Bringing A Car Across Canada’s Border
Once you have located the car of your dreams and paid for your transaction, the first hurdle is to get it to the border, and then get it across. You have several options in terms of transporting your new vehicle from its current location to the closest convenient border crossing. If you happen to have bought it from a dealer in a state that offers temporary transit permits or tags, then you can fly down and drive it back on those tags. If you decide to go this route, you will also need to insure the car for the duration of your trip. Most of the time, you can call your current insurance company, explain the situation, and have them insure the car with no issues whatsoever. You don’t want to take the risk of having an accident in your new vehicle without any insurance in the U.S., as it could open you up to serious financial and liability consequences.
If the state does not offer those tags – and not all do – then you might want to consider having the vehicle shipped up using an open or closed car carrier service. Companies like uShip allow you to submit the details of the vehicle you need transported online, where your shipment is then bid on by different carriers. Each carrier comes with a feedback rating and detailed reviews from customers on past shipments. It’s much easier to use uShip than to simply attempt to locate a car carrier using Google or another web search engine, as it is very difficult to get objective ratings on any of the hundreds of vehicle shipping companies in the United States outside of the uShip framework.
Whether you choose to have your car or truck shipped, or whether you decide to go pick it up yourself, you will need to keep in mind one very important fact: the vehicle’s paperwork will have to be presented to U.S. Customs 72 hours prior to it being able to cross the line. What exactly do I mean by paperwork? Essentially, you need to provide the American side of the crossing you plan on using with the vehicle’s title and bill of sale. Customs officials use this information to make sure that the title is valid, that the vehicle has never been involved in a crime, and that there are no outstanding liens on the automobile. You must wait 72 hours for this process to be complete.
What most people do is have the seller overnight them the title and bill of sale so that they can leave the paperwork at the border prior to going to get the car, or before arranging for shipping. Some also engage the services of a broker, who will have the paperwork shipped to them so that they can take care of the legalities on the American side of the border. A broker can in fact handle the entire shipment, if you wish, including transporting the vehicle into Canada, but the fees associated with this type of service often eat up any savings associated with importing in the first place.
Otherwise, if you decide to either pick up the paperwork in person or have it shipped up with the car itself, you will have to find a holding lot where you can keep the vehicle in question for the required 72 hour period before bringing it across. Most border crossings will have a number of different holding yards on the American side run by companies who regularly hold vehicles for this purpose. It won’t be cheap to keep your car there, so try to time the paperwork as best you can. Also, don’t expect U.S. Customs to let you just park your car in their parking lot while you wait for the paperwork to arrive – that’s not a service that they provide, and they will let you know that in no uncertain terms.