The Hunt Begins: Land Rover Defender
It’s been a dream of mine since the late 90’s to own a Land Rover Defender 110. Unfortunately, they stopped selling them new in the United States in 1997 due to US safety regulations, which makes them hard to find in good shape at a reasonable price. After deciding to move to France, one of my first thoughts was that I should buy a Defender in France, drive it while we are there, and then ship it back to the US when we return. But, after a few hours of searching via Google, I found out that this dream would have some complications.
According to East Coast Rovers (and many other sources) the only Defender 110’s that are easy to import are vehicles that are more than 25 years old or a 1993 Defender 110 with modifications.
Here are the details from East Coast Rovers:
25 Years or Older: Any Land-Rover manufactured 25 years ago or more is exempt from D.O.T. (Department of Transportation) import laws. We assume this is done because the DOT does not want to deal with tons of paperwork on old vehicles, so they have set a rolling 25 year cut off. To import a Rover that was built more than 25 years ago is a simple process and IS LEGAL, a few forms, shipping costs, duty fees and you are Rovering Stateside in your 25 year old classic.
Newer Than 25 Years Old: To import a Land-Rover manufactured less than 25 years ago, like Defenders or Discoveries is a completely different problem. Only certain years and models can be “Federalized”. For a list of the makes and models that have the ability to be “Federalized” go here. (and don’t forget they’ll need to be left hand drive, or converted to left hand drive for importation) That means if you find a LHD 1993 Defender 110 in Europe and want to bring it in, you can do that if you go through the process correctly. If you want a 2005 Td5 Defender 130 you can not import one (Don’t blame us, we didn’t put this crap into law). If the Rover you want to import is on the “good list” with the DOT you can import it through a “Registered Importer” and have it brought up to D.O.T. codes. However; ONLY Registered Importers can do this type of work. You can not bring in a 110, do the work yourself and call it “Federalized”, nor can a company in the UK do this work. A list of Registered Importers is on the D.O.T. web site, or go here. If the company you are dealing with claims they have imported legal vehicles, and they are not on this “Registered Importer” list, call the D.O.T. before you send them a check.
If you stopped reading the details above, then I don’t blame you. This entire process really bummed me out, as I was hoping to bring back a fairly new Defender 110 to the states- not going to happen. It is safe to say that importing autos into the United States is definitely not a simple thing to do, but I am still determined to find my Defender 110. It just needs to be 1988 or older, a 1993 Defender 110, or a 1997 Defender 90.
I’ll keep you posted on my hunt, but it looks like this could take some time. An initial search for Land Rover Defender 110’s in France that are older than 1988 came up with about 10 options- none of them what I am really looking for. A search for a 93 Defender 110 and a 97 Defender 90 in France came back with zero options.
I’m looking forward to the search. There is a certain sense of excitement and accomplishment in researching and finding the right vehicle, bringing it back to the US, and keeping it forever.