Frequently asked questions for Kit Cars

Q. 1. How does Customs define a starter-kit?

A. The Canada Border Services Agency (Customs) officers will define a starter kit as parts if it contains only a bare frame and a body shell, with no mechanical parts. If CBSA officers see mechanical parts, they will ask Transport Canada to decide if the kit is a car or parts, and if it can enter Canada.

Q. 2. Why did Transport Canada develop a system for importing parts for hobby built cars?

A. The main reason was to help Canadians who build their own cars as a hobby. Since1995, Transport Canada allows them to import a shipment of parts that does not fall under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. They can then get the rest of the materials needed to complete the car, from Canadian sources. The finished car will fall under provincial laws.

Q. 3. Who decides what parts can be imported?

A. The system was developed over time, with input from enforcement officers, standards developers, engineers, legal counsels, the kit car industry, specialty vehicle associations, etc. A regulations enforcement officer decides, on a case-by-case basis, using the Motor Vehicle Safety Act as a guide.

Q. 4. If cars are regulated and parts are not, why must TC monitor kit imports?

A. Over the years, Transport Canada's Road Safety Directorate has become aware that there is a real difference between:

  • Importing a kit car that requires only some assembly and maybe adding a power train and some easy to attach parts, and
  • Importing some body parts, to build a homemade car.

This is why Transport Canada, together with Canada Border Services Agency (Customs), developed a system for importing parts for hobby builders. The system draws the line between a car and a parts shipment.

Q. 5. How fair is the system that decides if a kit shipment is a car or parts?

A. Building a homemade car usually requires a starter kit, which includes a detached body and frame. It may also include some parts that are unique to the body's vintage look. Since not all starter kits are the same, the system sets the criteria as standard as possible, while flexible enough to allow hobby builders to be original and creative.

Q. 6. Why not have a simple rule, like 51% hobby builder supplied parts and 49% kit manufacturer supplied parts?

A. Transport Canada's Road Safety Directorate decided that there are too many variables in determining the percentage of fabrication, such as weight of parts, number of parts, cost of parts, labour hours, etc.

Q. 7. Isn't it safer to have more parts in the kit that specifically fit the kit?

A. Yes. That is why a full kit fits the definition of a passenger class vehicle and must be designed and engineered to meet Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Q. 8. How can Canadian companies sell kit cars in Canada?

A. Many companies that make kit cars or reproduction cars in Canada sell them outside of Canada. They also avoid Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act by selling these cars or kits without a national safety mark, within provincial boundaries, where Transport Canada does not have jurisdiction.

Q. 9. How can a reproduction car which represents a vintage car be certified to modern safety standards?

A. Applying federal standards to a kit car will not necessarily change its authentic appearance or its performance. A company's ability to certify its kits depends on its technical and engineering expertise, which can also result in a better, safer, product for hobby builders.

Q. 10. Kit car companies claim to have engineers on staff. Doesn't that mean the vehicles are safe?

A. No. Transport Canada knows that the kit car industry in North America often does not comply with the law or best engineering practices.

Q. 11. The system requires a car kit (starter kit) hobbyist to get parts to complete the car in Canada. Is it legal to buy parts in Canada that have been imported, such as parts from a dealer's parts counter?

A. A hobby builder may NOT import, or have a third party import the parts needed to complete the car. These parts must be bought from a source in Canada not linked to the kit manufacturer.

Q. 12. Why are kit cars freely sold in the United States?

A. People and companies find "loopholes" in American law, and sell uncertified cars. However, anyone who installs the power train in an uncertified kit car in the United States can be charged with breaking the law. To learn more, please contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Washington, DC.

Q. 13. What if certain parts of the "prohibited" systems cannot be sourced in Canada, but are absolutely essential to the uniqueness of the kit?

A. Transport Canada believes that if a kit is really designed, and is actually being used, as a starter kit to amateur build a car in Canada, such parts would not be absolutely essential.

However, some kits are very basic. They may only contain a bare body shell with a windshield, some door hinges and latches, and a bare frame. In these very basic kits that are far from the definition of "vehicle" there may sometimes be room for such items as a particular suspension piece or a fuel cell.

Q. 14. What can a hobby builder do when parts that can be sourced only from the kit manufacturer are missing from the shipment?

A. Contact Transport Canada's (TC) Road Safety Directorate. Getting a second shipment of a missing part is not the same thing as illegally bringing in extra parts that were not on the original list reviewed by TC.

Q. 15. What can happen to someone who imports more parts in addition to a kit list that has already cleared Customs?

A. This is against the law. To learn about penalties, see "offences and punishments" in section 17 of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

Q. 16. May a kit made up of a frame with steering system, fuel cells, brake system, some wiring, suspension system including hubs, and a steering column with a key lock system, but without the body, be imported as parts?

A. No, not likely. Most kits are designed to accommodate a particular body, body parts and power train. Such a kit would be considered to be a "vehicle" as defined in the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Act. It would have to be certified.

Q. 17. Is it possible under the present system to import kits on a commercial level to sell them in Canada?

A. No. The current system exists solely to help hobby builders to build their own car at home, not to provide a business opportunity.

Q. 18. Can a kit be imported or sold in Canada where the body and frame are assembled at the factory by brazing, welding or riveting?

A. If permanently attached body panels are part of the load bearing structure together with the frame members, and the body is shipped with seats, interior, lamps or wiring harness, not installed, and without the systems mentioned earlier in these guidelines, Customs will most likely clear the shipment as a parts.

Q. 19. Does TC recognize any of the SVA testing conducted by the UK Department of Transport for these kit vehicles?

A. If a replicar or a kit car complies with only those Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) listed in the Single Vehicle Approval Testing (SVA) manual, it CANNOT be imported into Canada, unless:

  • the vehicle also complies with those CMVSS that are not listed in the SVA;
  • the manufacturer certifies the vehicle to all Canadian federal standards that apply; and
  • the manufacturer has all the required test records to demonstrate compliance.

If the kit is considered a parts shipment, it is not required to meet the SVA or the CMVSS.

Q 20. Why do kit cars generally NOT clear Customs?

A. Transport Canada knows that the kit car industry does not comply with North American federal safety standards. For example, according to the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are over 200 kit car manufacturers in North America, and not one complies with federal standards.

Note: If you still have questions, please contact a Motor Vehicle Regulations Enforcement Officer:

  • by letter at Transport Canada, ASFAB/A, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N5 or
  • by Fax at 613-998-8541.