Car purchase in the US - CMVSS -

Hi David
I am a Dual citizen of Canada and U.S. , and reside in Toronto. I
work in the US on contracts for U.S. companies. Usually being out
of Canada
for about 3 months or so.
Is it possible to purchase a new car in Alabama and bring it back
With the U.S. Dollar lower, the cost difference is significant.
What are your suggestions?
I enjoy your newsletter and appreciate your advice.
david ingram replies:
I have purchased 8 vehicles in the US in the last 14 months but
did not buy because of cost, I bought old cars there because of
selection and availability.  Living in North Vancouver, two came
from Florida (73 Citroen SM and 79 VW convertible), one From
Pennsylvania (82 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible), one from Tucson
(87 Jeep Grand Wagoneer), one from New Hampshire (87 Chevy
Truck), two from Oregon (88 Jeep Grand Wagoneer and 87 Cadillac
Sixty Special)and one from California (85 Cadillac Eldorado
They all came across the border with no problems because they
were all older than 15 years and not subject to CMVSS rules.
If you are a resident of Canada you can only drive the car from
the border to your house and back to the border if you do not
officially import it by paying duty. And, of course, no one else
in Canada can drive it
If you are a resident of the US visiting someone in Canada, you
can drive it in Canada anywhere you want but you have to be
careful because it is easy to get caught being a resident even if
you think you are not.
One solution is to pay the duty at the border and then just leave
it registered in the US if you are really living there most of
the time.  If stopped by the police or the Canada Customs people,
you can show them the duty paid receipt and state that you are
living in the US but paid the duty so that your wife, ex wife,
girlfriend, boyfriend, ex husband, sister,  brother, kids, best
friend, worst enemy or old neighbour can drive it in Canada.
Just remember that if you have US plates and are in Canada for a
month without a contract to work in the States, your provincial
rules will take over and you will require a Canadian provincial
And, although unusual, it is possible to have dual licences on a
vehicle - think of all those transport trucks you have seen with
multiple state and provincial tags.  I saw a car with BC and
Montana plates today.  You have a tough time getting it started
the first time but it does work.
If you buy a car in Alabama or any other state, you have to make
sure that it complies with CMVSS rules, just like buying a car in
Lake Tahoe Nevada and finding it cannot be registered in Lake
Tahoe, California because it does not comply with California Smog
For instance a 2005 or 2006 Ford/Mercury GT is NOT admissible.
Neither is a 2004, 2005 or 2006 Pontiac GTO admissible to Canada
and No FIAT is admissible for the last 15 years.  So check the
list below.
This previous Q & A will likely help.
*       if you bring back a car from out of North America. - be
aware that MOST cars (unless they are more than 14 years old) you
buy out of North America will NOT qualify to come into Canada
because they will not meet Canadian Motor vehicle safety
standards (CMVSS) rules.
You can see the individual requirements of the ACT at:
You can see the latest list of admissible cars from the US at:
As a rule, vehicles built in countries other than the US and
Canada do NOT qualify for importation to Canada because they do
not meet CMVSS and can NOT be converted by law.  An exception is
a car more than 15 years old.  And please note that it is a
CRIMINAL offence to try and sneak a non-complying car into the
country as this excerpt from the CMVSS website shows:
  Transport Canada > Road Safety > Importing a Vehicle Into
Importation of vehicles into Canada from countries other than the
United States
Revised December 2002  Subject to revision without notification
The illegal importation of a motor vehicle into Canada is a
criminal offence. Inadmissible vehicles will be denied entry into
Canada and will be detained. All storage and disposal fees are
the responsibility of the importer.
Please read the following carefully.
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act and Regulations require that all
vehicles imported into Canada comply, at the time of importation,
with the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in effect on the
date the vehicle was manufactured. Vehicles manufactured for sale
in countries other than Canada and the United States do not
comply with the requirements of the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety
Act, CANNOT be altered to comply and CANNOT be imported into
Canada. The only exceptions to this rule are vehicles fifteen
(15) years old or older as determined by the month and year in
which the vehicle was manufactured and buses manufactured before
January 1, 1971.
Vehicles acquired in foreign countries other than the U.S. and
designed, built, tested and certified to meet either all
applicable Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or all
applicable United States Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
and bearing a statement of compliance label affixed by the
original manufacturer, as required by the Regulations, may be
eligible for importation into Canada provided the vehicle has not
been altered and the certification from the original manufacturer
is maintained. Please contact Transport Canada, Road Safety and
Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate, at 1-613-998-8616 for
further information.
David Ingram's US / Canada Services
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Disclaimer:  This question has been answered without detailed
information or consultation and is to be regarded only as general
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