Author: Robert C.C. Lamb
The purpose of this article is to explain the steps necessary to properly import a car from the United States into Canada. First it must be stressed and overly emphasized that you have to follow the rules exactly. If you do not follow the Canadian and American rules for importing and exporting a vehicle you may well have very expensive auto, truck or S.U.V. south of the border that you cannot import or drive into Canada. Your vehicle may well be stuck in limbo, with you unable to drive it. In that case you will either be forced to sell your vehicle, at cost and inconvenience to yourself, to a person in the United States. It cannot be overemphasized that you have to do proper research, check and either recheck the rules, and then follow the auto importation rules exactly and to the letter.
Many Canadians have saved big money importing cars from the U.S. into Canada. Do not let the rules scare you. Simply and exactly follow the rules. Again if not sure, ask. It's only a phone call - most likely toll free or an email away.
You may have heard many, if not dozens, of mythical stories of Canadians who saved vast amounts on car purchases by importing cars from the U.S. into Canada. You may have seen or heard similar stories on your local TV. Or radio station programs. You may have read of such savings of consumers in the columns of your local newspapers. However when either your local car dealer of manufactures are asked the answers you receive are not the same, if not downright scary. The savings (except for the highest end luxury cars) are minor. The cars are not the same. The manufacturers will not honor new car warranties on new cars bought in the U.S. and imported / shipped into Canada. These answers are either false or mistruths taken out of context.
You will save a fair chunk of cash. This is true in many, if not most cases. All that matters in pricing out your car is what it costs delivered to your door - with all taxes and charges included. Even after including all of the Canadian taxes and extra costs involved, in most cases, you will save a bundle. To the largest degree currency fluctuations have made this so. The rise in the Canadian dollar has made this so. It may also be argued that the retail car industry in the U.S. is much more competitive than in Canada reducing prices by competition. In terms of warranty coverage it is true that manufacturers do not cover warranties on U.S. cars imported into Canada. However the vast majority of car makers do cover the warranties. It's up to you to do your homework. Again either phone or email. It's always best to get the answer in writing.
You may consider that it is wrong, unethical or immoral to import a U.S. car into Canada. True most people like to be loyal to their local merchants. However under the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) cars are shipped back and forth among the NAFTA trading area (the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico) without extra tariffs and taxes. This has benefited the car makers greatly - allowing for reductions in costs due to specialization of factories and economies of scale. Before NAFTA each car maker has different factories in each separate country manufacturing select models and car lines. With NAFTA that can be scaled back to only several, larger and more efficient factories - each producing a certain model or car line for the entire NAFTA trading areas. If the car makers can benefit from the economies of scale of NAFTA why not you as a consumer? You cannot have your cake and eat it too.
Interestingly enough the humour is that same car, which you are importing into Canada, May very well, have been manufactured in Canada, for the North American car market. You are in effect repatriating that vehicle home. If the car is not made in Canada, but in the U.S. or Mexico, the same person and people will have their jobs regardless of whether you purchased the car in Canada or in the U.S. The one person or organization that gets left out of the loop is your local car dealer. True. However, it may be surprising for you to discover, that most of the profits of a car dealership are from service work of your vehicle, not the sale. In this day and age of computerized, technically difficult to repair automobiles, who are you going to take your car to for service, both warranty and non warranty related. The answer is that your service work, in most cases, will be done by your local dealer, whom you wish to support.
The basic rules in importing a car into Canada are as follows. First consult the Government of Canada site - Officially the "Registrar of Imported Vehicles ", also called Riv. This can be done by phone, email or both.
Transport Canada issues a comprehensive "List of Vehicles Admissible from the United States". This is your initial bible to consult - both in terms of admissibility and inadmissibility. Note that certain model years may have different rulings. It is up to you to do a thorough a complete job of research. Again phone, email to check and recheck if you are unsure or doubtful. .
It is wise to check with the manufacturer of the car in terms of warranty coverage. If coverage is not available perhaps third party coverage can be purchased, if the overall cost savings warrant it.
Before exporting the car from the United States, you will have to fax U.S. customs the relevant documents 72 hours in advance. Next you will have to follow the procedure outlined at the Riv site of "What to do at the Border". This involves documentation, the paying of certain fees and taxes and within a set time an "Imported Vehicle Inspection" and certification by an approved automobile service agency. If modifications need to be done to bring the car into line with Canadian standards, these must be done. Certification again must be done by the approved repair facility.
Lastly remember that cars manufactured within the NAFTA trade zone do not pay extra duty. However extra duties on cars manufactured outside the U.S., Canada or Mexico may be demanded. By Canada Customs. Again it is your responsibility to do your homework.
This is a basic explanation of the steps required to import a car into Canada from the U.S. There may be additional steps involved, in your specific case. Rules may change over time, either overall or in specifics.
It cannot be overstated that you must do a thorough and complete job of research - either by phone, email or both.
Written documentation is most preferential over verbal. Check and recheck. If in doubt phone or email.
At this point in time, many many Canadians have purchased a car in the United States and imported that vehicle into Canada. These smart consumers have found that the cost savings on purchasing their vehicle well outweigh their investments in time, efforts and extra work involved.