9 Steps to Importing a Vehicle into Canada from the U.S.

Importing a Vehicle into CanadaRegulated by several different government agencies, importing a vehicle tends to be a multistage process. Transport Canada defines a “vehicle” as any means of transport that is capable of being driven or drawn on roads, by any means other than muscular power exclusively, but that does not run exclusively on rails. This includes not only motor vehicles, but also recreational, camping, boat trailers, horse and stock trailers, as well as wood chippers, generators or any other equipment mounted on rims and tires.

Whether you are importing a commercial and recreational vehicle from the United States into Canada, the steps below will help you avoid having the vehicle refused entry, delays at the border, and possible penalties with Canada Border Services Agency. We have broken the complex process of importing a vehicle into Canada into eight major steps:

1. Ensure vehicle admissibility into Canada

Your vehicle must meet the requirements of the Canada Border Services Agency, Transport Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency before it can be imported. If your vehicle is not admissible, importing the vehicle into Canada could be a costly disappointment.

For example:

  • Will the vehicle be admissible under Transport Canada or the Registrar of Imported Vehicles?

Before you import a vehicle, you should also contact the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV). The RIV is an agency contracted by Transport Canada to administer a national program to ensure that imported vehicles are brought into compliance with Canada’s safety standards. We recommend you verify with the RIV whether the vehicle is admissible into Canada. Inquire about the RIV program, vehicle admissibility, RIV exemptions, recall clearance information, vehicle modification requirements and vehicle branding history.

Tips on Admissibility:

  • U.S. titled vehicles are permitted provided they are titled in the USA or; if new a Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin or Certificate of Origin. (U.S. export worksheet required)
  • Offshore vehicles are not permitted unless they are more than 15 years of age from the date of manufacture. (No U.S. export worksheet required)


2. Meet clearance documentation requirements

Ensure you have the required documents for both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency. The following documents must accompany the vehicle and be presented to U.S. Customs at the time of export:

  • Original Title, Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin or Certificate of Origin (front and back). Should your vehicle not be required to have one of the these documents, then you must provide a Certificate of No Title
  • Bill of Sale
  • Recall clearance letter (U.S. only)
  • NAFTA, if applicable (commercial U.S. imports only)
  • Copies of the Export Certificate and Invoices (in English or French), if export location is other than the U.S.


3. File AES before giving 72 hour export notice

New! Effective October 2, 2014, the US Census Bureau has added an export filing requirement on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Automated Export System (AES). The AES must be filed prior to the 72-hour notice. An EIN or IRS or Duns Number from the seller will be required along with the worksheet attached to file the AES. AES filing for self-propelled equipment is mandatory.
AES filing must be handled by a U.S domiciled company. A customs broker, freight forwarder or United States Principal Party in Interest (USPPI) can file the AES declaration.  Once the AES is accepted, an Internal Transaction Number (ITN) number will be issued. The ITN number must accompany the request to start the 72-hour export notice with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

4. Submit required documents to CBP 72 hours prior to export

For vehicles being imported into Canada from the U.S., the required documentation must be submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)  at least 72 hours prior to export.

Tip: Confirm the U.S. port being used, and ensure that the desired port allows for vehicle export processing.

You will need to provide:

  • U.S. Customs vehicle export worksheet
  • Copy of Bill of Sale
  • Copy of Vehicle Title (front and back), Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO) or certified copy of the same from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you are bringing in a salvage vehicle, you must supply a copy of the Salvage Title. If the Title is not in your name, then the seller must sign as the seller and the buyer must appear as the buyer on the Title. Partial submissions are not allowed.
  • Vehicles not requiring a Title – If you are exporting equipment that does not require a Title, you must complete the “No Title Required” Addendum.

Assuming your documentation above is accurate and complete, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official will begin the export checks which are completed within 72 hours of receipt (usually Monday to Friday, excluding holidays. However, please contact the customs office where you plan to cross, directly, to verify their hours of operation).

Note: At the time of exit from the U.S, the owner/agent of the vehicle must supply the vehicle and original documents to U.S. Customs at the port of export in person.


5. Meet Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Requirements

The following are subject to import requirements, and inspection procedures and fees in order to prevent the entry and establishment of injurious plant pests in Canada:

  • used agricultural vehicles, equipment, implements, containers, and carriers;
  • used earth moving vehicles, equipment,implements, tools, carriers and containers;
  • used passenger and recreational vehicles; and
  • used military equipment.

Regardless of its origin, imported used vehicles, farm equipment and related earth moving vehicles and equipment must be free from soil, sand, earth, plant residue, manure and related debris. Many exotic plant pest organisms capable of causing economic loss to Canadian agricultural production can be transported in soil and related matter.


6. Submit required documents to Canada Border Services Agency at the first point of entry into Canada

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) office at the point of entry will process the import of your vehicle into Canada.

  • The Importer can declare the goods in person at the first point of entry upon arrival or;
  • The Importer can arrange for an agent to act on their behalf

The required documentation includes:

  • Bill of Sale
  • Title
  • Transport Canada Vehicle Import Form 1
  • Form B3 (for commercial) or Form B15 (for personal) – to account for any applicable duties or tax such as a possible 6.1% duty if the car is manufactured outside the USA, GST payable at the time of import,  HST or PST portion payable at time of registration, Excise Tax on air conditioning of $100.00 CAD, and the possible green levy anywhere between $1,000.00 to $4,000.00 CAD depending on the vehicle.

7. Pay RIV registration fee

Once your vehicle has been imported into Canada, contact the RIV and pay a registration fee of $195 + tax.

Current fees for registering a U.S. imported vehicle in the RIV program

Vehicles entering the RIV program with a Vehicle Import Form – Form 1:

  • $195.00 + GST and QST for vehicles entering through a border crossing in Quebec
  • $195.00 + GST/HST for vehicles entering through a border crossing in any other province

Tip: Do not forget to include a copy of the recall letter if required

RIV exemptions:

Vehicles are exempt from the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) registration if they are imported under one of the following conditions:

  • Commercial Importation – Importer is listed on the list of recognized vehicle importers with Transport Canada
  • Non-Commercial Importation – New Canadian vehicle bearing a valid Canadian compliance label. The manufacturer of the vehicle must be listed with Transport Canada
  • Canadian certified vehicle being returned to Canada by original owner
  • Vehicles older than 15 years
  • Vehicle entered for exhibition, demonstration, testing, evaluation, or special purposes (Sch VII required)
  • Visitor, tourist, or a person holding a valid work permit or student visa
  • Work vehicle (A work vehicle is defined as one used primarily for civil engineering construction and maintenance, that is not built on a truck or truck-type chassis. This does not include a tractor or any vehicle designed to be drawn behind another vehicle).

Transport Canada will issue the Importer a Form 2 after all the fees have been paid.


8. Pass Inspection and Registration

The original Form 1 and Form 2, along with the vehicle, must now be taken to an approved inspection facility within 45 days of import. Once inspected, your Form 2 will be stamped and the vehicle will be ready for registration.

Take your stamped Form 2, original Bills of Sale, original Title, and B3 or B15 from Canada Customs to your local licensing/registration office, pay your HST/PST, and drive away!


9. Keep Records on File

Last but not the least, do not forget to keep a record on file. All records of importation must be kept on file with the importer for six years.


As you can see, importing a vehicle is a complex process. This article contains general guidelines and information pertaining to the CBSA administration of the Transport Canada import requirements. If you were ever to consider the services of a customs broker, we recommend doing so when importing a vehicle. A customs broker can help ensure that your vehicle meets the import requirements, avoid any costly delays and penalties at the border and assist with the transportation of your vehicle.

For more information or should you require assistance in importing a vehicle, contact Pacific Customs Brokers. Our import specialists can make this process simple and handle your next vehicle import for you. Additionally, enquire about the vehicle shipping services we offer.

Do you have questions on importing a vehicle into Canada? Leave them for us in the comments section below.


Have any questions? Email Ask Your Broker and we will answer them as soon as possible!

14 Responses to “9 Steps to Importing a Vehicle into Canada from the U.S.”

  1. Eric Gretzinger says:

    Looking at importing a 2014 Jeep Summit Diesel into Canada and would be happy to have your help. Any issues with that and what is your cost for this?

    • Hello Eric! Thank you for reading and reaching out. We would love to help you with the import of your vehicle. A member of our Client Service team will be contacting you shortly.

  2. Mike says:

    Hey what if after paying all custom taxes the vehicle fails to pass the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) Canada inspection?

    • Thank you Mike for your question. We are happy to provide you with the following information. The first step would be to take the vehicle to an authorized facility to have the appropriate repairs or alterations made in order for the vehicle to meet the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) Canada inspection. Once approved, proceed with registration.
      If for any reason the vehicle can not be repaired or altered to comply with the regulations, we recommend having the vehicle exported from Canada. Once exported, any duties paid are recoverable, however, any taxes paid are not to be recovered.

  3. Chad says:

    My wife and I are moving to Canada (she is a citizen). We’d like to purchase an older pop up trailer and travel across the US, then take it into Canada. If it is older than 15 years old, what do we need? It looks like we won’t need to go through the RIV. Is that true?

  4. Hello Chad,

    Thank you for your question, we are happy to provide you with the following information. If you are moving to Canada, please be sure to check out any exemptions you may have when entering Canada with personal effects (http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/fr-ar-eng.html).

    If Customs requires you to present a formal entry on the trailer, vehicles over 15 years from the date of manufacture are exempt from going through the RIV program. When completing the Transport Canada Form 1 at time of importation, there is a selection box to indicate the RIV exemption based on being more than 15 years old. The documentation requirements for Customs clearance are the same regardless of year, you will need to produce a bill of sale and a copy of the signed over title.

    If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank You.

  5. Greg says:

    Hi – I have a 98 mustang that I am wanting to move from USA to my residence in Canada. It will be licensed and stay in Canada. Do I have to pay GST/HST on a vehicle that I have owned since 2002?

  6. Hello Greg,

    Thank you for your question. We are happy to provide you with the following information.

    The Canada Border Services Agency collects duty and taxes on imported goods, on behalf of the Government of Canada.

    No duty is payable on goods imported for personal use, if it is marked as “made in Canada, the USA, or Mexico”, or if there is no marking or labelling indicating that it was made somewhere other than Canada, the USA, or Mexico.

    Most imported goods are however also subject to the Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Provincial Sales Tax (PST) or, in certain provinces and territories, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

    There are certain exemptions that apply when settling into Canada or returning back from extended stay outside the country. We would need answers to a few preliminary questions to understand his situation better (example: If you are a Canadian citizen, if you have been out of the country and for how long?) etc. in order to provide a clear answer.

    Below is some added information from the CBSA website that might help you, along with some contact information in the event you wish to speak with them directly.

    If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    Best Regards,
    Cherie Storms, CCS, LCB, CTCS
    Assistant Operations Manager
    Pacific Customs Brokers, Ltd.

  7. Blaire says:

    I heard there were changes coming to vehicle importation coming up.

  8. Hello Blaire! We are expecting changes in the fall to the U.S. portion of the process. The original start date was April 2014, now pushed back to October 2014. There will be an added function required called AES filing. Pacific Customs Brokers is proud to offer support services to ensure AES is filed. Thank You.

  9. gilles says:

    Hello im in canada.lookig to purchase a 22 year old motorhome diesel.
    It jas water damage.
    The inside needs repair.i will be driven it true custom border.
    Would u guys be able to take vare of paperwork for me to make it easier.
    Wjat is the cost thanks

  10. John says:

    We are in Arizona with our motorhome registered in B.C.
    We are interested in trading in our used motorhome in AZ and purchasing a newer used motorhome. When we pay the GST at the border, do we pay on the original cost, or can we deduct the trade in allowance? Also what would the approximate cost be to have your company do the paperwork for the Canada Customs?

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