Canada has a couple of different processes for bringing cars into the country, based mostly around how long the car is going to be there. For the purposes of this article, we don’t care about temporary importation, i.e. when a car is going to be in Canada longer than a typical vacation, but less than a year, for instance if you are a foreigner working in Canada for a short period of time. The other thing we don’t care so much about is importing a newer car. There are a lot of strict requirements if the vehicle you’re trying to import is recent but luckily, the vehicle you’re probably considering is much older. The key piece of information is in Section 2.0 of the Imported Vehicles Compatibility list: Canada allows “[a]ll vehicles (sic) types except buses aged 15 years or older” without issue.
If your vehicle is older than 15 years, it’s essentially a matter of filling out the appropriate paperwork and paying the various taxes for importation.
In general, the importation steps for Canadian citizens are as follows:
- Check to see if your car is permissible with the Registrar of Imported Vehicles.
- Check the title: The car MUST have a clear title to be imported to Canada. This is a sticky subject on vehicles from states that don’t issue titles for older vehicles. Be aware of it.
- If you will be transporting the car across the border, when you purchase it, get the title couriered to you. It’s a good idea to get the Bill of Sale sent at the same time.
- Get an Internal Transit Number: This is a procedure that a shipper is going to help with, but we will detail it here; For the cost of around $150, you send a scan of the title, the value of the car, your Canadian address, your phone number and your Canadian passport number to a company like CanAm Auto Importers, and you get back your ITN.
- The 72-Hour Rule: Before you import a vehicle into Canada from the US, you have to contact the exact border crossing you’re using. You need a scan of the front and back of the title, as well as your Internal Transit Number and send it to the border crossing, ensuring it gets to US Border Services at the crossing location at least 72 hours before you show up.
- When you are ready to import, go to the US Border Services office to have them process the ITN. Have your passport, driver’s license, the title, and a copy of the Bill of Sale with you. Once they clear the vehicle, proceed up the road to CBSA (Canadian Customs).
At CBSA, you will need to have the following documents on hand or you will not be able to import your car:
- Processed ITN from the USA
- Certificate of title
- Bill of sale from the seller with your name, Canadian address, phone number, and amount paid for the vehicle
- Certificate of insurance
- Your Passport
- Your Driver’s license
Fill out the T1 Form at Canadian Border Services Authority. After offering the required documents processed by US Border Services, you will receive an importation form (“Form 1”) from CBSA to complete. (If you prefer, you can fill out the form on the RIV website beforehand and print out a copy to give to CBSA: http://www.riv.ca/OnlineForms/Home/Landing). You will need to retain this form as it is required by your province or territory to license the vehicle.
This all sounds scary and time consuming and insurmountable, and it probably is on your own. That’s why it’s advisable to pay a shipper who does this stuff every single day. The shipper is going to help you navigate all the steps for proper importation. If the shipper isn’t interested in helping you with all this stuff, absolutely find another shipper. It’s their job to help, and it’s what you’re paying them for.
Cost of Shipping to Canada
The cost of shipping a car to Canada is going to vary widely, depending on how far you need to ship it.
The shipping cost is typically the responsibility of the buyer, unless you negotiate as part of your purchase price that the seller will pay for shipping. If so, be sure that the Bill of Sale reflects both the price of the car and shipping charges.
In addition, there are fixed costs that are part of the vehicle importation to Canada:
Air Conditioning Excise Tax: An excise tax of $100 is payable for vehicles with air conditioning that are purchased in Canada or imported from the United States. This tax is payable to CBSA at the border when the vehicle is permanently imported into Canada. There’s no information on whether this only applies to vehicles under 15 years of age, so assume you’ll have to pay it if your vintage car has A/C
Goods and Service Tax (GST) is collected on all imported vehicles by the CBSA and is based on: the current GST rate (5%); the U.S. sale price of the vehicle before any trade-ins (converted to Canadian $); plus any state or local sales tax paid (converted to Canadian $); plus any excise taxes or duties assessed by CBSA at the border.
Even if you are trailering the vehicle, it is a wise move to purchase car insurance well before you import your car to Canada. That way, you are covered for any inadvertent loss or damage along the way.
Plan for the Registration process in Your Province
Getting the car into the country is one thing, getting it licensed and on the road is another…
When you go the provincial license bureau you will need the following:
- The completed Form 1 from CBSA.
- Bill of Sale
- Safety Certificate (issued by an authorized local garage)
- A current appraisal (provided by an authorized appraiser)*
- Your driver’s license
* An appraisal is required for any vehicle over 20 years old and if in Ontario, it must be an Ontario Government appraisal form. And note that if the appraisal value and that shown on the Bill of Sale do not match, you will pay taxes whichever is higher!