Bringing your Car across the Canada US border

Part 3: After You’ve Arranged the Deal, Through a Dealer or Privately
1. Steps 2-11 in this part should suffice for your vehicle importation. As a precaution, I highly recommend that you print, read and understand everything here (and keep a copy to take with you along with this entire document):

2. Have the dealership fax what is known as either the Manufacturer Certificate of Origin or Manufacturer State of Origin (MCO or MSO) to US Customs 72 hours before your arrival at the border crossing (no less than that - this is extremely important). If the vehicle is used, you will need to fax the DMV Title (it will be signed over to you at purchase by the owner - and it was produced by the DMV the first time the car was registered) instead of the MCO or MSO. Please note that some ports require the original MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used) to be couriered - because they won't accept a faxed copy. The best thing to do is call the port you will be going through and ask them whether they will accept a faxed copy as opposed to a courier of the original. If faxing, be sure to call the US Customs port after the fax has been sent to ensure that the fax is fully legible and does not need to be re-faxed.

3. Obtain a typed letter (with letterhead) from the manufacturer (not the dealership) stating the car (including the specific VIN) does not have a Recall Pending. This paper, known as the Recall Letter, explains that there are no outstanding recalls associated with your vehicle. If this paper states that there are outstanding recalls, you'll have to fix the corresponding deficiencies in order to complete and pass Federal Inspection in Canada for a new car. Check for liens too. For further information:

Also check here for contacts for recall letters from other manufacturers:

4. The dealer will provide you with a temporary transit plate stuck on the rear window. You may need a Temp plate from State to State if you're importing a vehicle farther from the border States. Before leaving the dealer with your vehicle, check that you have the temporary registration and temporary state license plates, and sales receipts. The vehicle should have the manufacturer’s compliance label on the driver’s door frame (has date of manufacture, manufacturer, statement of compliance with regulations, etc.).

5. Call your insurance company and provide the VIN number to arrange coverage. If you give the insurance company the VIN # of the car you're going to buy, you can ask them to send you a fax of the insurance form so you have proof that you have insurance. If you do not do this and you get stopped by police, you will at the least get a fine for driving without insurance. TD Auto will insure your new car no problem but you have to tell them the VIN I believe before you just buy and drive.

6. Call the border crossing you will be going through and ask them what times they're open so you don't go at the wrong time. You will arrive at the border crossing with your new car. First, park the car and bring in ALL documentation (everything that's been mentioned up to this step, including the receipts, recall letter, proof of insurance, etc.). I walked into US Customs there and went to the counter and told them that I was exporting a vehicle and showed them the paperwork. They looked at the car, stamped my MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used), checked the VIN to the car and I was out the door. For a used car, they might inspect it a little more. It took me less than 10 minutes. This is where the paperwork that the dealer put together came in handy. No scrummaging through papers, everything was in order.

7. After dealing with US Customs at the border, you now have to go through Canada Customs. At the booth, I told the officer I was importing a vehicle to Canada. He gave me a yellow slip and told me to see the officers in the building. Parked the car again and went to the desk and showed them all paperwork again. They will also fill out "Form 1" which you'll need later on. Showed them the Bill of Sale and they converted the amount I paid US into CDN dollars. From there, the US is amount converted into CDN dollars. I was charged the GST (6%) on this amount. If it's a used vehicle, don't under-declare the value of the vehicle you are importing. Canada Customs has the ability to seize your vehicle. The vehicle (and all goods in it) will be seized, you won't be charged/arrested under the Customs Act unless the officer feels you have hindered them. You will, however, have committed an offense under the Customs Act. There is an import duty fee of 6.1% if the vehicle isn't sufficiently made in North America (as described earlier) and there is also a $100 Air Conditioning Tax. The RIV Importation Fee is now $206.70, and also must be paid, and only credit card is accepted (NO Interac). This is because the $206.70 goes directly to Transport Canada - NOT to the CBSA. Another 15 mins. After all is paid, you're good to go. Again this is where the paperwork being in order will come in handy. I've read horror stories of missing 1 vital piece of information and being turned back and refused entry.

8. Drive to your home in Canada and park your car. Email or fax your MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used), and Recall Letter, to the RIV and they will process your application and email you Form 2 the same day IF you call them with your case # (which is affixed to the top of Form 1) right away. Otherwise, it can take 3-10 business days.

9. Form 2, once you've received it, will enable you to bring the vehicle to Canadian Tire to have the vehicle inspected to meet Canadian Standards (i.e. bumpers, Daytime Running Lights, Child Tethers, Airbags). Bring Form 2 to CT for inspection. They will stamp your Form 2 and ask for the "Recall Clearance Letter" as mentioned before, and fax it to the RIV. Please note that there must be metric markings on the speedometer, but it doesn't mean the speedometer must be replaced even though miles per hour are more prominent on vehicles manufactured in the U.S.

10. Obtain proof of insurance for your new vehicle through your auto insurer.

11. Present stamped Form 1, MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used), and Canada Customs payment form to your provincial licensing authority for registration & plates. This is also where you would pay any PST (if applicable in your province) on your vehicle. Pay to have the car registered and plated. You can use the Temp plate for the time being, but I don't suggest it as it is a TEMPORARY PLATE. You don't need an Emissions test if it's a new car. You may be asked to get an out-of-province inspection (OOP) if the car is not brand new, and should follow this instruction. However, IF the car is brand new AND you have the MCO or MSO, you don't need the inspection. Be firm in this case, and go to another registry office if they don't budge.

12. After that's all done, confirm with the RIV that they will send you a letter with Canadian Certification Label to affix to your door sill (usually comes within 10 business days).