I purchased a used RV from a dealer in Buffalo, N.Y., and we have encountered problems in getting it home. I will not have a licence plate on the RV and cannot get one until the vehicle import form has been submitted at the border and the paperwork has been sent back to me. This could take two weeks – and first we need it to get it to Canadian Tire to get it brought up to Canadian standards. Ontario will not issue a temporary set of plates. So how do we get it into Canada without plates? – Linda, Hamilton.
The only way to legally get the RV home is on the back of a truck, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
"It is true that can only legally bring a vehicle into Canada from [New York] is on a flatbed truck because it is considered cargo, under these circumstances," said IBC spokesperson Helen Lialias.
That goes against what I first wrote in this article. Originally, I wrote that on the advice of Ontario's MTO and New York's DMV, the Canadian buyer should get a temporary permit through their dealer or directly from the DMV in Buffalo and just drive it home.
New York does offer a temporary permit, but, as a reader in the comments section pointed out, there's a hitch – they require proof of insurance and it must be valid for at least 30 days
"You can only get a 14-day binder on a newly acquired vehicle in Ontario on an existing auto policy, which does not meet New York DMV requirements,” Lialias says.
The general advice when talking about buying from most U.S. states is to get an in-transit permit through your dealer or, if it's a private sale, to buy it yourself at the DMV. If you do have a permit from the state you're buying in, there are still a few hurdles to jump before you can cross the border.
If it’s a private sale, the buyer needs to fax the bill of sale and title to the U.S. border at least 72 hours before crossing, said Viraf Baliwalla of the Automall Network, a Toronto-based car broker.
“The border officials will stamp the vehicle as for export and he'll be able to cross,” Baliwalla said. “On the Canadian side you will have to declare the vehicle and you'll be charged HST, any duties if applicable and excise tax.”
You’ll need to show the title and the bill of sale again at the Canadian side. You then have 45 days to get any modifications done to get it up to Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety standards and get it inspected.
“Typically, most vehicles just need daytime running lights operational and proper seat belt tether straps,” Baliwalla said.
Some vehicles might need an immobilizer, a security device that won’t let the engine start without a special key. These are required on cars built after 2007.
You’ll also need a recall clearance letter from the manufacturer, Baliwalla said.
You then pay the $195 fee to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV), get a Form 2, and take everything to the local MTO to get your plates. The RIV’s website walks you through the process.
Then you’re set to be a happy camper – as long the RV you bought was on the list of importable vehicles in the first place.
“I presume the buyer did some homework to ensure the vehicle was importable by checking on the Transport Canada website before she paid for it,” Baliwalla said.
Buying south of the border doesn’t automatically mean better deals, even if the price is better than anything up here.
Some states, such as Florida, now charge sales tax on vehicles destined for export – that means you’ll have to pay sales tax on both sides of the border, Baliwalla said.
“In that case, you won’t be saving any money by buying in the States,” he said. “You have to really do your homework.”
Update: This article has been amended to include further information about the correct manner for importing an RV home to Canada.
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