Guide to Importing a Car |'s Blog on Customs Brokerage and News Updates

Import a Car: A Beginners Guide

Finding the right car

Most of us have a good idea of the brand, make or model car we would like to buy, but if you are on a budget, it helps to know the following:

  • You will always get more money trading in your old vehicle in Canada. DO NOT trade your vehicle to a dealer in the US
  • There is 0% duty on cars manufactured in the North America
  • Cars made in north america have VIN numbers starting with 1,2,3,4 or 5


Before Purchasing

Some things you may want to consider before going through with your purchase:

  • Check the warranty: Many warranties become void when moving the car across the border. Be sure to call the and make sure the warranty applies in Canada as well. If the warranty will not carry over to Canada, you can consider buying third party insurance here
  • Be sure the car you are purchasing is admissible in Canada. You can do so on the RIV website here
  • Green Levy fees (excise tax on fuel inefficient vehicles): Large V8 vehicles or “gas guzzlers” may be subject extra fees up to $4,000.00 CAD. This only applies to vehicles put on the road after March 19th, 2007. This fee applies to Cars and Sport utility vehicles and vans but not applicable to pick-up trucks, transport vans (10 people or more), ambulances, or hearses.


Making the Purchase

Now that you have selected your vehicle and dealership, it is important to let them know the following:

  • You need temporary tags and will not be paying tax because the car will be registered in Canada
  • If you are having trouble finding a dealer to sell you a brand new car, try a state further away from the Can/US border
  • Once you make your purchase / deposit, be sure to get a clear copy of the VIN number
  • Keep an eye on exchange rates, they fluctuate often. buying your car later in the day or week can save you a few hundred dollars


Bringing your car across the Border

Whether purchasing your vehicle new or used, does not make much difference for the import process

  • Your broker will need either the title (if the car is used) or the MCO (Manufacturer’s certificate of origin), if the car is new. A copy of this must be sent to the port of crossing 72 hours prior to crossing. Most ports will require an original copy at time of crossing as well.
  • Shipper’s letter of instructions: your Customs broker will prepare this for you and have you sign it. You will need to provide information on the transport company as well as vehicle details
  • EIN / AES number: Your customs broker should be able to provide this number for you, it is needed when exporting anything out of the USA over $2,500.00 – you can get one here
  • If you will be driving your vehicle over the border, be sure you have a temporary license plate and temporary registration as well as the sales receipt.
  • Call your insurance company: Give them the VIN# and request an email or fax with proof of coverage. This can avoid at the very least an expensive ticket.
  • Make sure to call your border crossing a head of time and be sure they will be open to process your vehicle. Most will only do so between 8:00 am – 4:30 pm EST


At the US Border

whether deicing across the border yourself or working with a commercial carrier, the steps are relatively the same

  • When arriving at the border, park your car on the US side and go directly to the counter, make sure to mention you are exporting a vehicle
  • be sure to have all mentioned documentation on you (including tittle/MCO, receipts, proof of insurance)
  • US customs will inspect the car and stamp your tittle or MCO


At the Canadian Border

Once US customs stamps your tittle/MCO, you can now drive through, but you’re not done yet. You now must stop on the Canadian side.

  • Passing through customs, tell the officer you will be importing a vehicle. He/She will ask you to park the car and go in to the counter.
  • Your broker should have processed the necessary paperwork and any GST or excise tax should have been paid.
  • You receive your stamped paperwork and you are on your way.


Almost Done

Now that you have successfully cleared the border with your vehicle, you are just a few short steps away from legally driving it in Canada

  • email or fax your tittle/MCO with case number to RIV at 1-888-346-8235 (this can be found at the top corner of your form1)
  • RIV will fax you back a form2 – this must be taken to a local Canadian tire for inspection to meet Canadian standards. Canadian tire will then fax RIV their stamped copy of the form2
  • have your insurance company send you a copy of proof of insurance.
  • present your stamped copies of the Form 1, tittle/MCO, and Canada customs payment form to your local provincial licensing authority for registration and plates
  • any provincial sales tax will be payable at this time


import a car canada border


Congratulations, you have successfully and legally imported a vehicle!

For more information on brokerage for importing vehicles, please click here