The Simple Answer is No
No. You cannot import an upgraded Defender on “points” because the parts are all 25 years old. If you’re looking at a 1989 Defender 110 with a 200Tdi motor, walk away. No matter how much the person tells you it’s legal, it’s not. I’ve seen a lot of these ads posted lately and they’re wrong. We hope this changes soon, but as of May of 2018, the rules by DOT, EPA, and Customs is this:
“The vehicles must be exactly 25 years old down to the year, month, and day. Documents must confirm this. The original frame, body, chassis, engine, and transmission must all be retained.”
There is a slight exception to the “engine” portion of this statement above. Since engines do not have serial numbers from Land Rover, nor are they stamped with the VIN, it is possible to import a vehicle that has had the same model engine swapped into the vehicle.
Is the vehicle 25 years old (or older). 1993 (to the month and day) as of May 2018.
Continue to part two
Is the vehicle is original factory specification: VIN visible on chassis, original spec motor, not significantly modified.
Continue to part three
Is it real vehicle, or is it a scammer?
The last one is a new challenge we’re facing.
Examples of Motor Eligibility:
A 1987 Land Rover Defender 2.5L TD has had a motor swap to another 2.5L TD. Eligible.
A 1987 Land Rover Defender 2.5L TD has had a motor swap to a 25 year old 200Tdi. Not Eligible.
What will happen is that customs will give you a call and say, “Dear ______, we have your car, but you need to find a way to ship it back to the UK at your own expense and pray that the person who sold it to you made an honest mistake and will give you some of your money back. We take credit cards.”
This doesn’t mean a few don’t sneak past Customs and Boarder Protection. They do. But do you want to be the one they find?
Beware of anyone on eBay that declares USA EXPORT ELIGIBLE in all caps. The only way they are eligible is if they’re fairly mechanically original. The reason why there is a price difference between what you find on UK classifieds sites and vehicles licensed, taxed, and titled here is that companies like our spent the time to learn the rules, take the risks, and do things the right way so your dreams don’t get crushed – along with your Defender.