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Exporting a Vehicle from the U.S. and Importing into Canada: Complete Step-by-Step Guide

Discussion in 'Settlement Issues' started by KBH, Jan 21, 2018.

  1. Hey guys,

    I am getting ready to import my car and I was really struggling to find comprehensive, up-to-date info on the complete process. It was really stressing me out, so I decided to put together a comprehensive, step-by-step guide that was up to date. There are some helpful posts on this forum, but it seems like the process has changed a little bit since those were published, so I figured something up-to-date might be helpful for everyone.

    I will note that you can import your vehicle either at the time of landing, or AFTER your landing (if you mark your car as "goods to follow" on your B4 form), but you should not import your car BEFORE you land, as importing it as part of your landing ensures you are exempt from paying duty or taxes on the car.

    Chapter 1 - Before You Export

    STEP 1
    The first thing you need to do is make sure your vehicle is admissible to Canada. You can check that here: http://www.tc.gc.ca/motorvehiclesafety/SafeVehicles/Importation/Usa/VAFUS/list2/Section3_0.htm

    STEP 2
    If you are currently financing your vehicle, you need to obtain a clearance letter from the lender stating that you have their permission to export the vehicle. Note that the majority of lenders are NOT likely to give this permission, so if that is the case, you will need to pay off your vehicle in order to obtain the title clear of liens so that you can export the car. If this is not an option, selling the car in the US and buying a new car in Canada will be the best option for you.

    STEP 3
    Research the port of entry where you plan to export your vehicle from the US. Note that not all border crossings process vehicle exports and you will need to confirm the location and hours of operation and general procedures for the port of your choice. For example, we were planning to do my landing at the Peace Bridge crossing, but discovered that the Queenston-Lewiston crossing is the only place you can export a vehicle in Western New York.

    Reach out by phone or email so you can confirm the days/times they are open to process vehicle exports and the email or fax information you will need to submit your 72 hour export notice to.

    STEP 4
    You will need to enlist the services of a customs broker to complete an AES filing for you. This filing will result in the issuance of an ITN number, which is needed to export the car. The AES is basically an electronic system where everything exported out of the US gets "logged" into, and we as average everyday citizens do not have easy access to it, which is why a customs broker has to do it. You should be able to find a broker to do this for around $50-$75. Google "AES vehicle export customs broker" and you will find lots of options. They will have you fill out some mildly confusing forms and when the filing is complete, they will issue the ITN number. Note you need this process to be completed PRIOR to giving your 72 hours export notice.

    STEP 5
    72 hours prior to export, your vehicle needs to be INSIDE the United States (and needs to stay in the U.S. from that point on until you export it). At 72 hours prior to export, submit (via email or fax depending on the instructions you got from the port of entry) your notice of intent to export. This generally will just include your VIN, the ITN number, and a note stating the day and approximate time you plan to export your vehicle.

    STEP 6
    To save time, you should complete the "Vehicle Export Form" (this is used for the Canadian part of the process) online in advance, print and bring with you to your landing. http://www.riv.ca/OnlineForms/Home/Landing


    STEP 7
    Immediately before you report to the Canadian border crossing to complete your landing and import your car, you need to complete the export at the U.S. side. (When you contact the export office in Step 3, ask them where you need to physically bring the car at the time of export).

    You will need to bring the following items:
    -Your ITN number
    -Your VIN number
    -Copy of the 72 hour notice you submitted
    -Original vehicle title showing there are no liens/loans, OR a certified copy of the title along with a letter from the lender stating it is OK for you to export the car
    -Your passport
    -Bill of sale

    Once they process the export you can report immediately to the Canadian border crossing to import your car and complete your landing.

    STEP 8
    At the Canadian border. You should have your vehicle and its VIN listed on your B4 form with all the goods you are importing, but you also need to have the Vehicle Import form mentioned in Step 6. You also need to have:

    -Any documents/receipts given to you by the US export office
    -Original vehicle title showing there are no liens/loans, OR a certified copy of the title along with a letter from the lender stating it is OK for you to export the car
    -Bill of sale

    CBSA will electronically submit your Vehicle Import form to RIV (the organization in Canada responsible for completing the process of importing your vehicle).

    Chapter 3 - IN CANADA

    STEP 9
    You have 45 days to complete the RIV process once the vehicle is in Canada. To begin this process, you need to submit a few things to RIV in order for them to release your inspection letter. Check their website for the contact information/email addresses as to where to submit this information.

    1. To speed things up you can re-submit a copy of your Vehicle Import form to RIV, even though CBSA does submit it to them also.
    2. You also need to submit a manufacturer recall clearance letter (this can be done up to 30 days in advance). http://www.riv.ca/RecallClearance.aspx
    3. Lastly, you need to pay the import fees: https://www.riv.ca/MakeAnRIVPayment.aspx

    STEP 10
    RIV will send you an inspection letter specific to your vehicle which you can use to get your vehicle inspected. The letter will list the specific modifications applicable to your vehicle that you need to make sure are completed PRIOR to your inspection. These are typically completed at the dealership. You also need to ensure your car has a US compliance label on it somewhere (it should already have this).

    STEP 11

    Once your modifications are completed, locate the RIV inspection location nearest you and bring in your car to be inspected. When the inspection is successfully complete, they will stamp your Vehicle Import Form indicating this, which is what you will bring to get your car registered and tagged. They will also send you a Canadian compliance label in the mail which you will affix to your vehicle to replace the US one.

    STEP 12
    Bring your stamped form to wherever vehicles are registered in your province (ex, Service Ontario) along with whatever other proof is required in your province (for example, drivers license, proof of insurance, bill of sale, and original title). Get your tags and you are done!


    Before you complete the final step of getting your car registered and tagged, you will need a provincial drivers license. You will need Canadian insurance policy on the car in order to get it tagged, and you will need a Canadian drivers license in order to obtain that policy, so the order should be as follows - 1) Get Canadian drivers license first (try to do this immediately after landing, for most US residents you should be able to do an instantaneous trade in of your existing US license); 2) Then get Canadian insurance policy on the car (try to set this up prior to landing so that all you have to do is submit your new Canadian drivers license info to them in order to finalize and activate the policy). Once you have the proof of insurance, you can proceed with Step 12 above.


    I really hope this is helpful and please let me know if there is anything I am missing or forgetting!
    sam512, mbaleine, Joshua2018 and 31 others like this.
  2. This is fabulous—thank you SO much!!! This whole process doesn’t seem as daunting the way you have laid it out. Thank you!
  3. This is a nice piece of information, thank you so much for sharing. I have another question. Can you just give an approximate idea of the total expenditure in the whole process of transferring the car? My vehicle is a 2007 model Honda Civic, with an approximate value of 4000 USD currently .

    Thank you !
  4. If you are importing it as part of your landing, you are exempt from duties and taxes, so the value of the car won't matter. The overall expenditure will vary GREATLY depending on what, if any, modifications you need to have done to your car (you can check out the admissibility link on my post above and it will give you a general idea of what modifications you might need).

    In general the only expenses are:

    Cost to obtain ITN: $50-$75 USD
    RIV import fee: $295 CAD
    Fees to tag and register the car: Depend on your province
    Modifications: Depend on what you need to get done

    For the most part, as long as you don't need too many modifications, the process isn't expensive, just extremely annoying. :D
    MizKat likes this.
  5. @KBH I see from your signature that you will land next month. If you have any additional tips after you export/import your vehicle, please do share! The export/import process has really got me stressed. TIA! :)
    KBH likes this.

  6. This is really great. Thank you so much!!!
  7. Hello,

    Can you let me know what is bill of sale? How can one get it?
  8. The bill of sale is essentially the receipt from the sale of the car saying how much you paid for it. If it was purchased from a dealership, they likely have it on file if you don’t have a copy. If purchased from an individual they should have given you a receipt so you would be able to register the car.
    APPNOV2014NY likes this.
  9. Thank you so much for the information. We plan on pulling our vehicle behind a rental truck. Do they physically inspect the vehicle at the border? I was just wondering because we plan on stuffing it with a bunch of clothes and stuff.
  10. They can if they want to. My car was full of stuff but CBSA agent looked inside car and let us go with expression - "I am not touching that #@#". We had like 15 small and medium boxes in the back seat :p
    Pritch52 likes this.
  11. Haha, that's awesome. I think that's what we'll do then.
  12. Did you drive your car across the border & list it on your B4 form as goods to follow or did you leave the car in the US? I'm in the process of finalizing my landing for April 15th as I start my new job on April 18th and don't have the time to deal with all this up front.

  13. I felt the same way prior to my landing, so I drove it across the border and listed it as goods to follow, but in hindsight, I WOULD NOT recommend this. They almost didn't let me do it, and for every story of someone who does this successfully, there is someone who runs into trouble. If you want your landing to go as smoothly as possible, I would recommend either importing the car at the time of landing, or leaving the car in the US until you are ready to import it.

    I will say, it really isn't too bad of a process if you are organized and follow the steps in my original post. Looking back, I definitely would have been able to get everything sorted in order to do it at the same time as my landing, but at the time I just felt too overwhelmed.
    APPNOV2014NY likes this.
  14. what were all the fees you had to pay associated with everything? my car, unfortunately, wasn't manufactured in the US so I'm worried about how much all of this is going to cost me. why can't they just give clear instructions & a calculator to help us figure this out lol

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