It is not unusual to consider buying a car from Canada and bringing it into the United States, especially with the recent strengthening of the Canadian dollar over the US dollar. However, although your car from Canada is very easy and may save you money, bringing the car into the US is another process in itself.
The simplest way to buy a car in Canada and bring it over to the United States is to make sure your car meets US standards, 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, but some conditions and rules must be followed. Whatever your reasons may be for importing, this article will offer tips for the best possible ways to bring your car into the US successfully.
Factors to Consider Before Bringing a Car from Canada to the US
As Live About says, you just can’t buy and drive a used vehicle from Canada into the US.
As nice it would be to be able to buy your car in Canada and then drive the car back via the US/Canadian border without worrying about all the import shenanigans, US laws demand absolute compliance to import laws and regulations.
Listed below are the guidelines you have to meet to qualify for entry and the process you have to go through to bring your Canadian car into the US.
Ensure Your Car Meets EPA Standards
Before you make your move, one of the most important things you have to do is make sure your car meets the United States’ EPA standards. 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 be best 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 vehicle use and importation in your state. Moreover, rules on emissions are subject to change, so it is advisable to always get updated information from the agencies involved before taking this 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.
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, you will need to prove that your Canadian car meets US safety standards if it is less than 25 years old when entering 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 US’s federal motor vehicle safety standards. 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.
Have 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, 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.
Clean the Car’s Undercarriage
According to US Customs and Border Protection, you need to make sure your vehicle’s undercarriage is clean before passing 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.
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.
Also, expect to pay a 2.5 percent duty of your car’s purchase value when you get to customs.
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, after that, drive it without any worry.
Who Can Bring a Car into the United States?
Basically, anyone can bring a vehicle into the US if the car is for personal use. However, such a car has to comply with US EPA emissions and federal DOT safety standards as outlined above. Otherwise, a US Department of Transportation Registered Importer must import the vehicle.
Factors That Can Prevent You from Bringing Your Car into the US
A few situations 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.
Final Tips to Keep in Mind
You will find the following final tips useful during your vehicle’s import process from Canada to the US:
- 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.