What You Need to Know About Importing a Vehicle into Canada

With motor vehicle prices generally lower south of the border, many Canadians are tempted to bring in vehicles from the USA. However, importing a vehicle into Canada might be necessary if you are moving. The process can be complicated, so there are a few things you need to know. The first hurdle comes in the form of Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA), which regulates the manufacture and importation of motor vehicles in Canada. All vehicles regardless of their type and purpose, except those that were manufactured more than 15 years ago, must comply with the Act.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA) has very stringent requirements for importing motor vehicles into Canada. If you try to import an inadmissible vehicle, it will be denied entry at the border. Some vehicles may be granted entry subject to further verification, but if they fail federal inspection later, then they must be re-exported back to the country of origin (which, in most cases, is the USA) or destroyed under the supervision of Canadian customs officials. Sneaking any vehicle that does not comply with MVSA into Canada is a punishable offence under the Criminal Code.


Here are the other important things you should know when importing a vehicle into Canada:


  • Admissible vehicles: The motor vehicles that are admissible are listed in Transport Canada’s Admissibility List. This comprehensive listing lists the make and models of all motor vehicles that can be imported from the USA. You should go though this list before importing any motor vehicle into the country. If your vehicle is not listed but you still want to make sure, then you should contact the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV).


  • Modified vehicles: Regardless of whether your vehicle is listed in the Admissibility List or not, it may not be admissible if any modification has been made to it from its original state. There is an exception, however. Some vehicles sold in the USA may not have the same features as vehicles of the same make and model sold in Canada. If such is the case, the vehicle must be modified to comply with MVSA’s requirements. For example, daytime safety lights are not mandatory in the USA, but they are mandatory in Canada.


  • Safety inspection: All imported vehicles must pass safety inspection by a facility recognized by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) inside the Canadian border before they can be insured. If the vehicle does not pass the inspection, then it must be re-exported or destroyed under the watchful eyes of the CBSA.


  • Fees, duties and taxes: At the entry point, your vehicle may be assessed for a number of fees, including Provincial Sales Taxes (PST), excise taxes if the vehicle is equipped with air conditioning and a green levy if its fuel consumption rating is higher than 13 litres per kilometer and if it was put into service after March 19, 2007. Duty is levied on vehicles manufactured in countries other than the USA and Mexico. The fees, taxes and duties are based on the price you have paid for the vehicle plus foreign sales taxes and warranty payments.

When importing a vehicle into Canada, you must make sure that the vehicle is certified by the manufacturer to meet all the requirements of Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) with or without modifications. It must also bear a Statement of Compliance (SOC) label for either Canada or USA affixed by the original manufacturer. Also, there must be any outstanding recall for the vehicle. Lastly, a very little-known but important fact: if it is determined that your vehicle is contaminated with soil and other organic matters, it will be denied entry.


McWilliams has years of experience helping families and their possessions move cross-border. For more information on moving internationally, check out our International Moving page.

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