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Importing vehicles into the U.S. from Canada


Importing a vehicle into the U.S. from Canada provides car enthusiasts, collectors, and buyers with opportunities to access unique makes and models or find a great deal. U.S. vehicle imports require more than a few clicks and a credit card. You’ll need to follow a specific set of rules to avoid delays and frustrations. 

Before you start checking out cars to import, it's crucial to understand the regulations that govern vehicle imports. Canadian and U.S. Customs have specific requirements that must be met to ensure compliance and legality. Let’s look at the essentials involved in importing cars from Canada to the U.S.

Complying with U.S. regulations

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Canada and the U.S. share a similar set of regulations, so vehicles that are manufactured for North America tend to comply with safety regulations for both nations. This doesn’t automatically guarantee that the car you want to bring into the U.S. meets all standards.

You’ll need to make sure that your vehicle complies with requirements and regulations from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Transportation (DOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and any other applicable authorities. Individual states can also have their own requirements to fulfill.

Understanding the vehicle importing rules that you need to follow will prevent surprises during the process. If possible, make any required vehicle modifications or fixes before shipping or driving your car across the border.

Navigating customs clearance

Once you've ensured that your vehicle meets all regulatory requirements for importing, the next step is navigating the customs clearance process. This involves filling out and preparing a variety of paperwork that can change from one type of vehicle to the next. Typically, some of the key documents you’ll need include:

  • Bill of sale or commercial invoice
  • Vehicle’s title or registration papers
  • EPA form 3520-1
  • DOT form HS-7
  • USMCA (if applicable)
  • Letter of recall conformity from the manufacturer (if applicable)

If you’re importing a car that’s considered classic or antique, you may be exempt from some EPA and DOT regulations. Cars made more than 25 years ago can qualify as classic or antique as long as you have proof of age. For this scenario, you’ll require a different set of paperwork than importing a modern vehicle.

Import fees can vary depending on factors such as the vehicle's value, country of origin, and any applicable trade agreements. You can get an accurate estimate of the taxes and duties owed for importing a car into the U.S. before making a purchase or deciding to ship the vehicle.

Completing the importation process

After your vehicle has cleared customs, you can drive or ship the vehicle to its destination. Before you hit the road, make sure you finish the last few steps of the importation process.

If you need to fix or modify your vehicle to bring it into compliance with U.S. regulations, do so right away. Depending on the vehicle, you might need to retrofit safety features, adjust lighting and emission systems, or perform other repairs. You'll also need to complete local vehicle inspection, registration, and other requirements.

Importing a car from Canada to the U.S. requires planning and attention to detail. A customs broker can guide you through the steps and ensure that you successfully navigate the complexities of importing vehicles across the border. A customs broker acts as your intermediary, handling all documentation and communication with customs authorities on your behalf.

Contact one of our experienced brokers today for a smooth, efficient vehicle-importing experience.

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