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Importing a Vehicle Into USA from Canada

A vehicle with a Canadian License can be kept in the United States for no more than a year unless you permanently import it. Keeping it longer in the U.S. may lead to it being seized. To keep it permanently in the U.S. the importation process must be finished before the end of the year.

Importing a vehicle into USA from Canada

Cost & Time Examples for Import a Car from Canada

Canada to (California port)
to Dallas, TX
$900$1,02512+7 days
Canada to (California port)
to San Jose, CA
$700$20012+5 days
Canada to (California port)
to Los Angeles
$900$35012+5 days
Canada to (New York port)
to Boston, MA
$700$4009+5 days
Canada to (California port)
to Phoenix, AZ
$900$55012+6 days
Canada to (New York port)
to Detroit, MI
$900$5759+6 days
Canada to (New York port)
to Chicago, IL
$700$6759+6 days
Canada to (New York port)
to Atlanta, GA
$900$7009+6 days
Canada to (California port)
to Denver, CO
$700$77512+7 days
Canada to (New York port)
to Miami, FL
$700$9259+7 days

*Prices and times are estimated. They can vary depending on the season and the type of vehicle.

*Save the ground transport cost by delivering the vehicle to the nearest port.

*Allow an additional 10 days to process the documents.

*Prices are for 1 car in a dedicated 20ft container. This is the safest and most reliable way to transport a vehicle internationally. Other items may be included in the container to help save you money when moving.

*Using the RoRo (roll on, roll off) method is less expensive and shipments can be completed in fewer days. Contact us now for a free RoRo quote.

A-1 Auto Transport ships vehicles worldwide. Click here or call 1-800-518-8708 to get a free, no obligation to buy price quote to ship your car.

Border Procedure

Importing a vehicle into USA from Canada for more than a year requires you to first declare its U.S. registration at the border to the customs office.

You must give the registration of the vehicle to the officer along with a complete 3520-1 EPA Form, a H7 DOT Form, and any other paperwork necessary to confirm it meets emissions and safety standards.

If you present to right documentation, you’ll get an approval in writing from your customs officer stating you meet every requirement. This must be taken to your destination to convert and register your car into the U.S. Ensure your passport is stamped by the customs officer, so you may prove its validity later on.


In general, when importing a vehicle into USA from Canada, you must pay a duty tax equivalent to 2.5% of any imported vehicle’s total value. However, automobiles created in NAFTA countries (Mexico, U.S. and Canada) may be exempt.

For up to date information and guidelines, speak to the relevant agencies. Regulations may be updated with no prior notice. Depending on the State you live in, procedures may change, so you should also verify your state’s requirements.

Emissions and Safety Compliance

When importing a vehicle into USA from Canada, it must comply with the safety standards for Federal motor vehicles determined by the DOT (United States’ Department of Transportation) and the emission standard determined by EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency). You must complete and provide a 3520-1 EPA Form and HS-7 DOT Form.

Department of Transportation Safety Requirements

All automobiles younger than 25 years must comply with FMVSS standards, before entering the U.S. You can see if your car complies by verifying the certificate label of the FMVSS (normally placed under your vehicle’s hood or inside its door). If you have this label, importing a vehicle into USA from Canada should not pose a problem from the standpoint of safety standards.

However, many times your automobile’s label may only certify its compliance with CMVSS (the Canadian motor vehicle safety standards). Other times, it may not possess a US or Canadian safety certificate label at all.

If your car meets only CMVSS standards, it can still be moved into the US if you get a letter from its manufacturer stating on its letterhead the car conforms to every FMVSS standard. Please note certain manufacturers may refuse to give you a letter, so confirm whether they can provide it before importing a vehicle into USA from Canada.

If your vehicle does not meet CMVSS or FMVSS standards, it may be cheaper and less troublesome to ask a registered importer to make the required modifications and bring your vehicle into the U.S.

EPA Emission Standards

U.S. imported vehicles must meet EPA emission standards before entering the country. To verify if your automobile is certified, see the engine compartment under the hood for a label containing a certification with “Vehicle Emission Control Information” written on it.

Oftentimes, Canadian automobiles won’t have labels stating they are certified by the EPA. However, most often their emission control systems are identical to those certified inside the U.S.

You can proceed with importing a vehicle into USA from Canada in both cases, but you’ll need a compliance letter from the U.S. representative of its manufacturer, confirming it meets all EPA U.S. regulations.

If an EPA certification label is not present on your automobile and its emission control system is not the same as the EPA certified one, you may still be able to obtain from the EPA a letter of exemption prior to the move.

Without an exemption, you’ll need a commercial importer to post a bond, modify your vehicle and ship it into the country.

U.S. Driver’s License

Regulations the need / ability for Canadians with U.S. residences to obtain I.D. cards and U.S. driving licenses are constantly changing. Ask officials what the rules are for that state, and whether you can continue using a Canadian driving license.

If applying for an I.D. card and / or license is necessary, you will need to prepare your passport (for the I.D.), your current driver’s license and an utility bill, such as a property tax bill, with your United States address and name. You will have to pay a fee which you must renew on a yearly basis.

They may ask to take an eye scan and photo. They may also want proof of your arrival date in the United States to make sure you haven’t gone past the 180 day time limit. In such cases, it helps if your passport is stamped upon entering the country.


Before importing a vehicle into USA from Canada, you must procure an U.S. auto insurance. By doing this, the Canadian insurance is forfeited.

After finding a United States auto insurance company or broker, they will ask for a copy of your Canadian driving record and ownership details. The auto insurance market in the U.S. is quite competitive, so do your research and you just might find a bargain. If you won’t drive your vehicle immediately after importing it, be sure to mention it.

Registering your Automobile

Make an appointment at the closest vehicle registration office in your new town. You must provide them with all your border approved documentation. They will also check the odometer reading and serial number of your vehicle.

Joe Webster

Written by Joe Webster

Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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