how to offload a US car in Canada
July 4, 2020 5:57 PM   Subscribe

I drive a 14.5-year-old beater in the US and there is about a 0% chance Canada will allow me to import it without alterations that will definitely exceed the value of the car (generously, $500 US). However, I need it to get myself to Canada. Is there any way, in this COVID era, to get rid of my US car without importing it OR returning to the US (and thus having to do another 14-day quarantine)?

My goals are, in this order:

1. Have the car no longer be my problem (I will probably eventually buy another car in Canada, but this is not a high priority; other than moving in I don't need it right now because no one's going anywhere anyway!)

2. Have the car belong to someone who could get some use out of it (it is aesthetically a BIG MESS, but it's reliable and mechanically sound; I can scrap it if I have to but it would sort of bum me out -- if I wasn't moving I would probably drive this car for another five years)

I do not care if I make even one single dollar on this car. I would pay someone to deal with it for me, if that's an option. There is no way it's worth more than $500 US. I do not want to deal with importing it, for a lot of reasons.

In normal times, I would just drive the car back to the US, sell/donate/give it away, and then take a bus back to Toronto. However, these are extremely abnormal times (a bus sounds like a bad idea, quarantining for 14 more days sounds like a bad idea, spending extra time in the US sounds like a bad idea), so I am just at a dead loss for what to do with it. I am open to weird or creative solutions, provided that they are legal (for example, I am not going to abandon my car by the side of the road).

Thank you for your help with my continuing series of cross-border pandemic panic questions.
posted by robot inside a grid to Travel & Transportation around Canada (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you packing things with you in your car, or is it just you and your spouse? If the former, I think your best bet is unfortunately just to scrap the car once you get there, or else park it until the border reopens (which could, of course, be quite a while) if you have space to park it for free.
posted by tivalasvegas at 6:19 PM on July 4, 2020

Drive it to Canada. post it on CL huge bargain for anyone needing transportation to the US? They have to sign a bill of sale.

or, yeah, if you can get it salvaged, you might get a couple hundred loons out of it.
posted by theora55 at 6:22 PM on July 4, 2020

Is it possible to sell your car in the US and rent a car to drive to Canada?
posted by ardgedee at 6:29 PM on July 4, 2020

I was thinking that as well but I'm not sure you can take rental cars over the border because insurance, even before the pandemic. Could be wrong though.

Taxis also used to be able to take people over (either at Detroit/Windsor or Niagara Falls) but I'm not sure if that is doable right now either. There is a way to walk across the Rainbow Bridge about 10 years ago, if you can rent a car to go from Chicago to Niagara Falls, NY... and then either quarantine in Niagara Falls or get another rental to Toronto... but this might not be open right now either.
posted by tivalasvegas at 6:34 PM on July 4, 2020

Same same when driving myself back to Canada (ableit the Peace Arch crossing) from college back in 2000.

At the border, I had to promise to get the alterations done, and buy Canadian insurance for each day it was on the road. After the alterations (stupid), I ended up selling it for a $1 (could have gotten a little more selling it to a scrapper) because the car was a pos and I couldn't find a job to afford the insurance/ gas/ maintenance right away - and I was in an area where I could rely on public transit.

What I'd do, if I had to do it again, is do the verbal promise then promptly sell it to a scrapper for a hundred or so. They can come pick it up.

The reason I was flagged was because I had all of my stuff in the car, and I declared them as "personal effects," and my passport showed that I'm a citizen returning after an expired student visa.

In these times of covid, I'd be concerned about not being let through the border in the first place. Having documents to show that you have a place of residence in Canada where you can self quarantine should help.
posted by porpoise at 6:38 PM on July 4, 2020

> I'm not sure you can take rental cars over the border because insurance

It's definitely possible.
posted by ardgedee at 6:47 PM on July 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you scroll down to the bottom of argedee's link, it says that Budget offers one-way rentals from the US to Canada under certain circumstances -- worth looking into.
posted by mekily at 7:20 PM on July 4, 2020

Response by poster: So the rental car route had occurred to me, but presumably I'd have to keep the car throughout my 14-day quarantine, which is really expensive. But if there's a way for me to return the rental car (have someone come pick it up maybe??) without hanging onto it for 14 days, that would be viable.
posted by robot inside a grid at 7:21 PM on July 4, 2020

Could you advertise the car in the US, and sell it on the condition that the buyer will be a passenger to your destination in Canada, and then drive the car back to the US?
posted by KayQuestions at 7:29 PM on July 4, 2020

Response by poster: Swear I'll stop threadsitting -- KayQuestions, the problem is that they'd need to be a US/Can dual citizen (or at least have status in both countries) in order to cross the border right now. Finding someone who wants this car, is willing to do this trip, AND has dual status seems like a long shot.
posted by robot inside a grid at 7:32 PM on July 4, 2020

You can get a one way rental from US to Canada. It is relatively expensive, but the numbers would probably make sense for you. There are several companies that used to do this, but Budget may be the only one right now. The only caveat is there has to be a car available with a Canadian license plate. I tried some random dates in Expedia and one came up in August. I would call Budget and some other companies that operate in both countries. The price was in the $200’s for a car and a little over $300 for a minivan or SUV which you might want for the move anyway (from Chicago to Toronto).

If you do take your car to Canada you would probably have to import it before selling. Better to sell and use the money for rental and gas.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 7:48 PM on July 4, 2020

Scrap/sell/donate/leave the car in the US and fly into Canada, and then get a rental from the airport? If you're on the west coast, flights from Bellingham or Seattle to Vancouver are considerably less than $500 (or at least were pre-covid). You're also less likely to get turned away at the border if you're flying - it's still essential traffic only on land crossings as you're clearly aware.
posted by cgg at 8:02 PM on July 4, 2020

You can get a Uhaul (they have smaller trucks if you don't need a huge moving van), they normally do crossborder one-way trips. And even pre-COVID they did contactless pickup and dropoff through the app. COVID might have changed the system since I last used a Uhaul, but that's where I would check first. Then you could get a taxi from the Uhaul place to your house after you drop it off, I guess?
posted by 100kb at 8:03 PM on July 4, 2020

Oh, I re-read the question, you're trying to get to Toronto. Can't you just fly into YYZ and take an Uber, and maybe ship your stuff if that's the reason for driving?
posted by cgg at 8:05 PM on July 4, 2020

It looks like rules are temporarily relaxed, from CBSA:

"Temporary import of US-plated vehicles into Canada
Until further notice, the CBSA is lifting the 60-day condition regarding the temporary import of US-plated vehicles by Canadian residents. A new deadline for when these vehicles will need to be exported or permanently imported with applicable duties and tax will follow."
posted by dum spiro spero at 8:28 PM on July 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

You seem to be really close to the 15 year limit which allows more flexibility. In import. Do you have the date of manufacture? It should be on a sticker on the drivers side door panel.

If you are moving to Canada, I’m not sure if you can choose the temporary import route. See memorandum d2-4-1 Which is linked from the CBSA site in the previous comment.
posted by dttocs at 9:57 PM on July 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Except uber's probably violate quarantine. Hmm. Scratch my last suggestion.
posted by cgg at 10:04 PM on July 4, 2020

It looks like CBSA might be willing to be a bit more flexible than usual, see
So you may be able to bring it in with a promise to scrap it after you get to your destination.
posted by dttocs at 12:06 AM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, hmm... maybe contact the office of your (future) MP?
posted by tivalasvegas at 6:08 AM on July 5, 2020

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