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Christien Christien is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Hamilton, Ont.
Posts: 6,959
Importing a Porsche from the US into Canada

Just because it's been asked and answered several times:
to change a boxster/996/997 speedo to km from miles, turn the little dial to the left and hold for 5 or 6 seconds - voila!

Seeing as there seems to be a fair amount of confusion over the importation of vehicles from the US into Canada, I've attempted to assemble all the relevant points into one document. Please pm any corrections you find to me. Thanks to everyone who has helped with the editing, particularly Ian Macarthur!

It’s no secret that Porsche values are lower in the US than in Canada, but a lot of people are scared off by the red tape involved in the importation procedure. A more cynical person may say that this is deliberate on the part of the government to keep people shopping at home…

You may opt to pay a few bucks extra in shipping and brokerage to get the car delivered right to your door. Most large shipping companies will provide this service for between $100 and $300 (brokerage fees), and depending on your patience, that might be money well spent. You will need to provide them with a bill of sale and a title. (A blank bill of sale is included at the end of this document.) Shipping costs can vary greatly depending upon the service provided, particularly whether or not the vehicle will be enclosed or open. Expect $1000 - $4000 for vehicle shipping. Some cross border shippers are Hansen’s, TFX International and SeaRail to name a few.

You may however opt to pick the car up yourself directly from the seller, or have it shipped to the nearest border crossing and do the importation process yourself. Most shipping companies will know and recommend storage yards near the border that they can drop the vehicle of at. Some will even offer to meet you in a large parking lot for you to pick up the car. Storage yards tend to be fairly inexpensive – maybe $10 a day or so.

The importation process is indeed confusing, but not impossible by any means. There are two different categories: older than 15 years and newer than 15 years. If the car you’re importing is newer than 15 years (as determined by the month and year on the DOT VIN plate, usually found in the door jamb) then the vehicle must pass through the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV).

The first question to answer is will you be driving the car or trailering it? If trailering, you don’t need insurance or a temporary registration, although I would still highly recommend at least some collision insurance. If driving, you’ll need to obtain a temporary registration permit (also called a trip permit) from your provincial Ministry of Transportation. These temp registrations are intended to allow the buyer to drive the car around for the safety inspection and emissions test (if applicable), because the Ministry won’t issue a proper registration without these tests being done. They’re good (in Ontario, at least) for 10 days, and there’s a charge for these. You will also need insurance coverage to obtain a trip permit – at least $200K liability, however most insurance companies won’t write a policy for less than $1 million. When you go to the Ministry office to get the permit, make sure you have the title, bill of sale and proof of insurance.

On the US side, all states will issue a temporary registration, which allows for a legal drive to the border. Typically this involves a trip to the local DMV with the title signed over to you. A small admin fee ($25 - $50) will get you a 30-day permit. Notable exceptions to this are Florida and Connecticut, which require that retail sales tax be paid on the invoiced cost of the car when they issue a temporary permit. Since this tax is a state tax, it is not recognized by your province, which will also demand a retail sales tax on licensing. Shipping or trailering is your only option to avoid this double tax hit. Always contact the state’s DMV to get local costs and details.

The most important thing to know is that the US customs desk needs the title 3 business days in advance. Depending on the crossing, you may be able to fax the title to them, in which case I would suggest you include a cover page indicating your name, the seller’s name and the date you intend to export the vehicle. You must fax the border crossing office at which the vehicle will cross. Other crossing points require the original title in their hands 72 hours before crossing. Always call to make sure. (In Ontario, the only crossing I know of that will permit faxed titles is Lewiston/Queenston, near Niagara Falls.) When you’re there, they will compare the title to the VIN plate on the actual vehicle. They will hold you to the 3 business days, right down to the hour. For example, if you fax them the title at 1:00pm on a Thursday, you won’t be able to export it before 1:00pm on the following Monday. Only certain border crossings allow vehicle export, and they have specific hours. Again, always call ahead.

At the border, on the US side you will need the original title registration from the seller’s state, with their signature on it, signing the vehicle over to you. You will also need a bill of sale with signatures at the border, plus proof that the title is clear (i.e. no liens). Many states indicate lien status right on the title, so in some cases the title will prove that there are no liens, however I would advise contacting the state DMV to complete a proper lien search. Make sure you’ve got something official and in writing at the border to prove the title’s clear. The US exportation process is usually pretty quick and painless, and they tend to be decently friendly.

On the Canadian side you’ll find frustration and red tape, plus a lot of expenses. You’ll need the same documentation, plus proof of payment (bank draft/money order receipt, credit card receipt, receipt from bank following wire transfer). They will charge you duty (6.1% - NAFTA only covers goods manufactured in Canada, the US and Mexico, so Porsches are charged duty) and GST (7%, 6% as of July 1/06). There’s also an air condition charge of $120, regardless of whether or not the AC works. If the vehicle is less than 15 years old, there’s a RIV charge of $209 (see below).

Once the vehicle is in Canada, you’ll have to get a safety inspection (and emissions test, if applicable – in Ontario if the vehicle is 20 years old or less). Most garages can complete this work. Then you head down to the provincial Ministry of Transportation office to get plates and provincial title. Show them the safety certificate, emissions test if applicable, original (US) title and the bill of sale. They’ll charge you PST (standard provincial rate), plus an admin fee for the title and bill you for plates ($10 and $74 respectively, last time I did it in Ontario). PST is based on the value indicated in the bill of sale or the Red Book value, whichever is higher. (Red Book values are notoriously low, and only go back 15 years.)

If the vehicle is less than 15 years old, it will have to go through the RIV. They determine the age by the date of manufacture (month and year) stamped on the VIN plate. You may need to make modifications to “Canadian-ize” the vehicle, such as daytime running lights, passenger side airbags, metric speedometer, child restraints, etc. Check the RIV document US Vehicle Admissibility for details on this. (

You will need to obtain a Letter of Compliance from the manufacturer. Call Porsche Cars of North America at 1-800-545-8039 to obtain this. If I remember correctly, they’ll fax it to you at no charge. All you need to give them is your name and the VIN. If for some reason the statement of compliance label (“this vehicle conforms to all applicable…”) is missing, you’ll need to obtain a compliance certificate from Porsche.

On the Canadian side of the border they will provide you with a RIV form which you’ll have to fill out, then charge you the $209 ($224 in QC) admin fee. They’ll also check the statement of compliance label on the car.

Once you get the car into Canada you have 45 days to make any necessary modifications and have the car pass final RIV inspection. Experience dictates that most Porsche mechanics are familiar with this process, and should be able to complete whatever modifications are needed. A lot of newer cars, with digital speedometers won’t need modification, as you can just select metric. Airbags are usually fine, as are child restraints. You will most likely need to get the daytime running lights added, but this is usually just a relay switch added, and is fairly inexpensive. This does not have to be done by any certified mechanic – you can do it yourself, if you’re comfortable with it, however I would still recommend at least discussing it with a garage that has experience in converting US cars to make sure you cover everything.

Within 10 days RIV will mail you another form. If you don’t receive it within 10 days, CALL!!! I had to – they didn’t bother sending it to me. When I called they said the registration hadn’t been processed properly at the border because the admin charge wasn’t paid. They were unable to answer me when I asked how I was able to get by without paying the registration fee. They took a credit card number over the phone and mailed the form, but this all ate up part of the 45 day time limit.

Once all modifications are complete, you must take this form and the car to Canadian Tire to have it inspected. (no options – RIV has a contract with Canadian Tire to perform these inspections). They will examine the car, check for the necessary modifications and sign the form. Take the form to a Ministry office, and they’ll issue a Canadian certification label.

(continued in part 2)
Current: 1987 911 cabrio
Past: 1972 911t 3.0, 1986 911, 1983 944, 1999 Boxster

Last edited by Christien; 10-01-2008 at 10:53 AM..
Old 06-14-2006, 07:54 AM
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