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5 Steps & 6 Tips for Importing Vehicles into Canada

The unfavourable exchange rates for Canadians may have you thinking it doesn't make sense to buy a vehicle and have it imported into Canada. However, there are still some scenarios where consumers buy a car in the United States and import it into Canada.

While it doesn't make financial sense to import vehicles into Canada from the United States, if you're buying a vintage car, immigrating to Canada, or purchasing your dream car it's a no brainer.

Regardless of your reason, if you plan to import any type of vehicle into Canada, you need to understand how the process works. Here are the steps you will want to follow and a few helpful tips.

Step #1 - Make Sure Your Vehicle is Admissible into CanadaCar_71330947_s

Before you buy a vehicle with the thoughts of importing it into Canada, you need to make sure it will be allowed. Canada doesn't accept every single vehicle that wants to cross the border. You will need to make sure the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) and Transport Canada allows your vehicle for importation into Canada.

As long as your vehicle was made in 2004 or it's newer, you can simply check the list of allowed vehicles found here to find out if your vehicle will be allowed into Canada.

Along with meeting the requirements of Transport Canada and RIV, your vehicle will also need to meet the requirements of the Canada Border Service Agency, Canada Food Inspection Agency, Environment, and Climate Change Canada, and U.S. Customs Border Protection (if coming from the U.S.).

If you plan to import an older car into Canada, you won't be dealing with the same regulations. Vehicles older than 15 years and buses manufactured before January 1st, 1971, don't have to fit the same regulations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. They will still be inspected at the border by CBSA, but the regulations are nearly non-existent.

However, it's important to know that just because you import an older vehicle to Canada doesn't mean you'll be able to register and license it. Some provinces don't register right-hand drive vehicles and may not register some salvaged branded vehicles, even if they have been repaired.

A full list of the requirements for importing older vehicles into Canada can be found at the Transport Canada website here.

Step #2 - Make Sure You Meet the Documentation Requirements

The importation process requires you have the right documentation when importing vehicles into Canada. You may need some or all of the following documents:

  • Original vehicle title or Certificate of No Title
  • Manufacturer's Statement of Origin or Certificate of Origin
  • Bill of Sale
  • Recall Clearance Letter (if importing from the U.S.)
  • NAFTA (if importing commercially from the U.S.)
  • Copies of the Export Certificate and Invoices in English or French (if importing from a country other than the U.S.)
  • Manufacturer's statement of compliance affixed to the vehicle
  • EPA label affixed to the vehicle

Make sure you have the necessary documents before your vehicle arrives at the border or vehicle importing into Canada may become a massive issue for you.

Step #3 - Obey the 72-Hour Export Rule

When exporting a vehicle from the United States in order to import the vehicle into Canada, you have to obey the 72-hour export rule. This red tape requires you to first export the vehicle from the United States and contact the exact U.S. border crossing you plan to use at least 72 hours before you show up to import your vehicle into Canada.

When you contact the border crossing, you will need to send them your Internal Transit Number, along with a digital scan of the front and the back of the vehicle's title.

Note: Using a service willing to help you get the ITN or Internal Transaction Number for the vehicle you plan to import is a wise move. This can be a bit difficult to deal with if you don't have any experience getting an ITN. You will need to file with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Automated Export System or AES. Once this is accepted, you will be issued an ITN. If you don't understand how to do this, you can pay a customs broker or a service to help you get the ITN you need to import your vehicle from the U.S. to Canada.

Step #4 - Export Your VehicleDriving_36406397_s

If you're importing a vehicle into Canada from the United States, you will need to export the vehicle first. You should have already called 72 hours in advance and know the border crossing you will be dealing with. You should also have your ITN paperwork and a clean title.

Before you choose a border crossing, it's important to note that not all U.S. border crossings into Canada will have an export office. Most of the major crossing do but make sure you check before you start the process.

It's also a good idea to have the export office explain where they are found at the border crossing. It can be a bit difficult to find some of these offices, but once you do, the process to export is rather straightforward, as long as you have all the necessary documentation.

Step #5 - Import Your Vehicle Into Canada

Once the export process is done for those importing vehicles into Canada from the United States, you can import your vehicle into Canada. If you're coming from another country, the process may be a bit different as you may not need to export the vehicle or there may be other regulations you need to follow.

You will be dealing with the CBSA for vehicle importation into Canada, and you will need the title, bill of sale, Transport Canada Vehicle Import Form 1, Form B3 for commercial or Form B15 for personal, and your payment for duties or taxes.

After you've successfully imported your vehicle into Canada, you will have 45 days to register the vehicle and get a license plate. Make sure you check with your province on the process for registering the vehicle.

Fees for Importing Vehicles into Canada

The cost for vehicle importation into Canada depends on the vehicle you plan to import. The best way to ensure you know the exact cost is to discuss it with the CBSA, RIV, or a customs broker in Canada you're working with.

Here are the fees you can expect to pay whenever you plan to import vehicles into Canada.

  • $310 + GST/HST for Canadian Registrar of Imported Vehicle Fee
  • NAFTA Duty if the vehicle's VIN doesn't start with a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, which is approximately 6.1%
  • A 5% Goods and Services Tax or GST
  • The HST or Harmonized Sales Tax for your Province
  • A Quebec Service Tax or QST, if entering a border crossing into Quebec
  • A $100 excise tax if your vehicle has air conditioning
  • An excise tax of $1,000 to $4,000 if your vehicle was made after March 19th, 2007 and consumes 13 litres or more per 100 km of gas. This is known as the Green Levy Tax or Gas Guzzler Tax, and you can find out more about it here.

While the percentage fees are based on the amount stated on the bill of sale, the CBSA has the description to use the Canadian Red Book value, if they believe the value on the bill of sale isn't correct.

A Few Quick Tips for Importing Vehicles into Canada

While the process certainly isn't easy, there are ways to make importing vehicles into Canada much easier. It's important to understand, the vehicle importation process for Canada differs from one country to another. Most vehicle imports come from the United States, so these tips will specifically address importing vehicles from the U.S. into Canada.

Obtain Canadian Vehicle Insurance Before Importing Your VehicleCar_Insurance_42124173_s

Before you start the importation process for your vehicle, it's a good idea to arrange for insurance with a Canadian insurance company. You want to make sure the policy will cover your vehicle while it's in the United States and the coverage should begin the day you purchase the vehicle.

Get the Right Temporary License Plate

Make sure the temporary license plate you get allows you to drive the vehicle in both the United States and Canada. This will allow you time to complete the registration process once you've arrived in Canada.

Know Your Province Requirements

Some Canadian Provinces won't allow you to register certain vehicles, such as right-hand cars or vehicles with salvage titles. Your province may also require a safety inspection or an emissions test. Be aware of what will be required before purchasing a vehicle with the hopes of importing it into Canada.

Get a Clearance Letter, if Financing

If you are financing the vehicle, you need a clearance letter from the lender. This letter will give you permission to export the vehicle and import it into Canada. Many lenders will not give you this letter, so if you plan to import a vehicle into Canada, you may need to pay for it in full.

Let a Canadian Customs Broker Handle the AES Filing

The AES filing is a vital step in the importation process. It needs to be done correctly to obtain the ITN for your vehicle.

Allowing a customs broker in Canada to handle this will ensure you don't have any issues importing your vehicle into Canada. In fact, the right customs broker will be able to help with the entire importation process and may even provide advice before you purchase the vehicle.

Double Check your Documents

There are several documents required when importing vehicles into Canada. You want to double check all your documents and make sure everything has been correctly filled out, and you have all the necessary documents. One missed document or one error could cost you time and money when you reach the border.

Getting your vehicle from the United States (or another country) into Canada doesn't have to be difficult. It's certainly a process and requires you to prepare ahead of time. However, the help of a customs broker in Canada can help to ensure the process goes very smoothly.

Make sure you follow the steps above and use the tips provided to make importing your vehicle into Canada much easier. You can also let Cole International handle the entire process for you; if you want to make sure your vehicle will be properly imported into Canada.


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