Meeting U.S. Standards
If the vehicle you are importing is less than 25 years old you will need to prove that it meets U.S. safety and emission requirements. Most cars sold in the U.S. are built specifically for this market and cars built for the Canadian market may not meet all of the requirements. If your car was manufactured more than 25 years ago it is exempt from these requirements.
At least 2-3 weeks before importing your vehicle you must contact the manufacturer of the vehicle and ask for a letter stating that your vehicle complies with all applicable U.S. safety and emission standards. The letter must identify your vehicle by the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Read this letter very carefully.
- If the manufacturer letter states that the vehicle complies with U.S. safety and emission standards you are good to go.
- If the manufacturer letter states that the vehicle meets U.S. standards except for minor items you may be able to have these things fixed by an authorized dealer and then present the invoice to U.S. Customs.
- If the letter lists substantial safety items, such as passive restraint systems, you may be required to use a U.S. DOT-registered importer (RI) to modify the vehicle. This only makes sense if you are importing a very expensive car as the process of bringing it into compliance is complex and costly.
- If the letter says the vehicle does not meet U.S. emission requirements you may need to import it through an independent commercial importer (ICI). Using an ICI can be costly. You should also realize that individual state emission requirements may differ from those of the federal government. You should contact your state DOT to make sure you know what is needed to register the vehicle in your state.
We have heard stories from buyers that manufacturers are sometimes unresponsive to requests to provide these types of letters. If you are purchasing the vehicle from a dealer, you may need to push them to make the request on your behalf.
You need to have all of the documentation for the vehicle with you when you cross the U.S. border. You will be sent inside the Customs building to fill out form CBP 7501 and possibly others. You can find copies of these forms on the U.S. CBP website.
Customs officials will inspect the car and make sure it matches the paperwork you submit. The whole process will probably take a half hour or so if there are no problems.
To safeguard against importation of dangerous pests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the undercarriage of imported cars be free of foreign soil. Have your car steam-sprayed or cleaned thoroughly before shipment.
Duties and Taxes to Import
Duty free if manufactured in Canada or Mexico with appropriate NAFTA certificate and motorcycles with engines less than 700cc’s. Duty is 2.5% for passenger vehicles, 25% for trucks, and 2.4% for motorcycles with engines greater than 700cc’s.
- Commercial invoice or bill of sale
- Registration papers
- EPA form 3520-1
- DOT form HS-7
- NAFTA (if applicable)
- Letter of recall conformity from manufacturer (if applicable)