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Taking a car from Canada into the States

Travel Forums North America Taking a car from Canada into the States

1. Posted by travellerob (Budding Member 3 posts) 5y

Hi guys.

My girlfriend (Kiwi, 20yrs old,) and I (English, 22yrs old,) are flying into Banff in Feb 2012 for a wedding and decided we'd stay on to have a trip around North America. After the family leave Banff, we're making our way to Vancouver to spend some time there. Then the plan is to buy a cheap converted people carrier or van of sorts (something we can sleep in to cut down on accommodation costs), and do a road trip, ultimately selling the vehicle again before we fly out of New York City.

My questions are regarding crossing the Canada/USA border in a car. The itinerary at this stage is:
a) Drive from Vancouver to LA,
b) Drive back up to Winnipeg, Manitoba,
c) Drive down to Chicago,
d) Drive up to Toronto,
e) Drive across to Montreal,
f) Drive down, through New England, to NYC,
g) Sell the vehicle in NYC and fly out.

In steps a, b, c, d and f we will be crossing the border so I need to know what to expect. Not in terms of visas and customs but more about Transport agencies' rules. I have already researched visas a lot and discovered that we do not need to apply for ESTA if entering by land but we will have to fill out an I-94W form, a customs form and show the correct passports.

What I don't know is what troubles we can expect for the vehicle. Will it be technically classed as an import if we buy in Vancouver and sell in NY? Would we be better buying in, say, Seattle, so it remains a US vehicle? Or the other way, would we be better to sell in Montreal so it remains a Canadian vehicle? What do I need to look for when buying a vehicle so that it will be allowed into both US and Canada?

Anything else you think is relevant will be very useful as well.

Thank you for your time, we really appreciate it.

2. Posted by travellerob (Budding Member 3 posts) 5y

I just found this on the CBP website: "It is illegal to bring a car into the U.S. and sell it without first entering it through CBP." So I'm now searching for what it means to 'enter it through the CBP'.

3. Posted by SamSalmon (Respected Member 626 posts) 5y

Would we be better buying in, say, Seattle, so it remains a US vehicle?

Yes but you'll be buying it in Washington state and selling it in New York state-always a PITA no way around it.

Ditto here in Canada-buying in BC and selling in another province is always a pain.

4. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1997 posts) 5y

Cars would be much cheaper in the "land of the auto" - Southern California. Right here is Portland, Oregon we have an abundance of cheap RV's since camping is VERY BIG here in the NW. You could possibly run into problems with registration and taxes - governments here are cautious about non-residents buying cars and not paying taxes and not having the correct state registration. Buying from a private individual would be risky, but that way you could go around such regulation. You do need a local mailing address to register any vehicle in the USA.

It all sounds like a big headache to me, why not just rent and get it over with? Chances are you'll take a big loss when trying to unload a car in a hurry! Every state has different laws concerning emission standards - California is probably the pickiest, but you should check this carefully if you do buy.

[ Edit: Edited on 14-Jan-2012, at 06:52 by Daawgon ]

5. Posted by travellerob (Budding Member 3 posts) 5y

This Lonely Planet thread has taken me right back to the drawing board. FAQ 214 basically tells you, in no uncertain terms, how crazy you have to be to try and buy a used vehicle in the states. Even for an American citizen, let alone a foreigner.

So... I'll go back to looking into rentals. Then when I find out that I can't rent because we're both under 25 and we're going one-way... I'll look into buses and trains.