A person looking to import a car under 25 years old must bring the vehicle up to U.S. emission and safety standards set for the original model year of the vehicle. This means the vehicle must be equipped with U.S.-specification airbags, knee bolsters, lights & lenses, seat belt buzzers, door reinforcement crash beams, and more. Then it must pass separate emissions cleanliness tests.
If the manufacturer of the vehicle you’re looking to import originally crash certified and sold the same model in the United States, the DOT will usually accept that as prior precedent that your vehicle (now modified to U.S. standards) would be equally safe in an accident.
But if the model of car you want to import was never certified for sale in the U.S., then you will bear the responsibility of proving crashworthiness. Translated, this means you will need to provide three modified subjects for crash testing, and bear agency testing costs (typically $200-$400 thousand). Not practical for an individual at all.
And because it's a RHD
DO RIGHT-HAND-DRIVE VEHICLES NEED TO BE MODIFIED TO LEFT-HAND DRIVE?
For cars 25 years or older, no. For newer cars, importers feel it is a risky proposition no matter what. One commented, “Modifying right hand drive on newer cars depends. The Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance at NHTSA put out a newsletter for Registered Importers about two years ago that basically said no new petitions for import of a vehicle would be considered if the vehicle was right-hand-drive, or had been converted from right-hand-drive. I’m going to say that if the vehicle was being imported for use by mail carriers, there might be an exemption, but it would be tough.”