NOTE: This document is based on Dirk Sieber’s experiences in importing a 1993 Toyota MR2 Turbo into the province of BC in Feb/Mar of 1996. I make no guarantees that any or all of these provisions will apply to you, or that the process will work for you in the same way it did for me. CHECK WITH CANADA CUSTOMS BEFORE DOING ANYTHING!
The next few sections explain the process, as explained to me by Canada Customs and Transport Canada. There’s also a section at the end, detailing my own experiences, and how they differed from what I was told
The first thing you need to do is find out whether the car you’re considering is even importable into Canada. Many cars destined for the US market do not meet Canadian safety standards (especially newer ones), and are therefore not importable at all. Note specifically that the person at the border was quite surprised that my MR2 was acceptable… it seems that many late model Toyotas do not qualify.
Transport Canada has an agreement with a private firm, Livingston International, which is now operating as the , reachable at 1-888-848-8240. If you call them, and give them the year, make, and model of vehicle, they will tell you whether the car is legally allowed to be imported into Canada. Note that this list is also available on Transport Canada’s web site, at the bottom of .
If the car is acceptable, you will also need the following paperwork:
-US Title to the vehicle
-Bill of sale/transfer of ownership
In addition, you will need a written notice from the manufacturer of the vehicle (NOT just a dealership) stating that any recalls that may be in effect have been performed on the car you’re planning on importing.
Also note that if the car is newer than the 1990 model year, you will be expected to have the car retrofitted with the equivalent of the Canadian Daytime Running Light system. This procedure can be done after the car is in Canada, but you must have it completed and inspected within 45 days of importation.
Upon making my appointment for the Federal Inspection (see below), I was also told that you would have to have approved mounting points for a tether strap for a child car seat. This isn’t mentioned anywhere in the documentation I received from Transport Canada, and luckily the inspection station decided to waive the requirement due to my MR2 being a 2-seater. Note that this quite possibly won’t happen for you!
You will also need lots of money. See the section below titled “Fees”
In BC, ICBC will provide you with what is called a “Binder of insurance” (~$35/10 days for my car), which is strictly insurance coverage. it is not a license to drive the vehicle on the road. You will also have to obtain a temporary permit from each state that you will be moving the car through. (In Washington, this is available from any Motor Vehicle licensing office. From my experience, $10US + local service fee (~$2.50) for a 3 day permit).
ICBC will not issue you a standard temporary BC permit until the car is physically present in BC, and you have the paperwork from the border stating that the car has been imported.
The first thing you will want to do is make sure you are at the correct border crossing… certain ports of entry are designated for the process of importing vehicles.
The process can be completed at any port, but the paperwork fee assessed will be approximately $50 higher if you go through a “non-designated” port. Check with Customs before you arrive. (Note - based on updated information on Transport Canada’s website, it seems there is no longer a surcharge for going to a ‘non-designated’ port. However, you’ll probably find that the process will be a bit quicker/easier if you go to a designated port.
(Only for vehicles equipped with air conditioning)
Note that you may need to pay an additional excise tax if your vehicle weighs over 2007KG, or 2268KG if it is a station wagon, van, or SUV. Contact Canada Customs for details.This is calculated on the Canadian value plus the excise fee, if applicableAfter you’ve paid all of this, you’ve now got a Canadian car! (Subject to inspection).
7.0% (5% as of January 1 2008)
Note: You may still have to pay PST or other fees to your provincial government. If you are in BC, you will have to pay PST when you register/insure the vehicle.
The process described here is only for BC residents… you will have to contact your local insurance agent/tax office if you’re not a BC resident.
NOTE: The fee charged for this inspection is not fixed… I was informed by my ICBC agent that it can vary from ~$50-$250, depending on where you go. CALL AROUND for rates!
The inspection is fairly thorough, although mostly visual. They will road test your car, as well as inspect all safety and emissions equipment (note that this test does not count as a pass of AirCare), check for body and undercarriage damage, inspect the brakes, tires, etc, and many other things.
Shortly after bringing the car across the border, you will receive a notice from the , noting that you’ve recently imported a vehicle into the country, and detailing the fact that you will have to take it through a Federal inspection before final approval is given to the vehicle. Note that this is a different inspection from the one in the above section, and unlike the provincial inspection, this is required no matter where in Canada you are.
During this inspection is where you’ll have to have the recall notice from the manufacturer of the car, the correct emissions/safety standards stickers, proof of having the proper anchorages for a child car seat, and show compliance with DRL laws, if applicable to your year of vehicle. You will also need the paperwork that you received from the brokerage at the border.
If you pass this inspection, Transport Canada will mail you an approval sticker that you will have to put on your copy of the paperwork you received at the border, as well as French versions of some of the safety stickers in your car, and a sticker for your odometer stating that it is in miles.
The good news is that 1) it’s a very short inspection (in my experience), and 2) it’s free… it’s covered by the fee you paid at the border.
The above is how the process is supposed to work, according to Canada Customs, Transport Canada, and ICBC. This is what happened in my experience.
I picked up my car just south of Seattle, after first purchasing a 3 day permit from a MV Licensing office in Washington. I proceeded to drive to the Douglas border crossing (Peach Arch), where I was informed by the Customs Officer at the booth that I was actually at the wrong crossing (see my note above in “At the border” re:approved points of entry). They allowed me to change my mind and proceed to the other crossing, but note that you will not be allowed to proceed through Canada to the other border crossing. I had to turn around, cross back into the US, and then go to the other border crossing.
After another wait in line, the officer requested the form from the brokerage, as well as the title and bill of sale/transfer of ownership. He inspected those and took copies, asked if the car had air conditioning, and then informed me of my total charges owing. (Note that if you want to know how it breaks down, ask now, not at the cash register, as they can’t tell you there). I paid my money, and I was free to go!
Note that at no time did anyone at the border actually do so much as look at the car. I could have been importing a semi-trailer, and they wouldn’t have known. They also never requested the statement re:recalls, although after I offered it, the Customs agent did inspect it.
Also, the people at Customs had no problem with my driving the car with just the Washington State temporary permit (and neither did the police officer who followed me very closely 2 days later, although he inspected it pretty thoroughly , so I decided to do that and save myself a few days worth of temporary permit charges in BC. (Note that if you have a binder of insurance in effect on the car already, ICBC will only charge you the licensing fee for a temporary permit. currently $3/day, min $10).
At the ICBC agent, they requested copies of:
The title to the car (which they keep)
The transfer of ownership (ditto)
The paperwork from the border
The inspection report from the PVIP inspection
Lots of money.
After that, they cheerfully handed me a set of plates and an insurance sticker, and I was off.
Note… one thing I’m still trying to figure out after reading the papers about the Federal inspection is whether they were supposed to insure the car before the Federal inspection was complete… parts of the text hint that this shouldn’t be possible, but it doesn’t come out and say it anywhere, and I didn’t have any problems.
Good luck… if you have questions about the process, feel free to e-mail me at “ “.
Registrar of Imported Vehicles - 1-888-848-8240 (toll-free in the US & Canada). Other areas, call (416) 626-1803
Automated Customs Information Service (ACIS) - 1-800-461-9999. Outside of Canada, (204) 983-3500, or (506) 636-5064.
Transport Canada - 1-800-333-0371. Outside of Canada, (613) 998-8616.
v1.0 Written by Dirk Sieber, Mar 13/96
v1.1 Updated by Dirk Sieber, July 3/02
- Changes include updated fee information, contact information for RIV, US Customs notification requirement
(c) Dirk Sieber, 1996,2002.