Importing a Car From the US into Canada
How to successfully import a vehicle from the US into Canada
This is my account of how I imported a Toyota Tacoma from the US into Canada . With a bit of research and diligence anyone can save some money by shopping in the US . I don't guarantee that you will not have issues but I will guide you to the right agencies to ask questions.
How To Import A Car Into Canada
Before you Buy Your Vehicle
Of course you need to know exactly what type of vehicle you want; this is where the process starts. Now there are certain vehicles that you simply cannot import into Canada and others that are going to be a hassle to import. I knew that I wanted a Toyota Tacoma Sport with a double cab.
I started by contacting the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) to determine if this vehicle was admissible to Canada . You can contact the RIV at 1-888-848-8240 or www.riv.ca.
Simply tell them what type of vehicle you are looking for and they will tell you if it is admissible. Also ask what modifications are required on the particular vehicle. In my case I was only required to have day time running lights. They also told me that any Toyota manufactured after Sept 1 2007 was not admissible (at least at the time of writing this in January 2008).
The second agency is the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA). Contact them to determine any possible issues that may arise with the particular vehicle you plan to import. In my case all I had to do was pay the GST and the Federal Inspection Fee at the border when I crossed back into Canada .
I called my local insurance agency to determine how to insure the vehicle while I drove it back from the US . The vehicle would need to be registered in Colorado (the state where I bought it from) and the insurance company would provide me with an insurance binder to cover any damage.
Finally go to the US Customs and Border Protection website to determine the requirements of the US for exporting a vehicle. You can download the Vehicle/Equipment Export Worksheet from their site which needs to be sent along with the vehicle title to the US customs office at the border crossing 72 hours prior to your arrival.
Buying the Vehicle
Once you have determined that your vehicle will be admissible to Canada and have contacted the agencies above you can choose your vehicle and start the buying process. Every dealership will have their own processes for buying so you really need to work with them through this process. I do recommend that once you have found the vehicle get a Recall Clearance Letter before completing the transaction. You will need this document before you can get you Federal inspections forms from the RIV.
Also do some background checks to determine the history of the vehicle. Carfax is a good place to start but doesn't always have complete information. You can ask the dealership to provide you with their inspection report. When I bought my Toyota it has their certified used car warranty. I asked for that report as well since it would have to list all the findings when it was certified.
Once you are satisfied with the vehicle go ahead and make the purchase. Have the dealership fax a copy of the title to the border crossing you plan to cross at along with your completed copy of the Vehicle/Equipment Export Worksheet. Call the border crossing an hour or two after and confirm that they received it and it was completed correctly.
Crossing the Border
For me this was the most nerve racking part of the process. We have all heard about someone's neighbor who tried to bring a vehicle across and was refused. When I arrived at the border I went to the US Customs office and cleared the title with them. This only took two minutes, they stamped the title and I was done.
At the Canadian side you will be asked to bring all your documents into the office. You will need the title documents, registration, sales receipts, statement of compliance label and manufacturer's recall clearance letter. Once inside I was asked to complete form 1 and then I had to pay the GST on the purchase. I was informed that I needed to pay the import fee of $195 + GST to the RIV. I chose to do this online after I got home through the RIV's website.
Once You Get Home
As soon as I got home I paid the $195 import fee to the RIV. Also I had to fax a copy of the completed Form 1 and a copy of the Recall Clearance Letter to the RIV. They assess this info and will email Form 2 to you. This is required to get the federal and provincial inspections done. It took me almost two weeks to get my Form 2. After I received it I went straight to Canadian Tire to get the inspections done. The Federal Inspection was paid at the border while the Provincial Inspection was about $125. After about 2 hours the inspections were done and my truck was cleared.
The final step was to get the vehicle registered and insured. It took about an hour at the motor vehicle office. They asked about the different features the truck had and completed the registration process. I was required to pay the provincial sales tax and set up my insurance.
Before you import
- Make sure the vehicle is admissible by contacting the Registrar of Imported Vehicles. 1-888-848-8240 or www.riv.ca
- Check with the RIV to see what modifications need to be make to conform with Canadian regulations.
- Contact the dealership or the original manufacturer to obtain a recall clearance letter. Visit http://www.riv.ca/english/html/recall_clearance.html for what is required in the clearance letter.
- If any modifications are needed contact the dealership or original manufacturer to determine the costs.
- Determine any taxes or duty that you will need to pay. In British Columbia , I had to pay the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) and the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Since the truck was manufactured in North America I didn't have to pay duty. Contact the Canadian Border Service Agency at 1-800-461-9999 to verify any costs.
- Make sure you have all the documents required. You will need to have the: title documents, registration, sales receipts, statement of compliance label and manufacturer's recall clearance letter.
- Check with Provincial authorities to determine any other requirements such as emissions test.
- Arrange for insurance. Generally a copy of the Title and the VIN is required to get and insurance binder.
- Contact the US Border Services Agency to determine border crossing contact information and get their Vehicle/Equipment Export Worksheet. You will need to fax a copy of the Vehicle/Equipment Export Worksheet and Vehicle Title to the border crossing you are planning to cross at 72 hours prior to crossing.
At the Border
- Go to the US Customs and clear the vehicle title. If you got it to them 72 hours prior to arriving at the border this should only take a few minutes.
- At the Canadian side bring in your title documents, registration, sales receipts, statement of compliance label and manufacturer's recall clearance letter.
- Complete Form 1.
- The Canadian Border Service Agency will clear the vehicle and check the VIN with the compliance label on the vehicle.
- Pay the GST on the vehicle.
After you get Home
- Go to www.riv.ca and pay the $195 import fee.
- Fax or email a copy of Form 1 and your recall clearance letter to the RIV. firstname.lastname@example.org . Wait for the RIV to send you Form 2. Put an email address on Form 1 while completing it at the border. This way you can get Form 2 by email rather then having it send by regular mail.
- Once Form 2 arrives arrange for your vehicles federal and provincial inspection. The RIV has made arrangements with Canadian Tire to perform these inspections. If you pass the RIV will send you Canadian Certification labels to place in your vehicle.
- Arrange to have you vehicle registered in your home province and get insurance.
This was a relatively simple process although there is certainly some anxiety when spending tens of thousands of dollars out of country. Be sure to call and get a verbal OK from the RIV that the vehicle you are considering is admissible. Get the recall clearance letter before completing the sale and have all you documents in order for the border.
We all like to talk about the one person who bought a vehicle in the US and was not permitted to bring it into Canada. This definitely happens but we never hear about the 500 or 600 people who successfully bring a vehicle into Canada. Do your homework, ask lots of questions and follow the process.
Update: The final step was taken today. I finally got my Canada Certification Label that I need to stick to the driver side door sill. This completes the entire process of importing my truck into Canada.
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