Car shipping to & from Canada

How does shipping cars from Canada work?

With the flexibility of remote work, for many, getting a change of scenery has moved beyond a vacation. It seems the next best thing is packing up and trying on a whole new city, state, or even country on for size.

Each year, thousands of people move from Canada to the UnitedStates, sometimes permanently, and sometimes for part of the year. So, if you’re considering a move from the Great White North, one of the things you’ll need to consider is how to ship cars to and from Canada to the UnitedStates.

Step 1 | Make sure your vehicle is authorized. Any vehicle can be denied importation based on compliance of the specific vehicle. You can check this by reviewing the Overview of EPA Import Requirements for Vehicles and Engines.

The Overview of EPA primarily assesses if a vehicle and/or manufacturer:

All vehicles are manufactured with an emissions label placed under the hood of the vehicle. The emissions label confirms that the vehicle complies with U.S. EPA standards. If the emissions label is missing, it is not considered non-compliant, but it will need to be replaced.

Pro-tip: If the VIN begins between 1 and 5 , then it is built in North America. While this is a general rule (some antiques or custom-made vehicles may not have this) it is typically a good rule of thumb.

For car buffs, mechanics and tinkerers, it’s also important to note that if a vehicle originally manufactured as a U.S. version vehicle that has since been modified or altered, it will likely not meet U.S. emission requirements. For example, if the engine has been altered or outfitted with another type of engine, the vehicle will not be considered a U.S. version.

However, a modified or altered vehicle may be conditionally imported as a U.S. version pending repair and restoration. As an importer, you must file an EPA Form 3520-1 with Customs on entry and declare code “F” on the form. You will then be required to post a bond with Customs. The importer has 120 days to demonstrate to EPA that the vehicle has been repaired or restored to its original configuration.

If you’re uncertain that the engine or build meets requirements, you may submit alternative proof, which is a written statement including the number, engine family name, and/or type of equipment and build date (if known).

The EPA does not accept:

Here’s a checklist to help ensure your vehicle is authorized for transport:

Although the Customs team will typically provide all the necessary paperwork to ship your vehicle, you may want to check out the following resources to help get a jumpstart on the process:

Canada’s Registrar of Imported Vehicles

Canada Border Services Agency Registrar of Imported Vehicles

Importing Canadian Vehicles – Emissions

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (U.S.)

HS-7 Form (this is required for all Canadian vehicles coming into the United States)

Step 2 | Contact a relocation specialist.  With a move from Canada to the United States you could opt to transport it yourself; however, the benefit of hiring a specialist is that they can take care of all the paperwork for you. An auto transport specialist can also help arrange and/or support other specialized shipping needs including:

  1. Choosing between open or enclosed vehicle carriers
  2. Handling logistics
  3. Providing freight transportation support for atypical vehicle or shipment types (e.g. boats, motorcycles, RVs, trailers, etc.)
  4. Door-to-door service
  5. Snowbird service

Step 3 | Complete paperwork. We’ll go into a bit more detail on what this entails in just a moment; however, it’s important to note that all customs paperwork must be completed and approved prior to transport.

Step 4 Prepare your vehicle. A transport specialist can help you do the heavy lifting, but there’s a number of things you can do on your end to make sure the transport goes smoothly.

  1. Fill her up halfway. For Canadian transportation, it’s recommended that you keep the gas level at half tank, or it may be rejected.
  2. Provide a spare set of keys. It is a requirement of The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that the carrier has one set of keys for all entry points (including the ignition, trunk and glove box keys). If the vehicle can be accessed without a remote, please remove any remote or key fob from the key chain that is provided to the carrier.
  3. Shut off alarms. All alarms should be shut off. If there are any special start or disarmament instructions, make sure to notify your carrier. On occasion, failure to communicate these kinds of instructions can lead to a drained battery, which is no picnic for any party involved.
  4. Remove extra items. Storing personal items may result in non-compliance and ultimate removal of these items during inspection unless additional forms have been filed. Personal items can add to the overall weight of your vehicle, which could cause damage or added fees.
  5. Prep for climate change. To minimize any weather-related damage, make sure your vehicle is prepared for the elements. Prior to pick up, this includes adding coolants, transmission fluids, antifreeze, or additional fluids.

Step 5 | Pickup & Inspection. Once your vehicle has been picked up by a car courier it will undergo inspection at the specified location for your region.

Step 6 | Transport & Delivery. Once your vehicle has passed inspection it will be on its way!

How much does it cost to transport a car?

Cost is dependent on several factors, which typically include:

When bringing a vehicle to the United States from Canada there may be additional fees or taxes associated with importing, but these often vary.

What type of paperwork is involved?

3299 Entry Form. This form is required for all vehicles entering from Canada into the United States.

3299 Form Requirements:

For snowbirds: When you return to Canada, make sure to bring a copy of a completed CBSA Form E-24 Personal Exemption CBSA Declaration. This should list all the items being driven back in your car. You should also bring along a copy of the completed Form E-15 when your vehicle initially entered the United States. 

Pro-tip: Keep the original copy of Form E-15 to present at airport Customs, which details items that will follow separately.

7501 Entry Form. This is the form done at Customs that you’ll use for vehicles originating from Canada being brought across the U.S. border for over a year. These vehicles will be registered as a U.S. vehicle for the duration of their stay. (It’s important to note that you will not be allowed to register the car with the Department of Motor Vehicles until you receive the formal import form)

You will also file the 7501 Entry Form if:

  1. A car from the United States was transported to Canada and the U.S. title was given up during the transport process and will now be returning to the United States. The car will then have to be re-titled and re-registered within the United States.
  2. A vehicle titled in the United States has switched owners in Canada and the new owner of the car is transporting the car back to the United States with proof of the original U. S. title.

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