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Importing a Vehicle from the U.S. into Canada

Posted by Vehicle Imports Dept. - Cole International on Aug 30, 2017 9:00:00 AM
You’ve probably heard about – and you may even know – someone who’s found a great deal on a car in the U.S. and is now happily driving it on Canadian soil.
But what’s involved in importing, and how do you know whether the car you’re considering will be allowed across the border? Will that great “deal” be as good as it seems once you pay all the duties, taxes and other fees to get it into Canada?
The import of vehicles is overseen by Transport Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency. Before you import, here are some things you should know.
Vehicle admissibility
Your first step should be to check your vehicle against Transport Canada’s List of Vehicles Admissible from the United States to make sure it’s allowed into the country.
Vehicle “branding”
A “brand” is a permanent designation on a vehicle’s title indicating that the vehicle has previously sustained substantial damage through collision, natural disaster or any other occurrence requiring repair. Check the vehicle’s brand history: Some brand statuses will render a vehicle inadmissible into Canada.
Modification requirements
Vehicles may require modifications in order to comply with Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (for example, a metric or dual-reading speedometer or daytime running lights). Before you import a vehicle from the U.S., determine what modifications it will require. Modifications and the associated costs are the responsibility of the importer. 
Importing a Vehicle form the U.S. into Canada
Vehicle inspections
The RIV – Registrar of Imported Vehicles – must complete an inspection within 45 days of the date of import; all required modifications must be completed prior to the inspection. A number of independent centres across Canada (including most Canadian Tire stores) are authorized to perform these inspections.
The RIV website provides a list of inspection centres across Canada. Each province also requires an inspection on vehicles coming from out-of-province before they can be registered. Contact your provincial insurance provider for more information.
The Registrar of Imported Vehicles, Canada’s national program of vehicle registration, inspection and certification. Consult the RIV website for information and to initiate the mandatory registration process. (Exemptions: Vehicles older than 15 years are exempt from registration, as are select other vehicles; see this link for more information.)
Purchasers are advised to contact the vehicle manufacturer – or dealer – to ensure the vehicle is not subject to any recall. Vehicles with an outstanding recall are not allowed into Canada. Proof of “recall clearance” is required by the RIV before it will clear the vehicle for inspection.
Various federal and provincial agencies levy fees and taxes on imported cars.
The list below provides a good estimate of what’s required but may not be complete. Consult the CBSA, the RIV, or a knowledgeable customs broker to be sure you understand the full cost of importing a vehicle.
  • Duty: The CBSA will assess duty on a vehicle manufactured in a country other than the US and Mexico (see the relevant CBSA memorandum for details).
  • RIV fees: about $300 (less if the car is being imported for “parts-only”)

  • Air conditioning excise tax: $100

  • Excise tax on fuel inefficient cars: $1000-$4000 (amount depends on the vehicle’s “weighted average fuel consumption” and kicks in if this is 13L/100km or more)

  • GST: calculated based on the cost of the vehicle plus any duties and excise taxes

  • Miscellaneous costs for other things such as licensing fees, a temporary trip permit, provincial insurance fees, emissions testing, environmental levies, a title history search, etc.

The RIV website can help you build a checklist of importer requirements specific to the vehicle you’re interested in, with specific considerations for the border crossing you’ll use as well as the province into which you will be importing.
At the border, both countries’ customs agencies need to be involved:
  • U.S. Customs requires electronic filing (AES) which must be done by U.S. firm – usually a customs broker or freight forwarder. Once electronic filing is complete, U.S. Customs requires a minimum of three business days’ (72 hours’) advance notice prior to the permanent export of self-propelled land vehicles from the country. The specific U.S. Customs requirements are detailed on the RIV website.

  • Canada Border Services Agency processes the import of vehicles into Canada. They are responsible for confirming vehicle admissibility, assessing duties and taxes, and initiating the RIV registration process. The specific requirements are detailed on the RIV website.

The CBSA website provides full and detailed information on the import process.
We can help
If this all seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry – there are seasoned professionals at the ready who can take the hassle, uncertainty and delay out of the vehicle import process.
For a flat fee, our experienced customs brokers can coordinate transportation of the vehicle and submit all the required documentation.
Email us today to find out how we can make your experience importing a car from the U.S. as easy as possible.
Contact us today!
Information provided by: Vehicle Imports Dept. - Cole International