Review of the 15-Year Exclusion for Imported Vehicles

Considerations Prompting the Review of the Age Threshold for Exclusion from CMVSS

The Provincial and Territorial authorities requested, via the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) that Transport Canada review the age limit exclusion for the prescribed classes of vehicles that can be imported without needing to comply with Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). Given the substantial recent increase in the importation of vehicles over 15 years old, the provincial and territorial authorities have been seeing more of these imported older vehicles being used on their roads. The authorities are questioning whether the safety of the travelling public is being compromised as these vehicles are excluded from having to comply with the CMVSS. Since the year 2000, the number of vehicles over 15 years old imported into Canada has increased significantly, with annual levels of 16,000 to 17,000 vehicles. Transport Canada initiated a statistical analysis to ascertain the number and type of vehicles in that age group that are being imported, as well as their representation in collisions and other types of road safety issues. A research paper completed by Transport Canada entitled "Study on the Effect of Vehicle Age and the Importation of Vehicles 15 Years and Older on the Number of Fatalities, Serious Injuries and Collisions in Canada" was presented at the Canadian Multidisciplinary Road Safety Conference XVI in June 2006. Proceedings are available through the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals at

Safety Standards: Ensuring the Safety of Canadians

Canadian and U.S. safety regimes are among the most stringent in the world and have resulted in significant safety gains (reduced casualties) since the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA) enactment in 1971. The CMVSS address three major aspects in vehicle safety, namely “crash avoidance”, “crash worthiness” and “occupant protection”. Each of these involves performance-based standards that can be verified only through dynamic and usually destructive testing. Compliance with these performance-based safety standards cannot be determined, for example, through a provincial mechanical fitness inspection, which is used to determine that the vehicle is mechanically sound. These safety performance requirements have to be engineered at the design stage and manufactured into the vehicle at the time of assembly. By and large, the standards cannot be met via retrofitting a vehicle using after-market or salvaged parts. The Canadian safety standards include features such as fuel system integrity, side impact protection, frontal impact occupant protection, and child seat safety requirements, which are unmatched anywhere in the world. For example, the Canadian test speed for rear impact fuel system integrity was recently increased from 50 km/h to 80 km/h. In Europe this requirement is just over 30 km/h.

Not only are Canadian and U.S. regulations considered the most stringent in the world, they are significantly different from those of other countries. For example, Canadian child restraints would not necessarily function properly if installed in an older, imported vehicle that was not built to meet the CMVSS. The child seat anchorages in Canadian certified vehicles must be able to withstand significantly higher forces than those from other countries. This allows Canadian child seats to secure older, heavier children. Using a child seat for larger children, connected to the anchorages of a vehicle constructed to another country's requirements, could increase the risk of a failure of the anchorages during a collision. This could result in the child being ejected from the vehicle.

Right Hand Drive (RHD) Vehicles

There has been a noted increase in vehicles being imported from foreign countries which have the steering wheel located on the opposite side of the car (RHD vehicles). These vehicles are now being imported into Canada and British Columbia alone has reported in the order of 200 such vehicle imports/month. Due to concerns associated with these vehicles, BC has prepared a study entitled “THE SAFETY OF RIGHT-HAND-DRIVE VEHICLES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA”, indicating that RHD vehicles had a greater than 40% increased risk of crashing over that of similar LHD vehicles. The study is available through ICBC's website at Quebec has published a similar report (

Due to reduced visibility, both while passing and turning left at intersections, some caution is advisable when considering the purchase of a RHD vehicle for personal use. It is also advised to research potential challenges associated with the maintenance needs and the availability of parts and service for such vehicles, before purchasing.

It should be noted that the Provinces/Territories have the authority to establish their respective registration (plating) requirements for these vehicles, consistent with the level of risk they may pose to the travelling public.

Review Status

The Department notes significant differences between Canadian motor vehicle safety standards and those of other countries. Transport Canada is continuing to monitor the level of risk posed by vehicles 15 years and older, including right hand drive vehicles, as well as the benefits of amending the current regulations. This will be an on-going effort since the importation environment is dynamic and changing, with diverse stakeholders expressing their views to the Department on a continual basis. The department will therefore monitor the issue until such time that it is satisfied that the level of risk is acceptable and stable or that regulatory change should be proposed.


Should the Department decide to pursue a regulatory amendment proposal, consultations with stakeholders would take place before any amendment is formally proposed.

Stakeholders would have the opportunity to comment formally on any proposed amendment to the rule subsequently published in the Canada Gazette Part I. At that time, all interested parties would have 75 days to submit their comments. Information on how to submit comments would be published together with the proposal and will be available on the Canada Gazette website

Environmental Concerns

The department shares environmental concerns with other Federal Government departments and third parties, and suggests the need for caution when comparing emissions of older vehicles to newer ones. Small engine size does not automatically equate with small quantities of criteria air pollutants being emitted per specific distance (i.e. grams/km) and testing is required before conclusions can be drawn. Transport Canada does not regulate either criteria pollutants or greenhouse gas emissions, and further clarifications may be obtained from Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada. They can be reached through their websites at the following addresses: and

BACKGROUND: History of the 15-Year Importation Exclusion

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act

In 1971, Parliament enacted the MVSA to enable the Governor in Council to make regulations to promote the safety of the travelling public. The mandate of the MVSA is to regulate the manufacture and importation of vehicles and vehicle equipment to reduce the risk of death, injury and damage to property and the environment.

The MVSA applies to all vehicles of certain prescribed classes imported into Canada or manufactured in Canada and shipped across provincial boundaries. The MVSA requires that the vehicles must comply with applicable CMVSS, and be certified by the original manufacturer for conformity with applicable CMVSS that were in effect at the time of the vehicle's main assembly. Section 4 of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSR) prescribes the classes of vehicles that are covered under these regulations.

The Act and the Importation of Used Vehicles

The Department of Finance regulations prohibit the importation of used vehicles less than 15 years old from all countries. Since the MVSA came into effect on January 1, 1971, vehicles 15 years old in 1986 were then still subject to the MVSA and could not enter Canada unless the vehicles were fully compliant with CMVSS. The analysis done at that time indicated that few vehicles over 15 years were being imported, most of them generally being collector's items originating from the U.S. Their impact on road safety in Canada was deemed negligible since Canadian and U.S. motor vehicle safety standards were comparable. Section 4 of the MVSR was therefore amended in 1986 to exclude, from the prescribed classes of vehicles, those vehicles manufactured 15 years or more before the date of their importation, except for buses. Buses were not included in this amendment, because of their nature as public transportation vehicles. The 1986 amendment to the MVSR made it consistent with the Department of Finance's regulation.

With the advent of the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S., the Department of Finance regulations prohibiting the importation of used vehicles less than 15 years old were gradually removed for vehicles purchased in the U.S. The Department of Finance prohibition on the importation of used vehicles less than 15 years old from countries other than the U.S. is still in existence. The MVSA was also amended and on April 12, 1995, under the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) program, vehicles less than 15 years old that were originally manufactured for the U.S. market were allowed to be imported. This change to the MVSA allows Canadians the opportunity to import a number of models of vehicles that would otherwise be denied entry into Canada, provided they are modified to comply with CMVSS prior to being presented to provincial or territorial authorities for licensing in Canada. The objective of this program is to protect Canadian road users by ensuring that vehicles imported from the U.S. provide a comparable level of safety to similar Canadian-specification vehicles. Any proposed amendment to the age exclusion would not change this aspect.

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