Importing a bulky, expensive thing to the US from Canada
December 6, 2011 7:41 PM   Subscribe

Seller is in Alberta, buyer (me) is in Pennsylvania. The item is $1,600 US and ships in a big crate... how do I do this correctly?

I've never bought an expensive, bulky item internationally before. What's the best shipping method? How can I set it up so both parties are protected from shenanigans---is there some above-board escrow service that gives us both reasonable means of handling disputes? How do I find out what taxes or fees I have to pay?

Other details: the item is the clear plexiglas canopy for an airplane---a big piece of molded plastic, not hazardous or especially heavy, but fragile and packed with lots of padding. I mention the item specifically in case there is some special duty for plane parts. Seller and I have met through an online forum, i.e. not over eBay or some other retailer.
posted by tss to Travel & Transportation (1 answer total)
Best answer: There are special duty rates for airplane parts. I believe your canopy is most likely going to be duty free. See subheading 8803.30.0030 here(pdf).

For commercial shipments the terms of sale are usually negotiated prior to purchase and are often used to set the purchase price. They then spell out the specific legal responsibilities of the buyer and seller. It sounds like an escrow service might indeed be a better option for a one-time shipment between individuals, if there is such a thing for international shipments. Unfortunately that's outside the scope of my knowledge.

I think the easiest, hassle-free way to ship is going to be letting a company like FedEx or DHL move it door-to-door for you. They can pick it up, handle the customs entry, and deliver it to your door. Easy peasy. But that's not likely to be the least expensive option. Other options would be to contact some freight forwarders (probably start looking for one with an office in your city or nearby) for estimates. Ask them specifically if they can handle the customs entry or if you'll need your own broker. You could even drive a truck up there, pay for it, load it up, and drive it home. The value of the canopy is such that with the proper paperwork (basically an invoice/receipt), you could in theory make an informal entry on your way across the border with minimal hassle and no need for a broker at all.

Hopefully that's at least a decent start, and other people can recommend some more specific shipping options.
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:18 AM on December 7, 2011

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