Importing A Trailer From the US Into Canada
If you are like me, you may have found this page because you are considering importing a trailer into Canada from the US, but aren’t sure how complicated the process is. At first glance this may seem like a lot to take in, but don’t be daunted – it is actually pretty easy. As long as you have your ducks in a row, you will have a smooth importation process.
While doing my own research I found the following very useful:
It was resources like these that made figuring out the process so easy. I have expanded on some steps and detailed my own experiences. You can read more about the journey to collect the trailer here.
A quick note: I live in British Columbia, Canada and purchased a tiny house trailer from Iron Eagle in Oregon, US. While the importation process should be similar for your province, some specifics will undoubtably differ. The following is based on my experiences and you should always do you own research as details and prices may change over time.
Before Trailer Pickup
The following steps should be done in preparation before you travel to collect the trailer. You do not need to contact US or Canadian customs in advance for the importation of trailers.
Get the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), invoice and pick-up date as soon as you can. These will come in handy later on.
Check with RIV
Once you have the VIN you can can call the RIV (Registrar of Imported Vehicles) to check that the trailer is admissible into Canada. It should be, and they should provide a reference number for your records.
Get binder of insurance
You need to get an insurance policy to cover the trailer from the point of purchase in the US to your final destination in Canada. ICBC call this a ‘binder of insurance’.
- A 10-day binder of insurance for my trailer cost $55
- You can obtain the Binder of Insurance in advance of your trip
- The trailer is only covered from the pickup location to your final destination, even if the binder has not expired
- Once you have trailer home, you will need a temporary operating permit in order to move the trailer. You will need to do this at least once in order to get the trailer inspected and then registered with ICBC
- A temporary operating permit costs around $30 a day, but if your binder of insurance hasn’t expired yet, then it is free. This is worth considering when deciding how many days you want to binder of insurance to cover. I went for 10 days, which I figured was enough time to drive the trailer home and complete all of the steps required to get the trailer registered
Get a trip permit
When driving the trailer back to Canada you may need a temporary permit for each US state you drive through. In my case this was just Washington, and I was able to buy a 3 day trip permit on the Washington State Department of Transport website (WSDOT).
- The permit cost $25 and is pretty easy to do online
- You will need the trailer VIN and where it asks for a license plate number enter “NOPLATE” (I had to call WSDOT to find this out)
After Trailer Pickup
If the followed all of the previous steps and have all of your paperwork with you, the following should be straight forward.
Pick up trailer
When you purchase your trailer you should get the title (or a ‘Certificate of Origin’) and your receipt. You will need these at the border. I also got a ‘letter of no recall’ from the manufacturer as I had heard this mentioned during my research, but this was not asked for at any point.
Declare trailer at border
Upon arriving at the Canadian border you need to declare the trailer. You will then need to go in to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) building to start the importation process and to pay 5% GST (Goods and Services Tax). Upon producing the trailer title and receipt, you will get a ‘Vehicle Import Form’ (also know as a ‘Form 1’) which will get a stamp in the top right corner. The CBSA should send a copy of your Form 1 to the RIV.
- You will pay 5% GST at the border and get a white/blue receipt
- You can complete an ‘E-Form’ through the RIV online portal in advance to save time at the border
Pay RIV fee and obtain RIV inspection form
When you get home you can go online and pay the RIV fee. You will need the case number located top right of your Form 1. Once paid, the RIV will provide you with a ‘RIV Inspection Form’ which you will need for your inspection.
- The RIV fee is $195 + taxes
- You can track your case online with the RIV using the VIN number and your case number
- Your RIV Inspection Form will be available for download through the track your case tool
- Dealing with the RIV was the only part of the importation process that I found to be unclear. Once I paid my RIV fee I wasn’t sure if I had to just wait, or do something else in order to get my RIV Inspection Form. I ended up calling the RIV, who confirmed that the CBSA had forwarded my Form 1. The person on the phone then manually entered some data to progress my case. I’m not sure if this call was totally necessary, but I’m sure it speeded things up
Book your RIV Inspection
Call your nearest Canadian Tire (who seem to have a monopoly on these inspections) to get booked in for your RIV inspection. I suggest getting an early appointment so ICBC will still be open once you are done, meaning you can do two steps in one day (and therefore only requiring one temporary operating permit).
Get a temporary operating permit
You will need to go to ICBC to get a temporary operating permit in order to get the trailer to Canadian Tire for the inspection, and then to ICBC to register the trailer.
- If your Binder of Insurance is still valid, then this permit will be free of charge, otherwise it is around $30 a day
- You can obtain the Temporary Operating Permit in advance
Canadian Tire Inspection
Take all of your paperwork with you. After a quick inspection (mine took 5 minutes) you should get a tick in all of the boxes of your RIV Inspection Form which they will send to the RIV. Most importantly you will get the second stamp on your Form 1.
- The cost of the inspection is $5 a tire (referred to as a ‘tire tax’)
Register the trailer
Go to ICBC to register and insure the trailer. You will need the trailer with you, as well as all of your paperwork. Once you have paid the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) on the trailer you should walk out with the Canadian vehicle registration, insurance documents and a number plate.
- ICBC will collect 7% PST based on the cost of the trailer, plus a license fee ($23), plate fee ($18), registration fee ($18) and the cost to insure the trailer ($123 in my case)
Congratulations, you’re done!
You should receive a ‘Canadian Certification Label’ from the RIV in the post, which you are required by law to affix to the trailer.