It is not unusual to consider buying a car from Canada and bringing into the United States, especially with the recent strengthening of the Canadian dollar over the United States dollar. Buying your car from Canada is very easy and may save you money, but bringing the car into the US is another thing entirely. 

Can I buy a Car from Canada and bring it to the US?  The simplest way to buy a car in Canada and bring it over to the United States is to make sure your car meets up with US standard, follow the rules and regulations guiding US importation, provide proof of ownership and all car documents and then bring the car over either through the border or via shipping.

Apart from the above, there are other factors to consider before deciding to buy your car from Canada and bringing it to the US. Buying your car in Canada might save you money. Apart from the cost bringing it over, there are also conditions and rules that must be followed strictly. Whatever your reasons maybe for importing, this article gives you the best possible ways of bringing your car into the United States. 

Factors to Consider Before Bring a Car from Canada to the US

 “You Can’t Just Buy and Drive a Used Vehicle from Canada into the U.S.”

From how-to-import-a-used-car-from-canada

Admittedly, it would have been very nice to just buy your car in Canada and then drive the car back via the US/Canadian border without worrying apart all the import shenanigans. However, US laws demand absolute compliance to import laws and regulations. Otherwise, you can just leave your car in Canada. Listed below are the factors you have to meet to qualify for entry and the process you have to go through to bring your car into the US.

1. Ensure Your Car Meets EPA standards

Before you make your move, one of the most important things you have to do is to make sure your car meets the EPA standards of the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Air Act requires that all imported vehicles meet current US standards for air pollution. Before crossing the border, you will have to fill out EPA Form 3520-1 and prove that your vehicle meets the environmental standards. 

It will better, if you check your State’s environment and emissions standards for cars, because each state has different rules. You may have to get this information from the agency that controls vehicles use and importation in your state. Moreover, rules on emissions and duty are subject to change, so it is advisable to always get updated information from the agencies involved before taking the step. 

NOTE: EPA regulations only apply to vehicles that are 21 years old or newer at the time of entry into the United States. If your car is older than 21 years and has not been modified from its original state, your Canadian registration will satisfy the EPA requirements. Another exception to this is if the car has been modified for use by a disabled person.

2. Make Sure Your Car Meets US NHTSA Standards

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has specific requirements for imported vehicles. To bring your car into the United States, and you will need to prove that your Canadian car meets US safety standards if it is less than 25 years old at the time of entry into the United States. According to the NHTSA’s Vehicle Import Guidelines for Canada, you will need the following items to import your car:

The car must have a label from the original manufacturer certifying that it meets the federal motor vehicle safety standards of the US. You can find this label inside the driver’s side door.

You must also have a letter from the original manufacturer stating that the vehicle complies with these standards. The letter should be on official letterhead and reference the vehicle’s VIN.

3. Proof of Ownership

You will need to prove that you own the car you are bringing into the US. The proof of ownership includes all documents related to the vehicle, proof of your insurance, bill of sale, and registration in Canada etc. In addition, you’ll need to prove the ownership of any parts that you might have added to the car since you purchased it- A receipt will suffice for this. 

4. Clean the Car’s Undercarriage

According to US Customs and Border Protection, you need to make sure your vehicle’s undercarriage is clean before you pass through Customs. The US Department of Agriculture requires that all imported vehicles be free of foreign soil. Stop by a car wash immediately before Customs. If you are shipping your car, have the undercarriage cleaned before shipment.

5. Go Through Customs

After you’ve assembled the EPA and NHTSA forms and proof of ownership, it’s time to go through Customs. You’ll need Customs and Border Protection Form 7501. You can fill this form out ahead of time to save time at the border, or a Customs officer can help you with the form if you have all of your other paperwork in order.

Note: Be sure to request a copy of your approved form for your records. This will be necessary for registering your car.

6. Expect to Pay Duty

Expect to pay a 2.5 percent duty on the purchase value of your car when you get to customs. 

7. Register Your Vehicle in the US

This is the final step in the process of bringing your car from Canada into the United States. After reaching your destination, the next step is to register your car in your state. The US Customs and Border Protection Form 7501 you collected earlier will be needed here to complete the registration process. You will have to pay a registration fee to your state, the amount varies depending on the type of vehicle and the state. After registration, you will be issued new license plates.  This means you successfully brought your car into the United States and can thereafter use without any worry.

Who can bring a car into the United States?

Basically, anyone can bring a vehicle into the U.S. if the car is for personal use.  Though such a car has to comply with US EPA emissions and federal DOT safety standards as outlined above. Otherwise, a U.S. Department of Transportation Registered Importer must import the vehicle.

Factors that can prevent you from bringing your car into the US

There are a few situations that may prevent you from bringing your car into the US after buying from Canada. These factors include, but may not be limited to the following:

  • The car you want to bring in doesn’t meet the EPA regulations for emissions.
  • The car wasn’t manufactured according to US NHTSA standards.
  • Your car is a salvage car tagged ‘irreparable’.
  • There is no clear proof of ownership.

Important Tips 

You will find the following tips useful during your import process:

  • It is important to remember that the dashboard speedometer in your car has kilometers per hour in a larger font than the miles per hour, while US roadways list speed limits in miles per hour when driving. 
  • If you’re going to ship your car, it is better not to load it with your possessions. This is to prevent breakage during the inspection. It is also likely to slow down the import process.
  • You will need to declare your household items at the Customs if you are driving across the border.