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///MP
03-13-2005, 11:40 AM
Hi everyone, I'm a long time reader of Max but first time poster. Rather than the usual "hi, I'm new" post, I've enclosed an article I've written on how to import a US vehicle into Canada (as there's been some questions on the matter). I know it's long, but it is the most complete guide you will find anywhere! It took me 3 hours to write but I suspect it'll take you less than 8 minutes to read...it's a good deal!

Anyhow, feel free to contact me with any questions.

///MP

PS: I have a Cosmos Black '97 ///M3...



As many of you know, there’s a lack of good E36 M3’s for sale in Ontario. Many have very high mileage or are quite beat up. And when you do find a good one, it’s not in the colour you’d like (I like Dakar Yellow II, but I just wouldn’t drive a car that colour – too flashy for me). So this past December, I imported an E36 M3 from the States. The process is not difficult, but the info on the web is lousy at best…until now. Read on:

First thing’s first: make sure the vehicle you chose is admissible to Canada! Check out: http://www.riv.ca/english/US_vehicle_admissibility.pdf. If you neglect this step, you WILL be in for a nasty surprise! For example, you can import all ’95 to ’99 E36 M3s, but the ’95 requires a new bumper (~$900!), whereas the ’96-’99 require only minor mods (I’ll explain those later on). And just because it’s newer doesn’t mean it’s admissible at all: 2004 Toyota MR2…NO SIR!

Now, find a good car! There are a couple good sites for used cars in the US – www.autotrader.com has probably the largest collection of both private and commercial ads (with VIN numbers!). Plus, since it’s national, you can see just how far away the seller is from us up here (an important step as you’ll be making 2 trips down there!). One thing you must do when looking at a US car is to sign up for www.carfax.com. They give you 1 month of unlimited checks for US$30. Do it! -- I ran over 50 VINs before I found my car!

Next, talk to the owner or seller and make sure the car meets your criteria. If it’s a private seller and the guy has no clue what an 18-button OBC is, then maybe move on to the next one

Once you’ve found the car you want, call the manufacturer (ie BMW N.A. in my case: 1.800.831.1117) and obtain a “Recall Clearance Letter” (if you’re pressed for time, a fax will do just fine). Hang on to it; you will need letter later on. Just make sure that the letter acknowledges that the vehicle VIN does not have any recalls outstanding. If it’s not clear, you will not be able to export it, so move on to the next car!
For other manufacturers, there’s a phone list at http://www.riv.ca/english/html/recall_contacts.html.

Now, go down and see the car! No need to be unpleasantly surprised. Luckily my car was in Connecticut, which is only a 7-hour drive from Toronto. Since my seller was private, I also brought a small down payment (if you’re buying from a dealer, check their policy before you go down there). It’s a judgment call though. My seller was very knowledgeable about the car and seemed trustworthy, so I left him US$1000 and in return the ownership was signed over to me. You guys can work out your own deal so that you’re both comfortable with it. (Note: some states will stamp the ownership when the lien or loan is fully paid. Look for this when buying private – you cannot export a vehicle with any liens against it!) Why didn’t I just pay the full sum and take possession right then? – Because US Customs doesn’t allow it! Read on…

Now here’s where the bureaucratic BS begins. So you’ve got your ownership (or a copy, you don’t need the original yet), and you’re out $1000. Go home – the rest is done from this side of the border. You need to fax the ownership to the US Customs port at which you will be driving the car back through (VERY important!). If you fax it to wrong office, they won’t know WTF is going on and you’ll be SOL! Not all entry points will export vehicles (eg: of the 4 bridges near Niagara Falls, you can only cross at Queenston-Lewiston). Getting their fax number is easy; getting their office telephone number is next to impossible (since it seems all port of entry office numbers are unlisted). Lucky you, I have the telephone number for US Customs at Queenston: 716.282.1400. They’re surprisingly friendly and I’m sure they also know which port in the Windor-Detroit-Sarnia-Port Huron area allows exporting. Anyway, call up the appropriate office, get their fax number, and fax them both sides of the ownership. Call them back about 2 hours later and make sure they received it and it’s legible! This is an important step -- they will NOT call you if there’s something wrong! Oh, and did I mention all this can only be done Mon-Fri, 8:00–16:00 Eastern time?

Oh, I must also mention that you can only drive the car over the border (ie: export it) during business hours: that’s Mon-Fri, 8am–4pm people! You’ll be SOL if you try it on the weekend or any day after 4:00pm!

Now wait 3 FULL BUSINESS days – again, weekends do not count! In the mean time, arrange yourself a flight down there, get some auto insurance for your new ride (proof of insurance fax from your broker will do), and go to the bank to get the remainder of your payment.

After 3 days have elapsed, call US customs back and make sure everything is clear. It is? Good! Grab your payment, hop on your plane, and go! One thing: if flying from Pearson, you will have to fill out a US Customs form before you pre-clear customs. There is a question on there about carrying more than $10,000 in cash or monetary instruments. This includes cheques, money orders, etc. You MUST check this box off! If you don’t, it’s a serious offence and your money can (ie: will) be confiscated. I checked off the box, then just told the officer I was going down to pick up a car I purchased. They stamped my card and I was let through without any hassle at all. The bottom line is: when asked, you must declare how much $$$ you’re carrying!

Now meet your seller, exchange money for documents and head out. Make sure that you have the original ownership in your possession and a bill of sale (more on this later). Oh, and plates! My seller let me take his Connecticut plates with me, and I later mailed them back to him. If you can work this out then sweet! Otherwise, head down to the local DMV and get a temporary permit. Technically you should have one permit for every state you drive through, but it’s your call. (Note: this nonsense could be avoided if you’re planning on towing the vehicle across the border, but it’s not nearly as much fun)

So now you’ve picked up the car and you’re at the border. You MUST stop at US Customs before you exit the country. Just park in front of the door, it’ll be quick. Go in and (in a calm voice, you can never be too careful these days…they carry guns you know) tell them that you’re exporting a vehicle and present the original ownership. An officer will quickly check that the VIN on the car agrees with the ownership, stamp the ownership and send you on your way.

Now off to Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. Here’s where you can make your life simple or difficult. I am, of course, referring to the “Revenue Agency” portion of their title. You’ll be asked at the gate how much you paid for the car. Unless you’ve done your “homework”, now’s the time to BE HONEST! There’s no turning back here folks. You’ll get a yellow declaration form and be asked to pull over. Go inside with all your papers and present them to the officer. They’ll fill out a long form (Form 1, for those of you keeping track), so you’ll have some time. Talk to the officers just sitting around, they’re full of useful info and usually quite bored. I found out that if they suspect you of under-declaring the value of a vehicle, they won’t call you on it until you paid your taxes on your declared amount (7% GST + 6% import duty on cars not made in North America). Then, just when you think you’re home free, they start closely examining your papers, looking at every nook in your car, and apparently they can even search your person (ie: your pockets and wallet). Then depending on the dollar amount (they didn’t tell me exact figure, but my guess would be around $1,000), they seize your vehicle and charges may be brought against you if you tried to rip them off more than $10,000. They tell me they seize about 6-10 vehicles at each port every week! In the words of one Customs officer “You’re better off killing someone in this country than trying to take money from the government”. I got a chuckle out of that one. So the moral of this story is: these people are not stupid, they know cars and do this for a living so have an official looking bill of sale, bank receipts, and a copy of the original ad or website address (if it’s Ebay or some such thing). You’ll avoid a lot of hassles this way.

Oh, I hinted at it above: You’ll be charged 7% GST plus 6% Import Duty plus $100 A/C fee plus $185 RIV administration fee. They take Interac and Credit card, no cash.

So you’ve been honest and you’ve gone through without hassle (took me about 30 minutes). Go home and rest, it’s far from over.


Continued on next post...

///MP
03-13-2005, 11:41 AM
...Continued from last post


The province of Ontario will only issue you one 10-day permit, so try to keep your US plates as long as possible. As long as you don’t drive like an idiot, the cops won’t hassle you. Within a week, you should receive an inspection form (Form 2) from the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (www.riv.ca). And by should, I of course mean probably won’t. I’m not sure why they take that $185 at the border because they don’t do jack! 2 weeks went by and I still hadn’t received anything. I called them up and they told me “yeah, we received your payment but the form is blank”. You see, customs sends them Form 1 (that long form that was filled out at the border) and it’s RIV’s job to input it into their system and send you Form 2. Since their office is on my way to work, I dropped in with my copy of Form 1 and they issued me a Form 2 on the spot (seriously, 10 minutes tops!). Form 2 is the inspection form that states what modifications need to be done to bring the vehicle into Canadian compliance. They tell you that you need to get the work done at a shop and retain all receipts – BS! If you’re handy, just do what’s on the list yourself.

The ’96-’99 E36 M3 requires daytime running lights, a child seat tether, and bilingual airbag stickers. What’s the hardest thing to do you ask? Airbag stickers! If you’ll notice, the airbag warning on your visor is not actually a sticker; it’s some sort of iron on transfer. BMW, Nissan, Honda, Subaru, etc. do not sell just the “stickers”. Trust me, I’ve tried them all. If you want them, you’ll have to buy new sun visors for $90 each!…or just go to Chrysler-Dodge and get part # 04787437-AA. They’re the only OE to still sell just stickers. They’re $1.13 each, and you’ll need 2. Word on the street is that they’ll probably discontinue these stickers just like everyone else, so stock up on them if you plan to do this often. And don’t worry, the stickers don’t say “Dodge” anywhere on them. In fact, they’re so non-offensive I still have them on my visors.

Other parts you’ll for the E36: DRL (Daytime Running Light) conversion – easy if you’ve ever wired up a car stereo. Check out: http://www.unofficialbmw.com/e36/electrical/e36_daytime_running_lights.html for the procedure. If you have a BMW friend that you can steal a DRL relay from then all the better (thanks Rico328i), otherwise buy 61 35 8 368 039. You’ll also need the two wire connectors Ron mentions in his article: 61 13 0 007 439 and 61 13 0 007 437. Don’t be surprised when the price of each is about $5. The larger one was on backorder, so I just used two of the smaller ones, no problems. Ron has his switch pin numbers reversed, but if you follow the colours it works (ie: pin 5 of the relay goes to grn/red on the headlight switch and pin 1 on the relay goes to yellow on the switch). If this takes you longer than 1.5 hours, you probably shouldn’t have attempted it in the first place.

And finally, go the dealer and get the “Child Safety Kit”. I have it listed as BMW part no. PK72119999999. That may be a BS number, but they’ll know what you’re talking about. It’s about $7.50. To install it, open your trunk lid and get in. Under the rear deck, you’ll see 3 threaded posts. Yes, the posts are there, but the holes in the deck are not. No worries, all you have to do is pass a drill up through one of these holes (I think I used a 9/32”, but I’m not sure). I strongly recommend mounting the kit into the middle hole to avoid the inspector asking where the other 2 tethers points are. To do this, you’ll need to drill a 1/4" hole through the rib that’s in the way. Don’t freak out, no one will ever see it.

Contact me if you need more info or you’d like this work done (for a small fee of course, ie: a 2-4 of Rickard’s, a bottle of Grey Goose, and 4-pack of Red Bull).

OK, you’re almost done. Bring your Recall Clearance Letter, Form 2, and you car to your local Canadian Tire. You don’t have a choice in the matter; they’re the only ones that do the Federal inspection. The tech will just look at the car, so make sure you have your airbag stickers, DRLs, and child seat tether installed. They didn’t ask me for any receipts, they just checked to make sure everything was installed and working, including wipers, turn signals, horn, and tail lights. And before I forget, and this is important, make sure that your airbag warning light works and that it is OFF. They will not pass your car if there’s a fault in your airbag system. Luckily my Peake R5/SRS arrived the day before I went in for inspection (I had a seatbelt switch fault, cleared it and was good to go). The first inspection is covered with that $185 you paid to RIV at the border. The next one won’t be free, so don’t screw around.

Now get yourself an Ontario Drive Clean emissions test. When you’re done that, get an Ontario vehicle certification. Yep, you need all 3 tests in order to get an Ontario ownership.

Once you have all this crap done, collect all your papers (including the tax receipts they gave you at the border) and go to your local Ministry of Transportation branch. After you pay 8% PST (yep, they get you again!), and all associated charges relating to new plates, renewal stickers, etc., you’re done!

As a side note, after you pass inspection the RIV is supposed to send you a Canadian compliance label (the large label on your door sill). It’s been 3 months and I still haven’t received mine…I guess it’s time for another phone call…

Enjoy your new car! If you’re lucky, an uninsured guy in an SUV won’t rear-end you in Mississauga causing $13,000 in damage after only 2 months of owning the car…but now that’s another story in itself…

///MP

Razkal
03-13-2005, 01:50 PM
Thanks for spending the time to create and post that article. Well written and deserves a sticky on it for sure! I have been toying with the idea of bringing an E36 M3 convertiblle here from the US as there aren't many around here....

Also, welcome to Max! *wave*

Manimillion
03-13-2005, 02:02 PM
This should be sticky! GOod POST!

Understated
03-13-2005, 02:13 PM
motion to sticky

King Luis
03-13-2005, 02:19 PM
welcome to max, btw...nice post.

tominizer
03-14-2005, 12:27 PM
Definitely a sticky post

rico328i
03-14-2005, 01:39 PM
MP,

Nice write-up. I'm sure it will be put to use by people here. About time you started posting - I mean, you've only had your M3 for what, 3 months?

Rico328i

Mclarenbenz
03-14-2005, 03:16 PM
This is perfect,

Im looking for a BMW now, and im considering the states.

thanks a bunch mate!

sticky for sure

///MP
03-14-2005, 04:52 PM
Thanks guys, it took me forever to figure all of this out on my own. Hopefully this will save you a LOT of time!

Razkal: Check Florida. 90% of the M3s down there are 'verts! You may to comprimise on a few things though -- ie: my car's originally from FL so it doesn't have heated seats, mirrors, or nozzles! But hey, no salt damage either.

ngo: I don't imagine there's many //Ms in the Peg. The import process should be similar for you. Be sure to check with your insurance company to see what kind of coverage you can get before the car is licensed in Manitoba. In Ontario, the insurance companies have no problem whatsoever insuring a car you don't even own (that's right, I fully insured the car a couple days before I actually picked it up... Trust me, this won't surprise any of us Ontario insurance payers)...but I suspect MB is different.

Rico: Haha...sorry, I don't want to be a post-whore like you... :) Hey, don't you have some fancy headlight bulbs to install??? *wave*

ScotcH
03-14-2005, 11:28 PM
Great write up! Here are some more points, and additions. I just brought in my 95 M3 in January:

1. Most US border crossings will NOT accept a fax of the title. You have to physically get the original title to them (plus 3 copies ... makes them happy). I had the previous owner fedex it to the border crossing.

2. Their phone numbers are easy to find: http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/ports/ I called about 4 of them, no problem to speak to people there

3. Most crossings are 24h, 365 days. I went through at 10pm. No issues, but never hurts to ask.

4. You have to leave the title with the us boder for 72hrs ... this is 72 actual hours, not business days, so weekends DO count.

5. All the ports make up their own rules, so talk to the one you'll actually be crossing at!

6. The child teather stuff just needs to be bought (have your receipt). You do not need to actually install it ... just have the kit available (could be different depending on who is doing the inspection though).

///MP
03-15-2005, 08:12 PM
ScotcH: Thanks for adding the info. I'll have to add some of that info to my article. I originally wrote the article with respect to my experience crossing at Niagara (Queenston-Lewiston bridge).

Just a few replies to your points...

1) I've read about US Customs wanting the actual title plus 3 "certified" copies, but at Queenston they told me a fax was fine and they didn't want any copies! Check with the specific border crossing!!!

2) Do you know how much time this would've saved me?! Good site!

3) Yes, most crossings are 24h, but they all don't allow you to export 24h. I suspect that if US Customs has the actual title + 3 copies then they'll pre-stamp it for you and you can clear customs at any time. Since they only had a fax of mine, they needed the original to stamp hence the "regular business hours" nonsense. Again, check with the specific border crossing!!!

4) Don't count on this. They told me specifically "72 hours, not counting weekends!"

5) BINGO! Each office is like it's own seperate entity. Check with your specific border crossing people!!!

6) I wouldn't risk it. The guy who inspected my car actually looked for the child seat thing, he didn't care for receipts. Besides, you can always take it off after inspection and cover the hole with 51 71 1 852 586 costs about $0.50 and covers up the hole nicely!


If you guys haven't guessed by now, the moral is: Check with your specific border crossing!!!

Rehman
03-16-2005, 02:24 AM
When I brought my 99 M3 Convertible in, as well as 95 and 97 M3 coupes previously, they always counted the 72 hours over the weekends too. The convertible I bought in New York and the coupes in Florida. Had to leave the cars at Buffalo airport parking for the 72 hours, and then brought them over.

And you're definitely right about not lying about the price you pay for not only your vehicle but anything else. I bought a set of 18 inch rims down there. And I told them what I paid, they didn't believe me even though I was telling the truth. So they seized my rims and made me pay a penalty. And since it was a Sunday and they couldn't call the manufacturer or the place I bought them from for price verification. I was stuck having to pay the fine, and then fight it later and get my money back, which I did.

///MP
03-16-2005, 07:21 PM
Maybe they were just jerkin' me around about the 72 hours thing, but they did specifically go out of their way to tell me "that doesn't include weekends or holidays". I even wrote it down on my page of scribbles that I keep by my desk. I guess I was talking to a newbie customs officer.

Rehman's right, Canadian customs can be asses! If you get a super sweet deal on anything make sure you have as much paperwork as possible, or else they won't believe you!

MP

Robb
03-17-2005, 05:54 PM
I imported a Crx from Michigan in 2004. Easy as Pie.

Btw:awesome post ! :cool:

jo2k
07-19-2005, 04:13 PM
my friend's mom wrote a note stated that the 2001 Ford is a FREE Gift for her daughter, and the shipping company clear the custom & Canadian border. She paid NO tax but only 6% duty.

Desisuperman
07-12-2006, 12:09 PM
Just a quick question. The 6.1% duty fee. On what amount do you pay that on? lets say the car was 20 k US. Do you pay that on the 20 k US or the amount it works out to in cdn currency so lets say 22.4k cdn. Wht about the tax? Are your charged on 22k US 22.4 k cdn?

sjinto
07-12-2006, 12:11 PM
you pay the duties and the PST on the CDN equivalent

you pay the GST on the CDN price + duties amount

AlanK
10-10-2006, 07:59 PM
Very nice detailed discription of how import a BMW to Canada. I bought a 2000 Z3 from US. You saved me a bundle by providing the delearship which sales Airbag stickers, thank you.
On DRL relay however, I am having some problems. I bought the Relay from LeatherZ. It was easy to do myself. I just replaced the High beem relay with DRL relay. It worked fine, however, as soon as I drove it away and stopped for a coffee, shut the car off and on, the Airbag light came on. It has been two weeks and close to $400 of cost that nobody can figure out what's wrong. As soon as they reset the computer, the same sanario happens. *sad* The dealership today asked to replace the DRL relay with original one. They reset the computer and the problem went away. LeatherZ didn't say anything in their instruction of any wiring involved. Is there need needed to wire as part of DRL upgrade?

Trekz
10-13-2006, 09:18 PM
what if you are buying a car wich has been in canada for few months, and you are buying it in canada, but it has a US ownership, could there be anyproblems about HOW it got over the border?

Bmwstylz
10-15-2006, 08:09 PM
Whats up with the 1995 M3's needing 'major' bumper modifications?

I am tempted to grab one since they are so damn cheap, but waht is required to make them fully legal? and will the idiots at Canadian tire even be able to tell which Bumper it is??

oh and Great write up!!! :)

thedyingiraf
10-16-2006, 03:53 PM
Oh, I must also mention that you can only drive the car over the border (ie: export it) during business hours: that’s Mon-Fri, 8am–4pm people! You’ll be SOL if you try it on the weekend or any day after 4:00pm!

I don't think so... Customs are opened 24 hrs. Where did you get this info?