how to import a Toyota from Canada to the US
August 21, 2006 8:15 AM   Subscribe

How hard and expensive it would be to import a Toyota from Canada into the US? We're looking at the Yaris, but the love of my life wants the 5 door hatchback and Toyota only sells the 3 door in the US. This is new for us, so please help out!

Related concerns include: wondering whether the three door would be representative for test drives (onlyconnect is concerned about visibility into the driver side blind spot), wondering how long it would take if we tried to make it happen, would the warranty be valid in the US and at US dealers, and of course the jitters of spending a big wad of money across long distances and national borders.

This car would mostly be for onlyconnect's use in a fairly short suburban/urban commute, and it looks perfect for that, but if you know another safe, small, high-mileage (and cheap!) 4 door hatchback, we'd love to hear about it. We've considered the Scion Xa and Xb, the Ford Focus ZX5, the Suzuki Swift, the Honda Fit, the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe, and even the Toyota RAV4. Are we missing an option?
posted by NortonDC to Law & Government (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The Mazda3 hatchback might be another option for you. I have a 2004 and I love it.
posted by misskaz at 8:25 AM on August 21, 2006


They sell the four-door Yaris in the US (with a regular trunk - no hatchback. I have one. I don't think they make a five-door hatchback in the US. The four-door gets excellent gas mileage (around 40 mpg on the highway). If you buy the car in Canada you'll pay higher taxes and I would suspect the price of the car would climb quickly towards 18K. Have you looked at the Prius?
posted by mattbucher at 8:36 AM on August 21, 2006


Getting the Canadian vehicle certified to meet US EPA regulations can be a real pain and sometimes expensive. This is because the underlying priorities of the two country's regs are different. (Canada aims for max fuel efficiency while the US aims for lowest emissions, or so it is claimed.)

The biggest problem will be with the warranty. While technically Toyota is supposed to honor the warranty at any dealership, the fact is that they don't. Once you import a car from Canada into the US, Toyota Canada no longer feels responsible for reimbursing a US dealership, since the vehicle is no longer registered in Canada. However, the biggest problem might be that the US dealer will not be able to get parts for a vehicle which is sold only in Canada. If you tried to return to Canada to get warranty repair work done, the Canadian dealer might not honor that warranty now that the vehicle was no longer registered in Canada.

All of this was explained to me by a very helpful (!) US Customs officer when I tried to do something similar a few years ago.
posted by RMALCOLM at 8:37 AM on August 21, 2006


Also, the Honda Fit is similar, but like the Yaris, they are hard to come by and most dealerships have long waiting lists for the Fit.
posted by mattbucher at 8:38 AM on August 21, 2006


Damn! Didn't read the [more inside] carefully. Sorry!

Another option: Chevrolet Aveo.
posted by mattbucher at 8:40 AM on August 21, 2006


I love my honda fit -- it felt a lot better and more powerful than the 4door yaris (and the scions), IMO. The Aveo is a terrible option as it has only passed the most meager of safety tests by a whisker.
posted by jmgorman at 8:50 AM on August 21, 2006


Chevrolet Aveo == Suzuki Swift+ == Pontiac Wave. They are all the same car with different badges.

A step up in size but still a great 4-door hatchback is the Chevrolet Optra5, aka the Suzuki Reno in the USA. A larger engine though so you'll only get 33-35 MPG highway. I bought an Optra5 last year and love it.
posted by chuma at 8:55 AM on August 21, 2006


My suggestion is to save some $$$ and get a used 2001 - 2005 Toyota RAV4. The new 2006 is a full-sized SUV, but the '01-'05 versions are perfect car-based 5-door mini-utes. (Me and Mrs. Turducken have owned 2 of them, and flew 900 miles to find the last of the 2005's with side airbags and 4wd.) We looked at the Matrix, Forrester, Mazda 3, et al, and the RAV4 was the best in terms of quality/ride/safety/consumer reports props, etc. (Also, it's no longer, wheelbase-wise, than the others, since it's based on the Corolla -- just taller.) The 2004-2005 versions have a bigger 4-cylinder engine that is almost disconcertingly powerful.

And at the risk of sounding politically incorrect: The ladies love to drive the RAV4. Don't know why, but it's true.
posted by turducken at 9:08 AM on August 21, 2006


The new VW Rabbit?

I don't know offhand if they have a 5 door version, but it's predecessor (the Golf) did.
posted by cgg at 9:26 AM on August 21, 2006


Used cars are definitely under consideration. Preferred actually. Price is a major concern.

Regarding the RAV4, the biggest strike against it is mileage. The 2003 2 wheel drive automatic can't break 30 mpg. The Yaris pushes 40.

Internal noise levels are also a concern (broadly, not singling out the RAV4 here), but one I haven't found any good resources for, unlike mileage and crash safety.

Thanks for reminding us of the Mazda. We looked at it a while ago, and liked it, but its side impact ratings are kind of scary.
posted by NortonDC at 9:29 AM on August 21, 2006


I really like my Matrix. You are right that the driver-side blind spot is troublesome, but I've learned to cope with it. Feel free to email me if you have any particular questions about the car.
posted by exogenous at 9:40 AM on August 21, 2006


The 5-door Mazda 3 has side-airbags available on all but the base model, and I'm sure that would improve the crash rating.

OTOH, the mileage in the 5-door is sub 25 mpg because it has a bigger 2.3L engine.
posted by smackfu at 9:49 AM on August 21, 2006


Seconding what RMALCOLM said. Don't import from Canada.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:07 AM on August 21, 2006


I really like my Ford Focus 5 door. It's quiet, it gets good gas mileage, it's roomy and comfortable in the passenger compartment, and the hatch portion is very, very spacious. We can easily pack my mother's motorized scooter or a full-sized lawn mower in the hatch without taking anything apart, or putting any seats down.

The only thing I don't like about it is the blunt nose-end, which takes some getting used to when parking. It's angled in such a way that you can't see the front of the car, so if you're not careful, you'll end up sticking out in the rear and having to pull forward to sit properly in the space. A very tiny thing to find annoying though; overall, I'm very pleased with the car.
posted by headspace at 10:07 AM on August 21, 2006


I don't think that the Mazda3 would meet your mileage requirements if you're aiming for 40 mpg. For what it's worth, I get higher than 25 mpg in my Mazda3 5-door for city driving - probably around 27-28; and 30-31 for highway driving. For me, this was a big improvement over my 14 mpg Cherokee; plus I don't drive for my daily commute. If you can get the standard transmission, that would improve the fuel economy a bit.

The Mazda3 originally got great reviews from Consumer Reports (I believe they recommended it), but then they removed their recommendation after the side-impact test results. However, those side-impact tests did not test the models with the side airbags.

I really love my Mazda3. It's a fun, easy-to-park, zippy little car to have in a city, but it is surprisingly roomy inside. I went on a road trip from Chicago to Houston and back with my boyfriend, 70-lb greyhound, and all our stuff in that car and we did great. Here's a picture of the dog enjoying the space in the back during the trip, with half of the back seat folded down. Good luck!
posted by misskaz at 10:08 AM on August 21, 2006


The Scion xA = Yaris 5 door hatchback. Not "it's really close"... it's the same body with a bit nicer interior. I love my xA, and the big factor when choosing between the two was the extra two doors.

If you were planning on getting some extras with your yaris, you'll end up paying the same amount as for the xA.

I was told they have the same engine in them, however, I haven't been getting the 40mpg that they led me to believe I'd be getting. It hasn't gone under 30mpg, though, so it isn't bad.

I don't know if the Yaris has side-impact airbags (you mention the mazda's side impact ratings), but the xA does have them as a factory option.

The xA DOES have a problem with road noise @ highway speeds. Its definitely not a Lexus-ly smooth and quiet ride, but its nice and tight for in-city driving. The forums recommend sound-dampening material in the doors if you're going to go cross-country. Its not a problem for in-city driving, even highway commuting.
posted by hatsix at 10:37 AM on August 21, 2006


You might want to read Car and Driver's recent comparison test of "Cheap Skates" for their impressions of the Yaris and several competitors.
posted by Tubes at 10:47 AM on August 21, 2006


The internets tell me that the Xa is based on the previous Vitz/Yaris platform, so what's sold in America as the Yaris (now) is a different platform generation than what's sold as the Xa (now and previously), with a different wheelbase, etc.

Plus, there's no cruise control available for the Xa, which just seems weird to me. I'm in my mid thirties and I've never even owned a car without cruise. It's not a deal-breaker for onlyconnect, but it keeps making me wonder.
posted by NortonDC at 10:52 AM on August 21, 2006


Plus, there's no cruise control available for the Xa, which just seems weird to me.

Well, that's the problem with the Scion "system": fixed price with no factory options. So something like cruise control is either standard or it's not available at all. Since the xA is aimed at the low-end, no cruise control. The tC is aimed higher, so it does have it.
posted by smackfu at 11:11 AM on August 21, 2006


I have Cruise Control on my xA... it's not a factory option, but its dealer-installed.

Granted, it's in a HORRIBLE location, but it is there.

Seeing the xA and the 2-door Yaris side-by-side, it's impossible to tell that there's a difference in anything. I have a 2006 xA, a co-worker has a new(2006/2007, whatever they're calling it, bought within 15 days of when I bought mine) Yaris, and we've parked them next to each other and the only difference we can see is the exterior panels are simpler on the Yaris.

It's true, the xA is aimed at low-end, and doesn't have factory-installed options that might be on a higher-end car. It's the classic tradeoff.
posted by hatsix at 11:47 AM on August 21, 2006


Another datapoint on importing: when I got my Matrix a year and a half ago, I had to sign a slip of paper declaring that I was not buying the car for purposes of resale in the States. I thought that was rather curious, but apparently what with waiting lists, it's often quicker for American to buy Toyotas in Canada rather than wait in the States. This mucks up the warrantee servicing, as it was described to me by the dealer, probably much as detailed by RMALCOM above.

I do like the Matrix though. Seriously consider one if available. It sounds like it would suit very well.
posted by bonehead at 1:41 PM on August 21, 2006


Also with a Matrix here. I love my car. I had concerns about giving up the cargo space of my truck, but there is enough space with the backseats folded down to put in a five foot long dresser, and with the front passenger seat also folded down, we've gotten 8' lumber loaded into it.

I'm a short 5'2" person and I don't notice a blind spot, I seem to be able to see everything I need to safely drive, my husband is 6'2"(ish) and is also comfortable driving it.

I always get more than 30mpg, mid30s on the highway. This is in Florida with A/C blasting.
posted by Jazz Hands at 2:38 PM on August 21, 2006


I just wanted to thank folks for all the helpful input (and to my sweetie for asking the question). The quest to find the perfect affordable four door hatchback is a long and winding road.

Looks like the 4 door Yaris is out because of all the difficulties with importing. If we could find something for around $10K or less without 100K of mileage on it and without a major accident in its history, I would be pretty happy.

I'm torn on the blind spot issue. Part of me thinks hey, I could just learn to adapt to it. And another part of me recognizes that not checking my blind spot is one of my biggest driving weaknesses, so I might be setting myself up for an accident from the start.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:06 PM on August 21, 2006


Favoritism? Moi?

Thanks for the car ideas, even though you all shot down my grand plan to beat the system via Canada. We're going to investigate Mazda 3 and see about side airbags for it, used prices, etc. We'll have to think about road noise and cruise in the xA. I'd also like to get onlyconnect out for a test drive in the Ford Focus.
posted by NortonDC at 6:34 PM on August 21, 2006


Test drive? Is that what the kids are calling it these days? :P
posted by onlyconnect at 9:17 PM on August 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


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