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      03-10-2010, 01:55 AM   #1
First Lieutenant

Drives: 2013 X6 50i
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: toronto

iTrader: (1)

Exclamation Steps to import a car from the USA.

I've been getting quite a few PMs on this and since people couldnt locate my post in one of the other threads, I thought I would dedicate a new thread to it.

With the Canadian $ doing so well and BMW Canada being a little more relaxed with their requirements, it's become less difficult to import used cars. Not to mention, they are pretty damn cheap in the US.

here were the steps I took:

- found car ad online (ebay, actually)
- do as MUCH research as you can: carfax, autocheck... heck, I even Googled the VIN and found the previous owner of the car on E90post simply because he wrote his VIN number down in a vehicle order/tracking thread back in 2007! What are the friggin chances? Helped me out big time because I found out he really took care of the car and was the only owner.
- start talking with dealer
- drove to Cleveland to check out the car
- the dealership let me take it out for a few hours and drive it and have inspected.
- to my luck, there was a Firestone center just down the road that does free used car inspections and they checked my car out for free and said its in beautiful shape!
- went back to dealership and struck a deal. this basically involves leaving some form of deposit and then coming back and wiring them the money. if you have the money and go down with a check or bank draft/money order, I'm sure that works too.

Once your deal is done, before your new car gets on a flatbed for shipping to Canada or before you go down and drive it up, make sure you get insurance for it! The last thing you want is the car damaged in transit and you'll be SOL.

Depending on where you buy from there are lots of automobile transport companies who will bring your car to you. If you go with a bonded carrier who brings the car all the way to you in Canada, it will cost more. I bought my car in Cleveland and had an auto transport company bring it to me in the Town of Niagara (on the US side). It only costed me $400 as opposed to the $900 it would have cost if I got Hansens, a popular Canadian bonded carrier to bring the car through the border and to my home in Toronto. Depends on your schedule and time. I had the time to go down to Niagara which is right across the border and meet the carrier there to take my car, so that's what i did. If you do this, see my notes below on getting the temporary permit.

at this point, the importing part comes in:

- Firstly and most importantly, you have to figure out which border crossing you will bring the car through. In Ontario, there are only 2: Lewiston and Detroit. The title and bill of sale have to be faxed to the location you cross through and must be there at least 72 hours before you cross. I strongly suggest you call this office and confirm that they received your documents at least 72 hrs before you go there. Otherwise, you may end up going and coming right back. Please note, this is all you need to get across the border. NOTHING else. EDIT: the way their phone system works is that when you call, nobody will answer. Do not try to call and speak to a live person because it will not happen. You have to call them and leave a message for them to call you back and they will call you back.

- When you buy the car, if you are not having it shipped over with a carrier/broker (a bonded carrier) who can cross the border with your car, you should make sure to apply for a temporary permit with the state you are buying from. It's only $20 for this and the DEALER will do it for you. This will allow you to drive the car across the border yourself, even though it has not yet been registered in Canada and it does not have any Canadian plates. This is what I didn't do when I was there and learned from my mistake!

- When you hit the border, you go into the US vehicle export office and show them YOUR copy of the bill of sale and the title. Make sure you go there with at least 3 copies of each, because they will want some. If you go there without photocopies, you will be forced to find an office in the same building who will make a photocopy for you and well, it's just a pain in the ass to ask people because Im sure idiots ask them all day long. Dont be one of those idiots. If you forget to make copies, be nice and ask one of the customs brokers offices to make one for you. Oh yeah, you will need your passport too! An officer will come out and have a look at the car, check the VIN and then send you on your way into Canada.

- once you have cleared the US vehicle export office you will roll up to the Canadian border. Let them know you have purchased that car and they may ask you to see a bill of sale. They will then send you into the office where you will fill out a "Form 1." This form will be used later, so hang on to it. On the form you will also indicate the price you paid for the car. Don't lie, because they do audit. The attendant will give you an invoice which charges you the 6.1% import tax on the car, as well as the A/C tax and the GST on the sale price. The current day's exchange rate is used to determine the value in Canadian Dollars. Then you will go over to the cashier and pay this total amount. Again, it is: 6.1% duty, A/C tax ($100) and GST on the vehicle.

- after that is paid, you are free to go. your next step is to register the vehicle with the RIV (registrar of imported vehicles). Firstly, you have to pay the RIV fee of $206. Then, you can email or fax a copy of your "recall clearance letter" and also, you will notice on the top right corner of your FORM 1, there is a number. That number has to be provided to the RIV. I forget if I did that in the same fax via a cover letter or if I told them on the phone, but chances are I had faxed that info along with the recall clearance letter.

- IMPORTANT info on getting the recall clearance letter: you can get this from BMW Canada and they will charge you $500 for it... OR... better off, the dealer that you purchase the vehicle can get it for you for FREE. My dealer was not even a BMW dealer. It was just some used car dealer, but they called up their local BMW dealer and had it faxed over. All you have to do is before you close up the deal with your dealer, just make sure with him that he can get you a copy of this letter because without it, you can't import the car. I'm sure they will get this letter for you.

- within a day or 2 of faxing/emailing the recall clearance letter to the RIV, they will email you back with an INSPECTION FORM. If they send you this, it means that your car obviously had no recalls or work to be done to it from a recall standpoint. The inspection form is a form you can take to your local Canadian Tire along with your new car and have them inspect it. You have 45 days to get the car inspected at Canadian Tire.
They will check for basic things, including the following:

- The vehicle must bear a manufacturer's valid U.S. Statement of Compliance (SOC) label at the time of import.
- Valid alpha-numeric 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN)
- Metric speedometer and odometer labels (provided by inspection centre)
- Daytime running lights
- Child restraint tether anchorage hardware kit
- Child restraint tether anchorage point locations
- French supplementary restraint system label for airbags that require periodic maintenance
- Air bag equipped vehicles are required to have functioning air bags at the time of inspection.
- If the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle is less than 10,000 lbs. and the manufacture date is after September 1, 2007, it must be equipped with an electronic immobilizer system that meets Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) 114.[/list]
- NOTES on Canadian Tire inspection: first off, it is free! Secondly... all recent American BMWs have a metric speedometer labels. Do not let any Canadian dealers sucker you into believing you need to change the whole display or cluster to pass Canadian inspection. I have heard that many dealers try to sucker clients when they go there to attain the recall clearance letter. They will tell you that you need to change the gauge cluster to comply with Canadian laws first and only then can they give you the letter. This isn't true. Just come see my car if you don't believe me.
The cluster costs about $1500. That's why they tell you that.
Also, Daytime running lights can easily be turned on using your iDrive or the stalk. AMerican cars don't have them running by default.

-If all of the above checks out (it did for me), then you will get a stamp on your inspection form and you can now proceed to getting your safety and emissions test done and then getting your plates.

-before you go to the licensing office to get your plates, you need to get a safety and an emissions test done and present the records at the MTO. I used the local Midas guys to get mine done.

-next step is to go to the MTO and get raped. Make sure you have all your documents with you: the title, bill of sale, the emissions and safety test papers, your insurance papers and the inspection form that was stamped by the Canadian Tire. They will charge you for the plates, obviously. They will also charge you the PST for the car. The rape occurs when they charge you PST on top of the GST you already paid. I didnt really care because at the end of the day, you still end up paying less than if you buy the car in Canada.

Once you get your plates, enjoy and be safe. The process is over and you're done. I know this sounds like a lot of work but really, it isn't. I would do it again considering the savings and I know it'd be a breeze since I've done it once already. It should be even easier for you because now you have my experience to learn from.

If you need more info, the web site for the Registrar of Imported Vehicles is and you can feel free to PM me if I haven't answered any of your questions in this thread.

Hope this helps!


edit on april10/2010: i made a calculation error guys. you don't get charged PST on the GST that you paid. The amount of that you are charged PST on is the Canadian value of the car plus the $100 excise (a/c) tax. better than i thought

Last edited by jigga; 04-10-2010 at 05:21 PM.