Importing a car from the USA to Canada

Hi David,
My question is about buying a car in the US and importing it into
Canada.  I know you are personally experienced in this!
As a Canadian resident, do I have to pay sales tax in the states
when I buy a new car, as well as GST when I import it into
Canada?  Most things in the states you don’t have to pay sales
tax when you are out-of-state.
david ingram replies:
I am going to Blaine tomorrow to bring back a 73 Citroen SM and
an 82 Cadillac.  I bought the Citroen in Sarasota, Florida with
no State Sales Tax and the Cadillac in Scranton, Pennsylvania
with no state sales tax. I also bought two cars in Oregon, one in
California and one in Arizona with no state sales tax.
On the other hand, most people end up paying the local sales tax
and applying for it when they export the car.  Every state has
different regulations and usually the dealer you buy from can
give you the rules.  If you are buying privately, there is
another set of circumstances.  For instance, if you buy a car in
Oregon, it usually comes with a valid plate and registration and
you have TEN days to register it in Oregon.  If you bring it back
to BC immediately, you do not ever register it in Oregon and are
only concerned with paying 6% GST at the border and 7% PST when
you register it in BC.
If the car is less than 15 years old, you need a BC and Federal
safety inspection.  If it is over 15 years old, it only needs a
BC inspection.
If you buy in Pennsylvania, the dealer can give you a 30 day
transport permit to get it home.  However, you have to check and
make sure that the permit is recognized in other states and
provinces you drive through.
In one case I know of, a BC man was transporting a truck from BC
to Nova Scotia and ended up with an $18,000 (really) fine in
Quebec for not having the proper permit.  To drive through
Quebec, you have to buy the permit before you enter Quebec (at a
stop in New Brunswick or Ontario, etc.) whereas most
jurisdictions allow you to drive into the first truck stop you
encounter in the new state or province and buy it there.
When you buy your vehicle, you can phone your BC ICBC agent and
buy an ICBC insurance policy which is valid from the point of
purchase until your return to  BC provided you have a valid
licence or permit for each geo-political jurisdiction you drive
To get it into Canada at the Douglas Border Crossing, you have to
give them the title and bill of sale 72 hours before you intend
to export the car from the US.  When you buy the car, you can fax
the paperwork to 1-360-332-2639 and they will be ready for you
when you arrive 72 hours later - that is 72 hours of Monday to
Friday and you have to be at the border between 8 AM and 3:30 PM.
They are also closed on Saturdays, Sundays and US Holidays.
The following previous answers may help you a bit as well..
The following came from a reader and is worth passing on.
Unfortunately, t was truncated but I
believe i answered the hours of operation in Part I.  Note, that
they will also accept faxed documents to get started
but you should have the original at the border itself.
Mr. Ingram:
Some key points were missed in your reply to the person asking
importing their car to Canada once they are already in Canada...
I base the following on my experience of importing my US car into
Ontario in
early 2002.  Note:  I have dual US-Canada citizenship and was
returning to
Canada after many years in the US; the car was purchased in the
US 16
months before I moved to Canada (and at the time of purchase I
planning on staying in the US).  I did my research BEFORE the
(which I suggest everybody do!!!), so it went mostly
A US insurer probably only covers the vehicle for a brief period
once it has
been moved to Canada.  The insurer needs to be told where the car
is (the
"garage address" is now Canada, not the US).
My insurance provider in the US was Geico.  They DO cover
vehicles in
other countries (e.g. they cater to military personnel who would
abroad and take their car with them).  But NOT Canada.
Geico had no problem insuring my car for the first thirty (30)
DAYS it was in
Canada, to allow me time to get insurance coverage in Canada for
the car.
They would cover it at the provincial (Ontario) minimums at no
extra charge.
They sent me the inter-provincial coverage card -- the same as
they send if
one is travelling to Canada just for vacation (did you know they
have such
things ?  they do!!  *ASK* ).
The key is -- your "garage address" - where the car is "kept" -
changes.  It is
no longer in the US.  Also, insurance minimums are MUCH higher in
Canada than most places in the US.  Some Canadian provinces are
fault" jurisdictions.  This has consequences for an insurer.
Now there ARE some insurance companies with a presence in Canada
the US -- e.g. Allstate.  But there is usually a US and Canadian
"arm" to the
company and when you switch countries you must formally get a new
under the new country's arm.
Bottom line:
- the original poster may have NO insurance because they failed
to notify
the insurer the car has moved
- their US insurance may only cover them for a brief period of
time, to allow
them to get Canadian coverage
==> they really need to talk with their US insurer
==> they need to look into getting Canadian insurance
<< and I hope they haven't made similar assumptions about their
insurance -- they could be in for a big surprise!! >>
Mr. Ingram is quite correct that you have to export your car from
the US
first, before importing it into Canada.
However, if you are working with nice Customs people (on both
sides!) -- in
my experience, I have yet to discover a Customs person who is NOT
nice  --
they have some level of discretion and may be able to help
resolve the
situation fairly painlessly.  Or not -- it really depends on how
messy the
situation actually is.  But, in my experience anyway, they will
at least try to
figure out a solution.
Exporting the car from the US requires that you have the US
registration and title.  If the car has a lien on it, like mine
did from GMAC
(remember, the car was not even 18 months old!  it was still
financed!), you
won't have the original title.  You will have a copy of the title
though.  If this
is your situation, you will ALSO need a letter from the
lien-holder giving you
permission to take the car out of the US (CHECK WITH CUSTOMS !).
CUSTOMS at your chosen border crossing point will tell you
what they need -- give them what they need !!  Remember to
include a nice
cover letter explaining what you are doing and what you have
The US Customs office needs the paperwork at least 72 hours in
of your crossing.  Many will accept a Fed-Ex envelope containing
it (gets it
there quickly + is trackable).  You will have to call them to get
their street
address, but you need to call and talk with them first anyway!!
Some crossings have limited hours of operation during which they
This was another reader's suggestions
David et al:
>From a reader of your CEN-TAPEDE list:

I went through the importation of a US -sold car into Canada
experience in 2002.  Comparing your experience and mine, I would
suggest that each border crossing seems to be different.
I would therefore suggest to anyone who will be doing such an
import that they DIRECTLY contact the border crossing they plan
to use.
Both the US and the Canadian sides.
The border crossing I used (into Ontario):
- both sides were available 24 hours a day for me to do the
even holidays (the crossing itself is open 24/7 -- not all are,
of course!!)
- any customs officer (on each side) could handle the
paperwork --
there wasn't one specific person who could do it (hence, I
believe, the
24/7 availability -- if they were open, which they always are, it
could be done)
- the US side wanted paper copies of the documents, not fax; so I
FedEx'd them to them well in advance of the 3 day cut-off, then
called to verify
1) they had received them, and
2) there wasn't anything else they needed
- my crossing was painless, efficient, wait-free, and I would
even say pleasant on both sides (no surprise in hindsight --
I have since learned it always is at the crossing I use, even
when they decide that they want to search my car, which as a
now-regular crosser they do do every so often)
A final note:
I had brought extra photocopies of the title with me, and on the
US side the Customs officer happily asked if I wanted him to
stamped them all; I said yes and he did -- he said that way all
the copies have the stamp and I don't have just one to worry
about not losing :-)
Plus, he said if Canada makes me give up a copy, it won't be the
only copy.
Anyhow, i actually wanted him to do that, so that was good; your
mileage may vary.
So, bottom line:
- CALL BOTH sides of the border crossing
- TALK to them and ask the questions you have
- FedEX is your friend -- just make sure you get the street
address to send the documents to, not just the normal PO Box they
use for mail
- CALL BACK and make sure they got everything they need
- VERIFY when each side of the border is open and when there will
someone available to do the paperwork -- also check if anyone can
it or if there is just one person who can
- --------------------------
----- Original Message -----
From: centapede-admin at
Sent: Saturday, June 28, 2003 6:46 AM
Subject:  Importing a vehicle into Canada - Part III
of - Can Idrive my US registered car in BC if I have...
This has come to us from a US Homeland Security Border Officer
who is married to a Canadian and lives in Canada and perhaps has
more sympathy for Canadians than others might.
If you intend to bring a US vehicle into Canada, you MUST
"EXPORT" it first
Hi David,
Just reading the vehiicle import/export article .
Rremember to remind the readers that if they are importing a
vehicle to Canada, they MUST first EXPORT the vehicle with US
Customs or face a $500.00 penalty. They must submit a copy of the
clear title and an NICB worksheet   (available at the Pac Hwy
crossing, Blaine,WA) 72 hrs before they plan to take the vehicle
north. After 72 hrs, they must present the vehicle and the
ORIGINAL title to US Customs at the actual time of export.
They must not attempt to import the vehicle  to Canada before
completing this process or they may be turned around and face
fines upon return. Canada needs to see the USCS export stamp on
the title for a lawful export/import.
This only applies if the vehicle was Titled in the US. If the BC
title was retained and no US State title was issued, no problem.
There is no cost for the export process,  only a procedure,  and
it is  "strongly enforced ".
David Ingram's US / Canada Services
US / Canada / Mexico tax, Immigration and working Visa
US / Canada Real Estate Specialists
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Calls welcomed from 10 AM to 10 PM 7 days a week  Vancouver (LA)
time -  (please do not fax or phone outside of those hours as
this is a home office)
email to taxman at
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