Things to know before importing a vehicle into Canada
Why does Transport Canada monitor vehicles imported into Canada?
On September 1, 1971, Transport Canada began to enforce the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA) by regulating the manufacture and importation of motor vehicles and certain motor vehicle equipment. The goal is to reduce the risk of death, injury and damage to property and the environment.
Do all types of motor vehicles have to comply with the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Act at importation?
All types of regulated vehicles that Canadians import which are designed to be driven or drawn on public roads and those designed for off-road use such as off-road motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATV) and snowmobiles must comply with the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA).
Older vehicles are exempt from complying with the MVSA at importation if they were manufactured more than fifteen (15) years ago or meet the description of a bus manufactured before January 1, 1971. However, these vehicles must meet Canada Border Services Agency requirements for entry.
Why is a modified vehicle no longer considered admissible for importation?
Once modified (other than having general repairs or routine maintenance), the vehicle no longer maintains its original factory issued certification. This certification is required for importation into Canada. This also applies to Canadian certified vehicles modified in the United States and returning to Canada. For example:
- a motorcycle converted into trike,
- a cargo van converted into a camper,
- adding a suspension lift kit to a vehicle,
- adapting a vehicle for disabled access,
- lengthening a vehicle or
- re-fitting a vehicle with a different body kit.
Be careful when buying modified vehicles to import into Canada. Make sure the vehicle modifier or final stage manufacturer has established that it complies with Canadian standards. You cannot import the vehicle into Canada without this proof.
Must electric and hybrid vehicles also comply with the Motor Vehicle Safety Act at importation?
Yes. Importing an electric or hybrid vehicle is no different than importing any other type of vehicle such as a passenger car, truck, motorcycle or low-speed vehicle. The original manufacturer must certify that it meets all Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) that apply to the prescribed class it belongs to under Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSR). In the case of a United States Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) certified vehicle purchased in the United States, the manufacturer must certify that it is possible to modify it to comply with CMVSS.
Other than age, are there other reasons a motor vehicle is exempt from having to comply with the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Act at importation?
Yes. Some vehicles are considered non-regulated either because of their design characteristics OR the temporary nature of their entry into Canada. Canada border officials assess these criteria when someone presents a vehicle at a point of entry into Canada. Note: It is very important that importers research the admissibility of a non-regulated vehicle before presenting it at a Canadian port of entry. This will greatly reduce the risk of it being denied entry.
What can I do as an importer to verify that a vehicle meets all the necessary requirements?
You must thoroughly research ALL aspects of buying a vehicle abroad with the intention of importing it into Canada. There are three main requirements that a regulated vehicle must meet under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA) at importation:
- The vehicle must be certified by the manufacturer to meet all applicable Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) at the time of main assembly or in the case of a vehicle purchased in the United States, the manufacturer must certify that it can be modified to comply with CMVSS;
- The vehicle must not have been modified from its original state, other than regular maintenance to maintain its original factory issued certification (ex: lift kits or motor tricycle "trike" alterations are not allowed) and;
- The vehicle must be free of any outstanding recalls.
Other requirements outside the scope of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act also apply. These include valid proof of ownership, vehicle branding status, possible foreign export requirements, cost considerations and more. The "Vehicle Importation" section of this Web site will help you with your research.
How does Transport Canada verify manufacturer proof of compliance to all applicable CMVSS or FMVSS at importation?
Vehicles designed, built, tested and certified for sale on the Canadian market must bear a statement of compliance (SOC) label affixed by the original manufacturer. Vehicles originally built for the United States market must also bear a statement of compliance. In the absence of such a label, you must present a letter from the original manufacturer, or final stage manufacturer (if any), containing the same information as the compliance label. Contact the manufacturer or final stage manufacturer (if any) with any questions about a vehicle's compliance at the time of assembly.
How do I confirm that there are no outstanding recalls on a motor vehicle?
You must get this confirmation directly from the manufacturer. Transport Canada only maintains records for vehicles originally manufactured for the Canadian market. Most manufacturers have customer information services, web sites or dealer networks that provide these services.
Note: We encourage importers to obtain and validate recall clearance documentation before importation.
May I import damaged or salvage vehicles into Canada?
Salvage vehicles are vehicles that have been damaged beyond economical repair due to collision, natural disaster or any other event requiring costly repair as determined by a licensing authority or licensed insurance provider.
The Salvage Vehicle Program allows for the importation of branded salvage regulated vehicles when:
- the damage was not flood-related; and
- the vehicle is a CMVSS or FMVSS compliant vehicle less than 15 years old; or
- the vehicle is a CMVSS or FMVSS compliant bus manufactured on or after Jan 1st, 1971.
Non-regulated vehicles, such as those older than 15 years, buses manufactured before January 1, 1971 and other types of non-regulated designs do not have to enter the Salvage Vehicle Program since they are exempt for having to comply with the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA) and its regulations.
A “salvage” status on a vehicle's title may severely limit your ability to have the vehicle licensed and insured in Canada. Contact your local licensing authority to learn more.
- Some manufacturers may not issue recall clearance documents for vehicles that were once declared salvaged denied.
- You cannot import the vehicle into Canada without a recall clearance.
Are individual motor vehicle parts regulated at importation?
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA) does not regulate shipments of individual parts, with the exception of tires, child car seats and booster seats . This means you may import a shipment of disassembled automotive parts if it does not amount to one or more vehicle(s). Canada Border Services Agency officers will detain any shipment when the parts content is unclear and/or may contain enough parts to meet the definition of vehicle under the MVSA.
May I voluntarily declare a vehicle as “parts only” for the purpose of importation into Canada?
You may voluntarily declare a vehicle for “parts only” if it meets all admissibility requirements under normal conditions. Other conditions may apply to vehicles deemed inadmissible. If you want to import vehicles as “parts only”, contact Transport Canada at 1-800-333-0371 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
When a vehicle is declared for parts only, it receives a non-repairable status that cannot be changed. This means that the vehicle can never be licensed for the road in Canada. Transport Canada shares this information with every Provincial and Territorial licensing authority in Canada via the Interprovincial Records Exchange (IRE).
What does Canada accept as satisfactory proof of ownership of a motor vehicle?
This depends on the type of ownership documents provided in the country where the vehicle was purchased or owned. A combination of a bill of sale and a transfer of ownership in good standing are generally sufficient for Canadian border officials to establish valid ownership. The Canada Border Services Agency requires additional documentation for leased vehicles because it considers them purchased for the purpose of importation. Some countries also monitor the export of vehicles, and can prohibit a vehicle from leaving the country of purchase without proper clearance.
Is it necessary to hire a customs broker to import a motor vehicle into Canada?
No. Hiring a certified customs specialist is an importer's choice. These independent businesses provide services to importers ranging from basic paperwork at the Canadian border to complete delivery logistics and customs clearance. Transport Canada does not endorse any specific brokers nor maintain a list of certified customs specialists.
Note: The importer on record is responsible for compliance with the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
How do I assess how much tax or duty I may have to pay at the Canadian border when I import a motor vehicle?
Canada Border Services Agency officers collect duties and taxes at the time of importation. If your vehicle is eligible for importation into Canada, please contact the Canada Border Services Agency by dialing toll-free 1-800-461-9999 from within Canada or 1-506-636-5064 from outside Canada (long distance charges may apply), or visit www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca to learn more about duty and taxes.
How do I arrange for the delivery of a motor vehicle to Canada?
You can have them driven, towed or shipped using a variety of services. If you are driving the vehicle into Canada, you must respect the highway traffic laws of the jurisdiction(s) that you are driving in. Transport Canada does not issue any kind of permits f or the temporary transit of motor vehicles. Contact the motor vehicle enforcement authorities for the state, province or territory to learn about their laws.
What happens if Canada border officials find a vehicle inadmissible into Canada when it is presented for importation?
Vehicles found inadmissible are immediately denied entry at the Canadian border. Vehicles granted entry subject to further verification, such as those imported from the United States, that later fail federal inspection requirements in Canada must be exported out of the country or destroyed under supervision of Canadian customs officials.
Note: Importing any vehicle that does not comply with the requirements of Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act is a punishable offence under the Criminal Code.
Once in Canada, how do I register or license a permanently imported vehicle?
Following a successful importation, provide the importation documents you obtained to your provincial or territorial licensing authority.
Note: Successfully importing a vehicle does not guarantee that you will be able to register and license it. For example, some provinces will not license right hand drive vehicles or certain salvage branded vehicles even once repaired. Please contact your provincial or territorial licensing department to learn more about registering an imported vehicle, before you actually import it.
- 1-800-333-0371 (long distance, Canada)
- 1-613-998-8616 (Ottawa region and from other countries)
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