In 2018, Canadian importing topped US$450 billion worth of goods from foreign suppliers. Compared to 2014, this was a slight slowdown, but compared to 2017, Canadian importing is up over 6%, according to World's Top Exports.
Most of the imported goods came from other North American nations, along with a significant percentage coming from Asian countries. Let's break down the most imported goods for 2018 to get a better idea of what's coming into Canada from other countries around the world.
The most commonly imported good into Canada for 2018 was vehicles. This category for Canadian importing made up more than US$75 billion and over 16% of the total imports into Canada.
The top types of vehicles imported into Canada for 2018 included:
- Cars - nearly US$30 billion
- Automobile parts/accessories - over US$20 billion
- Trucks - US$14 billion
- Tractors - US$4.5 billion
- Trailers - US$2.9 billion
- Public-transport vehicles - over US$975 million
- Special purpose vehicles - more than US$860 million
- Armored vehicles/tanks - nearly US$800 million
- Motorcycles - over US$530 million
- Motorcycle parts/accessories - over US$250 million
Car imports into Canada were up 4.6% compared to 2017, while automobile parts/accessories and truck imports both dropped. Trucks were down 10.8% compared to 2017, while parts/accessories dropped just 1.7%.
The only other category on the list of the most imported vehicles into Canada for 2018 that dropped was motorcycle parts/accessories. It was down 1.2% compared to 2017.
Armored vehicles/tanks saw the largest gains up 33.5% from 2017, while special purpose vehicles were up 29.6% and public-transport vehicles were up 22.4%. Motorcycle imports into Canada increased by 8%.
The second-most common import into Canada is machinery. In 2018, machinery (including computers) had a total import value of US$68.8 billion. This made up about 15% of the total imports into Canada for 2018.
When it comes to importing goods to Canada, the most commonly imported machinery included:
- Computers/Optical readers - more than US$9 billion
- Turbo-jets - more than US$5.5 billion
- Piston engines - US$4.5 billion
- Heavy machinery - $3.7 billion
- Taps, valves, similar appliances - $3.6 billion
- Transmission shafts, gears, clutches - $3.2 billion
- Liquid elevators and pumps - $2.7 billion
- Machinery pas - $2.7 billion
- Centrifuges, filters, and purifiers - $2.6 billion
- Piston engine parts - $2.2 billion
Heavy machinery includes items, such as road rollers, bulldozers, and excavators. This category saw an import increase from 2017 to 2018 of nearly 23%. Only machinery parts saw a larger increase under the category of Machinery up 23.6%.
Other subcategories increasing from 2017 to 2018 included Turbo-jets (21.7%), Computers (8.7%), Taps/valves/appliances (13.3%), liquid elevators and pumps (4.3%), centrifuges/filters/purifiers (9.4%), and piston engine parts (8.5%).
Only transmission shafts/gears/clutches and piston engines dropped compared to 2017.
Overall, machinery, including computers was the third-fastest growing category from 2017 to 2018. The category saw an increase of 8.6% year over year.
When it comes to Canadian importing, the third-most common import for 2018 was electronics or electrical machinery, equipment. This category saw nearly US$45 billion worth of imports, which represents 9.8% of all imported goods into Canada for 2018.
This category includes consumer electronics, and the top imported goods were:
- Phone system devices including smartphones - over US$11 billion
- Insulated wire/cable - US$3.6 billion
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors - US$2.3 billion
- Integrated circuits/micro assemblies - US$2.2 billion
- Lower-voltage switches/fuses - US$2 billion
- Electrical converters/power units - US$1.9 billion
- Electrical/optical circuit boards/panels - US$1.8 billion
- Electrical lighting/signaling equipment, defrosters - US$1.6 billion
- TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras - US$1.5 billion
- Electric water heater
Most of the subcategories found under electronics didn't see much change compared to 2017. However, phone systems were up 9%, while integrated circuits/micro assemblies increased by 10.7% and electric water heaters/hair dryers increase by 8.1%.
The largest decrease from 2017 to 2018 in the electronics category was TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras dropping 8.3%.
The fourth-most common good when it comes to Canadian importing was mineral fuels, including oil. This category is often labeled as energy and made up nearly 8% of the total imported goods into Canada for 2018 with a total of US$36.1 billion of imports.
Top imported goods found in the energy category include:
- Processed petroleum oils - nearly US$17 billion
- Crude oil - US$14.2 billion
- Petroleum gases - US$2.7 billion
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal - over US$790 million
- Petroleum oil residues - US$479 million
- Electrical energy - more than US$400 million
- Coke, semi-coke - over US$210 million
- Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes - over US$185 million
- Coal tar oils (high-temperature distillation) - nearly US$110 million
- Natural bitumen, asphalt, shale - US$88.3 million
Some of the subcategories found under the energy category saw significant increases from 2017 to 2018. In fact, two of these subcategories saw an increase of more than 100%. Electrical energy was up 118.5%, while coal tar oils were up 115%.
Three other subcategories saw increases by more than 30% including Natural bitumen, asphalt, shale (38.3%), processed petroleum oils (37%) and petroleum oil residues (34.7%).
Only one subcategory under the category of energy saw a decrease in Canadian importing from 2017 to 2018. This category was petroleum gases, which dropped by 9.3%.
Overall, the energy category or Mineral Fuels, including oil, saw the biggest increase from 2017 to 2018. This category was up 21.3%, which is easy to understand with a couple of subcategories increasing by more than 100%.
While these four categories made up about 49% of all goods imported into Canada for 2018, they were certainly not the only categories for Canadian importing.
Other Top Categories for Canadian Importing
Many goods are imported into Canada every year, including the top four categories above: vehicles, machinery, electronics, and energy. These four categories are pretty easy to predict as the top of the list, and many of the subcategories saw significant increases in importing from 2017 to 2018.
While nearly half of the goods imported into Canada for 2018 came from these four categories, there are several other significant categories for Canadian importing. Let's look at a few more top Canadian imports.
Making up about 3.7% of the total imports into Canada, plastics and plastic articles were a significant Canadian import for 2018. In fact, US$17 billion of plastics and plastic articles were imported into the country.
Optical, Technical, Medical Apparatus
Another large import into Canada comes from the category of optical, technical, medical apparatus. This category made up 2.7% of the total imported goods for 2018 and topped out at about US$12.6 billion worth of imports.
It's not surprising to find pharmaceuticals on the list for Canadian importing. This category saw US$12.5 billion worth of goods imported in 2018, which represents 2.7% of the total goods imported into Canada.
The official name for this import category is Articles of iron or steel. This Canadian import represents about 2.4% of the total imported goods to Canada for 2018. A total of US$10.8 billion worth of iron/steel articles were imported into the country.
Out of all the categories found within the top ten imported goods to Canada, Iron/Steel saw the second-largest increase compared to 2017. Iron/Steel imported goods increased by 10.4%.
Along with furniture, this category includes lighting, prefab buildings, signs, and bedding. When it comes to Canadian importing, this isn't a massive category, but it still makes the top ten imports to Canada list with US$9.3 billion. This represents 2% of the total imported goods into Canada for 2018.
The only category found in the top ten imported goods into Canada for 2018, seeing a decrease compared to 2017 was Gems/Precious Metals. This category made up about 1.9% of the total imports for the year at US$8.8 billion. It saw a 9.5% decrease compared to 2017.
Hiring a Customs Broker for Canadian Importing
It's not easy to import goods into Canada. In fact, the regulations are rather strict and hard to understand.
Hiring an expert to help you work with Canadian customs makes sense for most businesses. Whether you plan to import something falling into one of the main categories of imports into Canada above, or your goods fall under a different Harmonized Tariff System code level, hiring a customs broker in Canada makes sense.
The right Canadian customs broker will ensure your goods make it into Canada without delay. They will know which goods are not allowed and which goods are likely to be held for inspection. In addition, your customs broker will have a plan in place if your goods are delayed or seized at the port of entry.
Going at it alone means you'll need to spend countless hours learning how Canadian importing works. The Canadian importing laws are rather strict and not so easy to understand. When you decide it's time to start importing goods into Canada, it's best to hire an expert to help with the documentation, payment of taxes and duties, transportation, and the entire customs process.
At Cole International, we work with importers every day. We help you with importing goods into Canada. You won't need to become an expert in Canadian customs because we already know the regulations and laws. When you hire our team, you'll gain access to professionals ready to ensure your goods make it into Canada without delay.
Logistics. It's what we do.
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