Importing Cars From US to Canada

US car prices – both new and used – are usually well below Canadian prices, so saving hundreds off the sticker price makes buying across the border an attractive proposition. 

If you are importing a car from US to Canada, this is a breakdown of steps you need to take to make that a seamless process:

Before you take the plunge:

• What’s the current Canadian exchange rate? A sagging loonie can turn your bargain into a big sticker item.

• What are the import duties and taxes on the vehicle? They vary depending on the make and model.

• Will the vehicle meet Canada’s much stricter safety standards? Or will you have to fork over even more money for modifications?

Before you start your self-import:

1. Make sure your vehicle is admissible to Canada before you self-import – and all modifications are acceptable – by calling Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) at 1.888.848.8240. 

2. Register with RIV – you can log in as a guest, fill out the E-form and print it off. You must sign each of the 4 pages of the E-form or Form 1. 

3. Contact a customs broker to get an International Transaction Number (ITN) As this must be done through a broker, you cannot cross without this number and have to wait 72 hours after submitting your ITN  before you can cross. 

Once you have your ITN and you are registered with RIV you can proceed with a self-import.

Step 1: Documents required before you get to US customs

• ITN (received from customs broker)

• Original signed certificate of vehicle title (signed by the seller unless the title is in the importer’s name)

• Original bill of sale or invoice for your vehicle (this must have the seller’s name, phone number, signature, and address on it)

• Have your driver’s license available, or a copy of your license with your carrier

Step 2: Cross the border

Go to the US Customs office and have your title stamped off as exported, then go to the Canadian Customs office and let them know you are importing your vehicle.

You will give the paperwork listed in step 1 to the Canadian Border Service (CBS) agent at the import office for your inspection. Make sure you are crossing at the location you stated for your ITN paperwork as you can only cross at that port/ border crossing.

There is a chance that your vehicle will need testing by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). It is the discretion of the CBS agent and will require a separate fee. CFIA will inspect cars they believe came in contact with agricultural products at any time. We suggest you wash and dry your vehicle very well before crossing if it has come in contact with soil or any other contaminant.

Once you have completed the inspection, the CBS agent will give you a few things you must hold on to:

• Your original signed certificate of title with a stamp

• Your RIV registration form (also known as a Form 1) – Canada customs will stamp 2 copies of your Form 1 and keep two copies for their records

Step 3: You made it to Canada, now you need to register your vehicle

You will then need to send a copy of one of your stamped Form 1s to RIV after you cross. You can fax it to 1-888-346-8235 or email a copy to info@riv.com.  RIV will then send you back a Form 2 that you’ll need for your vehicle registration. To track your Form 2, you can use their online service at https://www.riv.ca/TrackYourCase.aspx or call 1.888.848.8240.  

RIV will also need a recall clearance letter/ document for your vehicle to complete your Form 2. You can get this through your vehicle’s dealer website. The recall clearance letter will need to confirm that there is no recall on your vehicle’s make and model. Make sure when submitting your recall paperwork you write your Form 1 case number somewhere on the front page so they know which account to connect it with. You can email or fax this information to RIV at recall@riv.ca or 1.888.642.9899. You will get your Form 2 in 24-48 hours.

Federal inspection is required on vehicles under 15 years old.  Once you receive your Form 2 take your forms (Form 1, Form 2, and Title) and your vehicle to an approved inspection facility (e.g. Canadian Tire) within 45 days of import. 

For insurance your agent will require:

• Your RIV registration form (also known as a Form 1) with a stamp from Customs

• B3 document (your customs broker will send you this by email after you cross the border). A B3 is proof your taxes have been paid 

• Original Bill of sale or invoice for your vehicle

• Your original signed certificate of title with a stamp

You will then have to pay your HST or PST, and finally, you will get to drive away with your imported vehicle!

Here at BorderBuddy, we have helped import hundreds of cars, so if you’re ready to leave all the details to us, talk to BorderBuddy today.

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Jay Mohl, Sales & Marketing, Parksville Boathouse Parksville B.C.

Amanda Burr at BorderBuddy made our shipment seamless and her customer service was outstanding. Without question, we will work with Amanda and BorderBuddy again in the future. Thanks Amanda!

Don Mariutto

“I used BorderBuddy when were in a jam with a small tile shipment to Canada — just called them randomly after a Google search. Blair handled our case, and was in constant communication with updates, and got our shipment released within 24 hours, even though we were starting the process from scratch. Based on this experience, I can’t recommend Blair and the BorderBuddy team highly enough. Even though this was just a small shipment, they handled it like it was the most important on their agenda. We will definitely work with them again in the future – hopefully though, not on an emergency basis! THANK YOU!!”

Nathan Bird

company is always so very helpful in getting things across the border without any headaches. Tara was our agent this time around and she was prompt in answering any questions, super polite over the phone and coordinated everything for us. Highly recommend using their services.