Importing and Exporting
Vehicles

If you are thinking about importing or exporting a vehicle between Canada and the U.S., there are a number of things you need to know. We have provided some basic information below but our team in Arizona will help you with all your import and export needs so please contact us for more information.

Our Vehicle Import Expert Helping Canadians

Heidi Higgins

Vehicle Import Specialist

We are your one-stop solution to importing vehicles from Canada to the USA. Heidi is our expert partner with over 25 years experience helping Canadians import vehicles to the USA! She specializes in helping Canadians not only import vehicles but also properly insuring those vehicles once they are in the USA.

Our goal is to save Canadians from time consuming, frustrating experiences and to prevent costly mistakes that can be made throughout the process. We take the stress and worry out of importing your vehicle by walking you through the entire process step by step to make sure everything is in compliance.

We will help you with the following:

  • Presenting your Personal Driving History
  • Get Letter of Recall and Compliance
  • Vehicle Import Services
  • Acquire Arizona Insurance
  • Complete an Emissions Test
  • Vehicle Inspections
  • Transfer Registration from Canada

Vehicle Importing/Exporting Inquiry

Exporting a Vehicle from Canada to the USA

Meeting U.S. Standards

If the vehicle you are importing is less than 25 years old you will need to prove that it meets U.S. safety and emission requirements. Most cars sold in the U.S. are built specifically for this market and cars built for the Canadian market may not meet all of the requirements. If your car was manufactured more than 25 years ago it is exempt from these requirements.

At least 2-3 weeks before importing your vehicle you must contact the manufacturer of the vehicle and ask for a letter stating that your vehicle complies with all applicable U.S. safety and emission standards. The letter must identify your vehicle by the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Read this letter very carefully.

  • If the manufacturer letter states that the vehicle complies with U.S. safety and emission standards you are good to go.
  • If the manufacturer letter states that the vehicle meets U.S. standards except for minor items you may be able to have these things fixed by an authorized dealer and then present the invoice to U.S. Customs.
  • If the letter lists substantial safety items, such as passive restraint systems, you may be required to use a U.S. DOT-registered importer (RI) to modify the vehicle. This only makes sense if you are importing a very expensive car as the process of bringing it into compliance is complex and costly.
  • If the letter says the vehicle does not meet U.S. emission requirements you may need to import it through an independent commercial importer (ICI). Using an ICI can be costly. You should also realize that individual state emission requirements may differ from those of the federal government. You should contact your state DOT to make sure you know what is needed to register the vehicle in your state.

We have heard stories from buyers that manufacturers are sometimes unresponsive to requests to provide these types of letters. If you are purchasing the vehicle from a dealer, you may need to push them to make the request on your behalf.

US Customs

You need to have all of the documentation for the vehicle with you when you cross the U.S. border. You will be sent inside the Customs building to fill out form CBP 7501 and possibly others. You can find copies of these forms on the U.S. CBP website.

Customs officials will inspect the car and make sure it matches the paperwork you submit. The whole process will probably take a half hour or so if there are no problems.

To safeguard against importation of dangerous pests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the undercarriage of imported cars be free of foreign soil. Have your car steam-sprayed or cleaned thoroughly before shipment.

Duties and Taxes to Import

Duty free if manufactured in Canada or Mexico with appropriate NAFTA certificate and motorcycles with engines less than 700cc’s. Duty is 2.5% for passenger vehicles, 25% for trucks, and 2.4% for motorcycles with engines greater than 700cc’s.

Documents Required

  • Commercial invoice or bill of sale
  • Registration papers
  • EPA form 3520-1
  • DOT form HS-7
  • NAFTA (if applicable)
  • Letter of recall conformity from manufacturer (if applicable)

Importing a Vehicle to Canada from the USA

Before You Import

Before you import a vehicle from the United States, you should understand each step of the importing process, including:

Vehicle Admissibility
Determine if the vehicle you would like to purchase can be imported into Canada.

Vehicle Branding History
A brand is a record of a prior accident serious enough to result in an insurance write-off (salvage) or even non-repairable status. A brand remains part of the vehicle’s permanent history and may affect the ability to license the vehicle in Canada. The Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) makes U.S. brands available to Canadian provinces and territories. You are strongly advised to verify the vehicle’s branding history through available commercial VIN search engines before you purchase any vehicle in the U.S. or attempt to import it into Canada.

Modification and Inspection Requirements
Some vehicles may require modifications in order to comply with Transport Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Determine what modifications your vehicle may require before you import it.

Recall Clearance
Recall clearance is a requirement for all vehicles being imported into Canada. Find out what documentation is required and how to obtain the recall clearance letter for your vehicle.

RIV Exemptions
Find out about specific exemption criteria and if they apply to your vehicle.

Cost Considerations
Determine any possible duties, provincial and federal sales taxes, trip permits, temporary insurance and provincial licensing requirements before you import your vehicle.

At The Border

Find out more about requirements and reporting to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) by visiting:

U.S. Customs Export Requirements
Requires three business days (72 hours) notice of all self-propelled vehicles leaving the country.
note: trailers are not self-propelled vehicles and therefore exempt from this requirement.

CBSA Entry Requirements
CBSA confirms vehicle admissibility, assesses duties and taxes, and initiates the RIV registration process.

After Vehicle Entry

Once the vehicle has entered Canada, it is the importer’s responsibility to have required modifications, if any, completed and the vehicle inspected at an authorized Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) inspection centre. You must meet the following conditions:

  • The vehicle has crossed the border and a Vehicle Import Form – Form 1 has been completed and submitted to RIV through the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
  • To expedite your file, the Vehicle Import Form may be faxed or emailed to their office.
  • The RIV registration fee has been paid.
  • RIV has received confirmation that there are no outstanding recalls on the vehicle.

RIV will then issue an RIV inspection form which identifies modification and inspection requirements specific to your vehicle. The vehicle must pass the RIV inspection process before being licensed through a provincial/territorial licensing jurisdiction.
For more information:

Vehicle Modifications
It is important that you do not proceed with any modifications on your vehicle until you receive the RIV inspection form.

RIV Inspection
The RIV inspection can only be completed by an authorized RIV inspection centre.

Provincial Licensing
When your vehicle has passed the RIV inspection, contact your provincial or territorial licensing authority to find out how to license your vehicle.