v1.0 Written by Dirk Sieber, Mar 13/96
v1.1 Updated by Dirk Sieber, July 3/02
- Changes include updated fee information, contact information for RIV, US Customs notification requirement
(c) Dirk Sieber, 1996,2002. Feel free to redistribute this document, as long as I am credited as the author, and the document remains intact.
NOTE: This document is based on my experiences in importing a 1993 Toyota MR2 Turbo into the province of BC in Feb/Mar of 1996. I make no guarantees that any or all of these provisions will apply to you, or that the process will work for you in the same way it did for me. CHECK WITH CANADA CUSTOMS BEFORE DOING ANYTHING!
The next few sections explain the process, as explained to me by Canada
Customs and Transport Canada. There's also a section at the end, detailing
my own experiences, and how they differed from what I was told
would happen. :)
At the border
Registering your new vehicle
The first thing you need to do is find out whether the car you're considering is even importable into Canada. Many cars destined for the US market do not meet Canadian safety standards (especially newer ones), and are therefore not importable at all. Note specifically that the person at the border was quite surprised that my MR2 was acceptable... it seems that many late model Toyotas do not qualify.
Transport Canada has an agreement with a private firm, Livingston International, which is now operating as the Registrar of Imported Vehicles , reachable at 1-888-848-8240. If you call them, and give them the year, make, and model of vehicle, they will tell you whether the car is legally allowed to be imported into Canada. Note that this list is also available on Transport Canada's web site, at the bottom of this page .
If the car is acceptable, you will also need the following paperwork:
-US Title to the vehicle
-Bill of sale/transfer of ownership
In addition, you will need a written notice from the manufacturer of the vehicle (NOT just a dealership) stating that any recalls that may be in effect have been performed on the car you're planning on importing.
You will need to contact
at least 72 hours in advance, notifying them that you are exporting
a vehicle from the US. Note that according to
, it appears that you will need to provide US Customs with the original
title (or a certified copy), and 2 additional complete copies of the title
at least 72 hours in advance of export - due to this, I'd definitely recommend
contacting them early on in the process, to make sure you have enough time
to do this.
And, last but not least, the vehicle must still have the original stickers stating that it meets the Federal safety standards in effect on the date of manufacture.
Also note that if the car is newer than the 1990 model year, you will be expected to have the car retrofitted with the equivalent of the Canadian Daytime Running Light system. This procedure can be done after the car is in Canada, but you must have it completed and inspected within 45 days of importation.
Upon making my appointment for the Federal Inspection (see below), I was also told that you would have to have approved mounting points for a tether strap for a child car seat. This isn't mentioned anywhere in the documentation I received from Transport Canada, and luckily the inspection station decided to waive the requirement due to my MR2 being a 2-seater. Note that this quite possibly won't happen for you!
You will also need lots of money. :-) See the section below titled "Fees"
To be able to pick up the vehicle and move it to the border, you will require some kind of insurance coverage. BC details follow... check with your local insurance company for details in your province.
In BC, ICBC will provide you with what is called a "Binder of insurance" (~$35/10 days for my car), which is strictly insurance coverage.. it is not a license to drive the vehicle on the road. You will also have to obtain a temporary permit from each state that you will be moving the car through. (In Washington, this is available from any Motor Vehicle licensing office. From my experience, $10US + local service fee (~$2.50) for a 3 day permit).
ICBC will not issue you a standard temporary BC permit until the car is physically present in BC, and you have the paperwork from the border stating that the car has been imported.
However, once you have crossed the border, you now need a temporary BC permit, and you are supposed to stop at the first ICBC agency you can find, and purchase one. ;)
The first thing you will want to do is make sure you are at the correct
border crossing... certain ports of entry are designated for the process
of importing vehicles.
The process can be completed at any port,
but the paperwork fee assessed will be approximately $50 higher if you
go through a "non-designated" port. Check with Customs before
you arrive. (Note - based on updated information on Transport Canada's website,
it seems there is no longer a surcharge for going to a 'non-designated'
port. However, you'll probably find that the process will be a bit quicker/easier
if you go to a designated port.
(In BC, the truck crossing at the Douglas border crossing (Peace Arch) is the approved crossing... the main Peace Arch crossing is not. Note that is the exact reverse of what I was told by Transport Canada.)
Upon arriving at the booth, explain to the Customs officer that you are planning on importing the vehicle. You'll be directed to park your car, and go inside to Customs.
The actual paperwork process has been privatized, and will be handled by a private brokerage company. (Incidentally, this also caused the fee to double.. hmmm). After the Customs agent has spoken to you initially, they will direct you there to have the paperwork completed. You will need the title, bill of sale, mileage, and the month and year of vehicle manufacture (NOT just the model year.. the actual date of manufacture. This should be found on a sticker on the driver's door jamb).
The brokerage company will check the paperwork, look up your vehicle to make sure it's on the approved list, and then give you a document to go back to Customs with.
Upon returning to Customs, they will also check the title and bill of sale, and take copies. You will then have to pay a variety of fees (detailed in "Fees", below), including Duty, GST, and possibly excise tax.
After this, your car is now legal to enter Canada! The process from this point depends on the province of entry, it's regulations, and your local insurance company. The process for BC is detailed below.
The following fees will be assessed at the border:
Note that all calculations are based on the Canadian value of the car. The Customs brochure states that the Canadian value will be based on a commonly approved value, such as the Kelly Blue Book. This means that even if you got an amazing deal on the price, you may still be paying tax based on the average Canadian value of the car. (This isn't what happened to me, see "My experience", below)
Paperwork at brokerage: $182.00 (includes GST), or $197 in Quebec (incl. GST/QST)
Duty 6.1% (see below)At this point in time (2002), vehicles manufactured outside Canada, the US, or Mexico are assessed duty at the rate of 6.1% (down 1.9% from when this article was originally written). Current (2002) duty on vehicles built in Mexico is 0.03%, and there is no duty assessed on US or Canadian built vehicles. As always, check with Canada Customs for the current rates. You can reach their automated information service at 1-800-461-9999, or from outside Canada, at (204) 983-3500, or (506) 636-5064.
Excise Tax $100.00(Only for vehicles equipped with air conditioning)
GST 7.0%This is calculated on the Canadian value plus the excise fee, if applicable
After you've paid all of this, you've now got a Canadian car! (Subject to inspection).
Note: You may still have to pay PST or other fees to your provincial government. If you are in BC, you will have to pay PST when you register/insure the vehicle.
The process described here is only for BC residents... you will have to contact your local insurance agent/tax office if you're not a BC resident.
In BC, after you have the paperwork from the border stating that you have paid the fees and that the car has been admitted, you must have the vehicle inspected before you are able to insure it. This inspection is called a PVIP, and must be done at an ICBC approved inspection facility. The list of approved shops/dealers/inspection centers in your area is available from your local ICBC agent.
NOTE: The fee charged for this inspection is not fixed... I was informed by my ICBC agent that it can vary from ~$50-$250, depending on where you go. CALL AROUND for rates!
(In particular, if you're in the lower mainland, note that BCAA will do these inspections at their inspection center (located at xxxx Goring St, near Brentwood Mall on Lougheed Hwy in Burnaby) with a booking two days in advance (Ph: xxx-xxxx). Currently the fee at BCAA is $69+GST for members, slightly higher for non-members).
The inspection is fairly thorough, although mostly visual. They will road test your car, as well as inspect all safety and emissions equipment (note that this test does not count as a pass of AirCare), check for body and undercarriage damage, inspect the brakes, tires, etc, and many other things.
Generally, at most inspection stations, if you fail the initial test for some reason, you can have the cause repaired, and then bring the vehicle back for one free retest. Inquire to see if this is the case wherever you go.
After passing this exam, you can now insure the vehicle. The ICBC agent will require the Title and bill of sale/transfer of ownership (which they will keep! Ask for copies), as well as the inspection report. They are also required to perform a visual inspection of the vehicle, to make sure the VIN matches all the paperwork, so you will have to bring the car to the agent. Also note that not all agencies will perform this inspection at all times, due to limited staff. Check before you arrive.
At this point you will have to pay the PST due, as well as your insurance fee for whatever period of time you choose. After that, they'll hand you a set of plates, and you're off! Congrats!
Shortly after bringing the car across the border, you will receive a notice from the Registrar of Imported Vehicles , noting that you've recently imported a vehicle into the country, and detailing the fact that you will have to take it through a Federal inspection before final approval is given to the vehicle. Note that this is a different inspection from the one in the above section, and unlike the provincial inspection, this is required no matter where in Canada you are.
You will receive a letter detailing the date you will need to have the inspection completed by, a list of inspection centers in your area, and a form detailing the requirements you have to meet. Note that at this time (current as of July 3/2002) they have contracted with Canadian Tire to perform the Federal inspections, which means you should be able to have the inspection performed at almost any Canadian Tire across Canada. You can go here to search for a location.
During this inspection is where you'll have to have the recall notice from the manufacturer of the car, the correct emissions/safety standards stickers, proof of having the proper anchorages for a child car seat, and show compliance with DRL laws, if applicable to your year of vehicle. You will also need the paperwork that you received from the brokerage at the border.
If you pass this inspection, Transport Canada will mail you an approval sticker that you will have to put on your copy of the paperwork you received at the border, as well as French versions of some of the safety stickers in your car, and a sticker for your odometer stating that it is in miles.
The good news is that 1) it's a very short inspection (in my experience), and 2) it's free... it's covered by the fee you paid at the border.
The above is how the process is supposed to work, according to Canada Customs, Transport Canada, and ICBC. This is what happened in my experience.
I picked up my car just south of Seattle, after first purchasing a 3 day permit from a MV Licensing office in Washington. I proceeded to drive to the Douglas border crossing (Peach Arch), where I was informed by the Customs Officer at the booth that I was actually at the wrong crossing (see my note above in "At the border" re:approved points of entry). They allowed me to change my mind and proceed to the other crossing, but note that you will not be allowed to proceed through Canada to the other border crossing.. I had to turn around, cross back into the US, and then go to the other border crossing.
Upon reaching the correct border crossing, I waited in a long line just to be told that I'd have to go to the brokerage office first for the paperwork. This ended up being a rather lengthy form that requires the name and address of the seller and purchaser, some declarations about the condition of the vehicle, and the mileage and date of manufacture. After checking to make sure the vehicle was on the approved list, they took the fee, stamped the paperwork, and back to Customs I went.
After another wait in line, the officer requested the form from the brokerage, as well as the title and bill of sale/transfer of ownership. He inspected those and took copies, asked if the car had air conditioning, and then informed me of my total charges owing. (Note that if you want to know how it breaks down, ask now, not at the cash register, as they can't tell you there). I paid my money, and I was free to go!
Note that at no time did anyone at the border actually do so much as look at the car.. I could have been importing a semi-trailer, and they wouldn't have known. ;) They also never requested the statement re:recalls, although after I offered it, the Customs agent did inspect it.
Also, the people at Customs had no problem with my driving the car with just the Washington State temporary permit (and neither did the police officer who followed me very closely 2 days later, although he inspected it pretty thoroughly ;), so I decided to do that and save myself a few days worth of temporary permit charges in BC. (Note that if you have a binder of insurance in effect on the car already, ICBC will only charge you the licensing fee for a temporary permit.. currently $3/day, min $10).
I then made an appointment for the PVIP, and took my car in for the inspection a few days later. Surprisingly, the only thing that failed was the back brakes (pads were too worn), so I ended up getting the fastest brake job in history, (the guy at the BCAA inspection station agreed to hold the report without marking it as failed as long as I could make it back the same day.. this at ~1:30 in the afternoon ;), brought it back, picked up my passed inspection report, and insured the car. :-)
At the ICBC agent, they requested copies of:
The title to the car (which they keep)
The transfer of ownership (ditto)
The paperwork from the border
The inspection report from the PVIP inspection
Lots of money. ;-)
After that, they cheerfully handed me a set of plates and an insurance sticker, and I was off.
Note... one thing I'm still trying to figure out after reading the papers about the Federal inspection is whether they were supposed to insure the car before the Federal inspection was complete... parts of the text hint that this shouldn't be possible, but it doesn't come out and say it anywhere, and I didn't have any problems.
The Federal inspection consisted of calling one of the locations on the list provided, and trying to make an appointment. I basically got told "it only takes a few minutes, just drop in during working hours". I did exactly that, and basically dumped a copy of every piece of paper I'd gotten so far on their desk. :) They looked at the notice of recall, the receipt I'd gotten from a shop for the DRLs, and at the safety compliance stickers on the car, and that was it. The paperwork was stamped, I was told I'd be receiving a sticker to add to it from the government in the mail, and the process was finally complete!
I don't feel that the importation process was terribly difficult. There were many details that I needed to find out and take care of, but hopefully this document will help someone else make that process a little easier. The main thing you need to have is time... time to pick up the car, fill out all the paperwork (I was at the border for about an hour and a half!), and to have the vehicle inspected (possibly twice). Add up all the costs, including your time, and make sure that it still makes sense for you to import the vehicle vs buying it locally. Personally, I saved approximately $3000 Can, as well as having the benefit of having a car that has both a unique color and options that were not available in Canada. However, that's due mostly to the current scarce supply of 2nd gen MR2s in Vancouver (esp '93s)... as always, YMMV!
Good luck... if you have questions about the process, feel free to e-mail me at "email@example.com ".
Registrar of Imported Vehicles
Transport Canada's list of approved vehicles
Canadian Tire locations search