Importing a Car from the US

Winter 2006 CSANews Issue 61  |   Posted date : Jun 01, 2007.Back to list

Bird talk - Le Jaseur
Dear Bird Talk:

I read with great interest Ross Quigley's editorial in your summer 2006 issue of CSANews. Could you possibly relay my comments to him, as well as a few queries I have about his car importing experience?

I am also a bit of a car nut as well. Last fall I purchased a new Mercedes CLS 500 - 4-door sports coupe here in Ottawa and the cost was over the six-figure mark. I am now wondering if I had purchased the car in the U.S. perhaps I could also have saved myself a considerable amount of money.

Therefore, my first question is: Does the Free Trade ruling apply only to"Used Cars" or new cars as well? Because of dealer protection, I suspect it might only be for the used car category. In retrospect, I could have gone to the Mercedes dealer in Naples FL where we live during the winter months and purchased a used 2006 (or almost new) automobile as well.

Are you aware of any limit on the number of times this can be done each year? We usually spend several weeks of our summer time at our Florida condo and always enjoy our driving experience of going back and forth. I might be tempted to purchase another one or two vehicles under these conditions.

Another question is how do I contact U.S Customs officials to file a copy of the U.S. Registration for any car I want to import into Canada? Do they have offices that you are aware of in Florida as well as California?

Is there a U.S. or Canadian website where I can get more information on this procedure? I hope I am not overwhelming you with too many questions. Any further information you could pass on in this regard would be much appreciated.

Mr. Quigley, I totally agree with your comments about extending the passport renewal period to 10 years as well as making it free for students and seniors. We live in a very different world today and I can never understand (outside of the minimal cost) why so many people are so hesitant to apply for one.

Incidentally, I think the CLS 500 is probably the finest riding car I have ever owned. When driving (particularly on the highway) it literally slices through the air and is almost totally soundproof. No need to turn up the volume of our favourite music any more.

Paul Picher
Ottawa ON

Response :
Generally, you do not have to pay duty on an imported vehicle that was manufactured in the United States, Canada or Mexico. If the vehicle was manufactured outside North America, additional duties are usually payable. This duty was 6.1% for the Audi Allroad (a German manufactured car) which was in the article. For assistance in establishing a value for duty for your vehicle you can call the Border Information Service line at 1-800-461-9999. Incidentally, once you purchase a vehicle and drive it to the border it will be classified as “USED”.

You will be required to pay $195 CAD plus applicable GST upon entering Canada. If entering in the Province of Quebec you will have to pay the applicable QST as well. Keep in mind that the appropriate PST will always be payable when you license the vehicle in your home province.

As far as we can determine, there is no limitation on the number of times per year that you can import a vehicle into Canada, however, we have heard (informally) that the income tax people start to treat it as a business when you get to five cross-border purchases.

You must submit the Certificate of Title, the Bill of sale and Vehicle Registration to the U.S. Customs office at the intended point of export 72 hours prior to export. This can be and is, usually, done by fax. These offices are only open on weekdays during regular business hours, so don’t get stranded on a weekend. If you call the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) at 1-888-848-8240 they will provide you with the phone and fax numbers for the U.S. Customs Clearance officer at the land border crossing you intend to cross. It will be a good idea to run the vehicle through a car wash before appearing at the border. Since you are importing a vehicle, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency can have jurisdiction and you must comply with their standards regarding sand, soil earth and plant residue, if requested.

Before purchasing a car to import to Canada from the United States verify the vehicles admissibility by checking the Transport Canada “List of Vehicles Admissible from the United States”. This list is available on the RIV website at . When you arrive at the Canadian Border, after you have been cleared to EXPORT the vehicle from the United States you will be receive a Vehicle Import Form – Form 1.

If certain modifications are required to comply with the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act, you will have 45 days to complete them, once you are in Canada. You have the option of using the mechanic of your choice, however, Canadian Tire ® will perform the federal inspection on behalf of the Registrar of Imported Vehicles and is therefore appropriately qualified to modify the vehicle (if necessary) to meet the compliance standards. On the Audi, we were only required to change the headlight hook-up to provide for daytime running lights (about $100) and this appears to be the only minor change required. Also, after some minor dealer confusion, we have the full warranty coverage in place.

We received many letters and e-mails on this issue and we hope this will answer most questions. And to answer Mrs. Wells, whose family owns a Canadian dealership, the car we imported was not available through Canadian dealers, ever, and that is why we had some warranty confusion at our normal dealership.

Back to list | More articles