How to Buy Your Next Vehicle from the US - and Save Thousands!

  • Last Updated:
  • Nov 18th, 2017 7:43 pm
Deal Addict
Nov 9, 2005
1171 posts

How to Buy Your Next Vehicle from the US - and Save Thousands!


Generally, the more expensive the car you’re buying, the more you save. I personally wrote very little of this guide. I organized it for my purposes but decided to share it since the compilation work took quite long. I would love to credit all the people who contributed to this, but there are too many of you. So, thank you to all of you! Sorry for any copyright infringment, lol. :)

Part 1: Good to Know Before Finding the Car You Want to Purchase - New or Used, Privately or From a Dealer
1. If you’re going to buy from a US dealer/seller, it's easiest to pay for the vehicle entirely in lump-sum cash. Need a loan? Check the advice here and here. Also, to make everything easy, I recommend not to try trading-in a vehicle to a US dealer. It’s way too complicated – so sell the vehicle in Canada privately instead.

2. State sales taxes on vehicles also will not apply for you in many US states - providing you don't license the car in that state (and only buy it to bring it to Canada). Check here to confirm for the state you will be purchasing in.

3. No duties at the border are paid on the vehicle purchased in the US unless it does not have have sufficient "North American content" - that is, parts/components made in North America. Most cars made in North America meet the content rule but some may not. So, if your NA made car draws Duty, you'll know why.

It’s a vehicle made in North America if it has a VIN that begins with a 1, 4, or 5.

1, 4, 5=USA
3= Mexico

Vehicles manufactured outside Canada, the US or Mexico are assessed a 6.1% duty fee.

You will find that at least the following brand new vehicles can (depending on the exact one you are purchasing) or will have a North American VIN:

Acura MDX - Alliston, Ontario
Acura RDX - Marysville, Ohio
Acura TL – Marysville, Ohio
BMW X5 – Spartanburg, South Carolina
BMW Z4 – Spartanburg, South Carolina
Honda Accord – Marysville, Ohio
Honda Civic – East Liberty, Ohio
Honda CRV - East Liberty, Ohio
Honda Element – East Liberty, Ohio
Honda Odyssey – Lincoln, Alabama
Honda Pilot – Lincoln, Alabama
Honda Ridgeline - Alliston, Ontario
Mercedes-Benz M-Class – Vance, Alabama
Mercedes-Benz R-Class – Vance, Alabama
Mazda 6 – Flat Rock, Michigan
Mazda B-Series – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mazda Tribute – Kansas City, Missouri
Hyundai Sonata – Montgomery, Alabama
Hyundai Santa Fe – Montgomery, Alabama
Infiniti QX56 – Canton, Mississippi
Isuzu Ascender – Moraine, Ohio and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Isuzu i-Series Pickup – Shreveport, Louisiana
Lexus RX350 (previously known as the Lexus RX330) – Cambridge, Ontario
Mitsubishi Eclipse – Normal, Illinois
Mitsubishi Endeavor – Normal, Illinois
Mitsubishi Galant – Normal, Illinois
Mitsubishi Raider – Warren, Michigan
Nissan Altima – Smyrna, Tennessee and Canton, Mississippi
Nissan Armada – Canton, Mississippi
Nissan Frontier – Smyrna, Tennessee
Nissan Maxima – Smyrna, Tennessee
Nissan Pathfinder – Smyrna, Tennessee
Nissan Quest – Canton, Mississippi
Nissan Titan – Canton, Mississippi
Nissan Xterra – Smyrna, Tennessee
Saab 9-7X – Moraine, Ohio
Subaru Baja – Lafayette, Indiana
Subaru B9 Tribeca – Lafayette, Indiana
Subaru Legacy – Lafayette, Indiana
Subaru Outback – Lafayette, Indiana
Suzuki XL7 - Ingersoll, Ontario
Toyota Avalon – Georgetown, Kentucky
Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid – Georgetown, Kentucky
Toyota Camry Solara – Georgetown, Kentucky
Toyota Corolla – Fremont, California
Toyota Sequoia – Princeton, Indiana
Toyota Sienna – Princeton, Indiana
Toyota Tacoma – Fremont, California
Toyota Tundra – Princeton, Indiana

4. Double-check that the car you are going to purchase is permitted in Canada: ... /VAFUS.pdf

5. As of March 20 2007, if you import a big V8 vehicle (or any "gas guzzler" as defined by the RIV), you can pay up to $4000 in extra "green levy" fees. This charge will be part of the fees you pay to Canada Customs (which you will see later on in these instructions). For more info:

For imported vehicles, the tax will only apply to automobiles put into service on or after March 20, 2007. An automobile is considered to be put into service at the earliest of:
• the date the automobile is registered with a motor vehicle authority;
• the date it is plated;
• the date on which the automobile’s warranty has been put in place; or
• the date the automobile is appropriated by a dealer for their own use.

6. Check that the warranty for the car is also valid in Canada by calling the US side of the manufacturer and asking how the vehicle warranty would apply if you had to immediately move your American vehicle to Canada (due to possible relocation for a job, for example). If warranty coverage is unavailable in Canada, you can get a third party warranty from

Keep in mind that, even if you have to pay for a third party warranty, you are still saving thousands of dollars in many cases.

Canadian warranty status of new cars imported from the USA:
Link 1
Link 2

Part 2: Making the Deal (Only Follow if Buying From a Dealer)
1. Identify prospective dealers and e-mail their Internet Sales Managers. State what you want to buy, that you need temporary tags, and that you will not pay state tax (because you will be registering the vehicle in Canada). Also state you will make a deposit by credit card and wire the full amount before picking up the car. Be fully open about your intentions – some will say they can’t sell without charging state tax (and offer to let you choose the state if you can provide an address), while others will accommodate you.

Dealers of Toyota/Lexus and a few other brands that are willing to sell BRAND NEW VEHICLES to Canadians can take some hard work to find (they are perfectly willing to sell you anything that's been even slightly used, however!! - see here for example). It's easier to find dealers willing to sell brand new if they are not located near a US/Canada border point. If you have a friend or relative in the US, you may want to try one of these ideas (as out-of-state vehicle purchases for them will most likely be tax-free) - especially if you're having trouble finding a dealer willing to sell brand new to you:
If you have a relative/friend in the states, you can arrange the purchase under their name, and, more importantly, also avoid extra registration fees and US sales tax. I just did this by picking a dealership from a different state as my relative. In this case, the dealer will just give you a temporary permit, and a copy of the MCO (Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin). This can be faxed to the US border, and will allow you to export the car without actually registering in the states or paying state sales tax. If you buy in the same state as your relative, then the dealer is pretty much obligated to register and plate the car. The out-of-state thing is crucial if you want to avoid the extra delay and cost of having to register and transfer the car.

All the paperwork was done by courier between the dealer and my relative. I brought the payment, and picked up the vehicle. There was no need to actually physically, or financially, involve my relative in the transaction [but I still had to involve them in telling/convincing the dealer that I was simply picking up their car] - nor does the dealer need to know anything about bringing the car to Canada. The trick is that you have to indicate to US customs that your relative is the purchaser/exporter and that you are the transporter. Their name will have to go on the MCO, and you cannot transfer the MCO, in the States, between individuals. It can only be transfered from a dealer to an individual, or between dealers.

Luckily, the Canadian system doesn't have the same restrictions. I drew up a simple bill of sale [see here for an example] between my relative and myself, effective the date of pickup, just for Canadian Customs. I used this, along with the stamped MCO, and was able to start the RIV process under my own name, once I got the vehicle to Canada.

Apparently, US Customs does not care whether the name on the Bill of Sale given by the dealer is yours or a friend's/relative's for new cars. So, you can show them the Bill of Sale officially issued by your dealer to the name of whoever purchased the car for you. If you're asked about it, you can just state that you're transporting the vehicle to Canada on behalf of your American friend/relative. Canadian Customs, however, requires the Bill of Sale to be in your name and will likely ask to see it - which is why you must draw up a bill of sale between the buyer (buyer = the American friend/relative) and you.
If you have family/friends in the states then it could be much cheaper and simpler for you to simply ask them to temporarily add your name to their phone or utility bill and use this as your proof of residency and then purchase the vehicle in your name from an out-of-state dealer. Most Toyota dealers will accept a Canadian driver's license when purchasing the vehicle - they just need a US address with proof of residency to complete the sale.
369 replies
Deal Addict
Nov 9, 2005
1171 posts
2. Negotiate price/package with chosen dealer (usually starts by e-mail and ends by phone). For new vehicle prices in the US, check:

3. Pay deposit by credit card. Get VIN Number. Get bank info for wire transfer of payment (bank, branch, a/c, FAST #; dealer accounting dept. usually has this info, and sales manager likely won’t). Some dealers may want to fax you the Buyer’s Order, for you to sign and fax back; others are happy with your credit card deposit ($500 should be sufficient). Watch the exchange rate (it can vary by 0.5% during the day) and service fee (0.5-2.5%); my credit card charges 2.5% above the official exchange rate while my Investment account only charges 1% (for $25K or more); the best I’ve seen on the Internet is 0.5% (the person had access to the exchange service used by his firm).

Allow a few business days for the wire transfer to arrive (it won’t be instantaneous!).

Part 3: After You’ve Arranged the Deal, Through a Dealer or Privately
1. Steps 2-11 in this part should suffice for your vehicle importation. As a precaution, I highly recommend that you print, read and understand everything here (and keep a copy to take with you along with this entire document):

2. Have the dealership fax what is known as either the Manufacturer Certificate of Origin or Manufacturer State of Origin (MCO or MSO) to US Customs 72 hours before your arrival at the border crossing (no less than that - this is extremely important). If the vehicle is used, you will need to fax the DMV Title (it will be signed over to you at purchase by the owner - and it was produced by the DMV the first time the car was registered) instead of the MCO or MSO. Please note that some ports require the original MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used) to be couriered - because they won't accept a faxed copy. The best thing to do is call the port you will be going through and ask them whether they will accept a faxed copy as opposed to a courier of the original. If faxing, be sure to call the US Customs port after the fax has been sent to ensure that the fax is fully legible and does not need to be re-faxed.

3. Obtain a typed letter (with letterhead) from the manufacturer (not the dealership) stating the car (including the specific VIN) does not have a Recall Pending. This paper, known as the Recall Letter, explains that there are no outstanding recalls associated with your vehicle. If this paper states that there are outstanding recalls, you'll have to fix the corresponding deficiencies in order to complete and pass Federal Inspection in Canada for a new car. Check for liens too. For further information:

Also check here for contacts for recall letters from other manufacturers:

4. The dealer will provide you with a temporary transit plate stuck on the rear window. You may need a Temp plate from State to State if you're importing a vehicle farther from the border States. Before leaving the dealer with your vehicle, check that you have the temporary registration and temporary state license plates, and sales receipts. The vehicle should have the manufacturer’s compliance label on the driver’s door frame (has date of manufacture, manufacturer, statement of compliance with regulations, etc.).

5. Call your insurance company and provide the VIN number to arrange coverage. If you give the insurance company the VIN # of the car you're going to buy, you can ask them to send you a fax of the insurance form so you have proof that you have insurance. If you do not do this and you get stopped by police, you will at the least get a fine for driving without insurance. TD Auto will insure your new car no problem but you have to tell them the VIN I believe before you just buy and drive.

6. Call the border crossing you will be going through and ask them what times they're open so you don't go at the wrong time. You will arrive at the border crossing with your new car. First, park the car and bring in ALL documentation (everything that's been mentioned up to this step, including the receipts, recall letter, proof of insurance, etc.). I walked into US Customs there and went to the counter and told them that I was exporting a vehicle and showed them the paperwork. They looked at the car, stamped my MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used), checked the VIN to the car and I was out the door. For a used car, they might inspect it a little more. It took me less than 10 minutes. This is where the paperwork that the dealer put together came in handy. No scrummaging through papers, everything was in order.

7. After dealing with US Customs at the border, you now have to go through Canada Customs. At the booth, I told the officer I was importing a vehicle to Canada. He gave me a yellow slip and told me to see the officers in the building. Parked the car again and went to the desk and showed them all paperwork again. They will also fill out "Form 1" which you'll need later on. Here's what Form 1 looks like:


Showed them the Bill of Sale and they converted the amount I paid US into CDN dollars. From there, the US is amount converted into CDN dollars. I was charged the GST (6%) on this amount. If it's a used vehicle, don't under-declare the value of the vehicle you are importing. Canada Customs has the ability to seize your vehicle. The vehicle (and all goods in it) will be seized, you won't be charged/arrested under the Customs Act unless the officer feels you have hindered them. You will, however, have committed an offense under the Customs Act. There is an import duty fee of 6.1% if the vehicle isn't sufficiently made in North America (as described earlier) and there is also a $100 Air Conditioning Tax. The RIV Importation Fee is now $206.70, and also must be paid, and only credit card is accepted (NO Interac). This is because the $206.70 goes directly to Transport Canada - NOT to the CBSA. Another 15 mins. After all is paid, you're good to go. Again this is where the paperwork being in order will come in handy. I've read horror stories of missing 1 vital piece of information and being turned back and refused entry.

8. Drive to your home in Canada and park your car. Email or fax your MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used), and Recall Letter, to the RIV and they will process your application and email you Form 2 the same day IF you call them with your case # (which is affixed to the top of Form 1) right away. Otherwise, it can take 3-10 business days.

9. Form 2, once you've received it, will enable you to bring the vehicle to Canadian Tire to have the vehicle inspected to meet Canadian Standards (i.e. bumpers, Daytime Running Lights, Child Tethers, Airbags). Bring Form 2 to CT for inspection. They will stamp your Form 2 and ask for the "Recall Clearance Letter" as mentioned before, and fax it to the RIV. Please note that there must be metric markings on the speedometer, but it doesn't mean the speedometer must be replaced even though miles per hour are more prominent on vehicles manufactured in the U.S.

10. Obtain proof of insurance for your new vehicle through your auto insurer.

11. Present stamped Form 1, MCO or MSO (or DMV Title, if your vehicle is used), and Canada Customs payment form to your provincial licensing authority for registration & plates. This is also where you would pay any PST (if applicable in your province) on your vehicle. Pay to have the car registered and plated. You can use the Temp plate for the time being, but I don't suggest it as it is a TEMPORARY PLATE. You don't need an Emissions test if it's a new car. You may be asked to get an out-of-province inspection (OOP) if the car is not brand new, and should follow this instruction. However, IF the car is brand new AND you have the MCO or MSO, you don't need the inspection. Be firm in this case, and go to another registry office if they don't budge.

12. After that's all done, confirm with the RIV that they will send you a letter with Canadian Certification Label to affix to your door sill (usually comes within 10 business days). The letter looks like this:

The label looks like this:

Useful Websites & Forums New Cars from US up to 20% Cheaper Thread [excellent] - If this THREAD is still going on strong, then yes, you're still able to import vehicles. ... 1-p-2.html

Wiki on Importing Cars from the US [excellent]

Edmunds TownHall: Importing Car into Canada from US [excellent] ... f18c13/116

Edmunds TownHall: Pricing Discussions on Various Vehicles Info on US Purchases by Canadians as well as Toyota Dealers Familiar in Dealing With Canadians
Deal Addict
User avatar
Jan 22, 2007
2538 posts
yyz2hkg wrote: I guess this renders my thread useless *sniff* *sniff*


Aww, we still love your thread yyz2hkg :twisted:

Very good writeup, alysomji
Luckyinfil wrote: No gym for home, work out floor with 30, but is it for 20 like 30 lb when you no lift it to be for men, for 30 lbs instead? or half is 10 for 20 pounds?

UMM HOW i word this... ok u take 20 lbs no lifting for 30lb if guy, so divide 2 u dont sit, u get 10 but for guy it no 30, so 20 would be for guy if u werent a girl ?
Deal Addict
Nov 9, 2005
1171 posts
I just want you all to spread the word. Send to relatives and friends. I think I've included more than enough information here to make things go relatively smoothly. There shouldn't be any major surprises. Keep in mind it's difficult to make a guide covering every single minute detail - but I think this guide will be enough for most people who have the means to use it.

You can also send this small collection testimonials I quickly collected with the instructions to your relatives and friends:

Testimonial 1:
Over the last month, I've replaced my family's two vehicles and saved approximately $22,000!

2007 Toyota Sienna CE Pkg 1
US Cost: $22,500 USD x 1.055 = $23,750 + AC Tax + GST + PST + $210 Riv Fee + $200 one-way rental car + $100 hotel stay + $100 bar tab = approx $27,785 CAD
Approx Canadian Cost for Same Vehicle $37,266.60
Savings = approx $9,500

2007 Toyota Solara SE V6 Pkg 1 (Premium JBL/Pwr Seat)
US Cost: $22,700 USD x 1.052 = $23,880 + AC Tax + GST + PST + $210 Riv Fee + $200 one-way rental car + $100 hotel stay = approx. $27,850 CAD
Approx Canadian Cost for Same Vehicle $39,689 (This isn't 100% accurate since there is no V6 option for the SE. This price is for the Sport which has more features in some areas and less in others)
Approx Savings = approx $11,839

(The Canadian Border services agent wouldn't even believe the price of the car when they compared it to the Red Book Value; they searched the car for an hour and kept quizzing me about the dealer - I think they thought the receipt was forged or something)

Total Savings == close to $21,339

It took me forever to find a Toyota dealer. I think I called over 50 before I finally found one! I asked my dealer if I could tell others about them but they politely declined, they didn't realize they "shouldn't" sell to Canadians when I first inquired about the cars but out of courtesy to me, they did it (probably because the pricing they gave me was a few hundred over invoice). So my advice: keep calling Toyota dealers in the US if you really want a Toyota.

Testimonial 2:
Just got back from Seattle and brought these two gems back.

2004 Dodge Durango Ltd Hemi with every avail option. 32,000 miles. Mint condition for all in at 22K Cad.

2005 Searay 1800 Mint with only 10.5 Hrs. all in at 15K Cad.

Went smooth as silk. Went down for the truck and stumbled across the boat well surfing Ebay in my hotel. Dodge was Craigslist.

My buddy who is a sales manager at a dealer told me the Durango would be approx 30K here and I know the boat would sell easy for 20K

Customs told me they were processing 50 a day easy. Pacific Way Crossing.

One word of advice, print the ad is you found it on ebay or craigslist and bring it with you.

Testimonial 3:
I have spoken with a CAD dealer and a US dealer. The car in question is a 2007 g35x with premium package and wood trim. In canada the MSRP is 48,630 (Best price I was quoted is 47,500). In usa the msrp is 37,265 (best price I have received so far is 36000). The conversion of 1.05 us/cad $ ( 37,800) add duties (6.2%) and you get a cad converted price of 40,143.6. Add in taxes and you save about 7grand.

Also, according to, the warranties in the US are covered in Canada. Go read them, it exactly specifies that the warranty is good in canada.

Testimonial 4:
I just ordered a brand new Harvest Gold Metallic 2008 Subaru Outback 3.0R LLbean edition, without the GPS. We did not want GPS.

I shopped Van Bortel, West Herr, Shutlz, and Northtown. No one would touch Van Bortel's current web price, which is $500 below invoice. I think when Monsieur purchased his 2007, there was some dealer cash to move the remaining 2007 models. Was also told that many of the 2007 models were scrapped due to industrial damage that occured next to the manufacturer lot where those cars were stored.

No matter, as I personally prefer the 2008 grille, my short wife likes the telescopic wheel, and finally - in 2008, the front map lights come on when you open the door in sunroof equipped models - so the interior is properly lit at night I also ordered factory installed accessories of remote car starter, trailer hitch and wiring harness, homelink mirror upgrade, rubber floor mats, and side cargo nets.

In Canada, the closest equivalent model is the 3.0 Premier Edition, which has all the same equipment as the 3.0 R LLbean USA version, except that in Canada, the GPS comes standard, whereas in the USA, it is the only option, invoice priced at $1846 or so. We did not want GPS, so we did not order it.

In Canada the 3.0R Premier edition Outback lists for $47,500 including freight. There are no cash incentives in Canada. Compared to purchasing the 3.0R model in Canada at list price, together with our chosen accessories, after converting currency, paying all fees, freight, and the usual Canadian taxes (PST/GST), we will have saved a grand total of $CDN 19,000 ! Wow !

Testimonial 5:
I just got my 07 Toyota Camry out of the dealership in North Carolina and TRUCKING it to Montana for onward pickup to Calgary, Alberta. I did not want to drive 2days from NC to AB.

Bought 2007 Camry LE V6 with Leather for about $24k usd @ Rice Toyota Internet Sales Department, Greensboro, NC

They are very nice, and customer-friendly

Used a US Address (Delaware where no sales tax are required) to purchase car. I have a family friend in the USA. So, I did not pay state sales tax. Even if I had to pay state sales tax, I would have used a NC address....since they have one of the cheapest sales tax in USA for new cars (3%). I have my MSO original with me (DHL'd). Did not have to fly to NC. Paid Cash though. They will not sell via mail again....u have to fly physically and pay/sign some docs.

The company gave me my MSO and did not send MSO to Delaware because they know there are no Tax Obligations. If u allow them to send MSO to a US state...u then have to wait more to collect Title from US State.

Savings is about $9k since a similar vehicle will cost $33k (without GST) in Calgary, Alberta. My company pays for Trucking for me.....
Deal Addict
Nov 9, 2005
1171 posts
yyz2hkg wrote: I guess this renders my thread useless *sniff* *sniff*

Your thread was of great assistance. Big props to you!!
Sr. Member
User avatar
Dec 17, 2003
621 posts
Great post! Hopefully this will reduce the number of repeat questions in the original thread.

One thing I would add is to 2. under "After You

"Whenever I think of the past, it brings back so many memories" - Steven Wright
Deal Addict
Dec 30, 2005
2808 posts
Excellent Post...Very informative and precise. Kudos to you and the time you've taken to compile this! Great Job!

Deal Addict
Nov 9, 2005
1171 posts
[quote="mefreakboy" post_id="5483626" time="1187273767" user_id="10004"]Great post! Hopefully this will reduce the number of repeat questions in the original thread.

One thing I would add is to 2. under "After You
Deal Addict
User avatar
Feb 10, 2006
3311 posts
definitely a good thread. Good job :razz:
Deal Addict
Nov 9, 2005
1171 posts
UrbanPoet wrote: which car gives you most value?
eg. the difference between the price in the states, and the price in Canada is the largest.
Generally, I would say Subarus. Specifically, it depends. You will have to research the prices - which shouldn't take very long.


Thread Information

There is currently 1 user viewing this thread. (0 members and 1 guest)