Weakening loonie creates opportunities for importing cars into the United States
A drop in the value of the Canadian dollar has been a boon to exporters as it makes goods produced here cheaper for people in other countries, specifically the U.S.
The lower loonie also makes importing a premium Canadian vehicle attractive to Americans. Of course, there’s more to it than buying a great car from a Canadian dealer and driving over the border. If you’re a U.S. citizen looking to take advantage of current economic conditions, the first thing you need to do is give yourself some time. You’ll need to contact a number of agencies and make sure your paperwork is in order.
There are a few extra costs you can’t avoid, such as tariffs, and a few that could apply depending on the age and specifications of the vehicle you select. Ideally, prospective buyers are looking for a higher-end vehicle so the additional costs make up a smaller percentage of the overall price you’ll pay for importing the vehicle.
The rules are much different depending on the age of the vehicle. If it’s over 25 years old, you can avoid many of the hurdles that need to be jumped for newer vehicles. Just make sure you have proper documentation showing the manufacture date.
Generally, vehicles over 25 years old are classified as “classic or antique” and are subject to a 2.5% duty based on value at the time of import. Canadian-made vehicles are usually duty free, but you’ll need to be able to prove they were built in Canada. Older vehicles also don’t have to meet all the emissions or safety standards that new cars are subject to.
For vehicles under 25 years old, you’ll need to contact various U.S. agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Border Protection Agency and federal as well as state transportation departments.
Most Canadian vehicles have emission systems that are much the same as those required in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Association recognizes this but notes that verification is still necessary.
According to the EPA, importers can verify whether the Canadian vehicle is identical to a U.S. certified version to find out if:
The Canadian vehicle has an emission label stating it is certified to United States EPA federal emission standards
The vehicle manufacturer’s United States representative has provided a letter of compliance that states the vehicle complies with all United States EPA regulations. Generally, EPA only accepts compliance information from the manufacturer’s United States or Canadian representative
The Canadian vehicle is not identical to a United States certified version, in which case you’ll need to do a lot more work, and likely pay a lot more money.
Even if the EPA agrees that your vehicle is the same version as ones certified in the U.S., another agency, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, might require a letter of compliance from the manufacturer.
You’ll also need to contact the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Check out its FAQ on the subject for more information.
Once you have the necessary paperwork in hand, you’ll have to pay a duty unless the vehicle was made in Canada.
U.S. Duty fees for vehicles manufactured outside Canada
Motorcycles: either free or 2.4%
There are different rules if you’re importing the vehicle for reasons other than to use as your new day-to-day ride. For example, if you’re bringing the vehicle in the U.S. to take part in races or plan on only having the car in the U.S. for less than year, you might not have to pay the same fees. Check with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency for the latest rules.
The website EZborder Crossing offers a few tips, summarized below, that might help:
Once you choose a car to buy
Contact the vehicle’s manufacturer for a letter confirming your vehicle meets the required U.S. safety and emission standards. The letter needs to note the Vehicle Identification Number
If the letter states minor changes are needed, your option is to get an authorized dealer to make the fixes and then show the invoice to U.S. Customs
If the vehicle needs major work or doesn’t meet U.S. regulations, you might have to contract a commercial importer – however, this will be pricey.
Crossing the border
Make sure you have the bill of sale listing you as the owner.
You’ll also need the statement showing the origin of the vehicle, the title and the Vehicle Information Number.
You’ll need to pay GST but not PST. The GST will be refunded later. Make sure to clean the undercarriage as the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires it to be inspected to ensure you’re not packing any foreign soil across the border.
When you get home, make sure you have insurance and that the vehicle is registered with your state’s Department of Transportation.
Remember, this is just a quick guide. Make sure you check with your premium auto dealer for help with all the details.