How to sell our Ontario-registered never-imported American car
January 27, 2015 12:13 PM   Subscribe

How can we sell, in the U.S., a car from the U.S. with Canadian plates that was never permanently imported into Canada, but that has Canadian plates?

My fiancee and I moved to Toronto with work permits. We brough her car, a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid. We registered the car in Ontario but did not permanently import it.

We have obtained confirmation of permanent residence so we anticipate becoming permanent residents of Canada the next time we visit the border. At that point we will have a limited time to export the car from the U.S. and import the car to Canada through the Registrar of Imported Vehicles process. In addition to the onerous bureaucratic process and the fees, we will need to spend an undetermined amount of time and money to modify the car to meet Canadian standards.

We rarely drive the car now so we're considering selling it before going through importation.

Will the Ontario registration create any special difficulties in doing this? Will a dealer or private party in New York state be willing to buy a car registered in Ontario that has never been formally exported from the U.S.? What do we need to know and what's the best way to do this?
posted by grouse to Law & Government (13 answers total)
I don't think this really matters much. Do you have the title for the vehicle?
posted by tckma at 12:18 PM on January 27, 2015

Response by poster: Yes.
posted by grouse at 12:25 PM on January 27, 2015

I'm baffled as to how you registered a Canadian car without importing it. However options we considered for my wife's car (US Honda Accord):

- Sell it in the US in Buffalo- they don't care about the plates there. If you have the title you can sell it no problem. If it hasn't been imported into Canada it is just a US car. It's no different to an out of state car (assuming it isn't already a NY car?)

- Trade it in and let them worry about it. We eventually did this and probably lost $1000 on the deal, but it was worth it for the lack of headache.

- Import it. Again, now sure how you'd do this as its got Canadian Plates already. But conversion shouldn't be too bad (probably just a daylight running lights module for a couple of hundred bucks). Honda build cars globally, not for specific markets, where they can.

The best advice I can give is if you need the money from the car it isn't as hard as it sounds to import the car. If you want less hassle over more money, just sell it in the US. But... it is confusing how you registered a non-Canadian car with Canadian plates. That's not supposed to be possible, I thought.
posted by Brockles at 12:26 PM on January 27, 2015

A couple of years ago, we sold my husband's not-imported Canadian Honda Civic in the US. As long as you have the title, there should be no problem. We also changed the speedometer for a MPH unit before we sold it, but that was not necessary.

It took some back-and-forth with our insurance agent to get the model correctly identified, though. Apparently the manufacturer's model designators are different in Canada.
posted by workerant at 12:28 PM on January 27, 2015

As long as you have the title to the vehicle, and sign that title to your buyer when you sell it, then there should be no problem.
posted by tckma at 12:44 PM on January 27, 2015

Response by poster: I'm baffled as to how you registered a Canadian car without importing it.

It's possible since we are "temporary visitors" here under a work permit. Once we become permanent residents the clock starts ticking and we have to import it, or else.
posted by grouse at 12:45 PM on January 27, 2015

Ah, ok. as per here. But now it has to go out again or be exported because of change of status. Got it. I got bum advice a few years ago, then.

I think from the US perspective, though, as soon as you take the plates off it it's just a US car again that isn't registered. It never changed status in the US (because it was never exported) so why would the Canadian plates hanging off it be any different to (say) Florida plates? It's just an 'out of State plate', no? You have a valid US title for the car.
posted by Brockles at 1:14 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

According to the New York State DMV this is what you need to sell a car to another party in New York State: 1) The title; and 2) The bill of sale. I can't imagine how its Canadian status could possibly be an issue in getting it registered or inspected in New York, especially since the car was originally sold in the U.S.
posted by Leatherstocking at 7:22 PM on January 27, 2015

The cost of getting a car ready for Canadian import is not great. Usually all you have to do is have the daytime running lights turned on. The cost of the daytime runners, recall clearance letter, RIV, provincial inspection all in will be somewhere around $500-$1000.

If you do not intend to replace the vehicle then by all means sell it in the USA. However if you like the vehicle and/or would replace the vehicle I would consider the import. It is stressful but not any more or less so than car buying/selling.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:45 PM on January 27, 2015

Response by poster: We are probably going to sell the car. Any suggestions on how to find the right dealer to do this?
posted by grouse at 6:15 AM on January 29, 2015

Response by poster: Looks like we don't have a U.S. title for the vehicle. I think we had to surrender it to Ontario to get an ownership permit. This has complicated things—for example, CarMax doesn't want to buy the car in this situation.
posted by grouse at 9:59 AM on February 8, 2015

So you'd have to take the car back to the US, register it in NY (to regain access to the title) and THEN try and sell it? Confusing, but I guess that system would make sense if the intended path was for a US citizen to use this car in Canada and then return with the same car at the end of their work permit?

At this point it may be a balance of what is cheaper - re-registering it in Buffalo or importing it.
posted by Brockles at 10:13 AM on February 8, 2015

Response by poster: I don't know. I'm hoping that a traditional dealer will be willing to take it. If not, trying to re-register it in New York State seems like the best option. I have family who live in Oswego, so I could leave the car there and try to re-register at that address. It would be incredibly inconvenient though.
posted by grouse at 10:40 AM on February 8, 2015

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