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7 steps for importing a car into Canada

Looking to buy a car from abroad? Find out what steps you’ll need to take when importing a car into Canada.

If you’ve got your eye on a new or used vehicle that you’d like to purchase from the US or overseas, you’ll need to do a bit of leg work to get it into Canada. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to start the process to importing a car into Canada.

1. Make sure your vehicle can be imported into Canada

Before you start the process of importing a car into Canada, you should first check the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) to make sure that the car you’re interested in purchasing is eligible to be imported into Canada. If your vehicle is coming from the US, you’ll also want to check the Registrar of Imported Vehicles Compatibility List to check whether your vehicle will make it through an inspection. You can also enter your vehicle information into the RIV’s Importer Checklist to make sure that your car meets the relevant eligibility requirements.

Can I import a car into Canada from a country other than the US?

In most cases, you won’t be able to import a vehicle from any country aside from the US unless that vehicle is 15 years of age or older. That’s because when a car is older than 15 years, it’s often considered a classic car and is exempt from these import rules. As for newer vehicles, most that are manufactured in other countries don’t comply with the requirements set out by Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act. And since they can’t be altered to comply with these requirements, they’re typically not able to legally enter the country.

2. Check the title of the vehicle and inspect its condition before import

If you’re purchasing a new vehicle in person, you’ll likely want to get it inspected before importing it into Canada to make sure it’s in good condition. You’ll also want to check the title of your new vehicle with the local Department of Motor Vehicles to make sure that it does indeed belong to the person who’s selling it to you.

As a rule of thumb, the vehicle you purchase will need to have a clear title and can’t be marked for salvage or rebuild. You’ll also need to make sure you do your due diligence before you hand your cash over, as it will be difficult to get your money back once the sale is final (even if there are issues with your vehicle).

3. Pay for your vehicle if it meets eligibility criteria for import to Canada

If you think your vehicle will get the green light to cross the border, you’ll need to arrange payment. If you’re purchasing your vehicle in person, you can choose to pay in cash or by another method like PayPal. If you’re sending money from Canada, you can also send funds using a wire transfer from your bank or an international money transfer. Just make sure you have proof of your purchase to show to customs when you cross the border.

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4. Handle all the paperwork for importing a car into Canada

There are a couple of things you’ll need to do to make sure your vehicle is eligible for import a car to Canada from the US. In particular, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Request an Internal Transit Number (ITN). You’ll have to pay a licensed importer to get an ITN. This will be sent direct to the border, and they should have this information when you show up to export your vehicle.
  • Apply for export. You’ll need to apply for export at the exact US border crossing you plan to take your vehicle across, and you’ll need to do this at least 72 hours before arrival. To do this, you’ll need to send copies of your title and ITN to the border in question.
  • Vehicle import form. Your vehicle import form may be completed online on the Registrar of Imported Vehicle (RIV) website. Then you’ll need to print the form and give it to the customs officers at the border.

You may need additional documentation if you plan to import your vehicle from a country that’s not the US. You should be sure to get in touch with Transport Canada to find out what documentation you’ll need when it comes to importing a car into Canada from various other countries around the world.

5. Get your vehicle to the border

You can usually drive or tow your vehicle across the border, depending on what type of insurance you have. You’ll just need to make sure that the border you plan to cross has an export office. You should do this ahead of time to make sure you don’t get any nasty surprises when you arrive on the big day.

You may also be able to enlist a certified shipping company if you’re importing a car into Canada that’s 15 years or older from overseas.

6. Pay the appropriate duties and fees for importing a car into Canada

You’ll be required to pay GST and HST (depending on your province of entry) for the full amount listed on the bill of sale. You should also be sure to bring copies of the money transfer or have some other proof of payment to show to customs. You may also need to pay additional fees depending on how old your vehicle is and on whether it has air conditioning.

7. Register your vehicle in Canada

Once you’ve legally imported a car into Canada, you have 45 days to actually go to a registry where you can register and plate the car. You may also want to check in with your provincial registration and insurance companies to make sure that there are no extra requirements you’ll need to meet to insure an out-of-country vehicle. For example, your vehicle may need to pass an out-of-province vehicle inspection in order to be registered in your province.

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Where to find assistance for importing a car into Canada

The process of importing a car into Canada can be long and arduous. This is likely because the Canadian government would prefer that you purchase a vehicle in Canada. If you want to make the process run smoothly, you may prefer to hire a private customs broker or an independent commercial importer.

These services make it their business to get your vehicle into Canada, and they know the ins and outs of the process you’ll have to follow to import your vehicle. Enlisting a professional service could be worth your while if you want an easy fix. Just be prepared to pay an additional fee for the helping hand.

Why would I want to import a car into Canada?

There are a few reasons why you might want to bring a car from overseas to your driveway:

  • You want to buy a car that’s not available for purchase in Canada.
  • You’ve recently moved to Canada and want to bring your car over.
  • You want to buy a car that will cost less if you import it from the US or overseas.

Is it worth importing a car to Canada?

If you’re considering importing an everyday, average-priced car into Canada, it’s probably not worth the effort, time and cost. Even when a vehicle is cheaper in another country, the overall cost to import it into Canada – after adding up the exchange rate, shipping fees, registration and inspection costs – could easily end up costing you more than if you bought locally. You may also find it more difficult to repair your vehicle if it gets damaged in transit or requires specialty parts.

There are a couple of cases where it does make sense to import a vehicle, like if you’re a vintage car collector, or if a car has sentimental value for you. In general, you should take time to consider what you’re willing to pay for importing a car into Canada and decide whether it’s worth the headache to bring a vehicle across the border.

For information on leasing or buying a car in a different province, read our guide to interprovincial car purchases here.

Bottom line

If you need to import a car into Canada from the US or overseas, you’ll have to jump through a couple of hoops to get started. These can include organizing an inspection, making sure your vehicle is eligible to import and filling out the required paperwork. You’ll also need to pay a number of fees to get your vehicle across the border.

Frequently asked questions about importing a car into Canada

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