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Importing Car From Canada | Shipping a Car From Canada to the USA

Published by Joe Webster.

Canada (CAN)

What's in this article?
  1. Importing Vehicles and Shipping a Car from Canada to the USA A Comprehensive Guide
  2. Cost & Time Examples to Import a Car from Canada
  3. Border Procedure to Ship a Car From Canada
  4. Duty to Import Vehicle Canada to USA
  5. Emissions and Safety Compliance
  6. Department of Transportation Safety Requirements
  7. EPA Emission Standards
  8. U.S Driver’s License
  9. Insurance
  10. Relevant Statistics
  11. General Facts
  12. Registering your Automobile
Importing Car From Canada | Shipping a Car From Canada to the USA

Importing Vehicles and Shipping a Car from Canada to the USA: A Comprehensive Guide

Unless permanently imported, a Canadian-licensed vehicle can only be retained in the United States for a maximum of one year. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act allows for its seizure if it is kept in the United States for an extended period of time. The importing process must be completed by December 31 in order to keep it permanently in the United States. This document constitutes the bulk of the import documentation needed to transport car from Canada.

Cost & Time Examples to Import a Car from Canada

From/ToOceanGroundEstimated Time
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
  1. *Prices and times for the vehicle import process are estimated. They can vary depending on the season and the type of imported cars.
  2. *Save the ground transport cost by delivering the vehicle to the nearest port.
  3. *Allow an additional 10 days to process the documents by the official government organization.
  4. *Prices are for 1 car in a dedicated 20ft container. This is the safest and most reliable way to transport a vehicle internationally by Canadians. Other items, contents, and belongings to be imported may be included in the container to help save you money when moving.
  5. *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.
Border Related Issue - list of items to be shipped by importers

Border Procedure to Ship a Car From Canada

Shipping a vehicle into USA from Canada for more than a year requires you to first declare its U.S. registration at the border crossing 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 the vehicle meets emission requirements.

If you present the right documentation to the border protection office, you’ll get approval in writing from your customs officer stating you meet every requirement. This eligibility approval 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.

Duty to Import Vehicle Canada to USA

In general, when shipping a vehicle from Canada into USA, you must pay a duty tax equivalent to 2.5% of imported vehicle's total value. However, vehicles manufactured in NAFTA (USMCA) countries (Mexico, U.S. and Canada) may be exempt from the regular duty rate.

For up-to-date information and guidelines, speak to the relevant agencies in the United States government. Regulations may be updated with no prior notice by the federal government. Depending on the State you live in, procedures and flat duty rate may change, so you should also verify your state’s requirements. You can consult the nearest CBP office to understand the requirements to get vehicles imported from foreign soil.

You can claim $800 CBP exemption for yourself and accompanying family members if you are a returning U.S resident. It applies if it:

  • Go along on your return
  • imported auto for personal use
  • Got it during the returning journey.

For more information to import cars, trucks, or motorcycles from Canada to United States, you can visit the gov websites and the official websites of Department of transportation.

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Carry bill of sale for purposes of the importation process, import duties and entry clearance

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.

If your vehicle complies with the EPA regulations, you can pay fees and complete the import process. However, if the vehicle doesn't comply with the EPA requirements, then only a DOT registered importer can get the job done. You will probably be required to pay the gas-guzzler tax.

Heavy Freight Shipping - Automobiles and engines dealer - undercarriage roads

Department of Transportation Safety Requirements

All cars not older than 25 years must comply with FMVSS standards and steps, 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 for personal use.

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

If your Canada vehicle meets only CMVSS standards, it can still be moved into the US if you get a written approval 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 or other title documents, so confirm whether they can provide it before moving a vehicle into USA from Canada. You can check it with their front desk staff.

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

EPA Emission Standards

U.S. imported vehicles must meet EPA rating standards before entering the country. The EPA form 3520-1 must be submitted to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. To verify if your auto is certified to be permanently imported, see the engine compartment under the hood for a label containing a certification with “Vehicle Emission Control Information” written on it.

Oftentimes, Canadian cars won’t have labels or stickers stating they are certified by the Environmental protection agency (EPA). However, most often their emission control systems are identical to those certified inside the U.S.

You can proceed with importing a car from Canada in both cases, but you’ll require proof from the U.S. representative of the vehicle manufacturer, confirming it meets all EPA U.S. regulations for emission standards and fuel-economy rating.

If an EPA certification label is not present on your auto 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 by paying state taxes to US customs and border protection.

U.S. Driver’s License

Regulations on the need/ability for a Canada resident 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.

Must Procure An U.S Auto Insurance for vehicle parts and model equipment - Need help and advice with customs paperwork and everything else


Before importing a vehicle into USA from Canada, you must purchase U.S. auto insurance. By doing this, Canadian insurance is forfeited for the remaining amount and the insurance card will no longer be valid.

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 immediately after moving a car, be sure to mention it.

Relevant Statistics

  • Approximately 150,000 cars are imported from Canada to the US annually.
  • The importation of Canadian cars into the US has increased by 25% in the last five years.
  • Over 90% of imported Canadian cars meet or exceed US safety and emission standards.
  • On average, importing a car from Canada can save buyers up to 10% compared to purchasing a similar vehicle within the US.
  • More than 70% of American car buyers consider importing from Canada due to the wider range of available models and options.

General Facts

  • Importing a car from Canada to the US requires compliance with customs regulations and documentation.
  • Both countries have specific emission and safety standards that need to be met for the imported car.
  • The process involves completing the necessary paperwork, including the vehicle's title and sale documents.
  • Upon importation, taxes and duties may apply, so it's essential to be aware of the associated costs.
  • To legally drive the imported car in the US, it may need to undergo modifications or inspections to meet local requirements.

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, vehicle identification number, license plates, and serial number of your vehicle. Once all the emission standards are approved and are in compliance with individual state emission requirements, you can import a vehicle into the United States.

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Joe Webster always knew the auto transport industry would be a great career option. And with decades of experience, Joe is now an established consultant for A1 Auto Transport.

Joe was born in Santa Cruz, California. During high school, Joe worked as a mechanic; a job continued to work part-time during his bachelor's degree.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

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Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
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NO. 018191NF
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NO. 025472F
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1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
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NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
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