Archive for the ‘Guides & Tips’ Category

Importing a Mercedes Benz into Canada

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Importing a Mercedes Benz into Canada can be slightly more costly and difficult than many other brands of vehicles. Many Mercedes Benz vehicles will require some kind of modification, that in some cases can work out to be quite expensive.

If you are thinking of importing a Mercedes Benz into Canada from the U.S.A., in addition to reading our guide on how to import a vehicle from the USA into Canada, there are a few things you should be aware of so that you don’t encounter unexpected costs.

  • Many Models of Mercedes Benz cars are inadmissible and cannot be imported into Canada from the U.S.A. To find out if a Merecedes vehicle is admissible, check Mercedes Benz’s vehicle admissibility chart.
  • Many Mercedes Benz vehicles will require modifications that can only be performed by a Mercedes Benz Dealer.
  • In many cases, finding out what modifications a Mercedes Benz vehicle will need in order to be admissible into Canada will require an inspection by a Mercedes Benz dealer, that will most likely cost extra money.
  • All Mercedes Benz vehicles being imported into Canada require Letter of Admissibility that can be obtained by filling out the online Letter of Admissibility Request form from Mercedes Benz Canada (these typically take 1-2 weeks to receive).
  • Recall letters for Mercedes Benz vehicles can be obtained through Mercedes-Benz USA by calling 1-800-367-6372

Mercedes Benz Canada has an information page and an FAQ regarding importing a Mercedes Benz into Canada, and goes into more detail about specific models and years.

In spite of the extra roadblocks, many Canadian still manage to import Mercedes Benz’s and save money. As always, it is important to be aware of all the costs and effort involved before you purchase the vehicle.

Want to discuss Importing a Mercedes Benz into Canada with people who have done it? Check out the Forums!Β 

Information Seminars about Importing Vehicles into Canada

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

Canada Border Services Agency has begun holding free seminars in various cities throughout Canada about importing cars into Canada. These seminars are very helpful and informative to anyone thinking about purchasing a vehicle in another country and importing it into Canada.

Typically these seminars will have 5-8 guest speakers from various government agencies, including Canada Border Services agency, Transport Canada, RIV, and the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario.

Topics covered include:

  • requirements
  • documentation
  • prohibitions
  • costs
  • regulations of the Canada Border Services Agency, Transport Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the provincial government

Attendees will be given helpful literature and example paperwork related to importing vehicles into Canada. There is also time given to address specific questions or concerns that you may have about the importation process.

For dates and times of the seminars, or to register for a seminar in your area visit the Information Sessions and Seminars section on the Canadian Border Services agency website.

Don’t Get Lost in the Process!

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Check out the new visual overview of the process of importing a vehicle into Canada.

This diagram is available to be seen online here, or can be downloaded in PDF format to be printed out or sent to friends.

Step-By-Step Guide to Importing a Car into Canada from the U.S.

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

If you’ve found the car you want to purchase that is located in U.S.A. you’re in luck! The current situation of the Canadian vs. U.S. dollars means you may be saving big bucks on your vehicle purchase.

Importing a car, truck, van, motorcycle and most other vehicles into Canada from the U.S.A. is a fairly straightforward process. There are no hidden catches as long as you do your homework first.

In this guide I will explain, step by step, the process of importing a vehicle into Canada from the USA, including some tips to make sure you don’t end up with a lemon, even if you are not able to see the vehicle in person before purchasing. The process is basically the same for all vehicles including cars, vans, trucks, motorcycles, busses, RV’s etc. however some types of vehicles will require different modifications, and other types may not even be admissible at all. Always check with RIV to make sure the vehicle is admissible at the VERY start of this to save your self a lot of grief and potentially a lot of money.

  1. The first thing to do, if you haven’t already, is check the car against the Registrar of Imported Vehicles’ vehicle amissability list. This can be done by going to or by going directly to the PDF document. Find out if the vehicle will need any modifications in order to pass federal inspection requirements, and how much it will cost. Some manufacturers such as Merecedes Benz will require that any necessary modifications be done at the dealership – which may be costly. Call the vehicle’s dealership if you are concerned about this.
  2. Check to see if your vehicle will be charged a high emissions excise tax. These could typically run from $1000 to $4000 on high emissions vehicles. Your vehicle can be searched at the Natural Resources Canada Website. Click here for a list of 2007 model high emissions vehicles and their corresponding excise tax.
  3. Check the list of vehicles with safety recalls. You may also want to verify this with by going to a local dealership and providing them with the VIN number of the vehicle you wish to purchase and ask them to make sure it has no outstanding vehicle recalls.
  4. Get an AutoCheck vehicle history report online and/or order an inspection from to be done on the vehicle to make sure there is nothing wrong with the vehicle that you aren’t expecting.
  5. If all is good, arrange payment, vehicle pickup and/or shipping.
  6. If you are having the vehicle shipped, you will need a customs broker to have all the paperwork taken care of for you. Some companies, like A&A Customs Brokers, will take care of everything, including shipping.
  7. Get the seller to FedEx you the vehicle title, the bill of sale, sales receipts and recall clearance letter (if they are the vehicle’s manufacturer’ dealership, if not contact your nearest dealership and have them get you one for your vehicle.)
  8. Fax in a copy of the vehicle title to the U.S. border crossing where you intend to cross. This needs to be done at least 72 hours in advance of when you plan to cross. Note that this does not include weekends. Give them a call to make sure everything is in order and they will be open at your time of crossing.
  9. If you are picking up the vehicle yourself (as opposed to having it shipped), arrange for insurance on the vehicle, or get a vehicle trailer to tow the vehicle home.
  10. Drive down to your destination and meet with the dealer or person selling the vehicle. Check to make sure the VIN on the bill of sale matches the one on the vehicle. Also make sure there is a North American coompliant sticker on the vehicle. This is usually located on the beam in the driver’s side door. If it a dealer ask them to show you.
  11. If you are purchasing the car privately and will be driving it home, you will need to go get a temporary permit from the local motor vehicle office.
  12. Drive to the US border crossing where you faxed your title to, and identify yourself with your passport and driver’s licence. They will check out your vehicle title, bill of sale, and the VIN number on the vehicle. All should be good and they will stamp your vehicle’s title to release it to Canada Customs.
  13. Stop at Canadian customs, again identifying yourself with driver’s licence and passport. Tell them you are importing the vehicle and they will have you pull in and park to go fill out Vehicle Import Form 1 (they will provide this).
  14. You will have to pay your RIV fee ($195+GST in all provinces, plus QST if you are importing into Quebec) GST (5%), possible Air Conditioning excise tax ($100CAD), possible high emissions excise tax, and possible duty (6.1%) if the vehicle was not build in North America (ie. Mexico for some American brand cars, and sometimes Germany for some VW’s). Make you you have your credit card with you for this as most Canadian Customs offices do not accept cash or cheque.
  15. If all is good and once everything is paid up, they will verify your insurance coverage, stamp your Vehicle Import Form 1 and send you on your way. Keep this form in your vehicle along with your temporary American permit in case you get pulled over on the way home – these will be used to verify that you are legally compliant.
  16. Within 10 days of submitting Vehicle Import Form 1 at the border, Canadian customs will send you Form 2 – federal inspection.
  17. You have 45 days from the day you submitted to get any required modifications done to your vehicle (such as daytime running lights, child tether anchorages and metric speedometer conversions) and have your vehicle inspected at Canadian Tire.
  18. When you take the car in to get inspected, bring all supporting documents with you such as the title, bill of sale, Import Forms 1 & 2, and the outstanding recall letter.
  19. Canadian Tire will do all necessary inspections free of charge as per the RIV program.
  20. If the vehicle passes they will put a sticker on the drivers side door frame stating that the vehicle is Canadian Safety compliant. They will fill out your Form 2 and provide you with the necessary paperwork you will need to register the vehicle in your province.
  21. You can now take it right over to your provincial vehicle licencing office along with all the paperwork you’ve accumulated to get it registered, where you will pay whatever your provincial sales tax is on the sale price of the vehicle!

You’re done, you can now go enjoy your American / Canadian vehicle that hopefully will have saved you a nice chunk of money. If there is anything unclear about this guide, be sure to check out the Frequently Asked Questions, or ask a question in the forum. I would love to hear from anyone who this guide has helped, or if you have imported a vehicle yourself I’d like to hear your version of the process!

Good Luck, and enjoy your new vehicle!

More info on Importing Vehicles into Canada

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

Canadians can talk to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles and get a copy of the “List of Vehicles Admissible from the US”. This list published by Transport Canada. This list details most vehicles that can be brought into Canada with minimum fuss. At present, all Eclipse and Galant models after 1990 are on this list.

Vehicles may enter the country as is, but need to be modified to Canadian specifications and certified by Canada Customs before they can be registered. Talk to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles for everything you want to know (look at this guide for details).

For those interested in importing non-USA cars to Canada, you should refer to this page from the Transport Canada website.

Typically, the only additional components required for USA-spec vehicles are a daylight running light relay and a child seat restraining strap. The relay can be found at Canadian Tire or other automotive stores. There seems to be no special requirements for it; as long as the headlights light up when the ignition is on, it’s fine. The car seat strap can also be found at Canadian Tire or Wal-Mart, and simply attaches to an already-existing bolt in the rear hatch area. A few people even say it doesn’t have to be attached, you just have to have one.

Jerry Hong recently imported a new Eclipse GSX from the USA into Canada. Here’s what he had to do:

  • Sold his car.
  • Got a 1 week temporary insurance.
  • Went to Los Angeles and picked up the Eclipse. Drove back with the Eclipse, declaring the car at customs. Paid GST and 0.1% duty.
  • Went home and got a British Columbia motor vehicle inspection for out of province cars.
  • Insured the car as a Talon.
  • Got the car inspected by Transport Canada.
  • Re-wired the fog lights into DRLs, and bought a baby seat carriage strap from Canadian Tire, in accordance with Transport Canada requirements.

That was it! Notes: Jerry lost his warranty. Extended warranties are apparantly honoured in cross-border deals, but factory warranties are not. You may also need to pass emissions testing for your province.

Marta Cepek of Canada DSM also imported a car, in this case a 1990. Below is her ‘mini-FAQ’ on the subject:


Read the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) website, , phone their 1-800-511-7755 number, and they will send you a nice kit of all the info you need.


  • $224 – (obligatory) covers the cost of “Form 1” & the Customs brokerage fee if you go through a “designated” border crossing. The RIV kit has a list of all border crossings and whether or not they’re “designated”. It’s something like $60 more if you don’t go through one. This fee includes “Form 2” and the inspection to ensure the required mods are done.
  • $100 – Air conditioning excise tax. You have to pay this if there are any AC components, even if the AC isn’t hooked up/working.
  • Duty – Not applicable. The car was built in the USA. They tried to charge me duty, but I made the lady go outside and showed her the “Made in USA” sticker on the door panel and the duty was waived.
  • Taxes – Federal GST payable at the border. This is based on the higher of the price written on your bill of sale or the “Red Book” value of your car. If the sale price is “ridiculously low” (e.g. under $2000 US), you should get the seller to have the car valuated at a Mitsu dealership and write the valuation on their letterhead. The Red Book only goes back 8 years, so when I was importing my 90 GSX in March 2000, they told me that a 92 with my mileage was evaluated at US$7,000… you might end up having to pay tax on the book value even if you only paid, say, US$3,500 for the car.
  • Provincial Tax (if applicable in your province) is payable on the same amount that the GST was paid on. You pay this when you you get your plates / register the car.

Required Mods

First of all, all models of the Eclipse from 89-99 are admissible into Canada. Bumpers and seatbelts (even the electric “mouse belts”) meet Canadian standards.

All cars built after Nov. 89 require DRLs (Daytime Running Lights). If you are handy with electrical, you could probably wire this up yourself. I’m not, so it cost me $100 to have mine wired up, including labour & relay. The little box that recieves the DRL circuit board and the wiring infrastructure are not there in the US-spec cars, so if you have the DRL module from another DSM (I did), it’s not a plug’n’play scenario. But I believe I saved maybe 1 hour labour cost by bringing in all the pertinent schematics/wiring diagrams from the factory manual for the guy.

A child restraint tether anchor is required. This is a no-brainer. The kit is about $4.95 at Canadian Tire, Walmart, etc.


The inspection to import the car into Canada only checks that these mods are done. The cost is included in that $224 fee.

As for provincial inspection, well, you’ll have to check with your Provincial Authority whatever you need to do to get the car certified, emissions tested, and whatever it takes to get the car plated. The Quebec inspection costs $66. I got a real a$$hole inspector, so he flagged a couple of “minor defects” that would’ve cost me ~$500+ to repair if I’d gone to Satan. I ordered parts from a US Mitsu dealer and had a local garage do the repairs, all for about $150. Michel told me I should’ve put $50 in the ashtray when I was having it inspected, to tell you the truth, that idea would never in a million years occurred to me. If you have a connection for getting the car certified, you might have better luck than I did.

Well, that’s about it for associated costs.

US Export

As distinct from Canadian Import – One thing that has no associated costs but could cause you problems (it did me) is that you must contact the US Customs Export people at the border point you intend to bring the car through a minimum of 72 hours before you plan to bring the car through. They need the car’s VIN in order to run it through some kind of check. Not doing this runs the risk of having the car seized at the border.


Prior to bringing the car onto Canadian soil, you need to have valid insurance.


Oh, and don’t forget the cost(s) of travelling down to the US to pick up the car. In my case, that entailed a plane ticket to South Carolina, and about US$100 in gas (boy, their gas is cheap). You probably won’t be going that far, eh? ;o)

Hope that helps. It’s not that complicated, and definitely worth it for the right car.

Finally, Christopher Lewis (also of Club DSM Canada, has this to say:

“Considering I’ve imported both the cars I currently own plus a 3000GT I consider myself educated in this field. πŸ™‚

The DRL you can pick up for $25 at Canadian Tire, It takes me 10 minutes to install and you can just remove it after the govt. inspection.

You don’t need to change your speedometer, it’s fine.

The child infant kit is $5 and you don’t need to actually install it, its is just required that you “have the kit”.

You are required to buy a SRS maintenance sticker that is in both English/French. Check your glove compartment – if it has French (like mine did) you’re fine. ”

The Last Word: The RIV in Canada has all the info you need.

Video Help Guide to Importing cars into Canada Part 3

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

This is Part 3 to the video about importing cars into Canada from DrivingTelevision on Global. In this segment they interview people who have imported cars from the USA into Canada successfully and are happy with the purchase. They mention that sources such as eBay Motors Canada can be a very helpful resource to Canadians looking for a new vehicle, but stress the fact that anyone planning on importing a car or any vehicle into Canada do their homework and research before doing so.

Video Help Guide to Importing cars into Canada Part 2

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

This is Part 2 to the video about importing cars into Canada from DrivingTelevision on Global. They talk mostly about some of the problems you will run into with manufacturers warranties and financing and such. American auto manufacturers make an effort to resist Canadians from going to the USA, purchasing a car, and bring it right back up. Find out if your dealer advertises that they will sell to Canadians or not and try and go with them if at all possible.

Video Help Guide to Importing cars into Canada

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Here is an interesting video about importing cars into Canada from DrivingTelevision on Global. Her they Give a good overview of the process and they warn you about some of the things to lookout for when importing a car into Canada. One thing they mention is the brokerage fees but you wouldn’t actually have to pay that unless you were using a import broker.

Importing a Vehicle into Canada Guide

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

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 would happen.

Preparation (What you’ll need/who to call)

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 Registrar of Imported Vehicles , 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 this page .

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.

You will need to contact US Customs at least 72 hours in advance, notifying them that you are exporting a vehicle from the US. Note that according to this document , it appears that you will need to provide US Customs with the original title (or a certified copy), and 2 additional complete copies of the title at least 72 hours in advance of export – due to this, I’d definitely recommend contacting them early on in the process, to make sure you have enough time to do this.
And, last but not least, the vehicle must still have the original stickers stating that it meets the Federal safety standards in effect on the date of manufacture.

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. πŸ™‚ See the section below titled “Fees”


To be able to pick up the vehicle and move it to the border, you will require some kind of insurance coverage. BC details follow… check with your local insurance company for details in your province.

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.

However, once you have crossed the border, you now need a temporary BC permit, and you are supposed to stop at the first ICBC agency you can find, and purchase one. πŸ˜‰

At the border

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.

(In BC, the truck crossing at the Douglas border crossing (Peace Arch) is the approved crossing… the main Peace Arch crossing is not. Note that is the exact reverse of what I was told by Transport Canada.)

Upon arriving at the booth, explain to the Customs officer that you are planning on importing the vehicle. You’ll be directed to park your car, and go inside to Customs.

The actual paperwork process has been privatized, and will be handled by a private brokerage company. (Incidentally, this also caused the fee to double.. hmmm). After the Customs agent has spoken to you initially, they will direct you there to have the paperwork completed. You will need the title, bill of sale, mileage, and the month and year of vehicle manufacture (NOT just the model year.. the actual date of manufacture. This should be found on a sticker on the driver’s door jamb).

The brokerage company will check the paperwork, look up your vehicle to make sure it’s on the approved list, and then give you a document to go back to Customs with.

Upon returning to Customs, they will also check the title and bill of sale, and take copies. You will then have to pay a variety of fees (detailed in “Fees”, below), including Duty, GST, and possibly excise tax.

After this, your car is now legal to enter Canada! The process from this point depends on the province of entry, it’s regulations, and your local insurance company. The process for BC is detailed below.


The following fees will be assessed at the border:

Note that all calculations are based on the Canadian value of the car. The Customs brochure states that the Canadian value will be based on a commonly approved value, such as the Kelly Blue Book. This means that even if you got an amazing deal on the price, you may still be paying tax based on the average Canadian value of the car. (This isn’t what happened to me, see “My experience”, below)

Paperwork at brokerage: $182.00 (includes GST), or $197 in Quebec (incl. GST/QST)

Duty 6.1% (see below)
At this point in time (2002), vehicles manufactured outside Canada, the US, or Mexico are assessed duty at the rate of 6.1% (down 1.9% from when this article was originally written). Current (2002) duty on vehicles built in Mexico is 0.03%, and there is no duty assessed on US or Canadian built vehicles. As always, check with Canada Customs for the current rates. You can reach their automated information service at 1-800-461-9999, or from outside Canada, at (204) 983-3500, or (506) 636-5064.

Excise Tax: $100.00

(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).

GST: 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.

Registering your new 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.

In BC, after you have the paperwork from the border stating that you have paid the fees and that the car has been admitted, you must have the vehicle inspected before you are able to insure it. This inspection is called a PVIP, and must be done at an ICBC approved inspection facility. The list of approved shops/dealers/inspection centers in your area is available from your local ICBC agent.

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!

(In particular, if you’re in the lower mainland, note that BCAA will do these inspections at their inspection center (located at xxxx Goring St, near Brentwood Mall on Lougheed Hwy in Burnaby) with a booking two days in advance (Ph: xxx-xxxx). Currently the fee at BCAA is $69+GST for members, slightly higher for non-members).

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.

Generally, at most inspection stations, if you fail the initial test for some reason, you can have the cause repaired, and then bring the vehicle back for one free retest. Inquire to see if this is the case wherever you go.

After passing this exam, you can now insure the vehicle. The ICBC agent will require the Title and bill of sale/transfer of ownership (which they will keep! Ask for copies), as well as the inspection report. They are also required to perform a visual inspection of the vehicle, to make sure the VIN matches all the paperwork, so you will have to bring the car to the agent. Also note that not all agencies will perform this inspection at all times, due to limited staff. Check before you arrive.

At this point you will have to pay the PST due, as well as your insurance fee for whatever period of time you choose. After that, they’ll hand you a set of plates, and you’re off! Congrats!

Federal Inspection

Shortly after bringing the car across the border, you will receive a notice from the Registrar of Imported Vehicles , 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.

You will receive a letter detailing the date you will need to have the inspection completed by, a list of inspection centers in your area, and a form detailing the requirements you have to meet. Note that at this time (current as of July 3/2002) they have contracted with Canadian Tire to perform the Federal inspections, which means you should be able to have the inspection performed at almost any Canadian Tire across Canada. You can go here to search for a location.

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.

My experience

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.

Upon reaching the correct border crossing, I waited in a long line just to be told that I’d have to go to the brokerage office first for the paperwork. This ended up being a rather lengthy form that requires the name and address of the seller and purchaser, some declarations about the condition of the vehicle, and the mileage and date of manufacture. After checking to make sure the vehicle was on the approved list, they took the fee, stamped the paperwork, and back to Customs I went.

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. πŸ˜‰ 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).

I then made an appointment for the PVIP, and took my car in for the inspection a few days later. Surprisingly, the only thing that failed was the back brakes (pads were too worn), so I ended up getting the fastest brake job in history, (the guy at the BCAA inspection station agreed to hold the report without marking it as failed as long as I could make it back the same day.. this at ~1:30 in the afternoon ;), brought it back, picked up my passed inspection report, and insured the car. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜‰
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.

The Federal inspection consisted of calling one of the locations on the list provided, and trying to make an appointment. I basically got told “it only takes a few minutes, just drop in during working hours”. I did exactly that, and basically dumped a copy of every piece of paper I’d gotten so far on their desk. πŸ™‚ They looked at the notice of recall, the receipt I’d gotten from a shop for the DRLs, and at the safety compliance stickers on the car, and that was it. The paperwork was stamped, I was told I’d be receiving a sticker to add to it from the government in the mail, and the process was finally complete!


I don’t feel that the importation process was terribly difficult. There were many details that I needed to find out and take care of, but hopefully this document will help someone else make that process a little easier. The main thing you need to have is time… time to pick up the car, fill out all the paperwork (I was at the border for about an hour and a half!), and to have the vehicle inspected (possibly twice). Add up all the costs, including your time, and make sure that it still makes sense for you to import the vehicle vs buying it locally. Personally, I saved approximately $3000 Can, as well as having the benefit of having a car that has both a unique color and options that were not available in Canada. However, that’s due mostly to the current scarce supply of 2nd gen MR2s in Vancouver (esp ’93s)… as always, YMMV!

Good luck… if you have questions about the process, feel free to e-mail me at “ “.

Other Links
Registrar of Imported Vehicles
Transport Canada’s list of approved vehicles
Canadian Tire locations search
US Customs

Phone numbers

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.

Exporting a Vehicle at Blaine, Washington

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Bureau of Customs & Border Protection Phone: (360) 332-2632
Vehicle/Equipment Outbound Team Fax: (360) 332-2639
9901 Pacific Highway E-Mail:
Blaine, WA 98230-9299
Export Hours: 8:00am – 3:30pm Monday-Friday

(Holiday Closures for 2007 Jan 1, Jan. 15, Feb 19, May 28, July 4, Sept 3,
Oct 8, Nov 12, Nov 22, Dec 25)

This requirement ONLY pertains to LAND BASED / SELF PROPELLED vehicles
Required Documents
These Documents must be on file with our office for 3-business days prior to export!!!!
2. Title/Certificate of Ownership, which includes Salvage title, rebuilt title, or flood title. (Because Washington State does not issue a Salvage title the required document to export a salvaged vehicle out of Washington is a PUBLIC DISCLOSURE FORM, which can be obtained from the Department of Licensing in Olympia. Contact Washington Department of Licensing Public Disclosure Section at (360) 902-3760 for further information.)
3. Bill of sale, this can be a hand written document between buyer and seller. If vehicle was a gift a letter of gift can be substituted for bill of sale. If you are the titled owner of the vehicle a bill of sale is not required.

A few common exceptions
1. Vehicle’s that are being financed through a U.S. based lender often do not have a titled issued for that vehicle. A letter from the finance company granting permission for that vehicle to leave the country can be used in lieu of title.
2. Off road vehicles often do not have titles issued to them in those cases an invoice can be used in lieu of title.
3. Brand new vehicles bought from dealerships will not have a title. Manufactures Statement of Origin, (MSO) or a Certificate of Origin can be used in lieu of a title.

Once all required documents have been obtained, fax the documents to our office at 360.332.2639. Documents may also be hand delivered to our office or we can accept them via e-mail if you have the ability. These documents must be on file, in our office, 3-business days prior to you physically taking the vehicle into Canada. It will not take less then 3-business days to process these documents; during this 3-day period, the vehicle must remain in the United States. Here are examples of how to calculate when the vehicle will be ready for export. If you submit the paper work on Monday, the vehicle will be ready for export on Thursday, as long as there are no holidays with in that time frame. If you submit the paperwork on Thursday your vehicle will not be ready for export until the following Tuesday. Any paper work received after 3:00pm will not be processed until the following day, meaning the 3-day clock will not start until the following day. Weekends do not count towards the 3-day period.