Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Importing a Vehicle from Canada into the US

Note: This post is imported from an old Geocities page of mine dated 2001/08/21.

Are you relocating from Canada to work in the States, and planning on bringing your car with you? Here are some things you might want to know.

I drove my 1997 Plymouth Neon with me, and here is my experience. I'm offering this as an informal guide, not as the hard rules. If you have questions, please check with the proper authorities.

Important! When you cross the border, you will need the "Import Compliance Standard" letter from the car manufacturer. Inquire with the manufacturer ASAP, and have it faxed to you (mailing would be too slow). This letter simply states what emission standard the car conforms to. If you don't have this letter when you cross the border, they might not let you drive through.

In California, you will have to deal with the DMV. They have a website.

You have to register your vehicle within 20 days of starting work. To register the vehicle, it will need to be smogged (emissions test). To do this, you have to call the Bureau of Automotive Repairs (BAR): 1-800-952-5210

Explain you want to register your Canadian vehicle and need to have a state referee verify the vehicle and smog it. They will make the appointment for you. You might want to get an oil-and-filter change just before bringing it to the appointment. After they verify the vehicle, you will get a BAR sticker on the car. After passing the smog test, you will get a smog check certificate.

Next, make an appointment with a close-by DMV (you can make appointments online at the website). You can fill out the form beforehand.

At the appointment, make sure to have the import compliance statement, Canadian registration, and valid insurance. Someone will have to go verify your vehicle. When they take down the odometer reading, you will have to convert it from km to miles (1 mile ~= 1.6 km).

Note: if you acquired the vehicle within 90 days of bringing it into the US, you will be charged extra use tax on top of your regular registration fee, unless it's a gift/transfer from a family member.