ICBC’s top five tips to avoid trouble when importing a vehicle from the U.S.

That ‘deal’ may be more trouble than it’s worth

August 19, 2009 – B.C. set a record for vehicles imported from the United States in 2008 – 42,922, more than double the number that crossed the border in 2006. But, in a year when the Canadian dollar also reached parity with its American counterpart, some B.C. drivers found great deals while others found their U.S. vehicle was anything but a bargain.

“It’s imperative buyers gather as much information as possible about the vehicle they’re bringing home to Canada in order to make sure it’s not flood-damaged or has a ‘washed’ or incorrect title,” said Mark Francis, ICBC’s manager of provincial vehicle registration and licensing.

Titles are effectively ‘washed’ when a vehicle that sustained serious damage in a crash and is coded as ‘rebuilt’ or ‘non-repairable’ in one state, changes hands and turns up in a neighbouring state with a ‘clear’ status.

More than half of the cars, trucks and trailers imported from the U.S. into B.C. last year were brought in by dealers intent on re-selling them.

“The bottom line is, do your homework, gather all the required forms and make sure you know what you’re buying,” said Francis.

Here are ICBC’s top five tips for buying and importing a vehicle from the U.S.:

  1. Look at the guest list: Before you even think about making the purchase, make sure the vehicle you plan to import is admissible to Canada. For a start, check out Transport Canada’s List of Vehicles Admissible from the United States. Don’t forget that vehicles brought into Canada must be modified, inspected and certified to meet our safety standards.
  2. Take a history lesson: A vehicle history report can tell you a lot about a car you’re thinking of buying, like whether it’s been in a major crash, has any liens on it or is flood damaged (ICBC will not register vehicles with a status of ‘non-repairable’ or ‘flood-damaged’). CarProof™, Autocheck® and CARFAX are just some of the online services that are available, for a fee.
  3. Get your paperwork together: A complete collection of documents and forms is required: title documents, registration, sales receipts, and a statement of compliance label. You should also ask for any recall letters the manufacturer has sent out on your vehicle model. And plan ahead when it comes to getting your U.S.-based vehicle into Canada; ICBC sells insurance policies ranging from 1 to 31 days that can accompany a U.S. permit during that transition time. Once you’re on this side of the border, Canada Border Services Agency will provide the Vehicle Import Form and facilitate payment of the non-refundable Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) fee.
  4. Call in the inspector: After payment and the recall clearance documentation have been received, RIV will forward you an inspection form by e-mail, fax or mail. Make sure you keep detailed receipts for parts and labour for the modifications to present at the time of the inspection, along with Form 1 and Form 2. Canadian Tire stores carry out inspections on behalf of the Registrar of Imported Vehicles/Transport Canada. The vehicle must also pass a provincial inspection at a designated inspection facility.
  5. The final step: At this point you can register, licence and insure the vehicle at any Autoplan broker. Remember to bring your Vehicle Import Form with two stamps, the Canadian Border Service Agency document, original Certificate of Title or Certificate of Origin and the original bill of sale.

If you’re looking to buy a vehicle from outside Canada, our website has good information to get you started. Go to, then click on Vehicle Registration, then go to Buying, selling and importing a vehicle. Transport Canada’s website – – also has some great resources, including information on kit cars and vehicles over 15 years old, where RIV requirements are not applicable. For the best central resource for all the information on admissibility, modifications, US customs requirements and recall notifications, go to the RIV website –