Can You Legally Own a Tank?

Can You Legally Own A Tank?
Alfred Mendoza

You can now drive your own tank!

Technically this is true. Civilians can definitely own a tank if they can afford it, but bringing it home is a little bit tedious. The cost is not the biggest concern if you are buying one. Having it shipped home is harder. What is the process? What do you need to prepare?

If you plan to own a T-90 or a Challenger, our team of researchers gathered information on how you can legally own a tank. Read on and find out how.

Defending the grounds and the troops are the main tasks of a tank in battles. Once owned by a civilian, its use may no longer be that consequential. It is legal to own a tank though there is a long, complex process that you have to go through before acquiring one. 

Another thing to remember is that the tank will not have a working cannon if purchased by a civilian. Selling tanks with operational guns or explosives is illegal unless a Federal Destructive Device Permit is acquired. The buyer needs to present proof of the purchase of the said acquisition.

Owning A Tank: Is It Legal

Purchasing Online From Foreign Sellers

Purchasing Online From Foreign Sellers

Get A Federal Destructive Device Permit/License

Tanks with operational guns and explosives are destructive devices, regardless of whether this is going to be used to rage war or not. For civilians who wish to purchase a working tank with these destructive features, a Federal Destructive Device Permit/License (1) is required. These are approved and released by the Federal Firearms Licensing Center (FFLC). 

Not everyone who applies for this is approved unless they can prove that this is for controlled historical re-enactment or research. A civilian is not buying this straight from the military but from dealers who have purchased it already.

You Need To Arrange For Shipment

Considering that the buyer already pays for these, they will then be shipped to the buyer’s nearest seaport. The tank’s tracks are bound to destroy the roads. Therefore, you should transport it in trailers to avoid such damage. 

If these are for displays or public shows, special preparations need to be completed to ensure that the tracks are not ruining the roads and pavements. These tanks are commonly made in Czechoslovakia, where buyers purchase them from, already demilitarized and decommissioned.

Pay For The Tank & Shipping Fee

Once the dealer and buyer agree on the price and the necessary papers are already prepared, you can now process the payment. As mentioned, the shipping fee is shouldered by the buyer. It will be shipped to their closest seaport. 

The fee would depend on the buyers’ location. Shipping costs can be from $15,000 to $35,000, but if it is just acquired domestically, the fee can be lower but should be a couple of thousands still.

How Much Does A Tank Usually Cost?

How Much Does A Tank Usually Cost?


Russians first created what is now the strongest tank in the world in 1993. This is Russia’s main battle tank but is also used commonly all over the world. The price of these tanks is approximately $4.5 million, but it still depends on the variant. Once the guns are decommissioned and removed, it becomes legal to own in the US.


Chieftains were created from the United Kingdom and were the most heavily-armed main battle tank. It has full nuclear-biological-chemical protection using a forced-air filtering system. These tanks are sold for roughly $18,000-65,000 and are legal in the US. 

M4 Sherman 

The M4 Sherman is an upgrade to the medium tank M3. Though this is the US-made tank, this was used by various countries battling the Germans. These tanks are sold at around $607,861 to $879,336 and are legal in the US, provided the guns are decommissioned. 

Leopard 2

It is the main battle tank of the West German army which Krauss-Maffei developed in the 1970s. It has a 120mm smoothbore cannon that is powered by a V-12 twin-turbo diesel engine. These are sold at around US$5.74 million and are legal in the US. 

Challenger 2 

This tank is still commissioned and developed by the British Army up to this time. The Challenger 2 is a 3rd Generation MBT. It is an upgrade to the Challenger 1, but only 148 of the initially created tanks will be modernized and turned to Challenger 2. These are legal to own in the US and are at around $561,000.

Leopard 1 

Leopard 1 was introduced in 1965 and became West Germany’s MBT. Porsche developed the tank with really thin armor and was mass-produced. Approximately 7 thousand of these were made and sold at around $559,119 worldwide, including the US.

When Are Tanks Legal To Drive On The Road?

Even when all guns and explosives are already removed and demilitarized, it is still not free to roam the streets. There are weight limits on public roads. Anything beyond 80,000 pounds is not allowed with the federal limit. State laws, on the other hand, placed a 34,000-pound limit. 

Apart from that, tracks need to be rubberized to avoid road damage. However, even if the minimum is met, these are still not allowed on bridges and highways. Lastly, the buyer must confer with their state laws to ensure that these are not prohibited.


Yes, all states acknowledge owning a tank legally provided that these are demilitarized and all guns are removed, as well as explosives. There are also some added instructions before acquisition which you need to abide by before it can be shipped to you.

No, you cannot own a tank with a working cannon legally unless you can present proof that you will be using this for controlled historical re-enactment or research. These tank parts are included on the list of destructive parts.

So, Can You Legally Own A Tank?

Yes, you can legally own a tank if you are ready to tackle the complicated processes. Most of these tanks are from countries distant from the US. Several reasons make owning one a struggle, but it is possible. 

These are not commonly acquired for personal reasons, as most of the purposes of having these are for research or historical re-enactment. Approval of permits will also be a challenge if these are not your intention why you want to own one. But as long as you abide by the rules and you have the money to pay for it, it shouldn’t be that long till you see it inside your property.



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