auto purchase in U.S.

I am a Canadian born U.S. citizen now residing back in Canada. I am about to purchase a used vehicle from my son in the states (value less than $1000) and wish to bring it back to Canada.

What are the tax consequences if any?

Thank you.


david ingram replies:

There are no income tax consequences. However, you have to be sure that you send or give a copy of the ORIGINAL state title to the US side

The following emails might help


----- Original Message -----

From: [email protected]


Sent: Saturday, June 28, 2003 6:46 AM

Subject: [CEN-TAPEDE] 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 ".

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 convertible . 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 through.

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 about
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 was
planning on staying in the US). I did my research BEFORE the move
(which I suggest everybody do!!!), so it went mostly uneventfully.



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 move
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 "no
fault" jurisdictions. This has consequences for an insurer.

Now there ARE some insurance companies with a presence in Canada and
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 policy
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 health
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 vehicle
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 !). US
CUSTOMS at your chosen border crossing point will tell you EXACTLY
what they need -- give them what they need !! Remember to include a nice
cover letter explaining what you are doing and what you have enclosed.

The US Customs office needs the paperwork at least 72 hours in advance
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 will


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 crossing,
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 be
someone available to do the paperwork -- also check if anyone can do
it or if there is just one person who can