Is it worth the trouble/effort to buy IKEA in Canada and drive it back into the US?
October 6, 2009 8:11 AM   Subscribe

Anyone with experience buying and bringing IKEA stuff from Canada into the US?

I want to drive up to the IKEA in Montreal to purchase some furniture because it's the closest IKEA to where I live here in Vermont (about 2 hours away). I'm guessing that you probably have to deal with import procedures when coming back into the states if you spend a certain amount of money or are bringing back a big truck full of stuff. Does anyone have any experience with this? Do you think I could avoid it if I had a van vs. a Uhaul or something similar? What would this procedure involve? Would the current exchange rate make it worth the trouble?

I'm planning on buying some bigger items, so it might be difficult to sneak through unnoticed, but I might be able to borrow a decently sized van or something if needs-be.
posted by davertron to Shopping (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
before the Ikea in Stoughton, MA opened up my girlfriend and I bought a dresser from Ikea Montreal and brought it back to Boston. We were driving a car and had to fold down the back seats to get the package to fit, so it was rather obvious for the border guard to see that we were bringing back something. Keep in mind that the personal exemption for each trip is $800, so if the total amount of your purchase is less than this, you're better off being straight up about it and declaring all of your goods. Keep your receipts handy.
posted by bl1nk at 8:20 AM on October 6, 2009

I have done this a few times, but never with as much stuff as you plan to have. I never had to pay duty on the goods, but when we went over the border, we always stayed for at least a weekend and there were 4 of us, so we had a fairly large allowance. The one thing I came here to tell you though, is that as long as you have the goods and receipts with you, you get the GST back at customs! So make sure you do that.
posted by yawper at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2009

Keep in mind that the personal exemption for each trip is $800, so if the total amount of your purchase is less than this, you're better off being straight up about it and declaring all of your goods.

Tip: take a friend. Or three.
posted by rokusan at 8:27 AM on October 6, 2009

Also keep in mind that you'll be paying 13% sales tax at the Montreal store. Depending on how much you purchase, it might be cheaper to buy in the US and get it shipped than to drive and pay sales tax.
posted by OLechat at 8:36 AM on October 6, 2009

I don't know what the customs issue will be, but I just noticed that items at a Canadian Ikea can be priced MUCH higher than they are in the US. My kitchen cart is $100 USD in the US, but $170 CND ($160 USD at current exchange rates) in Canada.

Considering the high cost of delivery, it still might be worth it to you to go to the Ikea in Montreal, but you will want to check out the cost of furniture in Canada.
posted by jb at 8:53 AM on October 6, 2009

you get the GST back at customs

No, you don't.
posted by oaf at 9:50 AM on October 6, 2009

We do this from time to time. It's never a problem. Worst case you'd owe a small percentage of duty on the amount over your allowance. More likely, unless you're actually bringing a moving van full of stuff, is that it's not worth the border agent's time to deal with you.

Last time (or the time before that) we were crossing back at the Rainbow Bridge in NF and pulled up to the border agent. After the citizenship bit, the exchange went something like this:

Where have you been?
How long have you been in Canada?
We just went to Ikea and came back.

At this point the border agent looks at the car packed to the gills with something like $800 worth of Ikea stuff, to the point where I was sitting in one of the back seats so we could fold the passenger's front seat over.

Ugh. It's less than $300, RIGHT?
Uh, sure.
Have a nice day.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:00 AM on October 6, 2009

The $800 exemption only applies if you've been out of the country longer than 48 hours. From this brochure from the CBP:
In most cases, the personal exemption is $800, but there are some exceptions to this rule, which are explained below. ...

If you cannot claim other exemptions because:
  • You have been out of the country more than once in a 30-day period or because
  • You have not been out of the country for at least 48 hours.
You may still bring back $200 worth of items free of duty and tax. As discussed earlier, these items must be for your personal or household use.
So you'd either have to spend less than $200, spend a couple days in Montréal, or bring a couple of friends along (who would no doubt take up valuable furniture space in your car.) Or, on preview, you could hope for a nudge-nudge-wink-wink customs officer like ROU_Xenophobe's.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:06 AM on October 6, 2009

you get the GST back at customs

No, you don't.
posted by oaf 21 minutes ago [+]

Aw, damn. Sorry about that. I moved back to Canada a couple years ago so my info was old. Thanks for correcting that, oaf.
posted by yawper at 10:14 AM on October 6, 2009

Response by poster: Hey, thanks for all the informative replies. I did forget to mention that I would be bringing friends anyway. There will probably be 2-3 of us.

So, from what I've read here so far, that means that we'll be able to spend something like $600 without worrying about duties/taxes. However, I didn't look at the prices for the Montreal store, and if they're all skewed higher like jb mentions above, we could probably just drive down to the one in Stoughton. This would add about 4 hours or so onto our trip (total), but it sounds like it would be worth it to avoid the higher sales tax and generally higher prices in Montreal, not to mention not having to worry about dealing with the border crossing.
posted by davertron at 11:59 AM on October 6, 2009

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