A recent discussion on several Land Rover Defender Facebook groups highlighted some of the struggles people continue to encounter when importing a Defender from an overseas market.

A lot of fellow Land Rover Defender enthusiasts jumped in to share their stories and offer advice for those still in the learning phase of their journey. As there continue to be people that are getting caught up in sketchy importing situations, we thought we would share the advice and words of others.

When there is money to be made importing Defenders or money to be saved by going solo, there will always be some folks that don’t have your best interest in mind. It’s always nice when the community helps each other out by offering each other advice – and a bit of therapy.

The original poster was discussing a rescue operation he had to take with someone who came to him with a disastrous issue with US Customs, upon getting the bad news that the chassis on his import had been modified:

Trying to Save Money on Importing a Land Rover Defender

“If you still decide to import one yourself for whatever reason, save some money, flip it, whatever, be sure to do your due diligence on the truck AND the seller. In addition to the general risks of fraud, buying a pig with lipstick, etc etc., people who do not regularly export trucks to the US may unintentionally put you in a terrible spot by doing something they don’t realize creates a customs issue. I’ve dealt with these issues a few times myself. It is not ideal.

These trucks cost a lot of money. If you import one, be smart and make sure you take the time to oversee the entire process of sourcing/buying/restoring/exporting as much as possible. It’s impossible to completely mitigate all the risks but do your best to limit them. – Stock L.”

Advice on Importing a Land Rover Defender

Here are a few of the comments that we found helpful and educational:

“I’m lucky I didn’t come across this, but definitely got a bait and switch by a uk based dealer. Now the truck which was originally 34k landed is undergoing a full chassis swap with all new parts under the body. Running total is now up to 55k and still going. If anyone is looking for a properly restored/upgraded D90/200tdi, let me know. I’m tapped out. – Kyle N.”

In response to a fellow member:

“There are so many stories like that. And any truck under 30 abroad is going to need at least deferred maintenance once it gets here to pass inspections and be road worthy. There’s a reason drivers start in the 30s in the US. You either pay for it upfront when you purchase a truck or you find a shop and pay for it after you get it. Really depends on whether you have a shop that can do the work well, reasonably, and in a timely manner and aren’t concerned that you won’t be driving from day one. – Stock L.”

Basic Rules for Importing a Land Rover Defender

For some folks, they simply don’t know the rules and get caught up in the complex rules and regulations of importing.  Sometimes people don’t even realize there are rules – and the sellers, even if they do, offer little guidance in the process.

“Customer called me 6 months later after he tried to do it for “cheaper”. He called me crying why his 2004 Defender was denied entry, and asking what I can do to help. – Alp C”

For those not familiar with the rules, the vehicles need to be 25 years or old to be eligible for import to the US (15 years for Canada).  At the time of this posting, only 1997 and older Defenders (based on the build date) are eligible for import to the US.

The basic elements for a Land Rover Defender to be import eligible are simple:

  1. 25 Years Old
  2. Original Chassis with VIN Stamped (and unmodified)
  3. Original Spec Engine, Gearbox, etc.
  4. Proper Paperwork from Seller and Country from Origin
  5. Lots of Luck and Patience

“The paperwork seems to be pretty simple but if a red flag pops up. It’s nice to have someone that is very familiar with the process. Lots of scammers out there. – Cory A. ”

The Bishop+Rook Approach to Importing Land Rover Defenders

While most of our Defender projects are custom restorations and bespoke builds, we do import a lot of unrestored Defenders each year and offer them for sale and adoption. We decided years ago not to charge a markup for importing these Land Rover Defenders. We simply charge for our time to ensure the vehicles are import eligible, have gone through the basic mechanical check-ups, and have had a proper mechanical service to make them safe and roadworthy.  What we found with donor trucks or ones for sale in foreign markets is that they have often been neglected and require work. Sometimes a basic service is a few hours, while other times it can run into the hundreds.

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