PDA

View Full Version : How to import a BMW into Canada from the U.S


HalifaxMMM
01-14-2012, 03:31 PM
I just recently imported a BMW after weeks of research on this forum – I thought I should compile all my findings to new buyers. I’ll try to update this as people add to the thread.

Step 1: Finding the right BMW

Everyone has their own way of sourcing vehicles, but my main source that I used when exploring used cars in the United States was from autotrader.COM (similar to autotrader.ca that we use in Canada). Keep in mind that if the VIN number starts with a LETTER, it is not made in North America and is subject to the 6.1% duty. The BMW X5 and X3 begin with numbers, which means they are made in North America and are not subject to the 6.1% duty.

You can narrow your results on this depending on where you live in Canada and how far from the border you are willing to drive. Make sure you have a local mechanic in the area check out the car, and possibly even a dealer in the area who can tell you what codes the car has been hitting (ie. HFPF issue on the 3 series)

Obtaining a Carfax is critical. Any history of the car being involved in a flood, lemon, junk status could mean that when you import the car into Canada, it will be branded as “Irreparable” which means it cannot be driven legally in Canada and only used for parts. Make sure your car is a clean title (no insurance write-offs, major accidents) – you wouldn’t want to buy a car involved in a major previous accident anyways.

Once all of the above is complete, you can proceed to purchasing the vehicle!

Step 2: First stage of Importing process / Paperwork

After purchasing your car in the U.S, you will need to e-mail your title to US Customs 72 hours prior to crossing the border so they will clear it for crossing. This is to ensure that the vehicle leaving the U.S is not stolen and does not have any liens outstanding (such as ownership by a Bank).

Emailing your title to US Customs (ie. If you are crossing the Lewiston Bridge):
E-mail your title to BuffaloVINNYOFFICE@dhs.gov with the VIN number, Make, Model and Year of car. You will then get a confirmation email from them. You MUST bring this e-mail with you when you export. (I will try to get a list of emails for all the bridges)

After dealing with US Customs, you will get into the line to cross the border into Canada with the following documents.

1. Passport
2. Bill of Sale
3. US State Title Certificate

Document you'll receive: Transport Canada Vehicle Import "Form 1" filled in and stamped by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) as well as a Casual Goods Accounting Document which states the vehicle value and GST paid.

Both will be granted after you pay any applicable RIV fees and 6% GST on the value of vehicle.

If the vehicle was not made in the NAFTA zone (US/Canada/Mexico) you will also have to pay a 6.1% duty no matter the vehicle age. If you have air conditioning, expect to pay an extra $100 excise tax but don't bring this up if they don't because they don't always inspect the vehicles.

You will also have to pay the remainder of the tax (if you're in Ontario, you will pay the GST at the border, and the PST at the Ministry licensing office - the combined tax is 13% (HST)).


Step 3: After your car is in Canada

There are several things that need to be done after your car is in Canada prior to having it fully registered and licensed (this example is for Ontario).

1. Mechanical Safety Certification – this can be done at any local mechanic for about $50-100.

2. DriveClean Emissions Testing – this can be done at any DriveClean facility, they normally cost $35.

3. Registrar of Imported Vehicles Form 2 – In order to obtain the Form 2 from RIV, you will need to pay RIV $195. This can be done online on RIV.CA or by calling them at 1-888-848-8240. Make sure you have your Form 1 that you received at the border handy (the number on the top right is the Case ID).

You will also need to obtain a BMW recall clearance letter – this can be obtained by going into a Canadian BMW dealer (ie. BMW Toronto). They will charge you $500 and may push you to change your cluster (I was able to talk my way out of the cluster swap). I found out after I went through the process that Unity Auto in Toronto is able to provide these recall letters for less than what BMW is charging - I spoke to RIV and one of their reps (Stacy) confirmed this.

Sometimes if your lucky - RIV will already have your car's information in their system which tells them there are no open recalls on your car. This way you can skip this step altogether and get your Form 2!

After paying RIV and submitting the BMW recall letter, RIV will release your Form 2 on RIV’s website under “Track your case”.

4. Canadian Tire Inspection – This service is free, the main thing they check for is that your daytime running lamps are working when the ignition turns on. If your car does not have the ability to turn on DRL through your i-Drive, there are plenty of Car Audio/Alarm shops that can do this for under $75. Ensure that you have all your paperwork (Form 1, Form 2, title). Once they stamp your form 2 – everything is complete!

5. Get Insurance! I went with TD since they had the best quote for me.

Step 4: Final Step (Registration! Woohoo)

Finally – you walk into any local Ministry of Transportation location with your Form 1, Form 2, bill of sale, title, mechanical safety, and emissions test. The balance of your taxes (you only paid GST at the border) will be payable at this point.

Sit back and enjoy your BMW *wiggle*

pearl_iroc
01-14-2012, 04:09 PM
Ok maybe I misread something, but did you bring the car across on a trailer or did you drive it across?

HalifaxMMM
01-14-2012, 04:12 PM
Ok maybe I misread something, but did you bring the car across on a trailer or did you drive it across?

Ahh - sorry. I used my friend's dealer plates and drove it across.

You can also get a temporary permit from the State DMV I believe - if someone can confirm I'll incorporate that into the post :)

Thanks for catching that.

1bmw1
01-14-2012, 05:05 PM
Great info! Thanks. Nice to see updated info.

bmwmck
01-14-2012, 05:51 PM
and if it's 15+ years old, how many of those steps are eliminated?

great write up, thank you.

woofster
01-14-2012, 09:42 PM
Good informative post. There's a lot of information out there but it's always good to read about it from someone who just went through it first-hand.

dcramer
01-14-2012, 10:09 PM
FYI, not all states have temporary plates, check before you buy

slemmer
01-14-2012, 10:48 PM
I didn't know you can email papers to Customs. I always thought you had to fax or courier it. Thanks for the update.

FelixT
01-15-2012, 09:18 AM
great post! was just thinking about getting a car from the states!

T.Dot_E30
01-15-2012, 09:28 AM
BMW recall letter isn't required before you cross the border anymore?

dcramer
01-15-2012, 11:11 AM
No the letter is not required at the border. They just want your money

Additionally make sure the car has a clean title. I made the mistake of bringing a rebuilt title in and had to fight with RIV to get them to allow it to be licensed here.

Also little known fact RIV is actually a private company, a customs broker at that! I would have thought it would have been a gov't organization, but the gov't just outsourced this.

dcramer
01-15-2012, 11:12 AM
If anyone wants a recall letter for less than BMW, certainly no cluster change required. PM me I still have my contact in the states, where I got mine from.

bmwmck
01-15-2012, 11:15 AM
and if it's 15+ years old, how many of those steps are eliminated?

anyone?

dcramer
01-15-2012, 11:24 AM
You don't go through RIV so you don't pay them the money.

I'm sure you still have to pay GST, PST, get a safety, and emissions.

Best bet is to phone the ontario motor vehicle. I spent a long time on the phone getting mine in. Had I done that *before* I brought mine in I would have saved a ton of time.

You might be able to go to a local licensing place and ask them what you need. They of course will tell you that you don't have the correct form when you show up to license it so they should know what you need.

HalifaxMMM
01-15-2012, 12:00 PM
If anyone wants a recall letter for less than BMW, certainly no cluster change required. PM me I still have my contact in the states, where I got mine from.

if you take this route:

1) your warranty is not honoured in Canada (unless the specific dealer decides to) as per BMW Canada's policy they won't and aren't supposed to.

2) My buddy who imported at the same time as me did what you suggested and had his car branded unfit by the MTO a few weeks later. Now he's fighting it out in court. All dealers have specific instructions that they will face fines / repercussions for disclosing this info, since at the top it says "This is not to be distributed to any third parties"

Something to do with the report not accurately reflecting the actual recalls outstanding on the car.

propr'one
01-15-2012, 12:08 PM
No, no no.

If the car is over 15 years old, you still have to e-mail or fax your title to us export. You still have to stop at us export before crossing the border. You still have to go to canadian customs and fill out the RIV form 1. Except on that form, you check off [exempt - Over 15 years old.]

You DO still pay the RIV fee.
You DO still pay taxes.
You DO still pay the A/C tax.

Regarding plates in the USA: You can obtain temp plates from (almost) every state. Temp plates are ONLY valid in the state you are in. (If you buy a car in NC, get temp plates there, and get pulled over in NY, you have invalid plates.)


I wouldn't worry about plates too much. I've been pulled over in some ridiculous situations in the USA without valid plates, never had a problem. DO make sure you have insurance though. Your insurance company can usually suggest what they'd like you to do plate wise. Mine told me to stop in EVERY STATE and get a temp permit. No, thanks;)

dcramer
01-15-2012, 12:43 PM
Really ? what's the point of the 15 year rule then ?

propr'one
01-15-2012, 12:58 PM
^^you dont have to pass RIV inspection (no going to canadian tire). You just take your completed form 1 to MTO and get an ownership (After you pay provincial taxes).

In alberta, there's yet ANOTHER inspection (out of province) that needs be be completed when importing an out of country car. We do save the HST though;)

HalifaxMMM
01-15-2012, 01:14 PM
Thanks for all your info on the temporary plates.

I'm trying to edit my main post to incorporate your contributions about the temporary plates... but it's not letting me edit it.. Mods???

Bliss
01-15-2012, 01:31 PM
I'm trying to edit my main post to incorporate your contributions about the temporary plates... but it's not letting me edit it.. Mods???

Great info. A lot has changed over the years!

There's a time limit on editing threads. PM me the changes you want made, and i'll add them for you.

HalifaxMMM
01-15-2012, 01:48 PM
Great info. A lot has changed over the years!

There's a time limit on editing threads. PM me the changes you want made, and i'll add them for you.

Done!

Thanks for everyones feedback. Please continue contributing and I will send Bliss the changes as we go.

FYI - For anyone importing V8+ BMWs or Gas Guzzlers ... they can levy a "Green tax" on you.

I'll post some information on that after I research a bit more.

Ted in T.O.
01-15-2012, 10:38 PM
How about selling a Canadian car to somebody in the US? The answer to this would help both US and Canadian Maxbimmer members in the future.*th-up*

vintagez
01-16-2012, 07:40 AM
If selling to the USA you normally require a letter from the manufacturer saying your Canadian car complies with EPA and DOT standards except for minor labelling issues. I do not know if BMW will provide this, check with them. Sometimes the label on the drivers door will say US standards, then you are ok, if it says Canadian get the letter.

dcramer
01-16-2012, 09:22 AM
^^you dont have to pass RIV inspection (no going to canadian tire). You just take your completed form 1 to MTO and get an ownership (After you pay provincial taxes).

In alberta, there's yet ANOTHER inspection (out of province) that needs be be completed when importing an out of country car. We do save the HST though;)

What a rip-off. The RIV inspection is a crock of shit anyway. You only need to have DRL's and the rear child seat restraint only has to be in the car, not actually installed. Canadian tire will sell you one on the spot.

bmwm5lover
01-16-2012, 10:07 AM
So, are the savings still worth it? IE cars are still that much cheaper? $5K+?

The only reason I've imported cars in the past were for the fact there are more options down there for hard to find vehicles.

propr'one
01-16-2012, 10:30 AM
What a rip-off. The RIV inspection is a crock of shit anyway. You only need to have DRL's and the rear child seat restraint only has to be in the car, not actually installed. Canadian tire will sell you one on the spot.

Couldn't agree with you more.

Terry, yes. If you shop around there are deals to be had in the USA, even assuming 20% taxes (HST + Duty) and 500$ worth of bullshit fees (RIV, A/C fee, Crappy tire inspection fee). Remember you'd still pay HST on a used car, so the difference is just duty + fees.

HalifaxMMM
01-16-2012, 11:17 AM
Couldn't agree with you more.

Terry, yes. If you shop around there are deals to be had in the USA, even assuming 20% taxes (HST + Duty) and 500$ worth of bullshit fees (RIV, A/C fee, Crappy tire inspection fee). Remember you'd still pay HST on a used car, so the difference is just duty + fees.

IMO the best bang for your buck is a BMW made in North America (ie. X5 and X3) they have no 6.1% duty so you save a bunch.

PS - the Canadian Tire inspection is a joke lol they only checked for the daytime lights... nothing else.

marek
01-16-2012, 11:44 AM
A car over 15 years old DOES NOT need anything from the RIV. You don't contact them or they will gladly take your money and provide you with something you don't need.

After having your title stamped by US Customs

1. You just pay your 6.1% duty (if not made in North America), GST, AC Tax to obtain Form 1 from Canada Customs.

2. Get a safety (all) and e-test (if newer than 1987)

3. Register car and pay PST portion of the HST

^^
This applies to any vehicle imported from any country in the world (if it is 15 yrs or older). There is no Crappy Tire inspection or any recall clearance letters or other money grabs that are required.

wee man
01-16-2012, 03:54 PM
I'm sorry know it all. Over the last few years, I have brought Three cars into Ont. from the US.of A. I just drove them to Peace Bridge at Fort Erie and declared them.

damameke
01-16-2012, 04:25 PM
I'm sorry know it all. Over the last few years, I have brought Three cars into Ont. from the US.of A. I just drove them to Peace Bridge at Fort Erie and declared them.

and your point is?

this is not like weekend shopping in Buffalo
that you just bought things and just declare..

I would like you to be more specific...what does your "declare" means?

wee man
01-16-2012, 07:18 PM
This rule about taking a car to the US.Border Control first ! is not nessary. Sorry I did not mean to be so vague. I live very near the border (Niagara) and lots of people down hear are buying cars in the States. It is nothing new around hear. A proper Title & Bill of Sale is all that is required at any Can. Custons border crossing, Unless it has changed in the last month. thanks

jkho
01-16-2012, 08:32 PM
Weeman - you're only partially correct. You can opt to not stop at the US border and properly "export" your car with the required paperwork. However, if you go back into the US and are pulled over by the police, you face a $5000 fine for possession of an improperly exported item...or some nonsense like that.

I recently helped a friend move from the US to Canada and I explicitly asked the Canadian Border Services Agency about this so I have first hand info.

That being said, I don't know why you wouldn't stop at the US border to get your "stamp." I've imported 2 cars from the US and each time it took me less than 5 mins to get my stamp. Mind you, I was the first person in line (e.g. Got there as soon as it opened) and had done all of my homework and was well prepared. If you get there at 4:59pm on a Friday, you may have a different experience. ;)

m3the01
01-18-2012, 11:55 AM
if you take this route:

1) your warranty is not honoured in Canada (unless the specific dealer decides to) as per BMW Canada's policy they won't and aren't supposed to.

2) My buddy who imported at the same time as me did what you suggested and had his car branded unfit by the MTO a few weeks later. Now he's fighting it out in court. All dealers have specific instructions that they will face fines / repercussions for disclosing this info, since at the top it says "This is not to be distributed to any third parties"

Something to do with the report not accurately reflecting the actual recalls outstanding on the car.


Sorry, where is your source for information? I have bought several bmw's from the US. A recall letter from an american dealer is all that is required, simple print screen is even acceptable as long as they are an authorized BMW dealer.

Please see,
http://www.riv.ca/RecallClearance.aspx

Likewise, call bmw canada and inform them you are moving to the Canada and ask if your US warranty is valid. The warranty is valid, and one even has the option to move back and reactivate the warranty in the states. I dont have experience on the latter, but was told on the phone it is possible.

dcramer
01-18-2012, 12:01 PM
Actually I didn't read the second point carefully enough. The reason the employees are not allowed to distribute this is to allow BMW to charge you egregious amounts of money for it

Do you really think they have a separate computer system for this ?

m3the01
01-18-2012, 12:09 PM
What about point 1, ur warranty is not honored... i assume he is speaking if one does not obtain the recall letter from bmw canada.

However, i know from personal experience this wasnt required for me and several friends to have our vehicles worked on under warranty.

Has something changed? Im not saying it is for sure untrue. I would like the source of the information, policy change, etc.

HalifaxMMM
01-18-2012, 12:13 PM
What about point 1, ur warranty is not honored... i assume he is speaking if one does not obtain the recall letter from bmw canada.

However, i know from personal experience this wasnt required for me and several friends to have our vehicles worked on under warranty.

Has something changed? Im not saying it is for sure untrue. I would like the source of the information, policy change, etc.

"All modifications required to make cars conform to Canadian standards must be done by an authorized BMW dealer in Canada"


http://www.apa.ca/CanadianWarrantyinformationonnewcarsboughtintheUS. asp

http://crm.bmw.ca/content/pressReleases/car_admission_fs.asp?lang=en

This means going through BMW Canada, getting the recall letter through them, doing your cluster swap and DRL there.

I spoke to BMW Canada probably about 4-5 times and they confirmed this - you need to meet canadian standards to have the warranty continued. I know some people who got lucky and had their car warranty serviced - but all they need to do is see that you didn't get the recall done through them to reject you. Knock on wood, especially on a big job like an engine failure.

dcramer
01-18-2012, 12:23 PM
What about point 1, ur warranty is not honored... i assume he is speaking if one does not obtain the recall letter from bmw canada.

However, i know from personal experience this wasnt required for me and several friends to have our vehicles worked on under warranty.

Has something changed? Im not saying it is for sure untrue. I would like the source of the information, policy change, etc.

Well, my guess is this is correct. Either way it is still just BMW's way of persuading you to not buy from the states. They get a huge premium for their cars here just because they can. They are reluctant to give that up.

My car didn't have warranty so it wasn't an issue. I would think they would still have to fix safety recalls regardless of which side of the border you are on.

m3the01
01-18-2012, 12:27 PM
I disagree, there is a crazy amount of people who have done this without going through BMW-Canada.

Maybe list it as suggested, the DRL requirement is simple as it can be activated through i-drive or american dealer when purchasing if they dont have i-drive. I understand completely that we should not have the ability to turn it off, but for most people they only care about passing the canadian tire inspection.

Could people who have been denied warranty work for a valid warranty procedures and told they are being denied because they did not import their vehicle correctly please comment?

HalifaxMMM
01-18-2012, 12:43 PM
I disagree, there is a crazy amount of people who have done this without going through BMW-Canada.

Maybe list it as suggested, the DRL requirement is simple as it can be activated through i-drive or american dealer when purchasing if they dont have i-drive. I understand completely that we should not have the ability to turn it off, but for most people they only care about passing the canadian tire inspection.

Could people who have been denied warranty work for a valid warranty procedures and told they are being denied because they did not import their vehicle correctly please comment?

My brother was denied warranty by BMW Canada but was provided warranty at BMW Mississauga.

BMW Toronto checked the computer to see that he didn't do it through BMW, and BMW Mississauga didn't even check.

m3the01
01-18-2012, 12:51 PM
So he checked the i-drive display... lol.

Seriously man, get the DRL activated through coding in the US its like $50. Then ur set, bmw canada will be happy. Well kinda...hehe

For those that only care about Canadian tire, i-drive activate DRL and ur set.

Good luck,

PS remember thousands of BMW's have been imported into Canada, if everyone is being denied warranty cause they used a legit letter from the US service screen we would hear a lot more stories. I think the worst case would be to pay the $500 or $360 from unity auto (dealership in Toronto).

cheers,

HalifaxMMM
01-18-2012, 01:09 PM
So he checked the i-drive display... lol.

Seriously man, get the DRL activated through coding in the US its like $50. Then ur set, bmw canada will be happy. Well kinda...hehe

For those that only care about Canadian tire, i-drive activate DRL and ur set.

Good luck,

PS remember thousands of BMW's have been imported into Canada, if everyone is being denied warranty cause they used a legit letter from the US service screen we would hear a lot more stories. I think the worst case would be to pay the $500 or $360 from unity auto (dealership in Toronto).

cheers,

Agreed.

I feel HORRIBLE for people who could have activated their DRL through the I-Drive but ended up paying BMW an arm & a leg

I hope everyone is clear that the Angel eyes/halos that most of our BMW's come with are OK for Canadian Tire in terms of DRL. When my brother took his to BMW Toronto initially they said "No, although the Halos come on when the ignition is on - they aren't actually DRL" Such crap.

I confirmed with Canadian Tire - Halos/Angels are ACCEPTABLE as DAYTIME RUNNING LAMPS! Don't be fooled people!

330zhp
06-01-2012, 03:02 PM
I just went through this whole process but I had some great help. I imported a 2005 330 vert. I found the car using Sportscarlocate.com Dan at SCL found the car, scrutinized it thoughly before any further steps, verified it was legit, organized PPI at a nearby BMW dealer where the car was being sold, negotiated a low/fair price, organized shipping through a secure and reliable carrier, smoothed all the red-tape involved... and there is ALOT! He charges a fee based on the price of the vehicle which I think was fair. After paying HST, customs, shipping and his fees, I came in about 5-10K lower than anything I saw for sale in Canada. Further, I got a US car that had a rare ZHP package (also 6 speed manual) on it that exceeds the Canadian version for performance etc.. It was a great experience. *th-up* I also could have travelled to bring the vehicle over the border myself but this would have added to my expense as well as the fact that it was late winter and I didn't want to risk bad roads/weather. I'm sure there are others ways of doing it but for a 'newbie' it sure made life easier.

bigcletus
09-08-2012, 06:31 PM
Thanks for the great info. Beginning in winter of 2013-14 I hope to become a Snowbird in FL. I currently have an 03 E39 530i, which is a great car, but I'm looking forward to a late model (09+) 335 hard-top convertible...esp to drive thru the Keys. I'll drive whatever I buy back to Canada to export. I plan on buying at a BMW dealer in the US and DRLs have turned on, and an official recall letter will be part of the deal. I do have a question on the cluster: the US models have Kms & mph, so why does that NOT meet Cdn specs when just about every other manufacturer's vehicles also have both ?? My current E39 has only kms.

dcramer
09-08-2012, 07:38 PM
It does meet CDN specs, BMW just wants to bend you over.

bigcletus
09-08-2012, 08:30 PM
Thats...what I thought lol

330zhp
09-10-2012, 09:17 AM
When my car arrived from the USA I just had a short visit to Canadian Tire where they verfied it 'Canadian' legal....$125 visit is all. I've had my car for the whole warm season now and am I completely happy*th-up*. Tons of people have asked about the process I used to get such a car at such a reasonable price. They can't believe the car is 7 years old, and in mint condition. I'm just now organizing a safe and warm winter storage but i hope for some good colourful September/October driving yet... bit I'll miss it during the winter:(!

bigcletus
09-10-2012, 11:59 AM
330zhp, when did you import it ?? Did you bring a recall letter from the US ??? No visit to BMW dealer here ?? Were DRLs turned on in the US ??

Sorry for the ??? but I want to get as much info as possible.

Thanks

JiffyPop
10-06-2012, 10:31 PM
If your buying a used car privately, could you get the seller to write up a bill of sale for a smaller amount then what you paid so the 19% worth of taxes is reduced?

dcramer
10-07-2012, 12:33 AM
Yes, you could, but the border agents aren't stupid. You will be fined as well as have to pay the HST if they figure it out. They will look on craigslist, ebay, forums etc. My brother in law tried it, and paid for it.

330zhp
10-07-2012, 01:10 PM
330zhp, when did you import it ?? Did you bring a recall letter from the US ??? No visit to BMW dealer here ?? Were DRLs turned on in the US ??

Sorry for the ??? but I want to get as much info as possible.

Thanks

Brought it over the border in May, Yes, all the recall papers had to be in order before it left the USA. A BMW dealer down there did a PPI and an update of the recall notices was inclcuded in that service. They also did the DRL's. This cost a few hundred $'s but is necessary. Upon delivery I simply took it to a Canadian Tire to get the Canadian stamp of approval. You have a form that crosses the border with the car which you must present to Canadian tire within a limited time-frame. I also immediately went to a very good import (and independant) service shop in Barrie and he went over the car for me also as I still had the option of returning (a great benefit in dealing with Sportscarlocate!) it if I was unhappy. He thought it was a great find, very sound in every way. He was NOT a BMW dealer but services older BMW's MB and other higher end imports. Mine being a 2005 had no warranty so his inspection was important for me.