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The unsuspecting consumer is sometimes told that it may be difficult to resell their 'US' vehicle and this results in a lower resale value. If there is any truth to that, you should also realize that in some cases you saved up to 30% buying in the US. If you maintain your car, the “trade-in” value is inconsequential, particularly if you sell privately. Instead of offering rebates, some Canadian dealers provide free lifetime oil changes or maintenance for a certain amount of time. Realistically those incentives rarely add up to $1000. Some Canadian dealers provide free oil changes ONLY when included with other scheduled maintenance programs.

On the positive side, depending on the manufacturer, you could automatically qualify for the US rebate which is typically double the Canadian one offered. In many cases, rebates are not offered on certain Canadian cars whereas a hefty one is available for the US consumer.

Keep in mind that in the US, the PDI is almost always hundreds less.

Interestingly, there have been some recent allegations suggesting that some Canadian car dealers have quietly resorted to buying cars in the US and flipping them in Canada while publicly criticizing the Canadian consumer (or asking the US dealers not to sell to Canadians) for doing it. Some take the time to change the display cluster, others do not. If you’re wondering, be sure to look for the Transport Canada compliance sticker. It should be pretty apparent if the car was imported.

What should I pay for my car?
How to I compare?
What else is there?

These are complicated questions but if you're reading this you have the most valuable tool available to you. It's called the INTERNET. Unlike Canada, and because of the sheer market size, the US readily promotes competition. While most manufacturers indicate a MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) most automobiles in the US are sold based on "invoice" pricing. This is closer to the true value of the car. This information is readily available on the Internet. The theory behind invoice pricing is to ensure that a dealer in Iowa can sell a car for roughly the same price as one in LA. Unfortunately the fact of the matter is that large volume dealers also get additional discounts and incentives from the manufacturer. Some dealers get options such as free transmissions or moonroofs direct from the manufacturer. The dealer may choose to charge you for those items and keep it as straight profit. Others will tell you about the discount and price accordingly. There are sometimes national “Manufacturer to Dealer” incentives offered. Keep an eye out for those. The information can easily be found on the Internet by searching “Manufacturer to Dealer incentives (then manufacturer)”

In very rare cases, the car is so popular it exceeds demand. In those cases, the consumer might have to pay above invoice. It happens. If you can't get a car for US invoice price, shop around. Call dealers in other US cities or states to get an idea what others are paying. Remember you’re a savvy consumer. Traveling an extra few miles for a deal is something you take for granted!

There are excellent sites like Edmunds.com that have town hall forums where "prices paid" are discussed. This site also regularly lists “manufacturer to dealer incentives”. Remember that if the car is popular, chances are you’ll also be paying more for that model in Canada since it could be popular on both sides of the border.

Here’s a method many of importers use to compare prices: Use the US "invoice pricing" as the starting point. Add the current exchange rate and about a thousand or so dollars (that’s fair) markup. Try offering that to the Canadian dealer. NEVER compare US MSRP to Canadian MSRP unless you're researching prices. There are numerous factors at work (like the hidden incentives). Be sure to compare options and standard equipment. DON’T USE base models or trim levels as a guide. For example; In Canada, the Hyundai Santa Fe’s top model is the GLS. In the US, that is the base model. The US Limited model is comparable to the Canadian GLS.

As was the case with the Subaru Outback that I bought (which is popular with many consumers since the price disparity between Canada and the US is high), at one point you could add EVERY option imaginable to the top-of-the-line US model and actually pay LESS than the base model in Canada (research: Subaru.com vs. Subaru.ca) That’s comparing MSRP to MSRP (with PDI added). Don’t forget to add the taxes for the total savings number.

Remember you can get most cars for less than invoice in the US. You will be hard pressed to get anywhere near invoice price in Canada. There are some Canadian associations and groups that offer “group” or “special dealer pricing” on vehicles. You pay a membership or subscription fee for this service. You are merely joining a “glorified fleet purchase group”. The price is pre-determined and typically inflexible. Realistically only a few dealers participate in the program and those that do, don’t leave you much room for negotiation. You’re better off going it on your own now that you know how many savvy consumers do it. In almost every case, those who purchased in the US were much further ahead than those who participated in the well-publicized Employee Discounts, fleet purchasing or similar gimmicks offered to the Canadian consumer.

Important Note:

If you suspect that a vendor is selling a US car in Canada with an altered or modified compliance sticker, contact Transport Canada immediately. They can confirm whether the car was imported and can enforce the regulations if some “discrepancies” are uncovered. There’s no problem when a Canadian dealer sells US cars but they should tell the consumer the car was imported. At that point the consumer can choose to buy the car anyway. Many people are too complacent to import a car themselves so that option is available and could suite them.
Okay now you're convinced to buy in the US. How do you do it? Follow the import instructions posted at the Registrar of Imported Vehicles.

It's easier than it sounds.

Aside from the RIV website, another excellent resource is Canada Revenue. Who better to ask than the government themselves?

Checklist for importers:

http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/pub/bsf5048-eng.html

They have also issued the following booklet in .pdf format:

http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/dm-md/d19/d19-12-1-eng.pdf

Not convinced? If you still want to buy in Canada and just want the manufacturers and dealers to lower their prices, tell someone. If you think that Canadian dealers and manufacturers are taking advantage of the Canadian consumer, there is something you can do.

Contact the following organizations:
This information is supplied free of charge and to the best of my knowledge reflects true experiences. If you have any recommendations or corrections please let me know. Please consider a donation to Paypal if you wish to keep this site active.

Thanks to many contributors like you who made this FAQ possible.
Be sure to contact them and have them look into this.
Someone is making huge money here and it's not us. Some companies are obviously trying to stop the free trade.