is something I was also thinking about. I know non-residents can import their car for up to one year, but I just don't know what happens if you end up keeping it here for longer. You don't have to provide proof that you exported the car again within a year? So if you keep it here longer and you get caught, e.g. if you get stopped by police, do you just get a fine? What if you want to take the car back to Europe at some point - do they check on the way out? Thank you!

EvanstonI3
Posts: 64
Joined: Tue Nov 03, 2020 9:11 pm

Re: Importing EU i3 to US

Sat Jul 10, 2021 6:45 am

sfhksejhefjk wrote:
Sat Jul 10, 2021 5:41 am
So if you keep it here longer and you get caught, e.g. if you get stopped by police, do you just get a fine? What if you want to take the car back to Europe at some point - do they check on the way out?
The "fine" is they seize the car and have it destroyed. At your expense.

I can't answer any of your questions on the specifics of this.
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frictioncircle
Posts: 152
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Location: USA West Coast

Re: Importing EU i3 to US

Sat Jul 10, 2021 10:48 pm

So I'm thinking instead of spending a few thousand dollars on a crappy used car here, maybe it would make as much or more sense to spend the money on shipping the i3 here instead. I've been looking into how that might work, but I just cannot see my way through all the DOT and EPA and CBP rules around importing a car.

sfhksejhefjk –

As you know you'll be in the US for a short time, you could buy a used i3 here – it will be well-depreciated. Then before you return home sell it back to a retailer like CarMax or Carvana. Of course you'll lose money on the sale, but how expensive is it to ship the i3 both ways, plus the other expenses (and inconveniences) needed to make it drivable here?

Another option to think about... taking over someone else's lease on an i3. I've never done it before but there are plenty of sites that offer such a service. Here are two:

https://www.leasetrader.com

https://www.swapalease.com

Good luck!


edit: punctuation

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MKH
Gold Member
Posts: 872
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2018 5:48 am
Location: Dallas

Re: Importing EU i3 to US

Sun Jul 11, 2021 4:43 am

The "fine" is they seize the car and have it destroyed. At your expense.
Yeah, and they aren't kidding! They literally impound the car and then immediately crush it into scrap. Here is a MINI Cooper that was seized for being illegally imported.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FX9alJ77wMM&t=3s
Mark H.
2015 i3 Rex, Capparis White, Tera World, Technology & Driving Assistant, Parking Assistant, Harman Kardon Audio System, 19 inch 427 wheels, EVoInnovate EVSE

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