Transport Canada Checklist for Importers of U.S. Cars

The number of calls to Transport Canada and the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) has risen with the value of the Canadian dollar. The process for importing vehicles from the U.S. is the same now as it was prior to the rise of the Canadian dollar.

Transport Canada's Registrar of Imported Vehicles program was set up to make sure that vehicles manufactured or imported for use in Canada meet Canadian safety standards. Imported vehicles may have to be modified to meet the standards. These modifications may include daytime running lights, child tether anchorage systems and anti-theft immobilization devices.

Within 45 days of a vehicle's importation, the importer must make any required safety modifications and bring it to an authorized facility for RIV inspection. RIV maintains a network across Canada of over 500 facilities authorized to perform this federal inspection. The safety compliance status of inspected vehicles is shared with all provincial/territorial licensing jurisdictions in Canada. They will not license a vehicle that has not successfully undergone the RIV inspection.

By visiting www.riv.ca, Canadians can find out:

  • what to do before importing a vehicle,
  • what to do at the border,
  • what to do after the vehicle enters Canada,
  • what RIV fees will be applied, and
  • who to contact for vehicle import questions, including contact information for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

To be eligible for importation, vehicles must be included on Transport Canada's List of Vehicles Admissible from the United States. The list can also be found at www.riv.ca.

Before buying a vehicle in the U.S., it is best to check with RIV about the rules and process for importing one. For questions on duties and taxes on imported goods, including vehicles, prospective buyers should also contact the CBSA at 1-800-461-9999 (in Canada) or 1-506-636-5064 (outside Canada).

RIV can be reached by phone seven days a week at 1-888-848-8240 from Canada and the U.S. Another easy way to receive timely answers to questions related specifically to admissibility and modifications is by emailing info@riv.ca.

To help reduce inconvenience to Canadians who purchased a U.S. vehicle before the List of Vehicles Admissible from the U.S. was updated to reflect the compliance status of 2008 U.S. models with Canada's anti-theft immobilizer regulation, Transport Canada asked the Canada Border Services Agency to allow the entry of U.S. vehicles that don't meet the immobilizer requirement so that private importers are not stranded at the border. However, the Vehicle Import Form would clearly be marked that the vehicle is not admissible. The aim of this approach is to ensure importers can get home as opposed to encouraging the entry of inadmissible vehicles. They will not be permitted to plate their vehicle, and this procedure is not a guarantee that the vehicle will be allowed permanent importation and licensing in Canada.

November 2007

Date modified: