12 questions to ask before buying a truck from Canada and importing it into the USA
Two of Maxim Truck & Trailer's experts in buying trucks from Canada and importing them into the U.S. have shared some of their hands-on experience. These tips come from both Mark Carlson and Ron Seniuk who have sold and transferred trucks from Canada to the U.S. for many years. Below are twelve tips to help you buy a truck in Canada and transfer it to the U.S.
Importing a commercial vehicle from Canada into the United States
In this current economic climate, owners, operators and semi-truck drivers are forced to look for alternative methods to buy a new or used heavy-duty truck or trailer. But one place many USA residents are overlooking is buying semi-trucks and trailers from the great white north – Canada.
Our experts have gathered information from all over the US and Canada and condensed it into 12 simple questions (and one quick-to-read ebook) to help you get a better sense of the benefits of importing your next truck or trailer from Canada. Save time, money and hassle with the NHTSA by following the steps below and downloading our free ebook.
Will you ship semi-trucks and semi-trailers to the USA?
The answer is yes. However, the sale of NEW semi-trucks is much more uncertain. Not because of customs issues but rather because Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are keen to keep sales territories for their dealers intact. Generally, trailer OEMs are not as stringent as truck OEMs but it does vary from OEM to OEM.
Why would a U.S. customer buy a truck or trailer from Canada?
In short – because of the favourable exchange rate. For example, a used 2018 International LT Sleeper Truck that sells for $110,000 in Canada will cost you less than $87,000 U.S. based on the current exchange rate of $1.29 U.S. for every $1.00 Canadian dollar. That's nearly a 30 percent discount buying from a Canadian dealer vs a U.S. dealer. The motivation for most U.S. customers buying vehicles from Canada is the price advantage.
I will be buying the vehicle sight unseen – what assurance do I have that it will not be a lemon?
Leading up to the sale, our website includes all of the specs and pictures of the actual units you are purchasing. Many of the used units we have for sale are lease returns or from our current rental fleet – all of which we maintain at our dealerships from new. Maxim has among the largest Idealease fleet in Canada which provides a steady supply of quality used vehicles. If you need additional information like vehicle service history, ECM download or even additional photos, we can provide that to you. Further, each heavy-duty truck or trailer we sell into the U.S. will receive a fresh commercial vehicle safety in the Canadian province where it's sold (CVIP). When you license the vehicle in your home state you may need a local safety but you can be assured our safeties are as stringent or more stringent than your local state. We cover all the major truck or trailer's components – see here for more information on our safety process. In addition, we physically drive the vehicle across the border which is 2 to 3 hours from our dealership, so we make certain it's safe and roadworthy. And every truck we ship to the U.S. gets thoroughly cleaned and detailed inside and out just like we do for local customers that come to our dealerships.
What additional fees or costs can I expect to pay to import a truck from Canada to the U.S.?
You should budget approximately 4.5 percent of the purchase price of the vehicle for export duties, permits, stickers, broker fees and miscellaneous expenses. So in the example above, the export fees on the $87,000 U.S. truck would be about $3,500 US. There will not be any USA or Canadian taxes included or charged on your Bill of Sale. Another additional fee to factor in is the drop fee. We strongly advise that you get the dealership or the seller to drive your vehicle across the border for you, so you are taking possession of it in your home country. Our dealership in Winnipeg, for example, will deliver your truck or trailer across the border to your choice of either Pembina, Grand Forks or Fargo, North Dakota - for a drop delivery fee of approximately $1,000 US. But considering the exchange rate we mentioned earlier - it's a small price to pay for a much cheaper price point.
Who does all the paperwork?
Our dealership at Maxim Truck & Trailer has the experience and can handle all the paperwork for you with the help of our Customs Broker. This is included in the 4.5 percent fee indicated earlier. For those who wish to use their own customs broker, you'll pay over $1,500 just to get a broker account set up on top of all the other fees so most customers find it more economical to use our broker to save money, time and hassle.
What documentation is required going from Canada to the U.S.?
The bundle of documents required is substantial but in our case, we handle it all for you. The requirements are basically a two-step process that we handle on your behalf:
- Provide the bundle of completed documents below and fax them in advance (usually 3 days) to the Border:
- ACE eManifest Fax Request Form
- Signed Bill of Sale
- TOD/Title - otherwise known as the Canadian Ownership Registration
- OEM Compliance Letter - This is a letter from the vehicle manufacturer stating where the vehicle was built and that it complies with current U.S. EPA regulations
- Bill of Lading
- Declaration Form HS-7
- EPA Engine Declaration EPA Form 3520
- Current local Vehicle Safety Inspection
- In response to the package above, you will receive back from the Border the following documents:
- ACE eManifest that includes a barcode. Make this your top document as the border agent will scan this document and everything regarding your file will appear on his/her screen when you arrive at the border.
- Entry Summary CBP Form 7501
- Cargo Release Form
All documents in Steps 1 and 2 must be included in your package and presented to the border agent when you cross the border. Keep in mind that rules and requirements for importing vehicles into the USA changed a few years ago and may change again in the future. All the more reason to buy from an experienced exporter.
Can I come to Canada and drive the vehicle across the border myself?
Yes, you can but just know that no seller will release the vehicle to you without full payment. Then the risk and responsibility is all on you to navigate the entire process above on your own and at your own expense. And you'll need to work with your own customs broker. It's not impossible but if you're looking to buy a semi-truck or trailer from Canada, most buyers will recommend you work with a dealer experienced with the process who has done it many times before instead of taking this on yourself. It is a very steep learning curve and one missed step or document can derail the entire process and cause massive delays. But if you're keen on doing it yourself - you certainly can, whether you're from a big trucking company or an owner/operator.
How does the transfer happen and where?
We make arrangements in many cases to bring the truck(s) either just across the border and into the United States and meet you. Or we can meet you at your hotel parking lot in Grand Forks or Fargo, North Dakota for example. Or at a truck stop nearest to your hotel if road restrictions prevent us from meeting you at your hotel. That way you don't need an extra travel vehicle and driver. Just let us know when you'll be flying in, and we'll arrange to meet you. Once there, you can do a final inspection of your vehicle and take possession of the keys and get home with the 7 Day license permit we provide you with.
What happens when I get the vehicle home in the U.S. – how do I get it registered and licensed?
Once you arrive home, you'll need to use the documentation provided to get your vehicle ownership registered in your name or company name and licensed in your home state. Local state tax rules on the purchase of vehicles apply and this is the point where any sales tax owing would be assessed. In the event that your local jurisdiction needs additional information not provided - we will work with you and our customs broker to courier you any specific outstanding requirements - at our cost. Again, this is covered in the 4.5 percent fee mentioned earlier. Our process is not complete until your vehicle has been registered and licensed in the USA.
Are there particular states where things get a little more complicated?
In some states - New Jersey, New York and Illinois that we know of - state licensing authorities seem to be looking for border-stamped Entry Summary CBP Form 7501. Border agents are reluctant to stamp these documents and if those stamps are not present, the local authorities won't transfer ownership and license the newly purchased vehicles. In these instances, our customs broker will prepare the additional necessary paperwork and courier it directly to the customer in the USA. As part of our sales process, we follow through and ensure the customer has everything they need to get things settled when they get their vehicle home - without being left high and dry or having to pay extra fees.
What do previous U.S. customers say about the experience?
Larry Janssen of A&L Freight in Crofton, Nebraska recently purchased a used International Prostar day cab semi-truck from Maxim Truck & Trailer in Canada. "It was my first time buying a truck from Canada and I'm very happy with the purchase, It's a good truck," says Larry who is using the truck to haul grain. Adds Larry, "I looked North because the trucks are a lot cheaper up in Canada."
Another recent buyer was Charles Brewer of Brewer & Sons based in Wessington, South Dakota. Charles has a mail route contract with the U.S. Postal Service. He was looking for a sleeper semi-truck to match his existing fleet and found the perfect unit online at Maxim Truck & Trailer in Canada. "The process of buying from Maxim and importing the truck from Canada was very smooth and very professional," says Charles. "The Maxim Rep, Mark Carlson, was great to work with and he had all his ducks in a row so there were no issues. I'd definitely buy from Maxim again in the future," Charles added.
Why don't more U.S. customers buy vehicles from Canada?
Frankly, in the past, it hasn't even been on most people's radar in the US. But with recent supply shortages and more and more customers comfortable with sourcing equipment online, we have seen a massive uptick in units being sold to the U.S. from our dealerships. We have refined our processes and we make it easy for USA customers to buy semi-trucks and trailers from Canada. So whether you're looking to buy, lease or rent a commercial truck or trailer - visiting Canada in the future should be a definite consideration.
Mark Carlson is an Account Manager in Maxim's Truck Division with over 15 years of experience selling heavy-duty trucks. He has sold many vehicles to the USA and he knows the process from beginning to end. And Mark is backed up by the knowledge and expertise of Maxim's Customs Broker who helps with the entire process.
Ron Seniuk is the Unit Transfer Coordinator at Maxim and he physically drives the sold trucks across the Canada/U.S. border with all the necessary paperwork and hands over the keys to U.S. customers on their side of the border. Unlike some dealers or private sellers, Maxim doesn't outsource the all-important cross-border delivery process – this is key to the entire process. Ron ensures customers receive their vehicles in good condition with no warning codes. He is uniquely qualified because he handles the import and export of our vehicles across the Canada/U.S. border on a weekly basis.