Exporting my car from the US to Canada. Register it first?
August 4, 2007 8:01 PM   Subscribe

i'm exporting my car from california to canada... do i have to register it first?

i recently bought a used toyota from a third party in california. i'm going to be driving it home to BC on saturday.

i have all the info i need for bringing it across the border, but i'm curious about whether or not i actually need to register it in california first. i called the DMV and the kind, helpful lady on the line kinda freaked out and told me to call an exporter... i didn't find anything on us or canadian border sites that seemed relevant.

it seems logical that i'd have to register it first, but i'd sure like to escape paying the tax on it (i'll have to pay PST and GST in canada, on top of whatever i end up paing in cali). i have all the paperwork that i'll need to register, and an appointment to do just that, but i'd rather not.

i am canadian, btw, and i've been living in LA for 14 months if that makes a difference.
posted by klanawa to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Transport Canada's contact information for Vehicle Importation from the United States
posted by ewiar at 8:07 PM on August 4, 2007

They should have some sort of temporary registration for people from out-of-state to get their cars home. Try calling the DMV again and just saying you're from out of state, don't mention Canada, and you're buying a car in California and it will take you a few days to get it home. This isn't really an unusual situation.

Here in Ontario, people from out-of-province can get a 10-day registration which gets them a paper licence 'plate' to put in the window.
posted by winston at 9:41 PM on August 4, 2007

Read this article about importing into Canada.

Also read this article from US Customs and Border about Exporting a Motor Vehicle - Exporting Used, Self-Propelled Vehicles

Hope that helps.

P.S. This Google search may also be of assistance.
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 9:54 PM on August 4, 2007

Read the references above carefully.

From personal experience, you will have to pay the taxes: you have to register it in BC at some point, and that's where they'll catch up with you. What you can do is to get the seller to write a receipt with a lower price than what you actually paid. With a bit of luck, canadians customs will use that price to assess the tax. BTW, you will not be able to insure it in BC without BC plates.

If I were you you, I'd ignore the US export process: I did not, and I can tell that it's simply a ploy to make life difficult for honest people. As long as you are not planning to sell the vehicle in the US later on, you can safely ignore the whole thing (and that's advice I received (too late) from a Canadian custom officer).

If you have questions, you can reach me directly at the address in my profile.
posted by bluefrog at 5:12 AM on August 5, 2007

Response by poster: to anyone who's following this, apologies for abandoning it...

anyway, i bought the truck and drove home to canada.

i did not have to register it or pay taxes in california.

i was supposed to fax the papers (title, bill of sale) to the blaine border crossing at least 72 hours before i arrived there to have the title stamped. when i called to confirm, they had not recieved the fax. too bad, i left anyway and arrived at the border 22 hours later.

note that the canadians WILL NOT let you in with a US car unless it has been stamped for export. i showed them my still-active visa and claimed to be a US resident. they let me though but admonished me to clear up the issue ASAP.

from victoria, BC, i faxed the papers to the port angeles, WA, CBP and then took the ferry across, had the papers stamped and brought the car back.

on the canadian side, they filled out the paperwork, charged me GST and a couple hundred in fees and sent me on my way.

now, i just have to have the car inspected, pay the PST and have it registered and insured in BC.

note that there are very hefty fines in the US for doing this improperly, $5k-$10k depending on who you talk to. the blaine crossing was adamant that the truck should be in the US dring the 72-hour waiting period, but the port angeles people didn't seem to care one way or the other.

everyone i dealt with was typically (for border personnel) gruff, but professional and helpful.

it's not as hard as it looks.

one thing though, the recall relase is CRITICAL.
posted by klanawa at 6:32 PM on September 24, 2007

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