Is Your Imported Vehicle Excluded from EPA’s Clean Air Act Regulations?

Is Your Imported Vehicle Excluded from the Clean Air Act?

Breeze Customs Blog


he Clean Air Act is the law that defines EPA’s responsibilities for protecting and improving the United States’ air quality and the stratospheric ozone layer. This Act regulates the number of pollutants emitted from vehicles, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide. The EPA sets these standards, and if your vehicle does not meet them, you cannot legally import it into the country without special permission from the EPA.

Although EPA compliance is necessary, there are some imported vehicles and engines that are excluded from the motor vehicle emission requirements of the Clean Air Act. A few reasons for exclusion are vehicle age, fuel type, maximum speed, use, or lack of features associated with practical street or highway use.

That does not mean you can drive an imported vehicle excluded from the Clean Air Act into the United States without any inspection. If you bring a vehicle from another country, you will still need to have it inspected before registering it with your state’s DMV.

This article will look at the most common exclusions from the Clean Air Act. So, if you’re planning to import a vehicle into the United States, read on to see if your vehicle or engine may take a pass on EPA’s Clean Air Act regulations.

Vehicles at least 21 years old

If it has been 21 years or more since a vehicle’s original production year and it is in its original, unmodified condition, then it is exempted from the EPA Clean Air Act. Moreover, vehicles in any condition may be excluded if they were manufactured before the year in which EPA’s regulations for the class of vehicle took effect.

The exception to this exclusion is vehicles at least 21 years old with replacement engines — unless they contain equivalent or newer EPA-certified engines and emission control systems.

Engines not in a vehicle or chassis

EPA regulates the entire vehicle, not individual parts, for cars, light trucks, medium-duty passenger vehicles (MDPVs), chassis-certified heavy-duty vehicles, and motorcycles. So, an engine may be imported as an automotive part if it is not installed and used in a car, in a motorcycle, or in a light truck.

Anyone may import a non-chassis-mounted light-duty engine for use in a motor vehicle that is currently covered by an EPA certificate or will be covered by an EPA certificate before introduction into commerce. In this case, no approval or customs bond is required by EPA.

It is important to note that non-resident importers carry the same responsibilities as local US importers. They both need to comply with US trade rules and regulations and are accountable for submitting complete and correct documentation to CBP.

Racing vehicles

Not all vehicles used in races are excluded from emissions compliance. To qualify for the racing vehicle exclusion, EPA requires specific documentation to prove that the vehicle is incapable of being safely and practically driven on streets and highways and will be used only for racing. This documentation includes:

    1. Importer’s name, address, and phone number;
    2. Vehicle information (make, model, model year and VIN);
    3. A list of all the features that make the vehicle a racing vehicle;
    4. A list of all street features lacking in the vehicle. These include features that were either removed or never installed that would otherwise permit safe driving on streets or highways);
    5. A minimum of four photographs showing the front, rear, and each side view. If the vehicle has an interior, photographs of the interior are needed;
    6. The name of the sanctioning body and competition class;
    7. A schedule of the racing events where the vehicle will participate (including dates and locations);
    8. A copy of the competition racing license; and
    9. Proof that the vehicle cannot be used on U.S. streets and highways. This can be a letter from your state’s DMV explaining why the vehicle can’t be licensed for use on U.S. public roads.

Unregulated fuel vehicles

Vehicles using unregulated fuels are exempt from EPA’s Clean Air Act regulations. Regulated fuels are typically gasoline, diesel, ethanol, methanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) (including propane) fuels depending on the model year of the vehicle as described below.

  • For vehicles model years before 1991, gasoline and diesel are regulated fuels.
  • For the 1990-1996 model years, gasoline, diesel, ethanol, and methanol are regulated fuels.
  • For the 1997-2003 model years, gasoline, diesel, ethanol, methanol, CNG, and LPG (including propane) are regulated fuels.

A duel-fueled or multi-fueled vehicle is regulated if it can run on any regulated fuel. EPA does not require a customs bond or approval for unregulated fuel vehicles. Converting a vehicle that runs solely on an unregulated fuel to a regulated fuel without proper certification of conformity from EPA is considered a violation of the Clean Air Act.

Please note that although some vehicles may be excluded from the motor vehicle requirements, they may be subject to the non-road vehicle and emission standards that have become effective in recent years.

At Breeze Customs, we’ve helped hundreds of importers bring their vehicles into the United States without hassle. Want to check if your imported vehicle or engine is excluded from the EPA’s Clean Air Act regulations? Contact one of our Breeze Customs Concierges and/or book a meeting with us below! We’re here to help!