Transport Canada defines a “vehicle” as any means of transport that is capable of being driven or drawn on roads, by any means other than muscular power exclusively, but that does not run exclusively on rails. This includes not only motor vehicles, but also recreational, camping, boat, horse and stock trailers, as well as wood chippers, generators or any other equipment mounted on rims and tires.

Before you import a vehicle into Canada, it must meet the requirements of the Canada Border Services Agency (CSBA), Transport Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Importing vehicles from the United States

Not all vehicles that are manufactured for sale in the United States can be imported into Canada. As a general rule, if the vehicle you plan to import was manufactured for sale in the U.S. and is less than 15 years old, or is a bus manufactured on or after January 1, 1971, you must find out if it qualifies for importation under Transport Canada's Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) program.

The RIV program provides an Importer checklist that you can fill in and print out to help make the process of importing your vehicle as efficient as possible.

Before you import a vehicle, you should also contact the Registrar of Imported Vehicles. This is an agency contracted by Transport Canada to administer a national program to ensure that imported vehicles are brought into compliance with Canada's safety standards.

Registrar of Imported Vehicles 
405 The West Mall, Suite 400
Toronto ON  M9C 5K7
Within North America: 1-888-848-8240 (English and French)
Outside North America: 1-416-626-6812
E-mail Address: info@riv.ca

Telephone: 1-888-848-8240 (toll-free in Canada and the United States)
                416-626-6812 (from outside Canada and the United States)

Vehicles transported back to Canada from the U.S. by commercial carrier

If you are a resident of Canada returning from the U.S. and you intend to have your vehicle delivered to Canada by commercial carrier, there are a number of issues to consider. For more information please visit the CBSA Vehicles transported back to Canada from the U.S. by commercial carrier webpage.

Arranging for the transportation of your vehicle back to Canada

To find a company to transport your vehicle, you can visit the list of CBSA-approved Free and Secure Trade Program carriers or look for carrier companies in the yellow pages of the local telephone book under "Transport Services" or "Shipping."

The carrier

The carrier transporting your vehicle must deliver an electronic report to the CBSA prior to arrival that includes specific information about the vehicle and a list of personal goods inside it. For more information, you can refer to the eManifest website and Memorandum D12-3-1.

At the Canadian border

When your vehicle arrives in Canada you can

When the vehicle and any related goods arrive in Canada, you must request their release at the CBSA office where they have been delivered.

Using an agent

If you choose not to claim your vehicle and goods yourself, you can authorize an agent to do so on your behalf. An agent may be

Note: 

An agent cannot transport the vehicle.

Authorizing the agent

The CBSA accepts any form of written authority that indicates the agent has been authorized to carry out business on behalf of another person.

Inland sufferance warehouse

If you or your agent chooses not to claim the vehicle and goods at the border, you can authorize the carrier to move the goods to an inland sufferance warehouse for clearance. The operator of the warehouse will charge you a fee for the service.

Note

If you return to live in Canada and you bring back the same vehicle you exported while working or living abroad, your vehicle may be exempt from Transport Canada's Registrar of Imported Vehicles documentation requirements. The following conditions apply:

Canadian legislation

Under Canadian legislation, returning goods to Canada after they are taken out of Canada is considered to be importing them. This includes Canadian-owned and registered vehicles that are transported to Canada by commercial carrier. Canadian goods returned to Canada are duty and tax free if they are returned to Canada without having been increased in value or improved in condition.

Repairs or alterations to your vehicle, vessel or aircraft

If you intend to have repairs or alterations made to your vehicle, vessel or aircraft outside Canada, check with the CBSA before you leave. The CBSA will no longer consider it to be Canadian-made if you increase its value, improve its condition or have it modified outside Canada. As a result, you may have to pay duty and the goods and services tax (GST) or harmonized sales tax (HST) on the entire value of the vehicle, vessel or aircraft when you bring it back.

You will not have to pay duty on the value of the repairs or alterations made to your vehicle, vessel or aircraft in the United States, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Israel or another Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement beneficiary when it is re-imported into Canada, but the GST or HST will apply.

You can make emergency repairs to your vehicle, vessel or aircraft while you are travelling outside the country to ensure your safe return to Canada, but make sure you declare the value of the repairs and replacement parts when you return to Canada with the vehicle.

Transport Canada also has requirements for vehicles that are extensively modified. For more information, contact Transport Canada's Registrar of Imported Vehicles at 1-888-848-8240.

Importing vehicles from countries other than the United States

Vehicles manufactured for sale in countries other than Canada and the United States do not comply with the requirements of Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act, cannot be altered to comply with these requirements and cannot be imported into Canada. The only exceptions to the rule are vehicles 15 years old or older and buses manufactured before January 1, 1971.

For more information, please call Transport Canada’s Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate at 1-613-998-8616.

Visitors and tourists to Canada

If you are entering Canada as a visitor, under a student visa or a work permit, or are passing through Canada on your way to another country, you can temporarily bring your vehicle to Canada for your own use. You cannot sell or dispose of the vehicle in Canada and it must be exported when the time limit of your stay has been reached. 

Taking your car into the United States

Canadians are permitted to drive in the U.S. without U.S. licence plates or a U.S. driver’s permit.

Canadians who are not residents of the U.S. may import a vehicle duty-free for personal use for up to one year if the vehicle is imported in conjunction with the owner’s arrival. Vehicles imported under this provision that do not conform to U.S. safety and emission standards must be exported within one year and may not be sold in the U.S. There is no exemption or extension of the export requirements.

Taking your car abroad

If you intend to take your own vehicle with you when you travel abroad, you may need a “Carnet de passages en douane,” which offers a guarantee to a foreign government that the vehicle identified in the Carnet, if granted temporary importation status, will be removed from the country within the time limit imposed by the respective jurisdiction. It allows free movement and unencumbered access between foreign countries. Most countries, but not all, allow this option. A Carnet is available through the Canadian Automobile Association and is valid for one year from the date of issue.

If you will be driving your car or a rental vehicle overseas, you may need an International Driving Permit, which allows you to drive internationally when it is accompanied by a valid Canadian drivers’ licence. The International Driving Permit is available through the Canadian Automobile Association.

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