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How to import vehicles by driving across the Canada-U.S. border

Importing a vehicle from the United States into Canada by driving it over the border can be thrilling. Nothing kills the thrill quicker than getting stuck with thousands in unexpected fees and taxes.

In the worst-case scenario, you might discover that you’re not allowed to import specific makes and models into Canada – after a lengthy drive across the states. Take the time to understand the steps you should take before crossing the border with your new ride to ensure an effortless journey.

Drive your imported vehicle across the border with ease

The process for importing modern vehicles into Canada is mostly straightforward. Vintage vehicle imports follow a different set of rules than contemporary vehicles. In fact, vehicles that are 15 years of age or older don’t fall under the regulations of the Motor Vehicle Act.132168840_m_normal_none

If you’re planning on driving the vehicle yourself across the border, follow these steps to avoid extra costs and potential hassles at the border.

Step 1: Check if the vehicle is eligible for import

Check out the website of the Registrar of Imported Vehicles website to see if the vehicle meets eligibility requirements. This site includes 16 types of vehicles, ranging from passenger cars and limos to ambulances and trucks. After choosing the vehicle type, you can get specific information for the makes and models eligible for import.

Step 2: Confirm that the vehicle complies with safety requirements

The good news is Canada and the U.S. have similar safety standards, so if the vehicle was manufactured in North America, there’s a good chance that it was built to comply with Canadian and U.S. safety standards. This doesn’t automatically qualify the vehicle for import if there are wear and tear or modifications that render the vehicle ineligible. It’s vital to ensure that the vehicle you’re driving across the border meets safety regulations before crossing the border.

Step 3: Verify that the vehicle complies with all government requirements

There are various requirements outside of vehicle eligibility and safety that you must comply with to avoid problems when importing the vehicle. Federal and provincial organizations, like the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and the Government of Ontario, have their own set of regulations for issues such as emissions and safety. In some cases, you may need to modify the vehicle to comply.

Step 4: Get an Automated Export System internal transaction number and file with U.S. Customs

In the U.S., an Automated Export System (AES) uses an internal transaction number (ITN) to track vehicles for export. You can get an AES ITN earlier on in the procedure, but it’s best to verify that your vehicle meets eligibility, safety, and government requirements before proceeding with the exporting process.

When you have the number ready, you’ll need to submit an AES filing at least 72 hours before exporting, regardless of whether you’re driving across the border or shipping the vehicle over the rail. The AES filing must take place while the vehicle is in the U.S., not while it’s in transit. A bill of lading, insurance details, and proof of ownership are some of the documents you’ll need to file with the AES.

Step 5: Arrange all required documents needed to import your vehicle

There isn’t a single set of documentation that covers all cross-border vehicle import scenarios. The paperwork for a passenger vehicle you purchased may differ greatly from a truck that hauls freight. Some examples of the required paperwork include:

After customs is cleared, the RIV has been paid, and recall clearance documents have been submitted, the RIV Form 2 for vehicle inspection becomes available and must be completed. If you’re exporting a salvaged vehicle or a vehicle received as a gift, you will need to provide documentation such as a salvage certificate and a letter of gifting.

Step 6: Submit the vehicle for inspection and pay fees

RIV regulations state that the importer must complete an inspection within 45 days. Contacting an authorized inspection center in advance is the best way to fulfill this requirement. Those who fail to complete this inspection in time will receive a notice declaring the vehicle non-compliant.

Taxes paid on the full amount of the vehicle, as shown on the bill of sale, will be required when importing a vehicle into Canada. The HST taxes will depend on the province you bring the car into, while the GST remains the same. Additional duties may be required for different types of vehicles, including new and used.

Importing vehicles into Canada? Ensure compliance by connecting with our skilled team of customs brokers and freight forwarders.

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