In our ongoing series about cross border shopping, we’ve focused on the price and convenience. While retail prices of new cars are substantially cheaper in the United States than they are in Canada, the practicality of a cross border purchase depends on a buyers individual needs.
So you’ve made the decision that buying a car from south of the border is the way to go for you. You’ve called around to a few dealers, found your car and done the deal. Now what?
Fellow Nissan Truck Club member Derek Penny recently went through this process when he imported a Land Rover Discovery into Ontario. He’s gone to the trouble of documenting his story for the benefit of other intrepid cross border shoppers:
Importing a Late Model Land Rover Into Canada from the U.S.
I went through the process of importing a Land Rover Discovery into this Canada from the US in January. I learned a few things in that time – buying the vehicle, getting it into Canada from it’s location in West Virginia, waiting for the bank and legally registering in the province of Ontario.
There is a lot of information on-line detailing what needs to be done. This list is by no means what is required by law. This is just taken from my one-time experience.
What you need to do:
Make sure the vehicle is allowed to be imported. Check with the Registrar of Imported Vehicles to find out.
Have all of your paperwork prepared so you don’t waste your time and theirs. There is lots of info online about what documents are required. Paperwork will make life that much easier. Have a document for everything you can get. Make copies in case someone keeps one, or forgets to return one piece of paper to you.
Make sure you will get the title document / ownership when you leave with the vehicle, unless you have a place to park the vehicle while you wait for the paperwork to arrive. If your cheque has to clear, allow time for it.
Paperwork you need
I would suggest creating a file folder to cart around all of the various documents you will need. Don’t forget to make a couple of copies of everything, as well as having the original on hand.
– Bill of sale
– original title document or salvage record
– copy of payment method (certified cheque, bank draft, etc.)
– your driver’s license
– Form 1 (for importing and registering a vehicle in Canada. You get this from Canada Customs when you cross.)
– receipt from Canada Customs for Duty, Excise and taxes paid
– any other paperwork you can get your hands on that you think will be important
At US Customs and Border Patrol
Fax a copy of the title to the border office you intend to cross at 72 hours before you cross. They will start a file on you vehicle then. Make sure you go to the correct Border Patrol office, and cross at a permitted point. Not all crossings will clear vehicles for export!
You must present the vehicle to the US Customs and Border Patrol, along with the original title of the vehicle, as well as a couple of copies. They will stamp and seal the title to clear it from the US Registry and release it for export. Keep these handy as you will need them at Canada Customs. *No fee is paid here.
Just like that you are done at the US C&BP. You are now free to take the vehicle across into Canada. Take your wallet, you’ll need it!
At Canada Customs and Border Service
Declare that you are in fact importing said vehicle when you pull up to the booth. They will have you pull in to the inspection station to get all of the information sorted out. They will also likely give you a tag to take into the office as well.
Once in the office you will need to present a bill of sale, the stamped title, and a valid driver’s license (your own). The Customs Officer will fill out a couple of forms and enter a bunch of information into the computer. One of these forms is Form 1. The yellow copy of this form stays with the vehicle until the Canadian title is mailed to you.
At this point they will come up with a “fair market value” for the vehicle. The bill of sale is important here. This is where the amount of tax you pay is decided. The whole idea being that you can’t buy a year-old Range Rover for $1500. The government wants to get their share every chance they can. If the purchase price of the vehicle is deemed ‘fair’, you pay tax on that price. If not, they set the fair market price and you pay tax on that amount. Sorry, no haggling with the Customs people.
Once they complete all of the paperwork, they will have you sign one of the forms to finish it off and the Customs Agent will send you to the cashier’s counter to pay your taxes. Duty, Excise, A/C tax, GST, and maybe PST all get paid at this point. Sometimes PST is paid at the license office. It really depends on the location. Keep your receipt in your file as the license office will try to charge you PST again.
Once you pay, you are free to go. Keep the yellow copy of the Form 1 in the vehicle until the RIV mails you your new registration.
When you get home
Mail the white copy of Form 1 to the RIV. In a week or so you will receive a form back from them. This will tell you what needs to be done to bring the vehicle up to Canadian standards. (For the Discovery it required DRLs and a French airbag label on the sun visor. No trouble.)
Have any necessary modifications that are required to be done to your vehicle to meet Canadian safety regulations: daytime running lights, French language labels, airbag information, etcÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ You have 45 days to do this. (Canadian Tire is an approved agency for the federal inspection.) They will stamp Form 1 if the vehicle passes. *You need to provide this inspection form when obtaining you license plates.
Within a week or so of passing this inspection, RIV will send out a new Canadian Certification label to attach to the vehicle. It usually goes on the driver’s side door by the manufacture plate.
If the vehicle does not pass this inspection (or inspections, if more than one is required) within the 45 day period, the vehicle must be exported back to the US. No questions.
Things particular to my experience
The amount of time this took versus a regular border crossing? Maybe 45 minutes more, total. About 10 minutes at the US side, getting the vehicle released. Another couple of minutes at the Canada Customs booth declaring the vehicle, then 25 or so minutes in the office getting the paperwork done and paying my money. Not too painful, really.
BanksÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Ah yes, where to begin? The bank holding the title of the vehicle in WV thought it would wait for the cheque to clear before releasing the title. That process took a week. Then, after the cheque cleared they thought I would be coming down to their location, in WV – from Ontario (after parking the vehicle at a friend’s place in Ohio) to actually pick up the title document. This miscommunication added another few days. Waiting for the courier to get the document to me took another three or four days. Dealing with banks; priceless.
Make sure you have some form of temporary plates or tags to get the vehicle back across the border with. I used (under questionable legality) the plates off a different Land Rover I had just sold to get the Discovery from West Virginia to Canada. (I asked for forgiveness, honest!)
The Canada Customs Agents were very helpful for a newbie like me. I arrived at about 8:30pm on a Monday night and it was quiet for them in the office. Three of them helped with all my paperwork so it went very quickly. I paid all of my duty, excise and taxes on what I paid for the vehicle. There was some discussion about whether the price was “too good” or not, but they figured that since all the other paperwork was in order to look kindly upon me.
The Canadian Tire service centre that did the ‘inspection’ took about 10 minutes, didn’t even bother to open a door on the vehicle, and called it all good. The inspector spent more time filling in the form than looking at the vehicle. DRLs?? Check. (What the??? !!!) Didn’t even turn the truck on to look! I probably could have not bothered to go to any effort to get the vehicle ready, but on the other handÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ well, better safe than sorry. And it’s all legal now. No worries, no conscience to bother meÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
The license office took copies of everything I had Ã¢â‚¬â€œ my certified cheque, the West Virginia registration, bill of sale, etc., etc. They were happy to see I had everything in order.