Let me state at the outset – it is very easy to move your car from the US to Canada, if you have proper documentation. I was told otherwise by a few, but after going through the experience myself, I would say it is only time consuming but well worth the pain and money you would save (by not selling in the US and buying again in Canada)!
Here’s what you need to do to make the process a cake-walk for you:
- Your car should be in the acceptable list of vehicles permitted to be imported to Canada. Check the list here
- The car is in your name and you’ve driven it for some time in the US. I am not sure what the process is for bringing a brand new car from the US to Canada.
- I still had my US DL active for a month when I moved to Canada.
- I also continued with Geico US Auto insurance till I got my Canadian insurance. When I got the local insurance in Canada, I discontinued Geico and got the refund of the remaining amount I had already paid for in my US account.
- I didn’t drive the car through the border – Since I wanted to avoid the hassle of putting proper documentation in place, I sent my car through the moving company my firm has a tie-up with.
- If you had renewal(s) of DL in the US, you should have even the earlier DL(s) to surrender to the Canadian authorities to be considered for full driving history.
- Carry all the documents that would collect from various agencies over time before you head to the next one. You don’t want to go to an agency and be in the queue only to find out you are missing something that you should have carried along.
- I spent around CAD1,000 overall and most of it was reimbursed by my firm. Your charges could vary a bit here and there depending on your personal situation.
- If the moving company paid any charges to any of the 2 governments, I am not aware of that. What I do know is they billed my firm for about USD2,000 for the move.
What to do in the US:
- You would have to go to DMV a month or so in advance and get the ‘Abstract’ of your driving record. In New Jersey, they charge USD15 and you can get it in minutes if you go yourself. You would need this (along with any previous DLs, as mentioned above) to have your entire US driving history taken into account in Canada. Without the abstract, Canadian authorities would only allow you to exchange the US licence for G1 licence (as if you have under 1 year of experience).
I had 3 years of history in the US and got the extract before moving to Canada. So, I got the full G licence by paying CAD90 in exchange for my valid US licence (had to give them my expired US DL also from a year back and the abstract).
What to do in Canada:
- The first thing you need to do is to get the DL as explained above. You can visit the nearest Drive Test Center for this step.
- Next is to get the car when it arrives in Canada by getting it cleared through customs. I was called by the moving company on the day it was ready for pick-up at customs. I just had to go there with the documents I was handed over in the US by the moving company, along with the Canada Work Permit and Passport. Overall, it took about 5-10 minutes to clear my car and the payment was a customs fees of CAD220.
- You would need to get the vehicle inspected so it meets Canadian standards. I went to Canadian Tires and it took about 4 hours to get that done. I was asked to replace the rear break pads and a couple of other minor things. The total was CAD600, out of which parts were for about CAD222 (except for the cost of parts, the labor and inspection cost was borne by my firm).
- Then comes the process of buying Auto insurance. I spoke to a few vendors and finally went with TD Insurance, they gave me a good deal by combining both Renter’s insurance for my Apartment and the Auto insurance. Always lookout for such deals!
- Finally, the registration of car is required, which is to be done at Service Ontario. It is a 5-10 minute job (I paid CAD240, which includes a sticker too) and you should be able to happily walk away with a new number place. Remember to mail the US number plate to the DMV back there.
Don’t be frightened by the number of steps. As I mentioned upfront, it is only time consuming, but would save you thousands of Dollars!