If you plan on importing a vehicle into Canada from the United States, you should be aware that it must comply with all Canadian import laws and meet the requirements of the CBSA, Transport Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency before it can be imported.
The information contained in this section only covers Vehicles that were originally manufactured for sale in the US market. If you require information on importing vehicles that were not manufactured for sale in the United States or importing vehicles from non-US countries, we suggest you view the publication Importing a Vehicle into Canada at the CBSA website.
Definition of a “Vehicle”
Transport Canada defines a vehicle as any vehicle that is capable of being driven or drawn on roads, by any means other than muscular power exclusively, but not including a vehicle designed to run exclusively on rails. Trailers, such as recreational, camping, boat, horse and stock trailers, are considered vehicles, as are wood chippers, generators or any other equipment mounted on rims and tires.
Vehicles include any kind of pleasure vehicles such as passenger cars, pickup trucks, camper trucks, vans, Jeeps, chassis cabs, motorcycles, snowmobiles and motor homes, as long as you use them for noncommercial purposes. However, you should be aware that Transport Canada has many requirements that apply to vehicles.
Vehicles manufactured for sale in the United States less than 15 years old
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 United States and is less than 15 years old, you need to find out if it qualifies for importation under Transport Canada’s Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) program.
Where there is no information concerning a current model year (2009), you must contact the manufacturer to determine if the vehicle is admissible or inadmissible.
The RIV program is responsible for ensuring that qualifying vehicles are modified, inspected and certified to meet Canadian safety standards. We suggest you contact the RIV at the telephone number provided at the end of this section.
The RIV program regulates passenger cars, jeeps, vans, trucks, chassis cabs, trailers, motorcycles, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles less than 15 years old, as well as buses manufactured after January 1, 1971.
If your vehicle qualifies to be imported to Canada, you must register it in the RIV program when you report to the CBSA office upon arrival in Canada. You must also pay the RIV registration fee and any customs and other import assessments that may apply. You then have 45 days to have the necessary changes made to your vehicle (at your own cost) and have it inspected. For more information on vehicle import requirements and a detailed vehicle import checklist, visit our sections entitled Import Requirements and Vehicle Import Checklist.
You are not allowed to license your vehicle in Canada until the vehicle is modified and passes the federal inspection from the RIV. It is a good idea to call the RIV at the number listed in the Helpful Contacts section at the bottom of this page before importing your vehicle to ensure that the vehicle qualifies under the RIV program.
Vehicles exempt from the RIV program
You can import a vehicle from the United States without registering it in the RIV program if the following applies:
- The vehicle is fifteen years old or older (excludes buses);
- The vehicle is a bus manufactured before January 1, 1971;
- The vehicle was originally manufactured and certified to meet Canadian safety standards. These vehicles are imported by either importers authorized by Transport Canada or by former residents of Canada returning to live in Canada who are bringing back the same vehicle they exported;
- The vehicle is entering Canada temporarily. Five types of temporary imports exist:
- vehicles imported by visitors for a period not exceeding 12 months, temporary residents such as students studying at an institution of learning for the duration of their studies in Canada, or individuals with valid work permits/ authorizations for employment for a period not exceeding 36 months;
- vehicles imported by diplomats, if written authorization has been granted from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, for the length of the diplomat’s posting in Canada;
- vehicles imported by visiting forces personnel for the length of their assignment in Canada;
- vehicles imported by U.S. pre clearance personnel and their dependents for the length of the U.S. officer’s posting in Canada; and
- vehicles imported for demonstration, exhibition, evaluation, testing or special purposes. If the vehicle is imported by a Canadian resident, the importer must submit written authorization from Transport Canada for this type of import.
Restrictions on temporary importing
You may not sell or otherwise dispose of vehicles in Canada that are temporarily imported under one of these conditions, and the vehicle can only remain in Canada for the duration of the individual’s permitted stay.
If the temporary status of the person temporarily importing the vehicle change while in Canada, the vehicle must be either permanently imported, if it qualifies, or exported.
If you buy, lease, rent or borrow a vehicle while outside Canada, Transport Canada and customs legislation does not allow you to bring it into Canada for your personal use, even temporarily, unless it meets all Transport Canada requirements and you pay the duties and federal taxes that apply. For exceptions please consult Memorandum D2-4-1, Temporary Importation of Conveyances by Residents of Canada, and Memorandum D8-1-1, Temporary Importation, which are available on the CBSA’s Web site at http://www.cbsa.gc.ca/. You can also call BIS at one of the telephone numbers listed in the Helpful Contacts section located at the end of this page.
Vehicles leased in the United States
If you intend to lease a vehicle in the United States, you should read the lease agreement carefully to ensure you are allowed to bring the car back to Canada. In addition, you should contact your lending institution, the leasing company, your insurance agent, CBSA and the RIV in Canada prior to entering into any lease agreement to determine whether bringing your leased vehicle to Canada is permissible, and what requirements, if any apply.
I cannot import my vehicle
If you arrive at a CBSA office and your vehicle does not meet the requirements of both the CBSA and Transport Canada, you must either export or destroy your vehicle under the supervision of CBSA, and you will be responsible for all the related costs.
Border Information Services (BIS) & Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
If you have any questions, you can contact the CBSA’s Border Information Services (BIS) line. This is a 24-hour telephone service that automatically answers all incoming calls and provides general border services information.
Toll-free in Canada: 1-800-461-9999
Outside Canada: 204-983-3500 or 506-636-5064 (long-distance charges apply)
Web site: http://www.cbsa.gc.ca/
If you call during regular business hours Monday to Friday (except holidays), from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (local time), you can speak directly with an agent by pressing “0″ at any time.
Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV)
(For Vehicles manufactured for sale in the United States)
405 The West Mall
Hours of service:
Mon. to Fri.: 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight (EST)
Sat. and Sun.: 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST)
(For Vehicles manufactured for sale in the United States & all other Vehicles)
Road Safety and Motor Vehicle
Place de Ville, Tower C, 8th floor
330 Sparks Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0N5
Telephone: 1-800-333-0371 (in Canada and the U.S.), 613-998-8616 (all other countries)
Web site: http://www.tc.gc.ca/
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
For information about Canadian Food Inspection Agency requirements, contact one of the following Import Service Centres (ISC):
Eastern ISC (Quebec and Atlantic)
7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (local time)
Telephone: 1-877-493-0468 (in Canada and the U.S.), 514-493-0468 (all other countries)
Central ISC (Ontario)
7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. (local time)
Telephone: 1-800-835-4486 (in Canada and the U.S.), 416-661-3039 (all other countries)
Western ISC (Prairies and British Columbia)
7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. (local time)
Telephone: 1-888-732-6222 (in Canada and the U.S.), 604-666-9240 (all other countries)
Web site: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/