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Importing a car to Canada

As we explain this week, if you decide to import a car to Canada, you will have to face an obstacle course to do so. If you had planned to do it, you should take a look at the following, as you may be disappointed.

Let’s start with the positive. If you come to Canada as a temporary resident, it’s not considered an importation to bring your car because you will eventually be moving back to your country. This means that you can bring your vehicle without having to adapt it to Canadian standards. However, if at a later date you choose to stay as a permanent resident, your car won’t be allowed to stay with you and you will have to destroy or return it to your country of origin.

If you decide to settle in Canada permanently, there are only a couple of options for importing your car.

Firstly, you can import your car (or other motor vehicle) from the USA. If you come from the USA there are some taxes to pay, and you may need to have modifications done to your vehicle in order to comply with Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS):

  • The principal taxes are registration fees to be paid to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV fees of CAN$295), plus GST (5%) and QST (9.75%) if you enter through a border crossing into Québec. If entering Canada through a border crossing into any other province, you will need to pay the RIV fee, plus GST/HST.  All tax will be based on the original price of purchase of your car in the USA, converted to CAN$. You will also have to pay customs duties and other importation taxes, including excise tax on air conditioning ($100) and/or excise tax (Green Levy) on fuel inefficient cars (between $1000 and $4000, depending on fuel consumption).
  • In terms of modifications to your car to comply with CMVSS, this could include having daytime running lights, or a metric speedometer. You can find out more information on the necessary modifications based on vehicle type here.
  • After importing your car, you will have 45 days to modify and register it (at your expense).

If you want to import a vehicle from any other country, bad luck. Canada does not typically authorize car importation from any country other than the USA.

One possible way around this rule is to ask buy a vehicle NEW from a manufacturer with a foreign buyer program abroad, which meets all Canadian standards. However, is not a guaranteed solution; before going down this route, the importer must inquire with Transport Canada if it is even possible, as Transport Canada must authorize the importation.

Another solution is to import a car that is at least 15 years old. In this case, Canadian authorities consider your vehicle as a ‘vintage car’ under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, and should not require any modification. Whatever your nationality, the procedure to import a vintage/classic car is the same as importing a car from the USA (see above), but you will have to prove the age of your car.

If you still wish to import your car, and are not sure which option would work best for your vehicle, you can contact the Canada Border Services Agency and the Registrar of Imported Vehicles about your situation, and they will explain the process to you.

Do not hesitate to contact Arianne Relocation Specialists for further information.

Photo Credits: A classic French car in Montréal’s le Plateau, by Gwen

About the Author:

I founded ARIANNE Relocation Canada in 1997 in order to assist families relocating to Montreal, and then all over Canada. I have a lot of advice and stories to share about how to successfully move and relocate to Canada! If I can be of help please contact me at manon@ariannerelocation.com

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