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Buying a vehicle

What you need to know before importing a vehicle into Canada

Many Canadians have grown frustrated with the cost of purchasing a vehicle in Canada, especially given that our dollar has been hovering around parity for some time. Though it may seem tempting to look south of the border for savings, purchasing and importing a vehicle from the U.S. can be a complicated process and has its risks and downsides:

  1. You’ll need to check Transport Canada’s List of Vehicles Admissible from the United States that have been modified from their original state (for example, a car equipped with a lift), may not be eligible for importation. Also, some cars sold in the U.S. are not identical to their Canadian counterparts, and can even differ in safety equipment. For example, daytime running lights are not standard on some U.S. vehicles, and will have to be installed before a vehicle can be registered in B.C.
  2. Imported vehicles must also pass a safety inspection by a recognized facility before they can be insured. Since the inspection must be done locally, you can’t be assured your vehicle will pass until you’ve brought it across the border.
  3. All or part of manufacturer warranties may not be transferable into Canada. Down the road, sourcing replacement parts locally can pose a problem.
  4. You’ll be assessed a host of fees, including PST, excise taxes (if the vehicle has air conditioning), and a green levy if its fuel consumption rating exceeds 13 or more litres per 100 kms and was put into service after March 19, 2007. Fees are based on the sticker price of the vehicle (in Canadian dollars). Duty is assessed on vehicles manufactured in countries other than the U.S. and Mexico.
  5. The fees, duties and taxes are based on the price paid for the vehicle, PLUS any warranty payments and foreign sales taxes. Trade-in allowances do not reduce the price of the vehicle.
  6. If you’ve purchased your vehicle and it doesn’t meet CBSA and Transport requirements, you’ll be required to re-export or destroy the vehicle under CBSA supervision.

And here’s perhaps a little-known fact: if your vehicle is found contaminated with soil or other organic matter, it will be refused entry and ordered removed from Canada.

For more information on importing vehicles into Canada, you can visit the Registrar of Imported Vehicles website and the Canada Border Services Agency website.