MV Import, Insure & Register

The purpose of this section is to give the new owner of a military vehicle some tips on possible pitfalls in the importing, licensing and insuring of the vehicle. The material presented here is just a general guide since conditions will vary depending on your location, the type of vehicle, and the way laws constantly change. Subscribe to the Military Vehicle Discussion Groups and Forums for the most current source of information. Most of the material in this section applies to the United States only; regulations are different in other countries, although the same "attitude" seems to prevail.

Two HMMWVs from the Combat Tactics Team of the 349th Security Police Squadron on an exercise during the Security Police Combat Tactics event at Airlift Rodeo '96, McChord Air Force Base, WA, 25 June 1996
Two HMMWVs from the Combat Tactics Team of the 349th Security Police Squadron on an exercise during the Security Police Combat Tactics event at Airlift Rodeo '96, McChord Air Force Base, WA, 25 June 1996.

Today in WW II: 19 Jan 1942 Japanese troops seize control of North Borneo.   

Importing Your Military Vehicle

If the vehicle you want starts out in another country you have to arrange both to export it from the country of origin and to import it into your own country. Click on the link to read about Greg Carter's experiences importing a Ferret into Canada and some notes on exporting from the country of origin. The NHTSA has a guide to Vehicle Importation Regulations on the linked page.

When you buy your vehicle, you will have to register it according to the rules of the state you live in. Unfortunately the typical employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV, or whatever your state calls it) is all set up to register a Ford Escort, but has absolutely no flexibility or imagination when it comes to something unusual like an MV. Here are some typical stories culled from discussion group archives:

To get a safety sticker for my MV took two full days of travelling around from inspection station to reconstruction station to city hall to Public Utilities Commission to DMV Headquarters (in Hawaii) back to the first inspection station. The vehicle had no flaws to question. The problem here is the government employees are incapable of making a decision. Anything that varies from the norm (ie deep water fording kit, rear bumper height) stumps them and they pass you along the chain to the next idiot.

I bought an Encore M151 and had it shipped to Canada. The trouble with the Encore 151 for me is that it is titled as a 1997 and by Canadian law must meet the 1997 crash safety standards along with many other safety features required on 1997 vehicles. Such as daytime running lights. If the vehicle was titled as a 1972 model it would have been OK. I now have a 151 collecting dust in my shop as I can't get plates for it in Canada. I hope to eventually sell it to someone in the USA.

I bring my GPW (Ford WW II jeep) for safety inpection (any vehicle older than ten years in CT needs this when being registered). The inspector sees fibreglass fenders (I had to replace the rusted steel body) and wants to know how much of the vehicle is glass. I explain all but the grill and windshield frame are glass, and I ask if there is a problem. He says "it depends". He then wants to see my vin# so I show him the data plate on the glove box door. He then calls someone on the phone and comes back and wants to see the engine # which I tell him is different, but it's not unusual for military vehicles. He asks to see a frame # , which in my case has been obliterated by rust and my sandblasting the frame. He tells me he contacted the Stolen Car unit at DMV HQ and they tell him there is no such thing as Vin# on the dash. I explained that while I may not have a perfectly original body, I have put the tags in exactly the same spot as originally found. This apparently does not matter, and they decide that my engine # should be my Vin# , on top of that I must remove the data plate from the glove box door and hand it in to the inspector. He proceeds to finish the inpection and wants to fail my brand new exhaust system because it exits on the side and has a flex pipe. He wants me to have a solid pipe system put in. At this time I explain to him that the system was exactly like the original. He finally concedes the exhaust is ok , but fails me on a slightly loose bell crank (this vehicle does not drift and I didn't think it was that loose). Anyway, if anyone owes GPW #11397 (my engine #) I apologize but according to CT DMV there will be two of them! And I have to say goodbye to my original data plate and #64669!

Anything that varies from the norm stumps the DMV and nobody wants to make a decision. It took me a full 5 days and 5 different DMV offices before I got my DUKW registered. The problem that the DMV had with the DUKW was that I wanted to put TWO registrations on it, (Plates for the road and BOAT Numbers for the water.) The people at the DMV said that I had to have both registrations if I was to take it on both the road and the water, but that they would not give me both for one vehicle because it had never been done before (you figure that logic out.) I finally got plates for a 1945 GMC "Stake Truck" at one DMV office and Boat numbers for a 1945 GMC inboard at another DMV office using two very high quality photocopies of the Bill of Sale. I sort of had to force the system to work in spite of itself.

The pitfalls never end. In early 2000 some purchasers of HMMWVs ran into registration problems caused by AM General, the manufacturer. Here is a copy of a letter sent by AMG to the State of Connecticut DMV (100k download). AMG seems to be trying to suppress private ownership of military HMMWVs, maybe to prevent competition or maybe to avoid future liability. Whatever the reason, be prepared to fight if you are trying to register a HMMWV. If your state laws do not exclude the HMMWV, AMG probably has no basis to oppose registration. But what actually happens may depend on the legal and political situation in your jurisdiction. (Thanks to John Brennan for the AMG letter and other details of this situation.)

So, experienced MV owners offer some pieces of advice concerning registration:

  • Be polite, play stupid and constantly apologize for causing so much trouble.
  • Don't volunteer information. Submit what paperwork you have and only answer direct questions.
  • Use a smaller DMV office, outside the major cities. It seems to be universal that the clerks in smaller towns are more friendly and less suspicious, more likely to make an exception for you.
  • Know the law. Brush up on the motor vehicle statutes in your jurisdiction. Many inspectors do not know the law themselves and may think things are required which are not.
  • Be prepared.

To deal with the last point, "be prepared", the following detail pages offer some additional ideas and pointers for you based on experience with many vehicles in a number of states:

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