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Canadian residents returning home with a US-purchased RV

This article explains some of the requirements and issues associated with a Canadian resident driving a US-purchased RV into Canada. Content for this article was gleaned from postings in the RV Forum message boards, with special note of contributions by forum member rankjo and forum staffer Steve Pally.

When you buy the RV in the U.S. if you don't put a license plate (tags) on it and get a transit sticker, you won't pay State sales tax. You will pay Provincial Sales Tax in the Province in which you register it (except Alta of course).

That transit sticker expiry date has to include any travel you need to do in Canada during the time you get DOT approval prior to registering in your home Province.

Some additional caveats:

  • If the RV you are thinking of buying is not on the List of approved vehicles, YOU MUST NOT try and import it. Period. For example, it may be NOT on the list because the seat belt attachments do not meet Canadian Standards, and IF that is the case you will NOT be allowed to change them to meet Canadian Standards.
  • Taxes depend on the state. Florida, for example, requires a dealer to collect taxes (I think it's 6%). But the dealer may be prepared to drive it into Georgia and let you take delivery there. That was suggested to me. I didn't like it. We got around it by because the RV dealer also had an auto dealership in NY and I bought it through there. The dealer supplied a NY temporary transit plate which was good for 30 days. When I bought the second RV in one of the Carolinas, (right on the border, I think technically I was in NC), it was a private sale. No taxes. I took it and drove it away.
  • The toughest part of the border is the US customs. You have to send three ORIGINAL docs to them to arrive 72 hrs in advance of your arrival at US Customs. They don't fool around, and if you arrive early, don't expect them to let you through. My experience is that they are not polite either, so don't try being the friendly Canadian.
  • The Canadian customs is a breeze. Just put the Federal half of the GST on your credit card and drive on. The Provincial half is paid when you get your Canadian plates.
  • Before plating, you need to make an appointment with Canadian Tire to get the vehicle certified, which is (at least in Fredericton NB) pretty much of a joke. I knew more about it than the Canadian Tire manager, and pointed out the things he should note, like speedo in miles AND km, three point belts, daytime running lights which I had added. He offered me a sticker which said "MILES" to put over the odometer. It fell off. Nice guy though.

The key to the process is to do your homework thoroughly beforehand, and follow the rules exactly. It's really not that bad, but there are pitfalls for the unwary. In Fredericton there are several dealerships that will do the whole thing for you for a thousand bucks.

Click here for a link to Canada Customs in connection with importation of a vehicle into Canada.