Importing a vehicle from the U.S. into Canada involves a lot of paperwork. If you are doing this for the first time, it’s best to work with a customs broker or cross-border trade expert like Global eTrade Services (GeTS). While this is not a requirement (the process is long but straightforward), working with a knowledgeable partner will save you a lot of headaches down the road.
Importing a Vehicle from the US into Canada: Transport Canada Requirements
Before even thinking of exporting a car or truck purchased in the U.S. to Canada, check with Canada Customs first if the vehicle is admissible. The full list is on the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) website. Almost all mass produced light duty passenger vehicles can be imported to Canada, but there are exceptions. These include:
Certain vehicle brands and types
Grey market vehicles (used cards imported to the U.S. from a country other than Canada)
Kit cars (vehicles assembled from parts and not a major manufacturer)
Salvage vehicles or cars and trucks with severe damage can be imported into Canada but only for their parts. They cannot be registered in Canada. Note: Exporters should get a CarFax or AutoCheck report to verify the vehicle history and make sure it is clean.
Admissible vehicles should pass inspection by the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV), the agency assigned to administer a national program that ensures all imported vehicles are in compliance with Canada's safety standards. Besides CBSA requirements, the vehicle should also meet the requirements of Transport Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
If your vehicle qualifies, the next step is to check clearance requirements.
Required documents for CBSA Clearance
Original Bill of Sale. The original bill of sale and title MUST be with the vehicle at the time of export.
Original certificate of title or manufacturer’s certificate of origin (front and back). Otherwise, provide a Certificate of No Title.
Recall clearance letter. The recall clearance letter can be obtained from the vehicle manufacturer. This is just a form stating that the vehicle being imported has no outstanding recalls. This letter is valid for 30 days.
Transport Canada Vehicle Import Form 1 (if using a customs broker, this is reported in the entry filing)
Form B3 (for commercial) or Form B15 (for personal)
Certain vehicles are also subject to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) import requirements, inspection procedures and fees. These include:
Used earth moving vehicles, equipment, implements, tools, carriers, and containers
Used agricultural vehicles, equipment, implements, containers, and carriers
Used passenger and recreational vehicles
Used military equipment
These vehicles must be clean and free from soil, sand, earth, plant residue, manure and related debris in order to prevent potential harmful effects on Canadian agricultural production.
Required documents for CBP Clearance
CBP now requires all U.S. registered vehicles that are permanently leaving the country to be declared for export. All land based self-propelled vehicles require a 72-hour notice and an AES (Automated Export System) filing to CBP before export. Self-propelled is defined as anything that moves itself. If you have to tow it or push it, it’s not self-propelled.
A customs broker, freight forwarder or United States Principal Party in Interest (USPPI) can file the AES declaration. You will need the original Certificate of Title, Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO), a completed U.S. Customs Vehicle Export worksheet, and an invoice or Bill of Sale including the VIN or serial number.
Export declarations must be submitted in advance (at least 72 hours) of the actual time the vehicle crosses the border. If everything is in order with the AES filing, CBP will send an Internal Transaction Number (ITN) number to verify that the filing is accepted. Failure to submit complete and accurate export documents can lead to penalties and seizure of the vehicle.
CBP will then begin export checks, which are completed within 72 hours of receipt. U.S. border ports process vehicle exports only during specific hours, so be sure to check ahead before scheduling your cross-border drive.
At the U.S. border or port of export, the owner or agent of the vehicle must present the vehicle and original documents in person. If you are exporting a salvage vehicle, present a copy of the Salvage Title to the border officer. If the title is not in your name, the seller and buyer must be indicated on the title.
Importing Fees and Charges
All fees, including service fees, must be paid before your vehicle can cross the border.
The following fees will be collected by the CBSA before clearance:
6.1% duty if manufactured outside of North America (except for vehicles over 25 years old and motor bikes)
$100 excise tax for in dash air conditioning
$1000 to $4000 green levy tax for some 2007 and newer model vehicles based on that model’s fuel consumption and in service date.
The following fees will be collected on behalf of Transport Canada before clearance:
$195.00 + GST to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (for vehicles less than 15 years old)
After Customs Clearance
After CBSA has cleared your vehicle import, you need to arrange for a provincial or a federal inspection within 45 days. For the inspection itself, you will need the original form 1, as well as form 2 if the vehicle is newer than 15 years old. Form 1 is an RIV form that must be completed at the time of importation and initiates the inspection of your imported vehicle. Once inspected, your Form 2 will be stamped and the vehicle will be ready for registration.
All registered vehicles in Canada that are newer than 15 years old must have a metric speedometer that shows km/h, daytime running lights, child restraint tether anchorage point locations, French supplementary restraint system label for airbags that require periodic maintenance, and electronic immobilizer system (for vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2007). Note that required modifications must be completed before the inspection.
The CBSA website has a list of service centers where the inspections are conducted. Depending on the province, sales tax may need to be paid at the time of vehicle registration in Canada. If payment is required, you are responsible for paying directly to your insurance company.
Before this, you should have contacted your insurance company and arranged for temporary coverage. This is typically good for 14 to 30 days depending on the province in Canada. Most insurance companies require a copy of the bill of sale and title document.
Importing a Vehicle from the US into Canada: What Happens at the Border?
At the border and time of import, CBSA will give you the required documentation and Form 1, which must be completed by the importer or broker. CBSA will verify the admissibility of the vehicle, as well as the VIN and manufacturer’s label of compliance. CBSA will collect any duties and taxes payable and collect the RIV payment. Do not forget to keep a record of all import and export documents on file for at least six years.
Importing a vehicle from the U.S. to Canada is a long process that requires some cross-border trade know how. First time exporters should work with a customs broker or a third party service provider like GeTS. We handle all document preparation and filing on your behalf, and communicate directly with CBP, CBSA and other agencies to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible.
Learn more by visiting our page on importing a vehicle from the U.S. into Canada or contact us today!
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