If you’ve ever tried to import a foreign car, you know it’s not an easy process. And it doesn’t get any easier if you want to import a luxury vehicle. Although customs regulations in the US and Canada apply to all motor vehicles regardless of their value, there are still some tips to keep in mind when importing luxury cars.
Importing a motor vehicle into the US
The importation of foreign vehicles is strictly regulated in the US. Cars not manufactured in the US must pass several tests and inspections before they can be allowed on US roads. These tests relate primarily to safety standards and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements.
- Safety standards: The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) require imported vehicles to meet several crash, design, and durability requirements, and will check things such as displays and controls, brake systems, windshield wipers, seat belts, door locks, side impact protection, fuel components, and many more.
- EPA requirements: An imported car to the US must meet EPA standards before you can drive it. You must also complete and submit EPA Form 3520-1 if you are importing the car personally (i.e. you’re not the car manufacturer). The EPA may also impose a gas guzzler tax on your imported vehicle. It’s a one-time fee that applies to all imported cars that don’t have a combined fuel-economy rating of at least 22.5 miles per gallon.
Some imported vehicles qualify for exemptions from the US safety standards and EPA requirements:
- Vehicles 25 years or older (you must complete an HS-7 form from the Department of Transportation)
- Vehicles imported by non-residents for personal use of no more than one year
- Vehicles belonging to persons for whom free entry has been authorized by the Department of State (members of the foreign armed forces, foreign diplomatic personnel, etc.)
- Vehicles temporarily imported for testing, demonstration, or competition (these vehicles must not be licensed for use or driven on public roads)
Importing a classic car
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a list of approved classic cars for import. If your car isn’t on this list, you will have to hire a Registered Importer (RI) certified by the DOT. The RI will make modifications to the classic car to ensure it meets crash and safety standards.
Are there different requirements for importing a high-value vehicle?
All foreign automobiles are subject to largely the same import regulations in the US, regardless of their value. These vehicles must still pass the emissions and safety tests and are subject to the same import duties as all other foreign automobiles.
US duties on imported motor vehicles
The US generally applies the same tariffs to all foreign-made motor vehicles, whether they are new, used, for private use, or for resale. The rate is 2.5% of the price paid or payable on automobiles. Motorcycles are either duty-free or 2.4% and trucks are 25%.
The tariff rate does not change for luxury or high-value cars. But since your imported car is valued at a higher price and the tariff is a percentage, you will pay a higher duty than if you imported a car of lower value. Most cars made in Canada are duty-free for import into the US, and they also pass the safety and emissions tests more easily than cars from other countries.
Calculating duties on imported cars is a crucial part of your decision to purchase a foreign car. If you need help calculating tariffs on cars imported to the US or Canada, check out the BorderBuddy duty calculator.
Importing luxury vehicles into Canada
Although Canada has similar emissions and safety regulations for automobiles as the US, import regulations differ. For example, cars older than 15 years are exempt from Canada’s admissibility rules, so you don’t have to check if your classic car is on an approved list like you do with the US.
Also, foreign cars manufactured in countries other than the US that are less than 15 years old may not be imported into Canada. They also cannot be altered to comply with the requirements of Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Therefore, if you want to purchase a new foreign luxury car, you should try to locate one manufactured for sale in the US or Canada
Canadian duties on imported motor vehicles
Cars made in the US and Mexico are usually duty-free when imported into Canada. Otherwise, the duty rate is 6.1%. There’s also a flat $100 (CAD) fee for cars with air conditioners, a fee of $195 (CAD) for Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) registration, and additional GST. Canada may also levy a fuel-inefficiency tax.
Canadian import duties and taxes (GST and HST if applicable) apply to all imported cars whether they are high-value or not. The duty you pay is calculated based on the vehicle sale price. This amount includes the gross price, foreign sales taxes, and warranty payments collected by the vendor.
Both Canada and the US have “show and display” exceptions that allow you to bypass certain import regulations if they are for exhibition only.
Looking for more tips on importing cars from the US to Canada? Read our guide.
Need help importing a luxury car?
Moving a vehicle across borders isn’t simple. Whether you’re importing to the US or Canada, your vehicle must pass several tests and adhere to set standards before you’re allowed to drive it. BorderBuddy can help you through the process and ensure you’re compliant with customs regulations. Contact us today to get started.