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

Importing a vehicle to canada: 

importing a vehicle to canada

Importing a vehicle to canada is regulated 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 requiring a human operator to be on board.

Whether you are importing a commercial or a 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 nine major steps:

1. Ensure vehicle admissibility before importing a vehicle to Canada from the U.S.

Your vehicle must meet the requirements of all 5 of these organizations:

  1. The Canada Border Services Agency
  2. Transport Canada
  3. Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  4. Environment and Climate Change Canada
  5. the US Customs Border Protection

Once you have determined that it does, then it must be on Transport Canada’s list of admissible vehicles and successfully pass the Registrar of Imported Vehicles inspection before it can be imported. If your vehicle is not admissible, importing the vehicle into Canada could be a costly disappointment.

For example:

Before you import a vehicle, you need to 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. It does sound like a lot, so use this checklist to help you with the process to import a vehicle if you are doing it yourself importer check list.

2. Meet documentation requirements for importing a vehicle to Canada

Ensure you have the required documents for RIV,  U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency, below is a list of that documentation:

  • 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.
  • Manufacturer’s statement of compliance affixed to the vehicle
  • EPA label affixed to the vehicle


3. File AES before giving 72 hour export notice

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 ride on equipment is mandatory. AES filing must be handled by a resident 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

In order to complete the process of importing a vehicle to 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.

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 (Exports are 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.

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

You will need to provide:

  • Individual Tax Number (ITN #)
  • 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.


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. 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.
  • Please Note: HST or PST portions are payable at time of registration (step 8 in this guide)

7. Pay RIV registration fee

Once your vehicle has been imported into Canada, contact the RIV and pay the registration fee. You can pay the RIV fee by cheque, money order, credit or debit card:

In person:

Address: 405 The West Mall, Suite 500 Toronto, Ontario, Canada M9C 5K7  Hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm EST

Or by Mail: Check or Money Order (Copy of the Form 1 or Case# must be included with payment)

The Registrar of Imported Vehicles
405 The West Mall, Suite 500
Toronto, On M9C 5K7

By Online Payment: www.riv.ca (Visa, MasterCard or American Express)

Instructions for Online Payments:

After you have finished importing a vehicle to canada and made your online payment, you must forward a Customs stamped copy of your form 1 to RIV. You can either fax: 1-888-346-8235 or email [email protected]

Register of Imported vehicles (RIV) also requires “NO Recall” information (not required for trailers) from the original vehicle manufacturer, or a computerized vehicle history report indicating no recall info.

RIV will not accept a letter on a dealership letterhead. Forward this information by faxing to 1-888-642-9899 or email to [email protected]

When forwarding your no recall information, you must quote your Form 1 number. It will take 72 hours to process your Form 2, for inquiries regarding your Form 2 or if you wish RIV to fax or email your Form 2 to you, please call 1-888-848-8240. Press 1, then press 2 and a RIV Representative will answer. Have your case number, which is the same as your Form 1 number. If further assistance is required, please contact Pacific Customs Brokers Ltd. Surrey, British Columbia.

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:

  • $295.00 + GST and QST for vehicles entering through a border crossing in Quebec
  • $295.00 + 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 to RIV and the No Recall information as well as Form 1 are received at RIV.


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, when importing a vehicle to canada 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 to Canada. 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. Use the form below to both enquire about the vehicle shipping services we offer or assistance with your import.

Do you have questions on importing a vehicle to 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!

18 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?

  11. Don Rumberger says:

    I have purchased a truck from a Canadian that bought it in Ontario and then registered it in Arizona later. What do I have to do to bring it back through customs and how much would you charge me to do the necessary paperwork

  12. Lidi Rod says:

    We are currently under h-1b visa and planning to move to Canada as permanent residents. Do we still need to register into AES if we want to bring our 2012 and 2015 vehicles? In case we do, how much does it cost your services?

    • Donna R says:

      Hi Lili,

      The short answer is that yes the AES paperwork does need to filed along with a 72 hour export notice. The AES must be filed by a resident US company prior to the 72 hour export notice filing. Once the AES is accepted an Internal Transaction Number (ITN) will be issued and that number is required for the 72 hour export notice documentation – a broker can take care of those filings on your behalf, one of experts will be reaching out to you at the email address you provided this morning with more details for you.

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