One of the questions I get over and over again on my blog is how to import your car from Canada to USA. There’s not a lot of information online and it’s not super clear on what it is you need to do.
So I thought I would share our experience in case it can be helpful for anyone else trying to do the same thing. I do advise checking the rules of your state for exact info as I am not a professional. Once we imported our car, it was a permanent import.
Here’s what we did…
1) Get A Compliance Letter
Does your car meet US safety standards? This is the very first question you need to ask. We drive a 2007 Honda FIT and were advised to call Honda customer service to get a letter stating that our car meets US safety standards. Our car did meet the criteria and we were sent a US compliance letter within one week to our address in the US.
What do you do if your vehicle does not comply with US standards? From my understanding, you will have a hard time importing it. They may even ask you to make modifications through a registered importer that will run you a couple thousand dollars.
In this case, you might be better off selling your car in Canada and leasing when you get to the USA. Which is why I suggest getting the compliance letter as far in advance as possible before your move so you can decide what you want to do with your car.
2) Smog Test
Does your state require you to get a smog test? If so, make sure you do this ahead of time before you import your car officially. In California, we did have to do this. So double-check as the rules are different in each state.
3) Import at the Border
If you’re immigrating at a ground crossing, you can choose to import your car at the border with your corresponding letter. Make sure you have the title, registration and all paperwork related to your car ready to go. You can also go to the border early and import your car before your big move so it’s taken care of ahead of time.
4) Go to a Port
If you choose not to import your car at the border, I believe you have up until a year to import your car. We chose this option and had to go to our closest port for the import process. From Los Angeles, we had to go to Long Beach to fill out some paperwork. Call US customs if you’re not sure where to go.
5) Pay the Taxes + Duties
You will pay a percentage on the value of your car based on the Kelly Blue Book Price. I think our tax + duties were around $500, less then 10% on our 2007 Honda FIT.
6) Insuring Your Car
We also had no problem getting insurance with our Canadian plates. Our insurance was based on our VIN #, not our plates in California. We also used our Canadian insurance for the first few months when we arrived here. So I would advise you call your Canadian company to see what kind of coverage they will provide you in the US. Then, be very clear with your US insurance person that you have Canadian plates – and see if there is an issue with that in your state.
If you’re looking for more information or experience from other expats that have tried to import their car from Canada to the USA, you can check out the comments in this thread on tips for moving from Canada to the USA. Good luck!
What was your experience in importing your car from Canada to the USA?