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If You're Moving From Canada, Can You Bring Your Car?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2015

If you're moving from Canada to the United States, you've probably realized that it's cheaper to bring your car with you than to buy an entirely new vehicle in the United States. But is it possible to bring your car down without too much legal hassle? Can it be done? And what is the process like? We have all the answers.

Usually, Yes

In most cases, it is possible to bring a car to the United States from Canada. We say "most cases" because doing so requires that the car fits one of two requirements: either it must be substantially similar to a car that was sold in the U.S., or it must be more than 25 years old.

Generally speaking, Canadian cars tend to be similar to models sold in the United States. The Canadian Honda Accord, for example, is virtually identical to the U.S. model, and so are the Canadian Toyota Highlander, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Silverado, BMW 3 Series and more. As a result, you shouldn't have trouble bringing these cars into the States. Meanwhile, vehicles that are 25 years old or older can be imported regardless of whether they're substantially similar to a U.S. model.

There are, however, a few cars sold in Canada that are not extremely similar to U.S. models. Examples include the Nissan Micra and Nissan X-Trail, which aren't offered in the U.S. You won't be able to import cars like these, and attempting to do so will take a lot more time and money than simply buying a new vehicle in the United States.

It's Not That Hard

Although you might fear the bureaucracy involved with importing a car from the U.S. to Canada, it isn't as hard as you probably expect. The first step is to talk to the manufacturer of your car and ask for a letter confirming that it's substantially similar to a U.S. model. Manufacturers are familiar with these letters, and getting them to write one shouldn't be hard. Armed with the letter and your Canadian title and registration, you should be able to register your vehicle. If your car is leased or financed in Canada, you may also need permission from your bank to register it in the U.S.

If your car is 25 years old or more, things are even easier. In this case, no letter is required. Just import your car and bring your title with you to the DMV. There aren't any other hoops to jump through.

Be Prepared to Explain

Once you have your Canadian car registered in the U.S., you shouldn't have any other major hassles. However, if your speedometer is in kilometers per hour, you might want to convert it to miles. You should also be ready to explain why your car isn't in "the system" every time someone asks for your VIN number. From the emissions test facility to your dealership's service department, you'll probably end up saying "It's a Canadian model" at least once every few months.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
If You're Moving From Canada, Can You Bring Your Car? - Autotrader