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There are all different types of importing methods for vehicles. With approaches ranging from containers to air shipping, cars have been brought worldwide in many ways. However, with Japanese vehicles becoming more popular to import under the 25-year rule, RoRo shipping has become the easiest way to get one to a port. RoRo is short for “roll-on, roll-off,” describing how the vehicles are loaded and unloaded from a ship.

What is the 25-year import rule?

Import yard vehicles
Vehicles Awaiting Shipping | Getty Images

The 25-year import rule pertains to the laws in place that prevent you from importing a motor vehicle that doesn’t comply with the safety and emissions standards of the U.S. According to the NHTSA, if the car is 25 years old or older, then you are not required to prove its compliance. Verifying compliance is rigorous and requires a lot of testing and modification before it becomes legal.

There are ways around this rule if the car is strictly for track use or is on the approved list of show and display vehicles. Show and display vehicles are a strict list of special edition or rare cars never sold here. Bill Gates famously used this rule to import his Porsche 959.

Why should you RoRo ship your Japanese car?

Glovis shipping export yard
Chinese Export Yard | Getty Images

Roll-on roll-off shipping is usually the fastest method for getting your new Japanese imported car. Buying from an auction site, using a broker, and having the vehicle shipped all take quite a bit of research. However, doing the process yourself can save you from the JDM dealer markup of an established stateside importer. Part of the process is driving or trailering the car from the designated port it is shipped to. When deciding on your vehicle, it is crucial to know your nearest shipping port so you can pick it up after it arrives. For those in the Seattle area, the easiest and closest port would be Tacoma port.

If you are to ship your car in a container, the process may take a bit longer, but it is potentially cheaper. Some owners will choose to container ship their vehicle as it will be slightly safer in transit, but filling the container with other parts or things for sale is the only way to make decent money from the option. Otherwise, RoRo shipping is your best option.

How long does it take to RoRo ship a vehicle?

RoRo Shipping yard
RoRo Shipping | Getty Images

Show and Display List: All the Cars Legal to Import Before They’re 25

The process to RoRo ship a vehicle can range from a few weeks to a few months. In most cases, winning an auction bid or purchasing a car to pick it up from the port can take 2-3 months. It depends entirely on shipping times for the vessels, as they usually carry thousands of different products. The products are usually in containers, with total vehicles shipped as a small portion of the usual load.

Unloading the ship can take several days, as moving all vehicles and containers is lengthy. Once your car is off the boat, it takes a full day to get all the paperwork sorted. Then you have to have someone approved to enter the port and bring your vehicle out to you.

Should you RoRo ship your vehicle?

If given the option to use RoRo shipping versus container shipping, the best choice would be to RoRo ship. Receiving the car is faster, as it won’t have to be loaded in and out of a container. Unless the Japanese car you are trying to import is undrivable, RoRo shipping is the easiest choice.