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HalifaxMMM 01-14-2012 04:31 PM

How to import a BMW into Canada from the U.S
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 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 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 05:09 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 05:12 PM


Originally Posted by pearl_iroc (Post 1543948)
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 06:05 PM

Great info! Thanks. Nice to see updated info.

bmwmck 01-14-2012 06:51 PM

and if it's 15+ years old, how many of those steps are eliminated?

great write up, thank you.

woofster 01-14-2012 10:42 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 11:09 PM

FYI, not all states have temporary plates, check before you buy

slemmer 01-14-2012 11:48 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 10:18 AM

great post! was just thinking about getting a car from the states!

T.Dot_E30 01-15-2012 10:28 AM

BMW recall letter isn't required before you cross the border anymore?

dcramer 01-15-2012 12:11 PM

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 12:12 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.

bmwmck 01-15-2012 12:15 PM


Originally Posted by bmwmck (Post 1543956)
and if it's 15+ years old, how many of those steps are eliminated?


dcramer 01-15-2012 12:24 PM

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 01:00 PM


Originally Posted by dcramer (Post 1544012)
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.

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