How can we get a car now if we're moving to Canada in 3 months?
June 12, 2009 12:29 PM   Subscribe

We're moving to Canada in 3 months but we need a new car now. Buy? Lease? Here? There?

Our little blue wonder-car has finally started to become more of a burden than we can afford, and we don't want to make the investment to get it inspected right now. We need a new car. We're moving to Canada in 3 months - it is my assumption that if we were to lease a car in the US right now, we wouldn't be able to bring it to Canada.

So, buying, maybe? What about warranty? A lot of dealers around us offer long-term warranties that are very attractive on used cars, but do these generally apply in Canada? This is important to us, as we would like to keep costs to a minimum for the next few years and don't really want to budget for wear and tear repairs.

Should we wait until we get to Canada, and make do for now? How hard will it be for us to buy a car with no Canadian credit?

This is very confusing. Can anyone help make sense of it?
posted by setanor to Shopping (17 answers total)
You can get a Canadian bank or auto loan provider to check your American credit score, though it takes some more work. Bring documentation and current copies of your credit report from all three major credit bureaus. Do not lease an American car and bring it to Canada.

Depending on where you are going, cars are generally less expensive in the USA even after the mandatory import changes (daytime running lights, inspection) to bring an American registered car into Canada. It's difficult or impossible to import a car that has a lien against its title, such as a bank loan, so it's best done with something you own free and clear. For example, in the Seattle area a 2001 Toyota Corolla with about 100,000 miles sells for $5000 + WA sales tax. The same car would cost about $8000 Canada ($6700+ US dollars) plus the higher BC sales tax in the Vancouver area.
posted by thewalrus at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2009

If you do buy a car in the United States before moving to Canada, you should be aware of any taxes and duties that will be charged once you register the car in Canada, as well as potential vehicle testing - you can't just buy a car in the States and bring it into Canada.

This page is a good place to start.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:52 PM on June 12, 2009

Checkout to see the value of cars around here.
posted by boomcha76 at 12:58 PM on June 12, 2009

If you're moving somewhere like Vancouver or Toronto, you could probably just sign up with Zipcar or the Car Co-op Network. Perhaps you could work out a similar option where you are now. Or you might look into taking cabs and renting cars for the next 3 months. It may prove to be cheaper than purchasing a car you only need for 3 months. (And then you can work out your options in Canada.) But I do know that a friend who tried to bring her lease and vehicle into Canada ended up having to sell (at a loss) and then buy another car here. She also had to start all over from scratch with her credit rating.
posted by acoutu at 1:21 PM on June 12, 2009

It's difficult or impossible to import a car that has a lien against its title, such as a bank loan, so it's best done with something you own free and clear.

Yikes. Do you have a reference for this? Also, do you think it would be possible and better to try to finance through a Canadian bank in advance of our move?
posted by setanor at 1:21 PM on June 12, 2009

If you're moving somewhere like Vancouver or Toronto, you could probably just sign up with Zipcar or the Car Co-op Network.

Problem is the only real reason we'll need a car is to drive back to Maine a few times a year, as flights through NY to PWM are pretty high. This can get pretty astronomical with the per/km rates they charge for distances.
posted by setanor at 1:22 PM on June 12, 2009

Cars are cheaper in the states (this is really clear at the US $30,000 price point and drastically clear the higher you go). I'd be willing to bring a new or late model car across but not a cheap used one like the Toyota mentioned upthread. As for the warrently, most Toyotas/Lexus will transfer, some Subarus (Tribecca for sure) but you'd want to check out the specific model that you were looking at.

For a less than $10,000 CAD dollar car I am not sure that I would bother because the US and Canada have different emmissions and testing laws. Even the drive clean testing and safety can run $300+ dollars with NOTHING WRONG. Bringing an older car across the border that may not pass the drive clean test can cost big bucks. By the time that you pay 5% GST, plus duty, plus fees, plus testing a $3000 - $4000 savings can really disappear. YMMV.

FWIW I should mention that I live and drive in Canada.
posted by saradarlin at 1:24 PM on June 12, 2009

Why are you moving to Canada? If it's a temporary move -- you're not citizens, you have a temporary kind of visa -- you can use your US car with its US insurance and license plate and your US permanent address in Canada. You cannot sell your car in Canada if you bring it in that way.

It seems you're going under a study permit, in which case: great! Do this! You will save yourself all sorts of bother. Ask about warranties across the border. Dealerships have some reciprocal arrangements. I vaguely recall that mine was valid on both sides, but I never needed anything fixed while I was away.

If for some reason you feel you need to import a car, and not just bring it in temporarily:

Taxes and imports are a huge bitch, and after the dollar being at par for a long time, the manufacturing companies got the government to make it even harder to import a car to Canada. You will find it a lot easier to buy a car in Canada than to import one. There are restrictions on which cars are allowed in, there are all sorts of changes that need to be made, you need to pay taxes, etc. (And if you just recently purchased a car, you won't get any luck with being grandfathered in.)
posted by jeather at 1:26 PM on June 12, 2009

I found the appropriate information about importing a car.

In particular:
You can import a vehicle from the United States without registering it with the RIV program if one of the following applies:
The vehicle is entering Canada temporarily for a specific purpose. The allowable types of temporary imports are the following:
vehicles imported by visitors for a period not exceeding 12 months, temporary residents (such as students) studying at an institution of learning for the duration of their studies in Canada, or individuals with valid work permits/authorizations for employment for a period not exceeding 36 months;
A vehicle imported temporarily under one of these conditions cannot be sold or otherwise disposed of while in Canada, and cannot remain in Canada longer than the time limit listed on the person's work permit, student visa or other customs or immigration document. Once the time limit has been exceeded, the vehicle no longer qualifies for temporary entry and must be exported. Should the temporary status of the person importing the vehicle change while he or she is in Canada, the vehicle will have to either be permanently imported, if it qualifies, or exported.
Buy whatever car you want. Make sure cross-border warranties apply in Ontario specifically (some might be restricted to Quebec or New Brunswick, say: it's a good idea to get it ok in Quebec, because the drive is often faster that way). Get this warranty information, that you're covered in Canada, in writing.
posted by jeather at 1:39 PM on June 12, 2009

i bought a 2003 tacoma in LA 2 months before moving home to canada. i financed 1/2 of the purchase through my canadian bank and paid cash for the rest. it cost ~$1200 for the fees to get it across the border. it would have been an extra $1000 if it were a guzzler (which is something less than 20mpg). tacomas were vastly more expensive here than in the US and i saved a ton of money.

other than the silly paperwork requirement (US customs must have the export paperwork at the crossing you intend to use 72 hours before you cross; the canadians won't let you in without it) the rest is easy. have canada customs check you out, go to canadian tire to get the inspection (they have the contract with the gov't) and you're done. when i came across, US customs didn't have the paperwork and i talked my way through with the canadians by showing that my work visa was still valid and that i still had an address in LA (this is at Blaine, btw.). to sort it out, i faxed the papers to the port angeles crossing. i took the ferry over they stamped them, and i went home.

a note about canadian tire: don't trust them for a second. they added "daytime running lights" to my bill before even beginning the inspection, which of course, all american cars have now anyway. "crappy tire" is a notorious, bottom of the barrel shop. pretty much everytime you go there, you'll hear an unhappy customer yelling at the clerk for unauthorized, expensive work that can't be undone.

finally, make absolutely sure that the car you intend to buy in the US is legal for import into canada. some (like scion and some suzukis, last i saw) aren't allowed.
posted by klanawa at 2:09 PM on June 12, 2009

btw. this was a newer used car with no warrantee.
posted by klanawa at 2:09 PM on June 12, 2009

Just a clarification about the whole "if you're moving here temporarily, you don't have to bother with the importing process." It's true that if you're coming to Canada for a limited term, you are probably exempt from having to go through the RIV program. But you probably *will* have to have your car registered and insured in the province of residence, presuming you are staying for longer than 30 days. That was my experience, anyway. (Some info from the Ontario ministry of transportation here.) If this situation actually applies to you, let me know and I can give you more info about what exactly we had to go through to bring a US car into Ontario.

I'd second the idea that you should think carefully about whether or not you actually want a car here. We brought ours for basically the same reason you quote above -- so we could drive to visit family a couple times a year. It wasn't worth it -- at least, wasn't worth it to us, in Toronto, in retrospect. Insurance is insanely, insanely expensive by US standards -- like, oh my god. (We pay a bit more than twice what we did in the US; some of the quotes we got were way way higher than that. We both had clean driving records, had been driving for 10+ years, etc. To be fair, part of the issue seems to be getting recognition for your full driving record if you have lived in more than one US state recently, so ymmv.) Parking isn't free (though, in fairness, is cheaper than it was in Chicago or SF), gas is more expensive, you'll have to pay for vehicle inspection and registration and so on and so on, till it all seems to form a terrible green ooze of money and resentment flowing from you into someone else's pocket. That was my experience, anyway.

Just rent a car when you want to drive to Maine. Hertz, etc have no problems with you renting a Canadian-plated vehicle and driving it into the US and back -- I had to do this a couple of times before our car got properly insured and so forth here. (Note that the opposite operation, a Canadian resident driving a US-plated rental car into Canada, is supposedly not allowed.) Obv. this doesn't help you if you're living out somewhere where you actually really *need* a car.
posted by chalkbored at 2:30 PM on June 12, 2009

Seconding chalkbored about higher Canadian insurance premiums.

If you buy a North American made car to import into Canada, you won't have to pay the duty you would if it was made elsewhere. Also, not sure if this applies to Americans importing to Canada, but Canadians returning to Canada get a $10k allowance per vehicle, so you'd only pay GST on the amount above that (not sure about Provincial Sales Tax). Lots to read here.
posted by acro at 3:26 PM on June 12, 2009

American cars "all" have daytime running lights? Since when? They're not required in the US- they ARE in Canada and MUST be installed to pass inspection for import. I had mine put in before I emigrated but if you don't it'll be done for you, and you'll pat of course- klanawa, I very much doubt your US car had them.

setanor, where are you settling? If it's anywhere in the west, please consider buying a car in Alberta as there's no PST here. Huge savings.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 4:10 PM on June 12, 2009

pay not pat
posted by ethnomethodologist at 4:10 PM on June 12, 2009

> klanawa, I very much doubt your US car had them

DRLs became available in the US starting with the 1995 model year. Only a handful of manufacturers installed them across their entire model line (GM being the primary one... but Toyota being another). Kwana's 2003 Toyota Tacoma most certainly did have them. Here's Toyota's own bulletin showing how to disable them (it's dated 2000, so it only goes through the 2000 model year, but the DRLs remained in place for that entire generation of Tacomas).
posted by toxic at 5:07 PM on June 12, 2009

You're not going to be an Ontario resident. I've known a lot of people cross-border (or just changing state or province) for school with cars, and not a single one of them changed plates or insurance or registered in their new state or province, because they were not residents of the new location. You obviously need to ask your insurance agent about the insurance aspect, but as a student, you are generally not required to switch things over due to residency.

Your school's international student association should be able either to answer this, or put you in touch with someone who has brought a car over. You could phone the ministry, though a lot of time they just give the fastest answer if they don't know the specifics.

You should get a new license, however. (Note that most people I know didn't do this, but we all should have.)
posted by jeather at 6:54 PM on June 12, 2009

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