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Importing a Vehicle from the USA to Canada




Importing A Vehicle

Buying or importing cars from the U.S. to Canada comes with an unfavorable exchange rate, but it still makes sense in many scenarios. If you’re getting ready to ship your vehicle to Canada, you should have a clear overview of how the import process works.

In this article, we share the six steps required for the task.

Want Help in the Process? Hire a Shipping Company!

Before we move on to the steps involved, you should know that you don’t necessarily have to go over them all by yourself. With the help of reliable auto transport companies like A-1, you can get assistance with both shipping logistics and paperwork.

Auto transport companies take your vehicle from a specific location and ship it to your country of choice. You get to choose the type of shipping, pickup and drop-off location, and more.

Still, auto transport companies can only provide the service if the transportation meets all legal requirements. It’s still necessary to perform the steps below and ensure you have the correct documentation whether you drive by yourself or have your vehicle shipped.


1. Make Sure your Vehicle is Eligible for Transport

Before you make any plans for importing the vehicle, you must check whether Transport Canada and the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) deem your car suitable for import. Most Canadian regulations are the same as those in the U.S. You can transport most vehicles as they are, while for others, you’ll need a metric odometer and daytime lights.

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You can view the complete registrar of imported vehicles here. Note that all cars on the list are no more than 15 years old. If your car is older than 15 years, it’s exempt from the rules.

You’ll also want to double-check Environment Canada Requirements, your recall clearance documentation, vehicle branding history, and vehicle modification requirements.

For more details and general information about importing a vehicle to Canada, check Transport Canada’s website.

2. Verify the Title

Your title is the most essential document you need in order to import a vehicle as it proves your car ownership.


You can always visit your local Department of Motor Vehicle office for examples of bad titles and get tips on how to make yours look good.

3. Know About the 72-Hour Rule

Exporting a car from the United States gets slightly more complicated because of the 72-hour rule. Before you’re allowed to import your vehicle to Canada, you must first export it from the U.S. Not doing so can cause a lot of trouble if you plan on returning to the U.S.

You’re required to call (emails often don’t work as no one reads them) the U.S. border crossing you’ll be using 72 hours in advance. You’ll need to send them the front and back of your title as a digital scan and your Internal Transit Number.

4. Get an Internal Transit Number

Before the Internal Transit Number (ITN) came into existence, anyone could have imported a car into Canada. The person simply had to prove their ownership, the amount of money they spent on the car, pay taxes, and show their passport.

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But this method seemed too easy for the authorities, so they came up with the ITN. Technically, this is another way for the importers to earn extra money without the procedure having much meaning. Still, you must get this number either by being a licensed importer or by paying one to issue you the number.


Here’s an overview of the documents you’ll need to send your importer to get this number:

  • Title digital scan (front and back)
  • Car value
  • Canadian address
  • Canadian passport number
  • Phone number

The importer sends this information along with the ITN to border control. The U.S. border doesn’t usually confirm whether they received the documents or if they were faulty. You’ll have to travel there in person and check for yourself.

5. The Export Moment

It’s worth noting that not all U.S. border crossings have export offices. Most major crossings do, but you’ll have to make phone calls to check whether the one you plan to use will be open.

Once you get a positive answer, you have to locate that office. Most of them aren’t easily accessible, and you’ll likely need to call the U.S. border and ask for directions. But don’t worry. When you locate them, the procedure is super simple, and you’ll be ready to head to Canada.

6. Import + Tax

When you get to this part of the process, you’ve already completed the hardest tasks. When you drive through the customs gate in Canada, just let them know that you’re importing a car. The officers will direct you to a space where you can park and make the tax payment.

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The customs department often fusses over the exact tax amount involved. But you will have to pay GST and HST, depending on the entry province.


There is also a $100 fee for cars with air conditioning and a $200 fee for vehicles newer than 15 years.

You can legally enter the car into Canada when you pay the fees. From that moment, you have 45 days to make it to the registry and get the new plates. During this time, your vehicle will pass a Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) inspection before the law can officially consider it imported.

If you’re importing a salvage vehicle, the deadline for this inspection is one year from the moment it crosses the border.

Bonus: Know About the Exceptions

Canada doesn’t accept vehicles that have been modified from their original state. This includes:

  • Vans converted into motorhomes
  • Passenger cars or pick-ups with lift kits
  • Vans with raised roofs or altered interior
  • Motorcycles converted into motor tricycles
  • Lengthened and stretched vehicles

Need Help Importing a Vehicle to Canada?

The procedure for importing a car to Canada can be a complicated and time-consuming endeavor. The process is much faster with a licensed and reliable car shipping company. If you lack time to organize the shipping yourself, trustworthy service providers like A-1 Auto Transport can help.

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