Three Crucial Questions | Clearit's Blog on Customs Brokerage and News Updates

Three Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself when Importing a Car into Canada

Conveniently purchasing a car online is one thing, bringing it home is another.

Considering that cars are among the five top products imported into Canada (the other four are crude petroleum, trucks, computers and gold) one would assume that the process of bringing them in should be a simple one. Well, it can be. That is, if you are prepared to spend some time understanding the complex importation process and the rules and regulations that apply. If you don’t, and mistakes are made, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble and paying hefty fines.

Does it make sense financially?

Not all decisions are based on dollar value. Discovering that precious vintage car you’ve been searching for may have more emotional value that’s worth the costs associated with the purchase. However, in most other cases, it is wise to have a look at the expenses that are attached to the process of importing. It starts with the exchange rate and the actual price you will be paying for your new car and continues with a number of levies, customs and handling fees that apply and add up quickly.  If you are not planning to pick up the vehicle yourself, you will also have to factor in ground transportation or shipping costs.

Is your new car eligible to enter Canada?

This is another important question that needs to be answered before you start contemplating a purchase. The Registrar of Imported vehicles (RIV) strongly recommends checking whether your car is listed on the Transport Canada’s List of Vehicles admissible from the United States. Cars that have been modified from their original state might not be eligible for importation into Canada. If you are unable to find your car model on the list you will have to contact the manufacturer to determine whether you can bring in this car, or contact Transport Canada to get a no objection letter. If your make and model is not on the list, you are also required to obtain a “proof of recall clearance” to be able to register the vehicle. This document states that there are no outstanding recalls for the vehicle and the manufacturer confirms that the vehicle is deemed safe. The RIV itself or experienced brokers are good sources of information on how to obtain clearance to import a foreign car.

Does your new car comply with the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards?

Canada’s environmental and safety standards are very strict and, without exception, apply to all cars that travel on Canadian roads. In the Motor Vehicle Safety Act you will find the exact specifications that are required of your new purchase. Among other things, the Act states that cars manufactured for countries other than Canada or the US are not eligible for import, because they cannot be altered to comply with Canadian standards. If you are planning to import a car from Europe, it is more difficult. There are however, exceptions to this rule: Cars that are 15 years old or older, cars that have been manufactured with the compliance of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act in mind, or cars that have been manufactured abroad for the North American market.

If your response to all of the above questions has been positive, you are a huge step closer to your goal.  Now it’s time to start getting familiar with the paperwork and requirements. If you are doing it on your own, make sure to triple check all documents, forms and procedures.  You don’t want to reach the border only to be turned away due to a missing piece of information.

The US Census Bureau has added an export filing requirement – you are now required to provide an Internal Tracking Number (ITN) as part of the AES to import your car to Canada. The Automated Export System (AES) is set up to collect electronic information about goods that are exported from the U.S. A valid ITN/AES number must be received together with the export and ownership documents 72 hours prior to crossing the border. You can obtain your ITN by contacting a freight forwarder or a customs broker, or by requesting one online through our ITN Number for AES page.

Importing a car into Canada might be a complex process, but being well prepared will be worth it in the end.