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Ship A Car: Canada to U.S.
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Ship A Car: Canada to U.S. From A-1 Auto Transport

What better way to spend a Canadian winter than in sunny Florida? Or southern California

While some Canadians enjoy snowboarding and jet skiing, others may prefer a retreat to a warm beach where bikinis and pina coladas await the discerning snow bird.

But driving all the way to the southern United States is a Herculean endeavor. Depending on your tolerance for starvation and full bladders, you might need between two to four full days to make the journey.

That certainly takes a chunk out of your precious vacation time!

Wouldn’t it be lovely to click your heels and send your car ahead of you to Miami or Los Angeles?

Well, you can’t do that, but there are other options for getting your vehicle to the winter wonderlands of the United States while you enjoy a much shorter trip, by plane.

You can hire someone to drive your car for you, but that can be costly. Why not ship your car, truck, SUV, or other vehicle to your destination?

Shipping services make it easy to get your car to the U.S. safely. That means you can enjoy a cocktail while you travel, knowing that your car will arrive where you need it. It will be there when your plane lands, and you didn’t have to navigate the scary U.S. interstates to get it there.

Ship Car Canada to USA: One year or less

It will be much easier to ship your car to the U.S. if you plan to bring it back within the year. This suits the needs of most vacationers and snow birds. Such cars enjoy a break from a myriad of regulations.

The United States considers cars, motorcycles, SUVs, and vans “temporary” if:

  1. They are shipped to the United States for personal use
  2. You and your car will not be in the United States for more than a year. 
  3. You do not sell or attempt to sell your car in the U.S. 

If you ship your car to the United States under these guidelines, you will not have to pay the rather exorbitant duty tax on your vehicle which is a hefty 25 percent of the vehicle’s value in the case of a truck, 2.5 percent for a car, and varying amounts for a motorcycle.

Ship Car Canada to USA: Permanent basis

If you plan to leave your car or sell your car in the U.S., taking it across the border becomes a much more complicated affair. The U.S. considers such a vehicle an “import.” That means the massive number of regulations applying to imports will apply to your vehicle.

Such imported cars are subject to duty taxes as outlined in the prior paragraph. Such cars must also meet U.S. standards for safety and emissions.

Most cars recently manufactured in Canada meet these standards, but you will want to make sure of that before shipping. Many Canadian cars have emissions labels that certify the car meets the standards of the U.S. as well as Canada. On lightweight cars and trucks, this label is likely to be on the inside of the vehicle’s hood or in the engine compartment.

If your car or truck does not have such a label, it may still be eligible for import to the United States. Many car manufacturers have United States representatives. One of these representatives can prepare a certificate that says a certain car meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) emissions standards.

Consult this list of manufacturers’ U.S. representatives to obtain a certificate.

Further cautions

It pays to do your research when importing a car from Canada to the U.S. There are literally dozens of pages of regulations across three different federal agencies. The following are some of the most important things to check off your “make sure” list.

Don’t use your car as a shipping container

Unfortunately, U.S. Customs makes it very difficult to use your car as a container for even the most harmless belongings.

The official U.S. Customs and Border Protection website specifically prohibits shipping a car that contains any kind of personal or commercial stuff. Officials warn that a car can be seized if it contains any undeclared items. They also warn that items left in a car are highly subject to theft.

Clean your car’s undercarriage

Any car that is crossing the border from Canada to the U.S. is subject to inspection. One thing that can be inspected is the bottom of the car. This must be clean enough to assure border agents that you are not bringing any invasive species or other toxic matter into the U.S.

You will want to get your car cleaned less than 72 hours prior to shipping. A professional cleaning is best. Ask the car wash personnel to pay specific attention to the car’s undercarriage. Then check it yourself to make sure it’s free from dirt.

Be careful about importing an “exotic car”

The United States’ ongoing conflicts with the Middle East and Eastern Europe play out on many levels. That means that you cannot bring to the U.S. a car that “involves the government” of a country that is part of this conflict.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, you may not import any car that involves the countries of:

●     Iran

●     Iraq

●     Libya

●     North Korea

●     The Sudan

●     Montenegro

●     Serbia

●     Kosovo

●     Yugoslavia

In general, if your car was made in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, or Australia, it’s unlikely to breech this rule.

But, if your car was made in one of the prohibited countries, you should petition the Office of Foreign Assets Control to determine if it is importable.

Use an experienced shipping company

Cars imported to the U.S. from Canada must meet the standards of three different federal agencies: the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Customs and Border Protection.

An experienced shipping company will help you navigate the dozens of regulations that you must adhere to. A good shipping company will help you determine whether your car meets U.S. emissions standards. They will also advise you on the most efficient method of transport. As well, they will help you determine what documents you will need to bring a car to the U.S.

Cost to ship

Cost is an important consideration for shipping your car to the United States.

How much you pay will depend on a number of factors, especially the distance that the car has to travel and the time of year.

Other factors that affect cost are the size of the car and the mode of transport. Prices can and will vary, but to give you a rough guideline, one carrier offers transport from Montreal, Quebec to Los Angeles, California for as little as $350.

One consumer reports, however, that shipping his car from Toronto, Ontario to Tampa, Florida cost $1275.

Ways to save money

In deciding how you want to ship your car, you will need to balance your need to keep your car safe and sound against the need to save money. As a general rule, if your car is just a way of getting from point A to point B, you can save a lot more money than if you regard your car as your baby.

Reduce costs by traveling mid-winter

Many U.S. cities have peak tourist seasons. If you are travelling specifically to enjoy an annual festival or leaf season, you have limited choice about your travel time.

But if you are traveling to escape the cold and ice of a Canadian winter, you may be in luck! January and February are off seasons in many wonderful U.S. cities. For example, Orlando, Florida (home to Disney) is overrun during the summer because of school schedules.

But if you want to save money, go to Orlando in January or February. The rides and programs are just as fabulous. But you can enjoy off season rates for lodging, food, and even shipping your vehicle!

By sea is cheaper than by land

If you are shipping your car by sea, you can make use of the roll on, roll off manner of shipping. Using the roll on, roll off method, you or your transportation company drives the car to Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver.

From that port, your car rolls on to a ship, then rolls off at a major port in the United States. United States roll off points include New York City; Baltimore, Maryland; Charleston, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Norfolk, Virginia; Galveston, Texas; and Tacoma, Washington.

The roll on/roll off method works best for people who live on or near a port town and are transporting their cars to or near another port town.

Drive across the border yourself

Since the vast majority of Canadians live in the southern parts, it may make sense to drive your car across the border yourself and then hire a shipping company to take it the rest of the way.

If, for instance, you live in Toronto, you are only a few miles from Detroit. Drive to the U.S., then have your car shipped to Miami.

If you live in Vancouver, you are only a few miles from Seattle. Drive there, then ship your car to San Jose.

Buy a cheap old car

The most wonderful irony of United States emissions standards is that the oldest, worst gas guzzlers are exempt. This means that, if you drive a vintage car, a classic car, or just a very, very old car, you can bring it to the US on a permanent basis without having to modify it.

Emissions standards for permanently imported cars are stringent. And it can cost a fortune to bring a non-conforming car up to standards. So, if you are bringing a car to the U.S. for permanent use, it’s better to bring a very new car or a very old car.

Gasoline-powered cars built in or before 1967 are exempt from meeting EPA guidelines. And diesel-powered cars can have birthdays as late as 1974 and be exempt. Some motorcycles built in or before 1977 are exempt.

If you are permanently moving a car to the U.S., scan your local newspaper classifieds to see if anyone is selling an old, reliable vehicle.

Shipping heavy cargo to Canada

In the event you want to ship heavier cargo than a car, truck, SUV, or van, you will need to determine whether your combined shipment is “high-value” or “low-value.”

Any shipment valued at US $2000 or greater is considered “high-value.”

For the most part, boats, recreational vehicles, heavy equipment, freight, and household goods will be high-value.

Documents you will need to provide for cargo import

Canadians who are shipping high-value cargo to the U.S. are regarded as “importers” for customs purposes. You will need to retain the services of a customs broker. This broker will advise you on how to value your imports and what regulations they are subject to.

You will need a number of documents for transporting high-value cargo. These include:

●     A NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) certificate of origin.

●     A commercial invoice which shows how much you paid for the item or items in your shipment.

●     An importer identification number. You can obtain this yourself by going to this website. Or, to save time but not money, you can ask your customs broker to obtain this number on your behalf.

●     A bill of lading and entry manifest. The freight courier you hire will fill out this paperwork on your behalf.

●     An HS (Harmonized System Tariff Classification) code. This is a numeric code that refers to the type of material(s) you are importing.

Don’t hand over originals. Instead, make photocopies and give them to your freight carrier.

Conclusion: Get help!

Getting a single car across the United States can be a complicated affair. It’s impossible to over-emphasize the importance of hiring a highly-experienced shipping company.

Your shipping company will help you decide how and when to ship your car or cargo, help you navigate the reams of paperwork, and get your car safely to your desired destination.

Choosing the lowest cost company may not be the way to go. Instead, look for a shipping business with good reviews and years of experience. Ask lots of questions, and don’t hesitate to get two or more quotes.

The joys of exploring the United States in a car will be well worth it!

Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
Connect with Joe Webster on facebookConnect with Joe Webster on linkedin

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

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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