Can I buy a car in the US and drive it back to Canada?

The United States is one of the biggest automobile markets in the world. This means it can be a great place to buy cars for residents of neighbouring countries like Canada. But the question on the mind of anyone who wants to is, ‘Can I buy a car in the US and drive it back to Canada?’

You can purchase a car in the United States and drive it into Canada. But there are several processes involved if you want to do this. You need to find the right seller, make sure the car is importable, do customs clearance, get an ITN, export the car, and finally import the vehicle into Canada.

However, there is more to importing a car into Canada from the United States. While the US auto market has a variety of options available that might make it attractive, the process of importing the vehicle into Canada might be stressful.

So, to make things easier, in this article, we examine the process of buying a car from the US and driving it into Canada.

Can I buy a Car in the US and Drive it Back to Canada?

Canadian residents can take advantage of the US auto market and buy their car from there. They can even drive it back into Canada themselves.

So, if you’ve got a car preference available in the United States, nothing stops you from buying it in the US and driving it to Canada.

What You Need to Know If You Want to Drive Your Car Back to the US

Driving your car back from the US to Canada is a great idea.

However, anyone planning to buy a car in the US will need to do certain things before importing the vehicle into Canada.

Here are the steps you should take when buying your car in the United States.

1. Source for the Vehicle

The first thing you’ll need to do is find a seller.

Generally, since you’ll be buying a used car, this simply means finding a trusted seller either online or offline.

It’s always better to buy from licensed dealers because the risk attached to buying from a private seller is much higher.

Part of sourcing for the car is also negotiating.

The reason you’re buying from the US is that you believe you’ll get a better bargain. But don’t make the mistake of thinking the listed price is the best you can get.

2. Make Sure the Car Is Importable

It’s not every car operating in the US that you can import into Canada. Therefore, the vehicle you buy must be admissible in Canada.

There is a comprehensive list of cars you can bring into Canada; check the list before buying. Any car that is not on that list is automatically disqualified.

However, vehicles above 15 years of age are exempted, which means you can still import vintage vehicles from the US.

It’s not only the types that determine which car can or cannot be imported.

Features are also important, and you must make sure the vehicle you’re buying has all the qualities and components needed to pass the RIV admissibility test.

In some cases, you’ll need to modify the car to meet Canadian standards.

3. Do Your Homework

There are several things attached to importing a vehicle into Canada from the US. It’s, therefore, necessary to exercise due diligence.

Ensure that you’re aware of how to get cross-border warranty coverage and recall clearance letters. Also, make sure you know the vehicle accident and lien history.

This is where the title of the car is essential.

You need to have the title before importing the car, and you cannot import a vehicle with a rebuilt or salvage title.

4. Customs Clearance

When crossing the US border with the car, you’ll need to do the customs clearance, and this is where the title and Internal Transaction Number (ITN) are essential. However, this can be a little complex due to the 72-hour export rule.

This rule requires you to send the paperwork to the US border 72 hours before driving to the border. 

Therefore, you should get in touch with the US border you’re using to enter Canada by phone or email at least 72 hours before that time.

In addition, you’ll have to send your Internal Transaction Number and a digital scan of both sides of the title. So, if you plan to drive your car back into Canada yourself, you’ll have to wait for some days in the US. You should make plans for these days.

5. Get an Internal Transaction Number

Before, the only thing people needed to import cars into Canada from the US was the bill of sale, the title, and payment of some taxes at the border. Now, you need an ITN to get your car across the border from the US into Canada. 

It’s easy to get an ITN. There are two ways for you to get one. Either you pay a licensed and professional importer, or you become one yourself.

The cost of getting ITN is between $100 and $200. After payment, you’ll also have to send the following documents to the importer to get your ITN.

  • Digital scan of both sides of your title
  • Your complete Canadian address
  • The cost of your car
  • Your Canadian Passport number
  • Your phone number

The importer will send all this information and your ITN to the US border.

Therefore, it’s essential to use the right importer to prevent any disappointment when you get to the border.

6. Export the Car

After doing everything that has been stated above, you can drive straight to the border and export the car. You’ll complete the export procedure in the export office, which is available at most major border crossings.

Call the US border you’re using in advance to make sure they have an export office. Once you locate the office, it’s a straightforward process.

7. Import and Pay Tax

Now that you have driven the car out of the US, the rest of the process is more straightforward.

Drive the car into Canada and inform Canadian customs that you’re importing the vehicle.

Transport Canada requires that you declare the car you’re importing by completing the Vehicle Import E-form.

You’ll also have to pay taxes, GST, and sometimes HST depending on the province you entered through for the total cost of the vehicle. To prove how much you paid, show an image of the bank draft or anything that can prove the payment.

Also, there’s a $100 charge on cars with air conditioning and a $200 charge on any car below 15 years old. 


Buying a car in the US and driving it to Canada can be a little tasking, but it can be a worthwhile experience.

The process doesn’t end with you importing the car into Canada.

You have to register the car and get a Canadian plate number for it within 45 days. You’ll also need to get insurance and complete all the necessary prerequisites for driving a vehicle in Canada.

So, get to work and have fun with your new vehicle.

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