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If you’re bringing a car into Canada from another country, insurance will be one of the later stages a series of hurdles. Importing a car is no small achievement due to the regulations and red tape. Substantial costs are involved as well, so it’s probably not a worthwhile endeavour to bring over the family’s sedan. This is more a matter for collectors of vintage vehicles. Let’s take a look at the process. We will use the example of a car being imported from the United States, but the general process applies no matter what the country of origin.

The Agencies Involved in Car Importing

There are four government agencies, three Canadian and one American, that you’ll need to involve in the import process. These are:

Each of these agencies will be contacted ahead of time to approve and arrange border crossing and importing.

Permissible Vehicles

Transport Canada maintains a list of permissible vehicles for import into Canada. If your car is on this list, you’ve crossed the first hurdle. You may still need to make modifications to the vehicle to operate it in Canada. You can check this with Transport Canada and the RIV. If your car is not on the list, you will need to obtain a no objection letter from Transport Canada.

Proof of Recall Clearance

This is a document obtained from a dealer or manufacturer describing any recalls applicable to your car. If there are recalls, you may need to demonstrate that the recall repairs have been addressed.

Canadian Insurance

Obtain Canadian auto insurance for your vehicle. It may be difficult and more expensive, but it is necessary in many provinces, since ownership and licensing depend on valid insurance being in place. If the vehicle is being driven rather than shipped, you will need to arrange temporary licencing in the country of origin.

U.S. Customs

US Customs



Contact U.S. Customs at least three business days prior to your vehicle entering Canada. Contact the border crossing station that you will be using and provide them with the current ownership documents for your vehicle. These will be checked and stamped once you arrive.

Canada Customs

At the Canadian border crossing, you will provide the CBSA with your ownership information for the country of origin, your certificate of insurance from an insurer licensed to provide this in your destination province and the recall clearance letter. The CBSA will give you Form 1 to complete, which they will stamp if your documentation is in order, and then will request payment of costs. These include:

  • RIV Fee
  • Import duty if the car originates outside of NAFTA countries. Your car’s VIN will start with 1 through 5 if it was manufactured in North America.
  • Goods and Services tax or harmonized sales tax appropriate to your province.
  • Excise tax if the vehicle has air conditioning.
  • Excise tax for vehicles with low fuel efficiency ratings.

Final Steps

With your car in Canada, you will receive Form 2 in the mail from the CBSA. Complete that form and collect Form 1 and the recall clearance letter and take your vehicle to an RIV inspection centre. If your vehicle passes inspection, the centre will stamp Form 1. If not, you will have 45 days to complete changes to pass inspection.

Once all forms are ready, you can register ownership and obtain license plates through your provincial agency.

About the Author: Robert Davis

He is an insurance content professional with vast knowledge and a special aptitude and interest in imparting insurance education. He has authored many articles on insurance.

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