How to Import a bus from the USA in some easy steps

Discussion in 'Buying a VW Camper' started by DUBious, Aug 11, 2011.

  1. How to import a VW camper, or any other vehicle from the USA, in “some” easy steps

    Firstly you will need to find a bus, or buses you like the look of, there is of course the obvious “ebay” but regardless of where it is, if you are in the UK, even if you pay for the bus with paypal, you do NOT have the same level of cover / protection that you have here (not that you have a lot here anyway) so be warned.
    There are a few good sources where you can see many buses, I found mine on it was advertised by a trader who had good trading feedback, prior to this one, I had made contact about a number of others, but all of them gave me that “uncomfortable feeling” and I suggest if you suspect anything is out of place, then think twice. I am not going to dwell of this, I will now just explain what I did.
    So, I found this camper I liked the look of, the guy seemed ok on the samba and as mentioned had good trading feedback, so I emailed him asking for additional details, I went into specifics asking for more digital pictures followed by asking for digitial pictures taken of certain key areas (primarily areas where we know they are liable to rust : Rear bottom corners / outriggers / floor pans / wheel arches / front floors / front panel (under the rubber at the bottom) / battery trays / chassis / front steps / sills / the list goes on but I you get my total I had around 100 pictures sent within many many emails, I then asked for more in areas I had doubts about, he scrapped road dirt off and took about another 10 of these areas. At this point I was feeling more assured about this being the “one for me” so the next step, while haggling over price was to check him out as a seller, this was probably a lot easier for me that for most people as I work for a US based global company and we have facilities in nearly every US state, so I was able to get someone to check out the financials of his business for free, you can do this too, but you would have to pay a small fee. The other way is to just check what you can :
    Ask for multiple phone numbers and check them all out, with my seller I have his mobile number, his works number, his home number and his wifes cell number, so I was quiet confident that he was indeed legitimate, I also asked for some references, he gave me 3 numbers / emails addresses, one of which was a shipping company who he claimed he uses on a regular basis, this was my main port of call, and they duly confirmed his credentials.
    It was at this point in time (early December 2010) that I deceided to go for it and we agreed a value and payment terms, I did paid an additional 2.5% and paid my first instalment using my credit card, this offers more protection that paypal and to me it was worth the 2.5% fee the seller charged on top, this was only the first instalment. The agreement was, I paid this as a deposit, then upon receiving a call from the shipper that my bus was delivered to the docks, I would make the second payment. This, I felt gave me some protection. (I have since helped others on this forum import buses and they have not done this, this is due to me now knowing the guy and they have brought their buses from the same guy)
    As far as shipping goes, you have 3 maybe more options, I am sure a few people will be only to eager to point them out.........but, as far as I know, as my bus was coming out of California, it’s either
    San Fransisco or Oakland, SF being the most costly, the seller is able to ship the bus via vehicle transporter down to Oakland and this saves money, I did not know this and it was only when I helped Rickyrooo1 import his that I learned of this cost saving opportunity, you can save about £300 by doing this.
    Alternatively you can get vehicles shipped by land to Houstan and save more, but there is a fine line between shipping costs and land transport..............its worth pointing out that shipping from the East Coast is far cheaper, alas its the west coast where most of the rust free buses seem to come from, but its worth looking as the overall shipping cost is around 2/3 that of the West coast.
    Point to note, just in case the seller does not know this : they need to submit both the bill of sale / pink slip / and customs declaration with the vehicle to the shipper or it will NOT be loaded !
    So, what’s it gonna cost you ?
    In total with VAT & duty (I will cover this lower down) mine cost £2077 GBP from San Fransisco to Thamesport. Knowing what I know now, I could have gotten this down to £1400, £300 of this reduction is by shipping out of Oakland instead of SF, the rest is down to knowing the VAT loop holes. All in all, from the West coast, I would budget for circa £1500 on a bus valued at 4k GBP (VAT is based on bus value and mine cost 4k)
    The shipping company I used, and a few others have used since were Kingstown shipping, they are an agent and handle everything for you (customs paperwork etc etc) this is all included within the above stated price, but for those wanting “bare bones” prices, Kingstown charge about £375 for their work, in my opinion it was worth it as within 2 days of arriving mine was unloaded and customs cleared.
    VAT : VAT is currently 20% on vehicle import..... however, if a vehicle is older than 30 years old, you can apply for a binding tariff and this then reduces down to 5% J all you need to do is download (or ask me and i’ll send it to you) the BTI document and complete it, send this to the shipper well in advance of your bus arriving and all being well you should only be paying the 5%. The deal is, you might need to provide evidence of the historical value of the vehicle, this is not that hard to do and feel free to call me or PM me for advice on the content required for this.
    Duty : If you are only importing one vehicle per year, then there is a one off payment of £55 duty, this becomes a percentage of you decide to import more than 1 per year, I believe this can be in between 12-17.5% though I am not sure, at the end of the day, if you have a large family, then it’s quite easy to only import 1 vehicle each per year J wink wink nudge nudge say no more.
    So, what happens during shipping ? Not a lot, it takes around 8-12 weeks depending on when it scheduled to leave, how quickly the space is sold, and how many additional ports it stops at, within this time, Firstly send off to Wolfsberg for the vehicle data sheet, this will prove the vehicle age and allow DVLA to assign it age related plates, this takes about 8 weeks. Soem will say you need the full birth certificate which costs 35 euros, this is NOT the case, all you need is the data sheet which only costs 10 euros. Here is the link to get the data sheet
    Also get that BTI for submitted, the shipper will also ask for you to complete the customs paperwork, this is another one page A4 document and a doddle to fill in (I can help with that too if you have any questions) then around 3-5 days before the ship arrives you get a call from the shipper about getting payment ready and then you get all excited J Note, you do not pay the shipper until the bus arrives, then you pay for shipping and VAT / Duty all in one go once its customs cleared. In this period, you will need to arrange you transport for the vehicle to your door, or you can legally drive it, as long as its insured ! but, BEWARE, I am told, there are police that look out for this and they can actually prosecute you unless you have the vehicle booked in for an MOT, in that situation, regardless of distance you are legally taking the vehicle to the MOT station. I must stress though, I do not advise this, the reasons are as follows :
    · The true mechanical condition of the vehicle is somewhat of an unknown
    · America does not have anything like our MOT, so you have no idea how safe the vehicle is to drive
    · It’s going to be strange (probably) driving LHD
    · The fuel pipe condition may be very dangerous
    Taking all of this into account, and given that transport is not that costly, just play it safe and get it delivered to you on a transporter. Mine which travelled 224miles from the bonded warehouse to my door cost £175, now taking into account train fare down to Kent and time lost from work, plus the risk, then it’s really a no brainer.
    Total cost for my bus to my door ended up at £6300, straight away it was valued at £13000 and this is now at £15000 following the work (bling) I have done.
    When your baby arrives you will need to get it MOT’d of course, I was lucky and mine sailed through first time with no advisories J top banana.......... once this is done, then you get the DVLA forms filled in and either send them off or visit the local VOSA place to get it registered, the cost of this is £55 + Road Tax The forms required are to be found here
    There may be cases (such as mine) where you are called into VOSA for a vehicle inspection, this sounds bad but its a 10 min look over the vehicle to assess that it’s not a ringer. Now, to clear something up, you can drive the vehicle to the VOSA station legally with no road tax, I had this confirmed by the West Mids police, the copper even gave me his PC number in case I got pulled over as he assured me it was legal. Please do however check with your own local plod.
    Ok, I think that’s about it, I will add anything else I can think of as it’s been a bit of a rush re writing this at work. As always, if in any doubts, or if you have any concerns or need any help, please PM me and i’ll send me phone numbers and we can have a chat.
    Note : I have not stated certain things in the above for legal reasons, I can and of course will explain these verbally.
  2. :mad:
  3. You poor Europeans. You made all our buses and then shipped them to us. Now you have to pay thousands to get them back. ;D HA! :eek: Whoops! That just slipped out.
  4. Very helpful I am buying a bus at the moment from the good old US of A :)
  5. Now how does one get a right side drive bus to the States??
  6. do the above but entirely in reverse ;)
  7. Lord Charles

    Lord Charles Day's Away Mod

    Thanks for re-posting this
  8. That's ok Charlie, didn't realise you liked my witty reparte so much ;)
  9. The Department of Transport advise that if you use or park the vehicle on a public road it is liable to vehicle excise duty from;

    a) The date the vehicle arrived in the UK,or;

    b) The date you decide to retain the vehicle in the UK if it came under temporary relief

    Vehicles permanently imported must be licensed and registered in the UK before they can be legally used on UK roads.

    VOSA were unable to clarify points a and b to me if the vehicle is tax exempt.

  10. has anyone imported from florida ?and if so who did you use
  11. rickyrooo1

    rickyrooo1 Hanging round like a bad smell

    don't forget sometimes it's cheaper to use a further away port, my bus came from san fran, the port was 5 minutes from the seller, yet i chose to get it trailered to l.a. as it was cheaper to ship from there, saved $400 which then paid the taxes when it got here.
  12. If it was in range of the people I used last time I would use them but Florida on the east coast and California is on the east so I don't think it s viable 😞
    I've been told Kingston is that who I mean ??
    may be able to help so I am going to check them out
  13. el


    ive used kingstown a good few times now and have had no probs (touch wood as they say)
  14. rickyrooo1

    rickyrooo1 Hanging round like a bad smell

    yeah i used them, they were good, i think madfrankie shipped his from florida way got it part sent on a train? i forget now.....
  15. Anyone got www for em as I ain't even got 3G in this hole
  16. rickyrooo1

    rickyrooo1 Hanging round like a bad smell

  17. I got it to Long Beach via train to Houston and then Rinkens / CFR Line shipped it across to Thamesport.

    Kingstown were the UK agent I used to get it through customs.

    I can't recommend all these guys highly enough as they were all helpful and friendly answering my continual questions and really busted a gut to get it over and through customs asap, (if only to get rid of me!).
  18. i ve mailed kingston waiting for them to get back to me :thinking:

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