bringing a newly purchased car into canada temporarily
December 7, 2018 12:25 AM   Subscribe

Can I buy a car and drive it the same day to Canada? What paperwork would I need? Is there a delay?

I'm a US citizen currently living in Canada but will be moving to the midwestern US in a few weeks. In order to make the drive, I need a car. As I live in Vancouver, I plan to purchase one in Washington, bring it to Vancouver to pack and then leave within a week. I'm running into problems when it comes to sorting out any paperwork since I'm not planning on importing the car.

I saw something in a forum post related to the title and similar paperwork needing to be sent 72 hours in advance to the border folks, but I'm hoping that doesn't apply if I'm not importing the car. I've already run it by the insurance company and they don't have any problems.

I'm sure something is going to make this more complicated, so hit me, what do I need to do?
posted by gilsonal to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add: yes, I have to drive to Michigan, I have three cats and two people to transport, so flying is more expensive than paying to switch the title and registration, etc. Not to mention, I get freaked out by the articles about pets dying on planes.
posted by gilsonal at 12:34 AM on December 7, 2018

This is just an anecdotal data point: If you are a resident of Canada, or customs believes that you will stay in Canada, and you attempt to bring a car which you purchased in the US into Canada, you will probably need to import the car.

The fact that you had plans to return to the US with the car in a short amount of time did not matter to a friend of mine who did this (as a Canadian citizen, US resident). Like you, he was doing this while moving. In his case, graduating college in the US, and he had a job lined up in the fall in the US, but visiting his family for a few weeks.

Have you considered leaving your things in storage in Canada for a short time, moving to the US, officially changing your residence, and then going back for your things?
posted by cotterpin at 1:02 AM on December 7, 2018

Canada is kind of a pain about car importing. I would be cautious.
posted by quaking fajita at 4:13 AM on December 7, 2018

Why don’t you just rent a car for a week and buy the new car afterward?
posted by Andrhia at 6:08 AM on December 7, 2018 [7 favorites]

cotterpin's experience is my understanding. Importing a car to Canada is annoyingly complicated and the border agents aren't going to believe your situation.

If it was me I'd buy a car in Washington and then either arrange to pick it up in a week or park it in some long term parking (airport?). I'd then rent a vehicle in Canada to move my stuff to the car. It'll probably be cheaper, if you do the latter, to then drive the car back to Canada and fly back to your car (your companion would be waiting with the cats) rather than paying the one way rental fee. Or maybe a friend could drive you to your new car.

Note that you are going to have a hassle at the border whatever you do when you enter the states as they will grill you whether you are moving or importing your belongings.
posted by Mitheral at 7:31 AM on December 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've successfully convinced the Canadian border guards to let me bring a car into Canada without importing it. (Like you, I'm a US citizen living in Canada.) But if I were in your shoes, I'd go with a rental car.

What happened was that my mom passed away at her home in the US. I inherited her car and drove it into Canada, to pick up a relative who was unable to drive herself to the funeral. I was allowed to bring the car into Canada -- they gave me paperwork that said I'd only be in Canada for a few days. When I returned to the US, I had to drop the paperwork off to prove that I really did leave with the car.

Convincing the guard to let me in with the car was not easy. I think they let me in with the car because (a) the border crossing was hundreds of kilometres away from my home, and had no plans to go home, (b) I had specific plans to leave Canada with the car, and (c) it literally did not occur to me that I owned the car until the border guard asked me. (Guard: "Who owns the car?" Me: "It's my mom's." G: "But your mom is deceased. Who owns the car now?" Me: "Oh.... I guess I do.")

So if you try to bring your new car into Canada, provide as much documentation as you can about the move. Signed job offer in Michigan, notice to end your lease in Vancouver, etc. Even so, it's very likely they won't let you in with the car.
posted by Banknote of the year at 11:01 AM on December 7, 2018

Best answer: I wouldn't try this.

I am a Canadian citizen. I had a WA state plated car that I tried to drive into Canada when I was "in-between" working status in the US (temporarily out of status). All of my documents - primary residence, mortgage, drivers license, insurance, etc were American. I was turned back at the Canadian border because they considered me a Canadian resident and I had to import the car.

This was extremely inconvenient, as I had to turn around and go back south and apply for working status to the US again at the point of entry. I regained my working status, stayed overnight and went to work, and then was able to go back to Canada with my US plated car because I was a US resident.

Rent a car, rent a van, do something to get you and your stuff to the US without purchasing a car in the US and take it to Canada as a resident of Canada. You do not want to be stuck at the border when you are allowed entry to Canada and your car is denied.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:04 AM on December 7, 2018

As a PS - importing a car into the US is very easy. With the foreign exchange rate being what it is you might consider buying a car in Canada and importing it.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:10 AM on December 7, 2018

If you go this route and the car is less than 25 years old make sure it is a federalized automobile. We get cars and trim levels the Americans don't and those particular vehicles under 25 years old can't be imported.
posted by Mitheral at 12:54 PM on December 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well I called border patrol and they say I'd have to pay to import, even if I were just going for an hour to pick up my cats. Looks like I'll be renting a car to get us all into the US and buy the car there.
posted by gilsonal at 5:39 PM on December 7, 2018

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