•Why bother importing a car from the US?"
•Partially due to the ongoing strength of the Canadian dollar, many models are significantly less expensive in the US than in Canada. Also some
models/trims are available in the US but not in Canada. Be sure to check standard equipment and options not just trim levels as they can be
different in both countries. Don’t simply rely on a specific trim level (ie: EX or SLT) as they can be different.
•Can any car from the USA be imported?"
•No. Check the admissibility list posted online at www.riv.ca. While many cars can be imported without any or with very little modifications,
some might need modifications like the addition of daytime running lights, electronic immobilizers, and/or child tether anchors and similar
safety related components.
•Do I have to pay additional duty and taxes?"
•There is no duty on cars built in North America. These (NAFTA) cars are exempt of duty since they have at least 55% North American
components. Cars assembled elsewhere will be charged 6.1% duty. You have to pay GST when you import the vehicle and PST (if applicable)
when you register your vehicle as per your Province's regulations.
"I bought a car in the US but didn't stop at US Customs. Do I need to worry?"
Absolutely. The vehicle needs to be legally exported from the United States. Failure to do so can result in criminal prosecution and
impounding of the vehicle.
"What the heck is a recall letter and why do I need it?"
Right from RIV: A recall clearance letter is a document issued by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of your vehicle that states
whether or not there are any outstanding recalls on your vehicle. If you are not sure of what a recall is, simply put, it is a safety defect on your
vehicle as a result of the original manufacturing process. The OEM is responsible for notifying the last known owner, and fixing the problem
normally at their expense. It's best to obtain this information before you import the vehicle to avoid any unnecessary delays.
"How do I know if I can import a car without paying duty?"
If the first character of the VIN starts with a number, it's made in North America and can be imported duty free. If the VIN starts with a letter, it's
made or assembled elsewhere in the world and you will be charged 6.1% duty.
"Can I only import new vehicles?"
No. Any motorized vehicle that can be imported can be either new or used - does not make any difference and the process is the same (used
cars are subject to provincial licensing requirements such as safety checks and emission testing. This really has nothing to do with import
process). Check with you provincial licensing office for specific regional details.
"My US car is used, do I still need to pay GST?"
Yes. You will pay GST whenever any motor vehicle is imported into Canada regardless of it’s age, origin or ownership status.
"My vehicle was a gift, or purchased from a friend. I can save a ton of money by saying that I only paid $1 for it. Better yet, can I “fib” about
what I paid?"
Absolutely NOT. If the purchase is private and the price appears out of line, you will pay GST (and subsequent provincial taxes if applicable)
based on the book value of the vehicle. Under Customs regulations, if the inspector feels you are hindering the attempt to collect taxes or
believes you are purposely attempting to mislead them, not only can you be asked to provide formalized proof of payment, you can be
charged under the Customs Act AND have your vehicle impounded. Some folks have tried and paid hefty fines.
"I have a friend/relative in the US, can one of us buy the car in the US and register it there before importing it to Canada?"
Yes but you may be charged sales taxes in the US and in Canada if you do that. Different states have different tax rates (and some none) so it
may be possible to do it there. It has been confirmed that Canadian buyers pay NO sales tax in certain states like New York but are charged
sales tax in Michigan. Also, there are certain conditions under which Customs Canada will allow you to import the car without paying taxes
but this is only for those who are out of Canada for extended periods of time. In any event, importing any car from the US is subject to GST
payment. If you choose this method, you need to consider this double taxation into your total calculations.
"Will the new car warranty be valid in Canada?"
This varies by manufacturer and you should contact them directly. Some manufacturers (e.g. Subaru, Toyota) will honour the warranty; others
will honour the warranty but have conditions (e.g. Nissan/GM) that need to be met. In some cases, there are some manufacturers who void the
warranty if the car is not registered in the US first (e.g. Honda) or if you’re not a US resident moving to Canada. This is a very delicate subject
and is also part of the $2 Billion dollar lawsuit. Remember you’re potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars. Not buying in the US
because of warranty coverage is downright silly.
"Do I need a US address?"
No, but some dealerships (e.g. Toyota, particularly those near the Canadian border) may not want to sell you a car if you don't register it in the
US first. In general dealerships very close to the Canadian border may not be as willing (because of pressure from the manufacturer) to sell to
Canadians and you may have to travel further South. This might not sound fair or legal. This is a matter for the courts to ultimately decide.
"Can I get financing for a car purchased in the US?"
Typically you cannot get direct financing through the US dealership or manufacturer but you may be able to get a car loan from your bank
but probably only once the vehicle is imported into Canada. Most people use “personal lines of credit” and while they might pay a percentage
or two higher depending on your financial history. The extra finance costs need to be factored into your calculations. Some Canadian banks
are now offering US loans. It’s best to check around and speak to various institutions and find one that suites your particular needs.
"Can anyone do this for me?"
Sure, but why? There are importers/brokers that will handle shipping and importing however some do charge a significant amounts.
Individuals can do it for themselves for the cost of a few hours time and the $200 RIV fee. Important notes to consider: Aside from BMW (who
penalize Canadians who import with a $500+ fee), typically there is NO fee for the recall letter. Question an importer who asks you to pay for a
recall letter (unless you’re importing a BMW). Form1 is completed by Canada Customs (part of the GST payment process) and is free. FORM2
is generated by RIV as part of the RIV process and is also free.
"Are there any drawbacks from having a US car?"
Generally no. There are some minor inconveniences such as having an odometer in miles rather than kilometers and having the 'primary'
display (outer ring) in the speedometer in MPH rather than KPH. Some automatic climate control and computer data information can also be
displayed in Imperial measurements. Some vehicles have digital displays that can easily switch between Imperial and Metric measurements
while others cannot. Aside from the dual speedometer display, NO other modifications are required. Contrary to what a dealer tells you, you
don’t need to replace your Imperial measurement odometer in order to import the vehicle.
You have lots of questions. Since many contributors are also consumers, we
collective compiled the most popular questions that plague a prospective US
shopper. Many of us have personally purchased vehicles in the US and can pass
along some specific insightful information in a popular "Frequently Asked
Questions - FAQ" format.
It is thanks to many of them that we've compiled this FAQ section and have taken
it upon ourselves to spread the word.
Thanks particularly to redflagdeals.com member "Michelb" for helping compile the
Remember, to bookmark this site as I'll try to update it as often as possible.
Thanks for all your kind words and support.