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Christien 06-14-2006 07:54 AM

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)

Christien 06-14-2006 07:57 AM


Hereís a summary checklist:

-fax the title to the border crossing where the vehicle will cross 3 business days in advance of export
-obtain insurance coverage and trip permit (if driving)
-arrive at the border with bill of sale, original title, proof of clear title (no liens) and a credit card with a high limit.
-US side: present original title and bill of sale, have the VIN examined
-Canadian side: pay duty, GST, AC charge, RIV charge (if applicable), fill out importation form, RIV form
-Once in Canada get safety inspection and e-test (if applicable), Canadian RIV modifications (if applicable)
-Have car pass RIV inspection at Canadian Tire (if applicable)
-Take safety and e-test to Ministry of Transportation office, pay PST, registration fee, purchase plates (or register old plates to this car)

On thing to bear in mind with this whole process: YMMV. With everything. You can ask 5 different border guards a question about procedures and get 5 different answers. This goes for both US and Canadian sides, and also for RIV. Most of the people on the phone are clueless, rude, and irritated that you bothered them (your tax dollars at workÖ). Always check (and maybe bring with you) whatever you can find in writing on the various government websites, pamphlets, anything you can find, in case you show up at the border and someone tells you youíve got it wrong. Sometimes someone on the phone will be helpful, so itís always worth a shot, but donít expect much. Believe it or not, but the Ministry of Transportation people are the more friendly and helpful (and less bureaucratic) bunch youíll deal with in this process.

Here are some websites that you most definitely should read:

Registrar of Imported Vehicles:

Canada Border Services Agency, Importing a Vehicle into Canada:

Transport Canadaís List of Vehicles Admissible from the US:

Disclaimer: This information is collected from my own personal experience and that of others, and is NOT legal advice. The bill of sale below was created by myself, not a lawyer. It has worked for me in the past, but I canít guarantee its legality. There may be errors in here, and things may differ between various provinces and states. I wonít be held responsible for any problems you may encounter importing a vehicle. Itís a world run by lawyers: if you want to make sure you cya, call one!


The seller named herein agrees to sell the vehicle listed below to the buyer named herein, for the price indicated. The seller hereby guarantees that he/she is the legal owner of the vehicle indicated and that the vehicle title is clear of any liens or other encumbrances. All taxes, duty and shipping charges will be paid by the buyer. Upon receipt of funds, the seller agrees to sign over the title into the name of the buyer.


VIN: ________________

Sale price: ________________

Name of Seller: ________________

[name], seller


Name of Buyer: ________________

[name], buyer


Christien 06-28-2006 05:26 AM

Just an add-on to this, it seems either PCNA or Porsche Canada may be conspiring against people importing cars from the US to Canada. Everything seems to be rumour at this point, but the story goes that as of July 1 (and possibly retroactive) Porsche will not honour warranties for cars purchased in the US and exported to Canada. They also will not assist in the exportation/importation process by issuing Letters of Compliance (recall clearance letters). Apparently, according to someone at Pfaff, the Canadian dealers are "getting their asses handed to them" (his words!) because of the discrepancy in prices between the US and Canada. Additionally, he said they're no longer allowed to do any warranty work on US cars. I called PCNA yesterday to get a letter of compliance for a Boxster I've just imported, and they flat out refused to provide me with it, saying they stopped providing such letters for commercial imports "about a week ago". They wouldn't offer me any suggestions or further help, just said I'm out of luck. I spoke to RIV about this, and they said they'd look into it, and may have to revise their policy for Porsches. They said it's "my right" to get this letter of compliance, and that PCNA was obligated to provide it to me.

There's a rather long discussion about this on rennlist:

Again, this is all rumour at this point. I can only confirm what was actually said to me yesterday:
1. PCNA will NOT provide recall clearance letters to commercial importers anymore
2. Pfaff is no longer allowed to do any warranty work on US cars.
And even then, it's always possible that the people I spoke to who told me this were mistaken themselves. The rennlist discussion seems to indicate that lots of people are hearing several different stories, even from the same source (particularly Pfaff).

Just want to give everyone a heads-up to make sure you know what you're getting into.

sumras 06-29-2006 06:23 AM


I just called and spoke to a guy called Clay..

He said if its for persoanl use they he would have no problems giving me a Letter of Compliance and also the warranty would still be covered..

But if I was to bring the car over for reselling (Vendor/Broker) then he would not give me a letter.

Policy was put in place 2 weeks ago.


Strugs 07-09-2006 11:49 PM

Just to confirm - Letter of Compliance is only necessary for cars lass than 15 years old?

mic 07-11-2006 12:05 PM

I imported my 89 930 a year ago (via a us-canada relocation).

Couple of comments...

If the Vehicle was manufactured after November 89 then you need Daytime running lights installed before the inspection. Easiest way is to wire up your fog lights (dealer did this on my nissan).

If you are purchasing a car remotely from a private party, one thing to keep in mind is that that party must have a valid title to the vehicle in their possesion (with no lean holders). In California they have started 'electronic title' (or paperless title) a few years back and there is no physical title. This is not good for export. You need actual paper title to take to US treasurey for export. Registration does not constitue "title" (ownership). DMV quotes a minimum of 20 days for a owner to get a paper title. My vehicles waited at the border in storage until the california DMV produced the titles. Only the registered owner can get a title and they will only ship them to a california address).
A third pary title (i.e. current owner has a title signed over to him from a previous owner) is not valid for export (got stuck on this one when i tried to purchase a car in california that was registered in arizona).
Some states (Arizona) requires the signature on title and/or bill of sale to be notorized to be considered as a valid title transfer.
Make sure all the current owners DVM registration fees are paid up. In california, even if the vehicle is parked there are fees. It is common that these fees are not if the vehicle has been off road for some time.

BTW: Even if an owner has a title without a lein holder shown on it you should confirm with DMV that there isnt a lein. It is possible in rare cases for an owner to actually have a title that doesnt state this (i had one myself) however there is a registered lein holder at DMV - the export guys will see it because they check with the prospective DMV (reason for the 72 business hours). The contrary can also happen i.e. when the owner paid off a loan and the lein holder forgot to notify DMV.

If you purchase a car from a dealer (at least in California) they WILL charge you local sales tax unless they deliver the car out of state.

mic 07-11-2006 12:09 PM

I did not need a letter of compliance for my 1989. I did need one each for my 2004 vehicles.

Strugs 07-11-2006 08:55 PM

Thanks for letting me know. If all goes well, I should have the Carrera "extradited" to Canada on Monday.

I also learned a lesson about Washington State titles. The DMV states that after the owner pays off a lien, it takes 4 to 6 weeks for them to reissue the new title. The not-so-well-known option is for the registered owner to make a visit to the state capitol (Olympia) to DMV HQ and ask for a "superservice" title. It can be generated on the spot (if their computer system has not crashed - but that is another story).

Strugs 07-17-2006 11:12 PM

Update - thanks to all of you for your help. Time for US and Canada customs processing - just over 45 minutes. None of them even looked at the car. Unfortunately, getting the frickin BC Safety inspection, registration and insurance took the better part of five hours!

Oh well - I am a VERY happy camper right now.

Jeff Alton 07-30-2006 06:36 PM

I just brought a 87 951 up from the US, totally painless experience. Same when I helped a friend bring his 993 up. Very very simple to do!


Kirk911SC 08-01-2006 10:59 AM

I brought my 930 up from Tennessee back in March. I had the transport company (TFX International - in Toronto) handle all the paperwork.

TFX handled the car door to door. Completely easy experience. I'd have to check, but the cost was approximately $1600 CDN.


Christien 08-01-2006 01:22 PM

TFX looked familiar and made me think for a second, but I think they're one of the good guys. The company I shipped with was XPT Fowarding/Freightmar - avoid them at all costs!!!

MikeT 08-03-2006 04:51 PM

TFX has been around for quite a while. Back in the early 90's I was working as crew in the Ferrari Challenge. TFX hauled 4 348's down to Texas for us from Toronto and they were great.
Best part was going back to work on Monday and telling the guys I drove 4 different Ferrari's on Sunday.
Unfortunately it was only back into the trailer.

Porsche_monkey 08-14-2006 12:14 PM

Well I just got back from bringing a car all the way from NJ.

Just a few notes:

1) A lot of people say '72 hours notice' at the US Border. Wrong, it is three working days from when they enter your car into the system. If you fax at 8AM Wednesday, you proabably can not clear US customs until 10AM Monday. No weekends at Lewiston Bridge, Mon-Fri 9-4PM.

I drove to NJ Friday night, picked up my car Saturday AM, and headed north at 11:30AM. As customs was closed I dropped my car at tow-truck compound in Lewiston (only $15 per night) and was back in Oakville at 9:30PM. If you need to store a car near the border PM me and I'll give you a phone number.

2) US Customs took me less that two minutes. He asks for ownership, asks where the car is, doesn't even look up. Stamps my ownership and says get lost.

3) Canada Customs took 15 minutes to get the paperwork done and payment complete. Famous last words 'just give the yellow slip to the agent outside and you're on your way'.

I climb in my truck, look around, no-one is outside. Should I leave? Dumb me, no, I find an agent and hand her my slip. 'Wait inside while I search your car'. She goes through my SUV for 15 minutes, with a helper. The helper leaves, she keeps searching. She comes back, very pissed of (no reefer seeds in my car).

BB (Border b1tch): 'What did you really pay for the car?'
Me: $11,500 USFunds (totally true)
BB: How did you pay?
Me; Money order (I give her a copy)
BB 'Where did you find out about this car?'
Me: '' (free advertising)
BB: 'I'm going to check the web-site'
Me: F-you, and your girlfriend (inner voice). Yes maam (outer voice)

20 minutes later

BB: 'Come with me'

We go into the back room, where a male gaurd stands behind me, quite ready to defend both of them against my, my ummm, I guess my car keys?:

BB: What did you really pay?
Me: $11,500.
BB: We get people in here everyday lying to us about what they paid.
Me: So you're calling me a lair?
BB: I'm just telling you what people do everyday. What is the buyers phone number?
Me: I do not know, I only communicated by email (He would not give me a phone number, I tried).
BB: I'll give you a last chance to be honest, that car is worth far more than $11,500.
Me: I have been honest, if it wasn't a good price I wouldn't have driven 20 hours to get it. You checked the web-site, he was asking $12,500 right? I offered $11,500 and he took it. (still true).
BB: You know it's a crime to misrepresent your purchase price, maybe you made a down payment in top of the money order?. (desperation)
Me: I know it is a crime that's why I have beem honest from the start.
BB: Empty your pockets.
Me: Oh good, let me know if I have any rectal polups (inner voice).
BB: She just looks at my wallet and keys, (I think she was hoping for a receipt that said $25,000 US Funds). ' You can go now'

Moral of the story? Even when you are honest you're only minutes away from a cavity search :)

Christien 08-14-2006 12:24 PM

Wow, what a story. I wasn't anywhere near that hassled about price, even when I told them the 944 on the trailer only cost me $1700.

Border guards are known to be pricks - I guess it comes with the territory. Welcome home, eh?

Funny story that made me feel good - I was once driving to a concert in Buffalo. The US border guards wanted to search my car, even after showing them the concert ticket as proof of where I was going. Luckily for me, we'd been out of town the day before, with the cats. When we travel with the cats, we put an empty pop case with cat litter in the back, rather than have them piss on the seat. Well, I forgot to take it out, so the border guard had to sift through my cat's turds, which look remarkably like hash :D Hopefully he had to smell them too!! I missed the concert because they took so long. Pricks.

Porsche_monkey 08-14-2006 01:26 PM

I should have been nervous when the guy says, '$11,500, so this is for parts, right?"

Jeff Alton 08-15-2006 05:45 PM

I played hockey on the Canada Customs Hockey team for 10 years, I believe PBH's story. They ain't got anything better to do! Just wonder how many things got smuggled (drugs and firearms etc) while you were getting the (almost) rubber glove! Pretty common I am afraid. Everytime I fly home I get the ummmm secondary inspection. They have never found anything and never will, but that doesn't seem to stop them!


Porsche_monkey 08-16-2006 08:43 AM

I originally thought she was looking for drugs etc, but in hindsight she must have been looking for a second 'real' receipt. Next time I'll take a couple of filing cabinets full of paperwork with me. :)

Christien 08-16-2006 08:50 AM

They did a brief search of the SUV we were using to trailer the 944. It occurred to me that (legitimately) buying a cheap used car could be a way of smuggling drugs - make it look like you've got a regular, run of the mill legit purpose for crossing the border, meanwhile the SUV's stuffed full of heroin or something.

billroth 09-05-2006 09:25 PM

A question for those who have driven a car home. Did you need to get an Ontario trip permit? And how did you get it? I understand you need the titile.

Did you see car, buy it, come home, trip permit, go to car, drive home, wait at border, get home? Seems like a lot of work to me. Shipping might be easier, but you still have to fly somewhere to look at a car that you may not buy in the end.

Any advice or ideas appreciaited.


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