Importing cars from the United States

An excerpt from an email I exchanged with another Porsche enthusiast about importing vehicles to Canada. Specifically, he was interested in importing a Porsche (996 911 Carrera S) from the United States into Canada, and asked if I could explain the process to him. The following is not meant to represent any official method, but rather summarizes the knowledge I gained while importing my Turbo. It might be of use to Canadians seeking to import older or newer vehicles from the United States, or more generally it might help anyone considering importing a vehicle.

My response to his email (and his questions) is as follows:

… Now I must ask, are you buying the car from a dealership? It’s usually best to buy a car from a dealership, because there is going to be some paperwork that a private sale generally won’t get you.

Two key documents you’re going to get are a Bill of Sale and the Title document. The former is simply a written contract which states what the car is, how much you paid, etc – a typical bill of sale. The latter is an official legal document which is issued to you by the dealership in question, obtained from the state government in question. Both documents are critical because you cannot cross US customs without them.

You will also need other documents, because your 996 will have to comply with the RIV (Registrar of Imported Vehicles). I don’t know the specifics for the RIV (as I did not have to comply with their regulations) but I know that you need the bill of sale, the title, registration, as well as a recall clearance letter from a Porsche dealership. The recall clearance letter must come from a Porsche dealership or from PCNA, and it must have the manufacturers (in this case Porsche’s) logo on the letter head. For information on the RIV, you should go to www.riv.ca for specific details.

Also, I am 99% sure your car is eligible for import, but to be on the safe side you should check with Transport Canada’s list of eligible vehicles: http://www.riv.ca/english/US_vehicle_admissibility.pdf
After a quick read I see that your car indeed is eligible – “ALL 1999 TO 2007 MODELS”.

This is where things can get a bit complicated, and this is why I hired Mackie Moving Systems to assist me, as I will explain below.

With regard to the RIV I was never 100% sure on the exact process, but I understand that you must retrieve two forms, Form 1 and Form 2, somewhere along the line. See below. That information is available at the RIV website, which outlines the entire process and provides a 1 800 number if you wish to speak with a human being as well.

If you plan to drive the car across the border yourself – which I recommend against – you’ll need to contact the United States border (the specific border you plan to cross at) and fax them a copy of the Bill of Sale and the Title document 72 hours prior to crossing the border. You will also have to obtain a temporary license in the state you buy the car from, and insurance, which is a process I am entirely ignorant of.

You must also be sure to obtain the actual Bill of Sale and Title document (the original copy) which you will have to present to the US customs border crossing. You will also have to complete Form 1 (as provided by the CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) – that document can be found on the RIV website I believe. You also have to pay $195.00 + GST to the RIV at the border, according to the RIV website.

However (this is where I’m going to plug Mackie Moving Systems), hiring a company to manage the paperwork, although slightly more expensive, will save you a lot of headaches, and allow for pickup of your car if you are unable, unwilling, or just don’t want to take the risk of getting it yourself. I hired Mackie to pick up my car in Pennsylvania, and the process is extremely easy with their help. If you are interested in more information about Mackie just PM me back, and I can send you pictures of my 944 Turbo being loaded on a Mackie truck as well.

You’ll also have to pay some tax at the border. You have to pay an excise tax for having air conditioning, normal GST, as well as other border fees. The RIV has some of the information and recommends calling various government border service agencies.

Once the vehicle has cleared Canadian customs you can take it home and in a few days you’ll receive Form 2 from the RIV, which outlines the process of enabling your vehicle to comply with Federal standards.

You will have to have two inspections, a Federal inspection which the government has contracted with Canadian Tire, and a Provincial inspection (which can also be done at Canadian tire) to allow you to license your car in the Province you live in. The Federal inspection must be completed within 45 days of the car entering the country. You’re best to do it as soon as possible, just to get it over with.

Don’t automatically assume that your vehicle will pass both inspections with flying colors simply because it is new and is a Porsche. Depending on your Province, your Provincial inspecting might be stricter than the American inspections – such is the case in Saskatchewan, which has the toughest inspection standards. Normally you will fail on small things such as running lights, but I suspect that your 996 will pass. Just be aware that you might have to deal with hidden costs to actually license it.

After you pass both inspections, it’s simply a matter of taking your various documents and certificates to your licensing branch, and you’re done. Depending on the tax you’ve probably saved yourself a lot of money! If you have any more questions, or questions about Mackie Moving Systems, feel free to contact me again. I’m more than willing to help out a fellow Porsche lover with more than his fair share of questions and concerns!

Note: The post specifically pertains to cars which are newer than 15 years – which subsequently must comply with the RIV (as described above). If you are considering a car older than 15 year (as was the case with my Turbo), take comfort knowing you are not required to comply with the RIV, and thus the process is significantly easier and less expensive. You will only require the Bill of Sale and Title document for crossing the border, and will also only require a Provincial inspection in the Province you plan to license the car in.


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