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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.
While the US has a much larger selection of used vehicles at typically cheaper prices, some factors can determine if importing a car from the States is the best option. Before you take the plunge, consider:
This depends on how quickly you want to take delivery of the vehicle. The shipping partners that we work with offer varying options, including next-day delivery.
Want an instant quote on the cost of importing a car to Canada? Visit our Quote Calculator!
The year of your car being imported from the states does matter. Federal inspection is required on vehicles under 15 years old, in order to ensure that the car meets Canada’s safety and legal requirements.
Visitors, tourists and temporary residents can import vehicles temporarily into Canada, as well as Canadians who rented a US vehicle and brought it across the border. Vehicles that don’t satisfy Canada’s safety measures can be temporarily imported by completing a special import Declaration. Vehicles that are imported temporarily are also exempt from needing RIV registration, so long as it’s used by temporary residents, diplomats or Canadian or US armed forces.
Regardless of the new government restrictions, this is a breakdown of steps you need to take to make when importing a car to Canada a seamless process:
It’s important to check and satisfy all government border agencies when importing a vehicle into Canada, including:
Transport Canada has a list of vehicles that are admissible to be imported. Before buying a vehicle in the U.S., you must make sure it’s on this list. The list covers a vast array of elements, such as vehicle age, electronic immobilization systems, running lamps, or if there are any recall notices outstanding. Recalls can be especially tricky and Transport Canada requires that importers contact vehicle manufacturers directly on the latest notices.
Bureaucrats are sticklers for paperwork so you have to make sure all your documentation is in order. It’s not enough to just have a bill of sale; your vehicle must come with documents detailing:
Any vehicle imported into Canada must be able to comply with our nation’s strict safety standards. During the import process, the vehicle must pass a Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) inspection. The RIV is a division of Transport Canada and makes sure vehicles meet Canada’s motor vehicle standards. One key factor with any vehicle passing the inspection is determining if it has been “modified” in any way. Once modified (not including routine maintenance or general repairs), the vehicle no longer maintains its original factory-issued certification. Which RIV needs to know if you have modified the vehicle to make sure it still meets Transport Canada requirements.
As with any bureaucratic requirement, paying the fee requires several steps. There is also a list of exemptions and you’ll need to determine if your vehicle is on that list.
So, you’ve found a kicking-good deal on a vehicle over the border. Now what? If you are self-importing a car from US to Canada, this is a breakdown of steps you need to take to make that a seamless process:
Once you have your ITN and you are registered with RIV you can proceed with a self-import.
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:
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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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.
You will then have to pay your HST or PST, and finally, you will get to drive away with your imported vehicle!
Nothing worse than laying out cash and then discovering to your horror that it violates Canada’s complex and stringent safety standards. Make sure you have all the vehicle specs and then call Transport Canada directly at 1-800-333-0371. Don’t get stung!
You’ll need to work with the seller because they must sign the original title, and provide both a recall clearance letter and bill of sale. Any outstanding recalls on the vehicle could derail your deal.
Your ITN is the Internal Transaction Number issued to you during the export/import process. It’s vital that the ITN accompany the request to start the 72-hour export notice.
At this stage of the process, timing is everything! BorderBuddy removes the guesswork by advising you when you are ready to cross. When you do, the original title and documents prepared by BorderBuddy must be presented at U.S. Customs in person.
Once you are finished with U.S. Customs, you’ll present your import documents on the Canadian side. (Don’t give up now! You’re almost done.)
As we said above, Canadian standards are stricter than the U.S. so passing an inspection is vital and can be done by any licensed mechanic.
The Canadian government has put restrictions on travel since closing the border due to the COVID-19 pandemic and you may be wondering how to import a car from the U.S. into Canada. This is a breakdown of exactly what has changed and how it impacts importing a vehicle to Canada.
You cannot self import right now because there is a government-mandated quarantine of 14 days for non-essential people. Normally, picking a car up yourself can save you time and money, but it is virtually impossible to do that at the moment because the quarantine will impact you directly when you re-enter the country.
Because self-importing is not an option right now due to the quarantine, many people are contacting BorderBuddy for a seamless import experience, as we can handle all the details of the transaction from start to finish.
If you were planning to use a shipping company to pick the car up, then there is no difference between buying now vs. pre-COVID-19 government restrictions.
If you are wondering how to import a car using a shipping company, BorderBuddy has an exclusive relationship with a few shipping partners. Based on your specific needs, we can match you to the right agent.
Once you’ve imported a vehicle into Canada, and have gone through all the required proceedings, then you’re free to do as you wish with the vehicle – including selling it.
Looking to start a car importing and selling business? Border Buddy can help.
It all sounds pretty daunting, doesn’t it? BorderBuddy helps complete the complicated importation process. There’s no need to feel lost or frustrated.
Call one of our experts at 1.877.409.8163 today and tell us what vehicle you want to import. We will work with you to streamline what’s required to ensure you get your 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.
Get a FREE quote on your import. Check out our duty calculator and know your duties and fees before you get started!
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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!
“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!!”
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.