Importing a Car into Canada

Part 1: Good to Know Before Finding the Car You Want to Purchase - New or Used, Privately or From a Dealer

Remember, you do not have to pay any sales taxes on the car in the State of Washington:

Sales taxes on vehicles also will not apply for you in many other US states (including New York, Oregon, etc.).

If you’re going to buy from a US dealer/seller, it's easiest to pay for the vehicle entirely in lump-sum cash. Need a loan? Check the advice here. Also, to make everything easy, I recommend not try trading-in a vehicle to a US dealer. It’s way too complicated – so sell the vehicle in Canada privately instead.

No duties at the border are paid on the vehicle purchased in the US unless it does not have have sufficient "North American content" - that is, parts/components made in North America. Most cars made in North America meet the content rule but some may not. So, if your NA made car draws Duty, you'll know why.

It’s a vehicle made in North America if it has a VIN that begins with a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5.

1, 4, 5=USA
3= Mexico

Vehicles manufactured outside Canada, the US or Mexico are assessed a 6.1% duty fee.

You will find that at least the following brand new vehicles can (depending on the exact one you are purchasing) or will have a North American VIN:

Acura MDX - Alliston, Ontario
Acura RDX - Marysville, Ohio
Acura TL – Marysville, Ohio
BMW X5 – Spartanburg, South Carolina
BMW Z4 – Spartanburg, South Carolina
Honda Accord – Marysville, Ohio
Honda Civic – East Liberty, Ohio
Honda CRV - East Liberty, Ohio
Honda Element – East Liberty, Ohio
Honda Odyssey – Lincoln, Alabama
Honda Pilot – Lincoln, Alabama
Honda Ridgeline - Alliston, Ontario
Mercedes-Benz M-Class – Vance, Alabama
Mercedes-Benz R-Class – Vance, Alabama
Mazda 6 – Flat Rock, Michigan
Mazda B-Series – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mazda Tribute – Kansas City, Missouri
Hyundai Sonata – Montgomery, Alabama
Hyundai Santa Fe – Montgomery, Alabama
Infiniti QX56 – Canton, Mississippi
Isuzu Ascender – Moraine, Ohio and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Isuzu i-Series Pickup – Shreveport, Louisiana
Lexus RX350 (previously known as the Lexus RX330) – Cambridge, Ontario
Mitsubishi Eclipse – Normal, Illinois
Mitsubishi Endeavor – Normal, Illinois
Mitsubishi Galant – Normal, Illinois
Mitsubishi Raider – Warren, Michigan
Nissan Altima – Smyrna, Tennessee and Canton, Mississippi
Nissan Armada – Canton, Mississippi
Nissan Frontier – Smyrna, Tennessee
Nissan Maxima – Smyrna, Tennessee
Nissan Pathfinder – Smyrna, Tennessee
Nissan Quest – Canton, Mississippi
Nissan Titan – Canton, Mississippi
Nissan Xterra – Smyrna, Tennessee
Saab 9-7X – Moraine, Ohio
Subaru Baja – Lafayette, Indiana
Subaru B9 Tribeca – Lafayette, Indiana
Subaru Legacy – Lafayette, Indiana
Subaru Outback – Lafayette, Indiana
Suzuki XL7 - Ingersoll, Ontario
Toyota Avalon – Georgetown, Kentucky
Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid – Georgetown, Kentucky
Toyota Camry Solara – Georgetown, Kentucky
Toyota Corolla – Fremont, California
Toyota Sequoia – Princeton, Indiana
Toyota Sienna – Princeton, Indiana
Toyota Tacoma – Fremont, California
Toyota Tundra – Princeton, Indiana

Things to consider before importing a car into canada

1. Double-check that the car you are going to purchase is permitted in Canada:

2. As of March 20 2007, if you import a big V8 vehicle (or any "gas guzzler" as defined by the RIV), you can pay up to $4000 in extra "green levy" fees. This charge will be part of the fees you pay to Canada Customs (which you will see later on in these instructions). For more info:

For imported vehicles, the tax will only apply to automobiles put into service on or after March 20, 2007. An automobile is considered to be put into service at the earliest of:
• the date the automobile is registered with a motor vehicle authority;
• the date it is plated;
• the date on which the automobile’s warranty has been put in place; or
• the date the automobile is appropriated by a dealer for their own use.

3. Check that the warranty for the car is also valid in Canada by calling the US side of the manufacturer and asking how the vehicle warranty would apply if you had to immediately move your American vehicle to Canada (due to possible relocation for a job, for example). If warranty coverage is unavailable in Canada, you can get a third party warranty from

Keep in mind that, even if you have to pay for a third party warranty, you are still saving thousands of dollars in many cases.

Canadian warranty status of new cars imported from the USA:
Link 1
Link 2

Buying a Car to import into Canada

Part 2: Making the Deal (Only Follow if Buying From a Dealer)
1. Identify prospective dealers and e-mail their Internet Sales Managers. State what you want to buy, that you need temporary tags, and that you will not pay state tax (because you will be registering the vehicle in Canada). Also state you will make a deposit by credit card and wire the full amount before picking up the car. Be fully open about your intentions – some will say they can’t sell without charging state tax (and offer to let you choose the state if you can provide an address), while others will accommodate you.

Dealers of Toyota/Lexus and a few other brands that are willing to sell BRAND NEW VEHICLES to Canadians can take some hard work to find (they are perfectly willing to sell you anything that's been even slightly used, however!! - see here for example). It's easier to find dealers willing to sell brand new if they are not located near a US/Canada border point. If you have a friend or relative in the US, you may want to try one of these ideas (as out-of-state vehicle purchases for them will most likely be tax-free) - especially if you're having trouble finding a dealer willing to sell brand new to you:

2. Negotiate price/package with chosen dealer (usually starts by e-mail and ends by phone). For new vehicle prices in the US, check:

3. Pay deposit by credit card. Get VIN Number. Get bank info for wire transfer of payment (bank, branch, a/c, FAST #; dealer accounting dept. usually has this info, and sales manager likely won’t). Some dealers may want to fax you the Buyer’s Order, for you to sign and fax back; others are happy with your credit card deposit ($500 should be sufficient). Watch the exchange rate (it can vary by 0.5% during the day) and service fee (0.5-2.5%); my credit card charges 2.5% above the official exchange rate while my Investment account only charges 1% (for $25K or more); the best I’ve seen on the Internet is 0.5% (the person had access to the exchange service used by his firm).

Allow a few business days for the wire transfer to arrive (it won’t be instantaneous!).

Bringing your Car across the Canada US border

Part 3: After You’ve Arranged the Deal, Through a Dealer or Privately
1. Steps 2-11 in this part should suffice for your vehicle importation. As a precaution, I highly recommend that you print, read and understand everything here (and keep a copy to take with you along with this entire document):

2. Have the dealership fax what is known as either the Manufacturer Certificate of Origin or Manufacturer State of Origin (MCO or MSO) to US Customs 72 hours before your arrival at the border crossing (no less than that - this is extremely important). If the vehicle is used, you will need to fax the DMV Title (it will be signed over to you at purchase by the owner - and it was produced by the DMV the first time the car was registered) instead of the MCO or MSO. Please note that some ports require the original MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used) to be couriered - because they won't accept a faxed copy. The best thing to do is call the port you will be going through and ask them whether they will accept a faxed copy as opposed to a courier of the original. If faxing, be sure to call the US Customs port after the fax has been sent to ensure that the fax is fully legible and does not need to be re-faxed.

3. Obtain a typed letter (with letterhead) from the manufacturer (not the dealership) stating the car (including the specific VIN) does not have a Recall Pending. This paper, known as the Recall Letter, explains that there are no outstanding recalls associated with your vehicle. If this paper states that there are outstanding recalls, you'll have to fix the corresponding deficiencies in order to complete and pass Federal Inspection in Canada for a new car. Check for liens too. For further information:

Also check here for contacts for recall letters from other manufacturers:

4. The dealer will provide you with a temporary transit plate stuck on the rear window. You may need a Temp plate from State to State if you're importing a vehicle farther from the border States. Before leaving the dealer with your vehicle, check that you have the temporary registration and temporary state license plates, and sales receipts. The vehicle should have the manufacturer’s compliance label on the driver’s door frame (has date of manufacture, manufacturer, statement of compliance with regulations, etc.).

5. Call your insurance company and provide the VIN number to arrange coverage. If you give the insurance company the VIN # of the car you're going to buy, you can ask them to send you a fax of the insurance form so you have proof that you have insurance. If you do not do this and you get stopped by police, you will at the least get a fine for driving without insurance. TD Auto will insure your new car no problem but you have to tell them the VIN I believe before you just buy and drive.

6. Call the border crossing you will be going through and ask them what times they're open so you don't go at the wrong time. You will arrive at the border crossing with your new car. First, park the car and bring in ALL documentation (everything that's been mentioned up to this step, including the receipts, recall letter, proof of insurance, etc.). I walked into US Customs there and went to the counter and told them that I was exporting a vehicle and showed them the paperwork. They looked at the car, stamped my MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used), checked the VIN to the car and I was out the door. For a used car, they might inspect it a little more. It took me less than 10 minutes. This is where the paperwork that the dealer put together came in handy. No scrummaging through papers, everything was in order.

7. After dealing with US Customs at the border, you now have to go through Canada Customs. At the booth, I told the officer I was importing a vehicle to Canada. He gave me a yellow slip and told me to see the officers in the building. Parked the car again and went to the desk and showed them all paperwork again. They will also fill out "Form 1" which you'll need later on. Showed them the Bill of Sale and they converted the amount I paid US into CDN dollars. From there, the US is amount converted into CDN dollars. I was charged the GST (6%) on this amount. If it's a used vehicle, don't under-declare the value of the vehicle you are importing. Canada Customs has the ability to seize your vehicle. The vehicle (and all goods in it) will be seized, you won't be charged/arrested under the Customs Act unless the officer feels you have hindered them. You will, however, have committed an offense under the Customs Act. There is an import duty fee of 6.1% if the vehicle isn't sufficiently made in North America (as described earlier) and there is also a $100 Air Conditioning Tax. The RIV Importation Fee is now $206.70, and also must be paid, and only credit card is accepted (NO Interac). This is because the $206.70 goes directly to Transport Canada - NOT to the CBSA. Another 15 mins. After all is paid, you're good to go. Again this is where the paperwork being in order will come in handy. I've read horror stories of missing 1 vital piece of information and being turned back and refused entry.

8. Drive to your home in Canada and park your car. Email or fax your MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used), and Recall Letter, to the RIV and they will process your application and email you Form 2 the same day IF you call them with your case # (which is affixed to the top of Form 1) right away. Otherwise, it can take 3-10 business days.

9. Form 2, once you've received it, will enable you to bring the vehicle to Canadian Tire to have the vehicle inspected to meet Canadian Standards (i.e. bumpers, Daytime Running Lights, Child Tethers, Airbags). Bring Form 2 to CT for inspection. They will stamp your Form 2 and ask for the "Recall Clearance Letter" as mentioned before, and fax it to the RIV. Please note that there must be metric markings on the speedometer, but it doesn't mean the speedometer must be replaced even though miles per hour are more prominent on vehicles manufactured in the U.S.

10. Obtain proof of insurance for your new vehicle through your auto insurer.

11. Present stamped Form 1, MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used), and Canada Customs payment form to your provincial licensing authority for registration & plates. This is also where you would pay any PST (if applicable in your province) on your vehicle. Pay to have the car registered and plated. You can use the Temp plate for the time being, but I don't suggest it as it is a TEMPORARY PLATE. You don't need an Emissions test if it's a new car. You may be asked to get an out-of-province inspection (OOP) if the car is not brand new, and should follow this instruction. However, IF the car is brand new AND you have the MCO or MSO, you don't need the inspection. Be firm in this case, and go to another registry office if they don't budge.

12. After that's all done, confirm with the RIV that they will send you a letter with Canadian Certification Label to affix to your door sill (usually comes within 10 business days).