Importing car kits

From Transport Canada

Do you plan to import a "starter kit" and build a car for your own use, or for resale in Canada? Or, do you plan to import a car already built from a kit (a kit car)?

Read more on this page about importing car kits and kit cars. For quick reference see Frequently asked questions for car kits.

On this page…

Importing a starter kit to build a car for your own use

Is a starter kit a car, or is it parts? Shipment contents provide useful clues, and each import is considered on its own merits.

In a parts shipment/starter kit, important systems such as the fuel system, the brake system, the power train and the suspension system are not included. Without these systems, the kit will likely pass customs if:

  • The kit is not assembled (the body and frame are separate).
  • The wiring harness, steering system, and interior parts are not installed. Exceptions may include:
    • the windshield
    • some trim
    • the instrument panel

Transport Canada (TC) suggests that you research the company that manufactures your kit and get all required information to make sure that the kit can be imported.

You can clear customs more easily if you:

  1. Ask the manufacturer to send you an exact packing list of the parts that will be in the container when it reaches Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
    • The list must include every part, including part numbers – except for nuts, bolts, washers, clips, fasteners, etc., which can be listed together.
    • Transport Canada will not accept a list of parts that have been deleted from a kit.
  2. Make sure the parts list:
    • has a number on each page that corresponds with the import documents
    • has the manufacturer's name in the letterhead
    • exactly matches the packing list supplied with the shipment and the parts in it
  3. Get a declaration form from Transport Canada to apply for pre-authorization to import the starter kit.
  4. Fill out and sign the declaration form and fax it, and the parts list, to 613-998-8541.

Transport Canada will review the parts list. If the parts do not add up to a complete motor vehicle – thus not needing certification – you will receive a letter to present to CBSA at the border. The letter will say the shipment is admissible as parts only, and no other shipments may follow.

Importing a kit from a private sale can be a problem. Make sure your parts list is complete to avoid issues when importing the kit.

Importing starter kits to build cars for resale in Canada

New vehicles built in Canada and shipped or sold inter-provincially must carry a National Safety Mark to show that their vehicles comply with the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

See Safety standards for vehicles for more information.

If vehicles built from a starter kit will be sold only within the same province, they are not regulated by Transport Canada and do not need a National Safety Mark. However, they will need to meet all provincial regulations and standards. Contact your provincial transportation department for more information.

It is against the law to import or sell a new vehicle in Canada that does not meet Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Importing such a vehicle in different shipments is also punishable by law. For more information, see the Motor Vehicle Safety Act – sections 5 (1), 6, and 17.

Importing completed kit cars into Canada

If you want to import a completed kit car, or a reproduction vehicle that can be driven, you must provide proof that it meets all safety standards for the passenger car class. There is no difference, under the Act, between assembled and disassembled vehicles.

Most kit cars do not qualify to be imported to Canada. The exceptions are kit cars that are over 15 years old.

Kit cars older than 15 years are not regulated by the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. They are referred to as "age-exempt." This means that you can import the completed kit car into Canada if it meets entry requirements from the Canada Border Services Agency. At the border, officers will:

  • establish the vehicle's non-regulated status due to age,
  • inspect for possible soil contaminants,
  • examine the ownership documents,
  • collect taxes and/or duties if they apply and,
  • determine admissibility according to other customs regulations that may apply.

Assessing whether a kit car is age-exempt

A kit car is age-exempt, or not regulated under Canadian law, if it is at least 15 years old. The age is based on the final completion date of the kit car. For a replica vehicle, this means the age is not based on the model year it is copying.

If the importer cannot provide valid proof of age, the vehicle cannot be considered age-exempt. The kit car will be assessed using normal guidelines, which means that it could be denied entry at the border.

Successfully importing an older kit car does not guarantee that you can register it and licence it. For example, some provinces will not licence right-hand-drive vehicles. Contact the licensing department of your province or territory to learn more before importing.

Contacts for more information on importing vehicles

Transport Canada 
Motor Vehicle Safety

Telephone: 1-800-333-0371 (toll-free), 1-613-998-8616 (Ottawa region) 

Related links

This web site is meant as a helpful reference. It has no legal force or effect. To fully understand the law, consult the Motor Vehicle Safety Act S.C. 1993, c.16, and the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations.

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