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How do I import a car from the US to Alberta?

While the value of the Canadian dollar has us less likely to make big purchases across the border you may still be looking at new or used vehicles in the US that you’d like to bring home to Alberta. If so you’re probably wondering what it takes to get it imported. While there may be a few hoops you have to jump through understanding the process and knowing what you need before you make your purchase will make it go a lot smoother. Hopefully this will make your decision to import a car from the US to Alberta a little bit easier!

Before You Buy Know What You Can Import

Prior to purchasing a vehicle from the US it is important to know which vehicles can and cannot be imported into Canada. While a serious accident and modifications can result in the car being unable to be licensed there is also a list of prohibited vehicles that you can view on Transport Canada. It is recommended to get a branding history of any vehicle you plan to import as well using CARFAX AutoCheck or CarProof. This will tell you if your vehicle has been in an accident written off or suffered flood damage. This is important for registration and insurance purposes later on as well as generally ensuring you’re getting what you pay for. Vehicles that have suffered this damage may also not be permitted across the border.

Buying a US Car and Getting to the Border

Ensure you get a signed bill of sale that describes the car in detail especially including the make model colour and VIN. Having a copy of the payment (if it was a cheque or e-transfer) is also an excellent idea.

You’ll also need recall clearance before you can bring your new car into Canada. Recall clearance documents verify that the recalls identified by the manufacturer have been repaired. RIV recommends that this is done early on to avoid excessive delays and expenses. The recall clearance documents are valid for up to 30 days before import and you can submit this information before you cross the border.

You should contact US customs before you cross the border to double-check their hours and required documentation. If the seller or dealer did not do so themselves you will also need to contact a US Automated Export System authorized agent or go online here to submit an electronic export file. You will receive an ITN number – keep this for your paperwork to submit.

You also need to inform the US and Canadian border agents about your import at least 72 hours before you plan to arrive at the border. You will need your ITN number and proof of ownership.

Don’t forget you’ll want to get a trip permit to allow you to drive your vehicle into Alberta as you import it.

At the Border

You will have to fill out a form to import a vehicle from the US into Alberta. You can do this online or you can fill out the form at the border itself. You will also need to pay the taxes and/or duties before the vehicle can be inspected for importing into Canada. Any vehicle that fails inspection or that is not clear of any recalls cannot stay in Canada even though taxes and duties would have been paid. This is where your recall clearance documents are handy. Once the vehicle is inspected you will be given a form that will clear you to continue on to Canada.

You now need to have your vehicle inspected at an approved facility within 45 days from the day you brought the vehicle into Canada. Canadian Tire is a popular location for Alberta although there are alternatives. If the vehicle is not inspected or it does not pass the vehicle is non-compliant and you will be fined and the vehicle must be returned to the US. If your vehicle passes the inspection your form will be stamped and you will be sent a Canadian Statement of Compliance label to place on your vehicle.

Getting an Imported Vehicle Registered in Alberta

The next step is to get the vehicle registered in Alberta. When bringing a car in from the US or any other province you will need to get an Alberta Out of Province Vehicle Inspection done. This is simply an inspection that ensures that the car meets the provincial requirements and can effectively be registered. There are many body shops/garages that will do this inspection. Once you go to the inspection facility you will be required to provide proof of ownership and the border inspection report.

Then it’s off to the registry where you’ll need to provide proof of ownership inspection papers proof of insurance and identification. Then finally you’re done!

Insuring Your Out of Province Vehicle

You’ll want to contact your broker to discuss when your options for insuring your new vehicle. You’ll need this before you register as Alberta requires proof of insurance. The best option would be to call your broker once you purchase the vehicle and you can arrange coverage for your vehicle while it is in the US and going through the import process.

The Cost of Importing

First you’ll of course have the purchase cost of the vehicle and any travelling costs you incur such as transportation accommodation and food. Then you will have the cost of obtaining the recall clearance documents and having them verified (this varies) and the cost of the brand and title history search . The RIV fees are $295 plus GST and you’ll pay duties and taxes at the border. These may not be applicable to all vehicles but include:

  • Air Conditioning Excise Tax – $100
  • Excise Tax/Green Levy on Fuel Inefficient Cars – $1,000 – $4,000
  • GST

You may also need to pay a fee for the trip permit . Once your vehicle is in Alberta you’ll pay around $10 to the registry for the Out of Province Inspection form the amount of the inspection itself and then $75 to register the vehicle . Insurance premiums will be an additional expense and will vary depending on the vehicle and your driving and claims history.

While there are a few steps to the process and ultimately getting your new car registered in Alberta may take a little bit of time money and effort having as much prepared in advance as you can should speed up the process. Talk to your broker about the insurance aspect and they may be able to help you with advice about importing as well.