Have you ever looked at the car prices in the U.S. and drooled at all the sweet deals? I decided to stop drooling and do something about it. I ended up driving away with a brand new Dodge Ram pick-up for a full $6,000 less than it would cost in Canada. If you’re interested in saving a few thousand on your next car, I recommend having a look south of the border before you buy. Here’s how to do it right.
Can you import it?
I had my eye on a Dodge Ram pick-up that was advertised for only $16,500. Just a few degrees north, that same truck went for $31,000! But I soon realized that first I had to make sure that the vehicle I wanted was admissible to Canada. The easiest way to check is to go to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles website and pay the $195 fee. Some cars are not permitted at all; others require modifications, which could increase your costs and kill the impetus to import.
What about the warranty?
When I asked if they would honour the warranty in Canada, Dodge outright refused. But after factoring in the sticker-price savings this was a risk I was willing to take. I could always buy an aftermarket warranty if I really wanted protection.
Skip the sales tax
In my case, the dealer wanted to charge me sales tax, but I worked around that by having the title initially transferred to a cousin who lived in a state with no sales tax. If you don’t have family in the U.S., more orthodox strategies could include buying the car in a state with no sales tax, having the car shipped out of state, or buying in a state which does not levy taxes on cars bound for export (New York, for instance).
Now it’s time to make the export official. U.S. Customs will require a faxed copy of the title at least three days prior to crossing the border. At the border, you’ll need to present the car to U.S. Customs to have the title stamped. Also you’ll need to provide proof of compliance that the vehicle has no recall notices. And be sure to arrange car insurance with your agent in Canada and get a trip permit from the U.S. dealer.
Tally your savings
I ended up paying $19,000 for the truck, since the initial sticker price included discounts I didn’t qualify for. Also, I still had to pay some Canadian sales tax, a “gas guzzler” tax, and I had to get the car certified, e-tested and brought up to Canadian standards (it cost about $250 for all of it). But I still saved more than $6,000, even after the fees, and I had a terrific road trip back with my 10-year-old son—who considered it the highlight of his life.