9 Steps To Importing A Vehicle Into Canada From The U.S.

Importing a vehicle to Canada is regulated by several different government agencies, importing a vehicle tends to be a multistage process.

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 trailers, horse and stock trailers, as well as wood chippers, generators or any other equipment mounted on rims and tires requiring a human operator to be on board.

Whether you are importing a commercial or a recreational vehicle from the United States into Canada, the steps below will help you avoid having the vehicle refused entry, delays at the border, and possible penalties with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

We have broken the complex process of importing a vehicle into Canada into nine major steps:

1. Ensure Vehicle Admissibility Before Importing It To Canada From The U.S.

Your vehicle must meet the requirements of all 5 of these organizations:

  1. Canada Border Services Agency
  2. Transport Canada
  3. Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  4. Environment and Climate Change Canada
  5. U.S. Customs Border Protection
Check Vehicle Admissibility


Once you have determined that it does, then it must be on Transport Canada's list of admissible vehicles and successfully pass the Registrar of Imported Vehicles inspection before it can be imported. If your vehicle is not admissible, importing the vehicle into Canada could be a costly disappointment.

For example:

Before you import a vehicle, you need to contact the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV). The RIV 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.

We recommend you verify with the RIV whether the vehicle is admissible into Canada. Inquire about the RIV program, vehicle admissibility, RIV exemptions, recall clearance information, vehicle modification requirements and vehicle branding history. It does sound like a lot, so use this checklist to help you with the process to import a vehicle if you are doing it yourself importer check list.

2. Meet Documentation Requirements For Importing A Vehicle To Canada

Ensure you have the required documents for RIV,  U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency, below is a list of that documentation:

  • Original Title, Manufacturer's Statement of Origin or Certificate of Origin (front and back). Should your vehicle not be required to have one of the these documents, then you must provide a Certificate of No Title
  • Bill of Sale
  • Recall clearance letter (U.S. only)
  • NAFTA, if applicable (commercial U.S. imports only)
  • Copies of the Export Certificate and Invoices (in English or French), if export location is other than the U.S.
  • Manufacturer's statement of compliance affixed to the vehicle
  • EPA label affixed to the vehicle

3. File AES Before Giving 72 Hour Notice Of Export

Effective October 2, 2014, the US Census Bureau has added an export filing requirement on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Automated Export System (AES). The AES must be filed prior to the 72-hour notice. An EIN or IRS or Duns Number from the seller will be required along with the worksheet attached to file the AES.

AES filing for self-propelled ride on equipment is mandatory. AES filing must be handled by a resident U.S domiciled company. A customs broker, freight forwarder or United States Principal Party in Interest (USPPI) can file the AES declaration.

Mandatory AES Filing For Used Vehicles Exported To Canada

Once the AES is accepted, an Internal Transaction Number (ITN) number will be issued. The ITN number must accompany the request to start the 72-hour export notice with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Get An AES And 72 Hour Notice Quote

4. Submit Required Documents To CBP 72 Hours Prior To Export

In order to complete the process of importing a vehicle to Canada from the U.S., the required documentation must be submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)  at least 72 hours prior to export.

Assuming your documentation above is accurate and complete, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official will begin the export checks which are completed within 72 hours of receipt (Exports are usually Monday to Friday, excluding holidays. However, please contact the customs office where you plan to cross, directly, to verify their hours of operation).

Note: At the time of exit from the U.S, the owner/agent of the vehicle must supply the vehicle and original documents to U.S. Customs at the port of export in person.

Tip: Confirm the U.S. port being used, and ensure that the desired port allows for vehicle export processing.

You will need to provide:

  • Individual Tax Number (ITN #)
  • U.S. Customs vehicle export worksheet
  • Copy of Bill of Sale
  • Copy of Vehicle Title (front and back), Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO) or certified copy of the same from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you are bringing in a salvage vehicle, you must supply a copy of the Salvage Title. If the Title is not in your name, then the seller must sign as the seller and the buyer must appear as the buyer on the Title. Partial submissions are not allowed.
  • Vehicles not requiring a Title - If you are exporting equipment that does not require a Title, you must complete the "No Title Required" Addendum.
Purchasing A Vehicle In The USA?

5. Meet CFIA Requirements

The following are subject to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) import requirements, and inspection procedures and fees in order to prevent the entry and establishment of injurious plant pests in Canada:

  • used agricultural vehicles, equipment, implements, containers, and carriers;
  • used earth moving vehicles, equipment,implements, tools, carriers and containers;
  • used passenger and recreational vehicles; and
  • used military equipment.

Regardless of its origin, imported used vehicles, farm equipment and related earth moving vehicles and equipment must be free from soil, sand, earth, plant residue, manure and related debris. Many exotic plant pest organisms capable of causing economic loss to Canadian agricultural production can be transported in soil and related matter.

The How To's: Importing A Vehicle Into Canada

6. Submit Required Documents To CBSA At The First Point Of Entry Into Canada

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) office at the point of entry will process the import of your vehicle into Canada.

  • The Importer can declare the goods in person at the first point of entry upon arrival or;
  • The Importer can arrange for an agent to act on their behalf

The required documentation includes:

  • Bill of Sale
  • Title
  • Transport Canada Vehicle Import Form 1 (if using a customs broker, then this is reported in the EDI entry)
  • Form B3 (for commercial) or Form B15 (for personal) – to account for any applicable duties or tax such as a possible 6.1% duty if the car is manufactured outside the USA, GST payable at the time of import. Excise Tax on air conditioning of $100.00 CAD, and the possible green levy anywhere between $1,000.00 to $4,000.00 CAD depending on the vehicle.
  • Please Note: HST or PST portions are payable at time of registration (step 8 in this guide)

7. Pay RIV Registration Fee

Once your vehicle has been imported into Canada, contact the RIV and pay the registration fee. You can pay the RIV fee by cheque, money order, credit or debit card:

In person/By Mail:

The Registrar of Imported Vehicles
500 - 405 The West Mall
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M9C 5K7

Hours: Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm EST

Check or Money Order (Copy of the Form 1 or Case# must be included with payment)

By online payment: www.riv.ca (Visa, MasterCard or American Express)

Instructions for Online Payments:

After you have finished importing a vehicle to Canada and made your online payment, you must forward a Customs stamped copy of your form 1 to RIV. You can either fax: 1-888-346-8235 or email info@riv.com.

If using a Customs Broker: After you have finished importing a vehicle to Canada you will receive an email from the RIV stating the vehicle has been reported to CBSA and has entered Canada. This email contains a link for you to follow to pay your RIV fees. The email will come from support@riv.ca and will go to which ever email address you have given your customs broker to report.

Register of Imported vehicles (RIV) also requires "NO Recall" information (not required for trailers) from the original vehicle manufacturer, or a computerized vehicle history report indicating no recall info.

RIV will not accept a letter on a dealership letterhead. Forward this information by faxing to 1-888-642-9899 or email to recall@riv.ca.

When forwarding your no recall information, you must quote your Form 1 number. It will take 72 hours to process your Form 2, for inquiries regarding your Form 2 or if you wish RIV to fax or email your Form 2 to you, please call 1-888-848-8240. Press 1, then press 2 and a RIV Representative will answer. Have your case number, which is the same as your Form 1 number. If further assistance is required, please contact Pacific Customs Brokers Ltd. Surrey, British Columbia.

Current Fees For Registering A U.S. Imported Vehicle In The RIV Program

Vehicles Entering the RIV program with a Vehicle Import Form - Form 1:

  • $310.00 + GST and QST for vehicles entering through a border crossing in Quebec
  • $310.00 + GST/HST for vehicles entering through a border crossing in any other province

Tip: Do not forget to include a copy of the recall letter if required

RIV Exemptions:

Vehicles are exempt from the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) registration if they are imported under one of the following conditions:

  • Commercial Importation - Importer is listed on the list of recognized vehicle importers with Transport Canada
  • Non-Commercial Importation – New Canadian vehicle bearing a valid Canadian compliance label. The manufacturer of the vehicle must be listed with Transport Canada
  • Canadian certified vehicle being returned to Canada by original owner
  • Vehicles older than 15 years
  • Vehicle entered for exhibition, demonstration, testing, evaluation, or special purposes (Sch VII required)
  • Visitor, tourist, or a person holding a valid work permit or student visa
  • Work vehicle (A work vehicle is defined as one used primarily for civil engineering construction and maintenance, that is not built on a truck or truck-type chassis. This does not include a tractor or any vehicle designed to be drawn behind another vehicle).

Transport Canada will issue the Importer a Form 2 after all the fees have been paid to RIV and the No Recall information as well as Form 1 are received at RIV.

Looking To Import A Vehicle Into The U.S.? Import A Vehicle Into The U.S. In 3 Steps

8. Pass Inspection And Registration

The original Form 1 and Form 2, along with the vehicle, must now be taken to an approved inspection facility within 45 days of import. Once inspected, your Form 2 will be stamped and the vehicle will be ready for registration.

Take your stamped Form 2, original Bills of Sale, original Title, and B3 or B15 from Canada Customs to your local licensing/registration office, pay your HST/PST, and drive away!

9. Keep Records On File

Last but not the least, when importing a vehicle to Canada do not forget to keep a record on file. All records of importation must be kept on file with the importer for six years.

As you can see, importing a vehicle is a complex process. This article contains general guidelines and information pertaining to the CBSA administration of the Transport Canada import requirements. If you were ever to consider the services of a customs broker, we recommend doing so when importing a vehicle to Canada. A customs broker can help ensure that your vehicle meets the import requirements, avoid any costly delays and penalties at the border and assist with the transportation of your vehicle.

For more information or should you require assistance in importing a vehicle, contact Pacific Customs Brokers. Our import specialists can make this process simple and handle your next vehicle import for you. Use the form below to both inquire about the vehicle shipping services we offer or assistance with your import. 

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About Author
Cherie Storms
CCS , CTCS, CBSA Professional Designate

Cherie Storms is the Operations Manager with Pacific Customs Brokers, Canada with over 15 years in international trade operations and regulatory experience. After she joined the company in 2007 she has become an Executive Board Member for the Canadian Customs Brokers Society, BC Region, and was invited to speak at the Women in Transportation Annual General Meeting in 2010 regarding her experience with running the international logistics efforts of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Cherie is also a member of CCB's National Commercial Operations and eManifest Committee. In September of 2018, Cherie became a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadain Society of Customs Brokers. Cherie has spoken at many seminars on the importance of trade compliance and is currently enrolled in the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Business Management Program with the goal of becoming an international trade lawyer.

While we strive for accuracy in all our communications, as the Importer of Record it is incumbent upon your company to ensure that you are aware of the requirements under the new regulations so that you maintain compliance as always.