Crossing the 49th

Importing a Boat from the U.S.A.

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This page began in 2006. I regularly add Reader Comments that might help others. Last updated:

Please do not ask me questions about regulations and importing - I don't know the answer! If you can't find answers here, use our Government Directory to contact Canadian Border Services (importing), Transport Canada (licences), and U.S. Government (U.S. border), Provincial government (sales tax, trailer licences).

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If you saved money using this page, please consider sending me a small donation to keep this going.   The donate button goes to PayPal.com, a free secure online payment service. Contact Pat if you prefer Interac e-transfer or cheque. Any amount is appreciated. --Pat

General summary:

Before Purchase:
The easiest way to import a boat is to hire a broker, but you can do it yourself with a little effort. (Read Sep/09 if you use an agent.) Copy the Budget Worksheet at the bottom of this page to help your planning. Keep all paperwork (ownership, titles, licences, ads, emails, invoices, cancelled cheques) organized for border crossing plus for licences and taxes owned after you are back in Canada. You must check for liens yourself, such as loans and unpaid repairs. Arranging a professional boat survey (at least hull and motor) can eliminate nasty surprises and even help negotiate the price. Never use a seller's surveyor! An alternative is to check the boat yourself.

Making the Purchase:
Don't sign an Agreement of Purchase until you have checked out everything and are ready to buy. A satisfactory sea-trial is often a condition of a purchase agreement. Make sure you have methods of payment that are acceptable to the seller, usually cash or electronic transfer. Electronic transfers must work in the U.S. and on weekends. Make paper copies of all transactions.

After Purchase:
As soon as you complete a purchase, arrange insurance. Your tow vehicle's insurance can probably be extended (insurance rider) to cover a boat/trailer driving back to Canada. A U.S. State trailer licence exemption may be enough to drive to the border - once in Canada you are given additional time to get a trailer licence.

At the Border:
Stop at Canada Customs. Tell the truth when asked a question - no details, just the answer. Declare the actual value and selling price (Why you should never undervalue your boat).

You need Ownership and Bills of Sale for boat, trailer, and any removable accessories (outboard motors, ladders, electronics), taxes paid, and survey costs. Get separate bills of sale for each of these, as you may pay different taxes on each depending on the province you are importing them into.

Sales tax (May 2014) will be charged depending on the province where you enter into Canada. 4 provinces charge PST (Provincial Sales Tax): British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba (RST), Québec (QST). Provinces and territories that charge HST (Harmonized Sales Tax): New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island. Alberta, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon have no sales tax at all.

Federal duty is not charged on boats manufactured in Canada, Mexico or the U.S. (NAFTA). Boats made in other countries pay between 5% and 9.5% duty. Most marine safety equipment is duty-free (the reason for separate bills of sale for these items). Import requirements are the same Whether you enter Canada by car or boat.

For trailers less than 15 years old, you pay a RIV fee (Canadian Registrar of Imported Vehicles). If instructed to pay online, make sure the border agent sends in the proper forms for you. If the trailer came from a "non-title" state, you may need to get a letter from the state (or their website) stating that fact. The trailer must have a valid VIN, so call RIV to find out if the VIN is valid before you buy.

Streetglo.net Boat Name Lettering

After you get home:
You will need to get a federal inspection on the trailer at a Canadian Tire store, then buy a licence at a provincial Driver & Vehicle Licence Offices - some provinces charge PST on used trailers.

Important Notes:
You cannot legally buy a U.S. boat that is currently in Canada. A Canadian who buys and keeps a boat in the U.S. cannot bring it into Canada without "importing" it, with all related paperwork and fees. Once it's properly imported and licensed with provincial numbers, it's now a Canadian boat. Fly the maple leaf on her!

Value of U.S. Boats:
Boat value is based more on usage, salt-water, damage, and maintenance than its age. Beware of boats that have been damaged - they can look fine and be perfectly functional, but still be structurally unsound. Read this: Storm Damaged Boats.

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BOATERS' CONTRIBUTIONS

In 2006, a boater did some research of legal requirements to purchase, license, and insure a used boat and trailer for import to Canada (he wished to remain anonymous). Since regulations change, I continue to add real-life experiences sent to me by boaters. These contributions are in date order - I do my best to edit comments about outdated regulations. Also note that a U.S. "registered" boat is similar to a Canadian "licenced" boat (about licences). Please contact me with corrections or new information only. All queries about regulations and importing must be directed to the proper government department.

At the bottom is a List of Terms for abbreviations and a few testimonials from happy boat buyers.

Reader Comments (last updated: ):

2014: Jul Apr Feb
2012: Dec Jul-b Jul-a May Mar Feb Jan
2011: Sep Jun-b Jun-a May-b May-a
2010: Dec Aug Jun-b Jun-a May-d May-c May-b May-a Mar
2009: Sep-c Sep-b Sep-a Jun
2008: Nov-b Nov-a Oct Sep-b Sep Jul-d Jul-c Jul-b Jul-a Jun
          May Apr-b Apr Mar-d Mar-c Mar-b Mar-a Feb Jan
2007: Dec-b Dec Nov Oct Jul Jun May-b May-a Apr
2006: Dec Nov Oct-b Oct-a Jul May

Crossing the 49th
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FEEDBACK FROM BOATERS

If you have contributions with NEW information, please contact Pat. Please include your province and any other important details. If it is not already on this page, don't ask me! I cannot answer questions about laws or regulations - sorry!

Boater clarification of "advance notice" (May 2006)

You do not have to notify U.S. Customs 72 hours in advance so they can perform a title search - Canadian and U.S. border services both confirmed it applies to cars, but does not apply to boat or trailers. To import a boat into Canada from the US, Canadian Border Services requires the titles (ownership papers which must have a registration date) and a bill of sale which separates the value of the boat and the trailer. If the trailer is less than 15 years old, you must pay $209 (2006) for a safety inspection once you get home. You pay GST and PST and that's it.

Comments from Jeff in British Columbia (July 2006)

Hi Pat,
Thanks for having a great resource about boating. I just bought a used jet ski and trailer from a private seller in Washington state and brought it back over the border. I would not have known get two separate bills of sale for the trailer and jet ski without your site!

I stopped in at U.S. Customs before I entered Canada (Peace Arch crossing). I produced the title and indicated that I was exporting the boat and trailer, but U.S. Customs apparently only gets involved if it is a motorized road vehicle, so they sent me on my way.

On the Canadian side all they required were the two titles and bills of sale. I paid GST + PST on the jet ski, and GST and the $209 RIV fee on the trailer. When I get the registration and plate for the trailer (plus insurance, as here in B.C. trailers require separate insurance) I'll have to pay the PST on the trailer value.

I'll have to go to get the trailer checked at Canadian Tire.

So to summarize: no stop needed at U.S. Customs; at Canada Customs have titles and bills of sale (a copy of the boat ad is useful to show the price), pay taxes and RIV fee, and you're clear into Canada. Get the VIN for the trailer, have the inspection done, then license the trailer, pay PST, and the trailer will get it's plate. Then get a new Canadian boat licence. A bit of legwork, but in my case well worth the effort...

Personal watercraft fall under tariff rate code 8903.92.00, so duty on jet skis made outside Canada/U.S. would be 5% or 9.5% depending on the country of manufacture. Since the jet ski was made in Canada, no import duty was charged.

Toronto Boater finds "title optional" States (Oct. 2006)

Hi Pat -- your resource on importing a boat from the U.S. into Canada was a great start. I can confirm that U.S. Customs DOES NOT NEED to see titles for boats or trailers. The problem is, not everyone at U.S. Customs knows this. The first time I called, the officer insisted they see the documents in advance and again when I got to the border; the second time I called, a supervisor insisted they didn't need to see anything and I didn't even have to stop at the border. He quoted me Section 192 of U.S. Customs legislation which states that only those looking to export land-based self-propelled vehicles provide title documents to U.S. Customs in advance. Boats and trailers definitely fall outside this category! I stopped in to get the documents stamped anyway however because Canada Customs insisted all along this step was required... sigh.

Now, here's another wrinkle. Some states, like North Carolina, consider themselves "title optional" states. The boat must be registered, but does not need to be titled. What was important was that I had notarized bills of sale for both the boat and trailer. In North Carolina, a bill of sale is as good as title, or so it says on the Wildlife Commission website for that state. They are the folks who look after boat titles and registration (Trailers, BTW, do require title in NC, and I had that). This caused a huge headache as U.S. and Canadian Customs had never heard of a title optional state and continued to insist that I produce a boat title, a document which didn't physically exist.

The issue sort of resolved itself when U.S. Customs decided they didn't need to see any documents (as noted above) and the Canadian side seemed satisfied with the U.S. Certificate of Origin for the boat which tracks title only from the manufacturer to the dealer. It was the closest thing I had to a title document for the boat, and even though it didn't really relate to me at all as the second owner I was allowed to pass with that and my notarized bill of sale. I wouldn't want to bet that would happen twice in a row, however.

Good luck to any who jump though these hoops. The most frustrating thing is that not everyone one in the government organizations you must deal with actually understands the rules. It's the luck of the draw depending on who answers the phone that day. Combine that with separate agencies within a single country that don't agree on requirements, and you've got the makings of a real headache. Thankfully, I made it though and now that the 21 hour drive towing a trailer across the U.S. is a fading memory, I'm glad I did it. I got a great boat for a fair price and that in the end is what matters.
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Boater comments (Oct. 2006)

I just got back from the U.S. with my boat. Following your recommendations, it was a breeze. To be sure, I called U.S. Customs in Houlton Maine a week in advance and they told me there was no need to report to them when bringing a trailer and boat out of US. Again, when I entered the U.S. I told the agent what I was doing and he said there was no need to report back.

Canadian authorities were thorough, but courteous and with everything at hand as recommended, it went smoothly.

Just one caveat though. If anyone is thinking about trying to sneak a boat back without paying duty, don't. About three days after I returned, the marina manager called to let me know that Revenue Canada had been at the marina asking questions about three of the boats there, mine included. Apparently, DFO (Fisheries & Oceans) had been checking out some of the boats and contacted Revenue Canada about those with U.S. licence plates on the trailers.

I have had no contact from local Revenue Canada officials and don't expect to. However, maybe some boats are being taken into Canada without duty being paid.

Comments from Matthew in Ontario (Nov. 2006)

Hey Pat, having just bought a boat and a trailer from the U.S. and bringing them into Canada, I wish I had found your site before I started. The only thing you may want to add would be when trying to obtain Canadian Compliance Labels. I sent the Canadian compliance office in Ottawa the 4 pictures from various angles, but I received a letter stating they also wanted a 5th colour picture of the VIN plate on the boat. I was going to complain that they never requested that picture, but I don't have much energy left.

Later, Matthew sent more...
I have the boat and trailer in Canada now, and after a month I am still working on getting the trailer registered. The VIN plate was removed when repainted years ago and not put back on. There is a lot of information you need on that little plate when trying to import and register the trailer in Canada. So make sure the VIN plate is on the trailer and has all the information. (Call RIV and they will let you know if the VIN is valid or not.) I took my trailer to Canadian Tire yesterday and because I didn't have the VIN plate that stated the gross vehicle weight of the front and rear axle, [they] couldn't finish the paper work. Nothing was easy throughout this whole process, but the deal on the boat was worth it.

Comments from Jeff in Toronto (Dec. 2006)

Just wanted to share some insights to my recent experience importing a boat into Ontario from Michigan. Similar to others' comments, you don't need to stop in U.S. Customs on your way back, although they told me I would have to on my way in and threatened to seize the boat if I was caught. I called U.S. Customs well before going down, and they advised these rules don't apply to boats/trailers. Anyway, I brought cash into the U.S. to buy the boat, and that was probably the worst part. U.S. Customs grilled me about the origin of the cash and my true intentions, searched my vehicle and treated me very rough. Anyway, the boat I purchased had a lien on it and in order to get clear title, I need to pay this off in cash, as the U.S. bank required this to release the lien. I then went to the Michigan Dept. of Transport and had a new title document prepared. They were very helpful as well and provided me documentation to support there was no title ownership required in Michigan for boats, in case I had a problem at Canada customs. When we arrived in Canada, it was a smooth experience. I paid the GST, filled out the form to import a trailer, and we were on our way. The real challenge comes once you are here, applying for the compliance certificate, new licence in Ontario, getting the trailer recall clearance [No longer required], and trailer inspection. Still a great deal, but this process is not simple and there are potential hurdles mostly from a consistent lack of knowledge by U.S. Customs. Don't try to import without paying customs - if they seize the boat, they will seize your car as well. Not worth it.
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Comments from Darren in Toronto, ON (April 2007)

I just brought a boat into Ontario that I purchased online from a seller in Virginia. The process was absolutely hassle-free and I would not think twice about doing it again. As long as you have clear titles for the boat and trailer as well as separate bills of sale for each, there is no problem at the border. I arrived at the border and was through within 20 minutes after filling in the RIV form for the trailer, paying the taxes on the boat and the GST on the trailer. They didn't even really inspect the trailer or boat at all. One thing that I was concerned about, but didn't end up being a problem, was the VIN plate on the trailer was basically blank. It's a good idea to check before you buy if the information on this plate is legible or not as I could see the border giving you a hassle over that. Often, the information on these plates gets worn away or painted over and there is no real proof that the trailer is the one listed on the title .. they didn't even look at mine. The only tricky part is the licence plate on the trailer to get home - I used an Ontario plate from another trailer but that could have caused me some problems. [check transit exemptions]

Currently I am waiting on RIV to let me know my trailer status. I expect to have the boat licenced shortly thereafter. So far its been pretty straightforward.

The only thing to be careful about is when a dealer in the U.S. claims a boat is "freshwater", note they often view brackish water to be freshwater. Coming from Ontario, where our boats are absolutely pristine from real freshwater, there can be noticeable differences.

Comments from Harry (May 2007)

This is a great site for info and I used it for my purchase of a boat. The one snag I had was the trailer, which was reissued a new VIN number which was not 17 digits. Through the seller of the boat, I was able to get in contact with his dealer and trade it in on a new one. Being new to all this I made sure to get separate bills of sale and titles but during all rush I didn't check all the material until 10 miles down the road after leaving the dealership. Sure enough, the title for the boat wasn't signed on the back and the VIN number for the trailer was incorrect on the title slip. I was able to call the previous owner on his cell phone to sign the title for the boat at the dealership and get the right title for the trailer - about 40 minutes. The dealer also told me I had 24 hours to move the trailer back to Canada without a plate [check]. The customs officers were very helpful and got the paperwork started to safety the trailer and at that time I was informed to keep the paper work with the boat in order to move this trailer without a licence plate until the boat is safety'd. Safety for the boat was a snap and also getting licence numbers for the boat at Service Canada. I hope this helps in some way.
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Comments from Eric from Edmonton (May 2007)

Coming back with the boat you will need bill of sale (boat and trailer separately) and title (boat, trailer). Run VIN number of trailer with Transport Canada or RIV before purchasing (1-888-848-8240). Also compliance labels on trailers. As for a licence plate to transport a new boat, you're allowed to drive with it unregistered in the U.S. for 30 days. The trailer cannot be registered in Canada until after you pay RIV $209 at border and take in [to a Canadian Tire] for inspection. Last part is paying the GST and PST at Customs - they take almost anything for payment there. RIV does not require recall clearance letters any more. Hope this helps.

Comments from a boater (June 2007)

Called RIV, but they said they don't deal with boats, to call Transport Canada. Transport told me to call Service Canada Center. Service Canada transferred me to Boating Safety. Boating Safety said to print forms off the website and mail in with pictures of the boat, but they do not deal with trailers. Bought a local boat instead.

Comments from a boater (July 2007)

...I'm concerned about insuring the boat from the time it is purchased until it is licensed in Canada. My insurance agent has informed me they cannot insure the boat during this time. However, while towing the boat from the U.S. to Canada, my auto insurance liability coverage would apply to the boat and trailer should I be involved in an accident. But damage to boat or trailer would not be covered, so I am looking into buying insurance in the U.S. to cover the value of the boat...

Comments from a Manitoba boater (Oct. 2007)

...I just brought a used Glasstron 175 back from South Dakota to Winnipeg. It was easy! You do not have to stop at U.S. Customs. You can take cash across the border to complete the sale, as long as you declare what you are doing with it. Separate bills of sale for the boat and trailer are a must. I had titles from the last owner but Customs did not even look at them. The last thing is a properly filled out Vehicle Import Form - "Form 1". Easy!
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Comments from a boater (Nov. 2007)

I recently purchased a 2001 Rinker listed online from a private seller - you do not need to pay state tax as you might have to with a dealer. Beforehand, I made several phone calls to RIV and U.S. Customs. Here's the deal: Everything at the border was smooth. Just be prepared - they grilled me about how I paid for the boat (I had proof of withdrawal of cash from my account). Hope this helps anyone thinking of importing a boat -- its a breeze!

Comments from Greg in Alberta (Dec. 2007)

Thanks for the info, really came in handy. Purchased a Sea Doo X20 in Georgia, Had it shipped to Montana, picked it up and drove across the border to Alberta. Georgia is a Non Title state, where all you need is the Bills of Sale. If the boat and trailer is manufactured in North America there is no duty - you only pay GST and the RIV Fee. Thanks Again.
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Comments from a boater (Dec. 2007)

Just bought a boat from the US. The process was a breeze as per previous comments on this website. One thing has changed in Nov 07 - you DO NOT need to get a Canadian Compliance Label for your boat anymore. This from Transport Canada and I had it confirmed in 2 phone calls. Good luck!

Comments from a B.C. boater (Jan. 2008)

We just imported a 19' runabout from WA to BC and the border was the least of our problems. After 3 months, we finally have the boat at home and the trailer licenced. The only reason we stuck it out throughout this ordeal was because it was very good deal on a sweet boat. I would still do it again, but not without insisting on seeing pictures of the titles and VIN before purchasing.
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Comments from a Barrie, Ontario boater (Feb. 2008)

Thanks to you and everyone that posted information my experience importing my 1988 22 Foot Larson Senza 454 330 HP, was simple. Here is what happened: Note: Do not lie at border about how much you paid for the boat - they will find out. The agent that processed ours did a Internet search for the listing. Whole border experience took about 20 minutes and was extremely easy. We figured we saved about 45% by importing.

Comments from a Canadian boater (March 2008)

I purchased a boat in Arizona, and sent in my documents to U.S. Customs 72 hrs in advance (when I called, they said I had to). I had read on your site you didn't have to, but sent it anyway. I found I didn't have to stop at U.S. Customs because the boat and trailer aren't "self-propelled". Went to Canadian Customs, paid my GST, the officer checked my compliance plate on the trailer and I was sent on my way. ... Have your "titles" if buying in a title state, your bills of sale (1 for boat, 1 for trailer) and everything should be a breeze.

Word of Warning from an Ontario buyer (March 2008)

I recently imported a Sea-doo and trailer from Buffalo. When I did this I did not realize everything that was involved. When I went to see the Sea-doo, the owner had it at a friend's house in Canada. What I did not know was that the owner had not "imported" it and that the Sea-doo should not have been in Canada during the off season.

I then had to take the Sea-doo and trailer to the border. I paid my taxes on it and then they gave me FORM 1 from the RIV. They mailed me a FORM 2 [they will email it if you ask] to take the trailer to Canadian Tire to have it inspected to meet Canadian safety standards. The only problem was that I had to get a 10-day trip permit to take the Sea-doo to the border. It took them almost 3 weeks to mail me FORM 2 to have it inspected, -- but now the trip permit is no longer valid and I am not eligible to get another one. I have to take the Sea-doo to Canadian Tire and have it inspected with no plates on it, since I can't get the ownership in my name, or plates without this inspection.

I really feel like I am running around in circles here, but at least I'm getting closer. I have now had the Sea-doo for about 2 months and I still do not have it in my name yet. My advice for anyone importing anything from the U.S. is that you should make sure you have all of the necessary information (papers). This site would have been very beneficial to me if I had found it before I went through this process!

Comment from an Ontario buyer (March 2008)

Fantastic site - saved me loads of time and grey hair. There was one major hitch in the process I have not seen mentioned anywhere on your site. I found boat, priced, surveyed, bought it - the litmus test when you cross the border with a payment is that it must be a form of payment the customs guy himself cannot cash. Blew through U.S. Customs, and Canadian Customs even called in the RIV for me (nice guys!). They said if I wanted to bring the trailer back into the U.S. I would have to leave it at U.S. customs for 72 hours(??). RIV inspection was 10 minutes and totally anticlimactic. License the boat (Service Canada) free. Really simple, 5 minutes, thanks to all your info.

Licence plates for the trailer $35 plus PST on Trailer price are payable when you get the plates. (They tried to charge me PST on the whole sale, so bring receipts proving you paid it at the border.) BUT, to license the trailer AFTER taxes paid, RIV stamped, etc. - Ontario MOT needs the empty weight of the trailer! They have some info about GVWR and maximum load calculations, and my trailer had GVWR and Max Load on the plate, so I could calculated the empty weight and provided pictures of the trailer plate. If your trailer is less than 900 Kg empty, the MOT does not need a "weight slip" - their hot line says so, and they told me too, but in the end, you will have to find a way to prove it weighs less than 900 Kg. [ GVWR - Max.Load = Empty Weight ]

Later: This boat has about one year of hours, and new cost (in my garage) checked at the boat show 2008 model, was over $40,000. Closest boat in Canada is 4 years older around $29,500. I saved 20-30% on this boat over an equivalent boat in Canada.

COST SUMMARY:
$18,000 USD - Boat
$1,000 USD - Trailer
$2,410.80 CAD - GST/PST boat, GST trailer, at border
      Call credit card company first or they may deny the payment!
$204.75 - RIV at border
$115.69 CAD - Trailer licence plates $35 + PST on sale $80.69
      (prices converted to CAD for tax)
FREE - Boat licence
$600 CAD - Gas, food, hotel
...Info on Pat's website, PRICELESS!!!
TOTAL PRICE: $22,331.24
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Comment from a British Columbia boater (March 2008)

After I read all the comments on this site I was confident to search for the boat in U.S. ... Six weeks of searching, I found one from a dealer. For $75 they did all the paperwork including trailer and permit to drive. I did not have to pay State tax. ... The border issue was a breeze - paid GST, PST, and some inspection at Canadian customs. Don't forget to buy a trailer binder policy to attach the liability of the towing vehicle - cost me $29 for 1 week which gave me time to take it to Canadian Tire. I faxed FORM 1 (RIV), paid online, and emailed a request for FORM 2 - received in 24 hours. The only thing that bothered me was transporting a $31k boat from Bellingham to home without boat insurance. When I crossed to U.S., I said 'I'm going to pick up my boat' and they did not ask how am I going to pay it. Had a bad experience at Canadian Tire - long story. Thanks to all the people who shared info to this site.

Comment from Chris From Toronto (April 2008)

A big, big, big word of thanks for having this page up. It certainly made things easier, and set the expectation for the headaches to come. I bought a boat and trailer from Oklahoma, which was fine except Oklahoma is a non-title state for trailers. The vender was great - he had a local manufacturer create a VIN plate and place it on the trailer, and he agreed to have different notarized bills of sale for the boat/trailer/outboard motor. I didn't try any funny stuff at the border and I had no issues at customs. But the province of Ontario still didn't want to give me a plate for the trailer. Given that a title document didn't exist, I needed a letter from the Oklahoma State government, on their letterhead, stating that they don't title boat trailers. Thankfully the State of Oklahoma has one on their website, but it would have been a headache otherwise. It's definitely worthwhile to make sure this letter is easily acquired before buying from a non-title state.

Comment from Ontario boater importing by water (April 2008)


We live in Windsor and are buying a boat from the Detroit area and are crossing the border via water. All we need to do is go to our marina and phone Canada Customs to report that we imported a boat (note: we have Nexus Cards). They will give us a release number, which we take with our papers to Canada Customs within a few days, pay the taxes then we are free to go Service Canada to get a new Ontario Licence. All set and done. [This was the only info received about crossing by boat. - Pat]

Comment from Alberta boater (May 2008)

Just brought a boat across at Sweetgrass (Canadian Customs) into Alberta. It was an absolute breeze. You need your titles for boat and trailer, and separate bills of sale for boat and trailer. Agent was excellent helping fill out the Form 1 Import form for the trailer and informed me of the next steps with RIV.ca registration. Paid my GST and on my way. RIV is done, waiting on the forms and next stop is Canadian Tire (trailer inspection). If I knew it was this easy, would have done this sooner.
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Comment from an Ontario boater (June 2008)

Your info was most helpful! I bought a used boat with a motor and trailer on EBAY from Atlanta (Georgia). Prior to leaving, I asked the owner to mail me the bill of sale for each item, and the registration (Georgia doesn't require a title). With that I obtained a 10-day temporary trip tag for the trailer. MOT (Ontario) requires the U.S. owner's birthday to transfer ownership of the trailer. Driving south, the U.S. border does not require any notification. Upon return to Ontario towing the boat/trailer, I presented the following documents to Canada border officers: the bill of sale, the U.S. registration, the temp plate # and receipt, the proof of payment (PayPal), and all conversation recordings made with the seller. The customs officers were impressed. I only paid $44.96 in taxes to import the boat, motor and trailer. I paid PST for the trailer later when I got the licence plate. For those who need to get plates, try and find out what year the trailer was manufactured and the GVW (gross vehicle weight) because they will ask. Thanks!

Comment from an Ontario Boater re Trailer (July 2008)

Trailer: The MTO (Ontario) is difficult to deal with under the best of circumstances. Arrive prepared. You need the bill of sale, title (if the state requires one) and a copy of the owner's registration of the trailer ($9 in U.S. express post). This will most likely include the validity of the current plates, the owner's date of birth, empty weight, serial number, color, state of manufacturing, year of manufacturing, manufacturer, trailer designation (i.e. boat), along with other personal information of the current owner. Once you produce these documents, the MTO will transfer the trailer into your name and can issue you a trip permit valid for 10 days (enough time to drive home where you arrange an Ontario licence).

If you'll be spending more then 2 days in the U.S., have the seller issue you 3 bills of sale for the boat, outboard motor, and trailer. This way you could take advantage of having the motor fall into your 'allowable imports' (outboards only) and you will not have to pay duty fees.

My experience at the border took less then 20 minutes because I printed copies of every email I had with the seller, and copies of all documents together. If the trailer has been modified it may be classified as "other" and you may not be subject to an inspection. I hope I've helped.
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Comment from Toronto buyer of new PWC (July 2008)

I purchased a new PWC and trailer from an area dealer in Buffalo NY. Prior to the purchase dealer provided copies of the "Certificate of Origin" (COO) papers for both. Copies are NOT acceptable by the MOT for a 10 day temporary trip permit, so I suggest you pay for the trailer in advance to get the original COO papers for trailer, then apply for a "trip permit". (Only other option is to use a trailer plate for another trailer, but you risk a fine and impounding of the trailer if police stop you.) I faxed papers with cover letter to U.S. Customs at Lewiston NY explaining that I would be returning at 7 PM on certain date with the goods for export, and was unclear if I did require export of a PWC and Trailer. [Other letters indicate U.S. border stop is not required leaving U.S.] Left all my contact info on the letter to advise if there were any issues. Upon arrival at 6:45 PM at U.S. Customs, informed the office for export is only open from 8 AM till 4 PM. Asked if I needed to export a PWC and trailer and was informed yes and to come back in the morning. This was not possible so I suggested that I would be proceeding to Canada Customs and was wished "good luck" by U.S. Customs. Canada Customs was uneventful, no request for export stamps from the U.S., just fill out "Form 1", pay your GST/PST on the PWC, and GST on the trailer (you need two separate invoices) and they provide a paper describing steps to obtain your licence numbers and plates, RIV form, etc.
Canadian Dealer price PWC $12,000 + $1,000 for a trailer + GST and PST. Total: $14,690
U.S. Dealer same items $8,150 + PST and GST ($9209) + $205 for the RIV. Total: $9,459
Savings $5,231 (36%)
Note warranty will only be applicable in the U.S. so if I require any warranty service I must return the unit to the dealer - with savings as noted it is worth it.

Comment from boater (July 2008)

I wish I had known about your site before I purchased my 1996 Procraft Bassboat a couple of weeks ago. RIV doesn't recognise the VIN. Although getting the boat and trailer into Canada was a breeze, I am now having difficulty finding the trailer manufacturer as Tracker Marine purchased Procraft in the late 90's and they have no records of anything, boats or trailers, before that time. So, if I cannot locate the manufacturer to get a VIN correction letter on their company letterhead, I am going to have to return the trailer to the U.S. ...
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Comment from Alberta boater (July 2008)

Just brought in a boat from Great Falls to Calgary and was amazed at how easy smooth it went. You have to do your homework and your site was great resource. The border was simple as I had my "titles" and "bills of sale" for boat and trailer along with the appropriate compliance tag on the trailer. I was done in 15 minutes. Just finished the RIV inspection at C-Tire so I am essentially done. Went to the Federal Government (Harry Hays Building, Calgary) and got my pleasure craft [licence]. They processed it on the spot and gave me my new Alberta licence numbers. That took about 20 minutes in total, mostly waiting in line. The only interesting part my insurer. They wanted VIN's or Serial #'s for boat, trailer and engine. They needed to insure all three separately. Not a big deal however didn't realize they separated out the engine on a stern drive boat. Thanks Pat for your site. I saved a ton and the process was easy!

Comment from John from Ontario (Sept. 2008)

Importing the boat was a simple process, a little stressful, but worth it. Bought a 2004 Ski Nautique with a trailer from Tennessee. Ensured all Serial Numbers, H.I.N. and V.I.N.s match. Had proof of funds and payment. I used travelers cheques with receipts. Declared everything and as my mother told me, honesty is always the best policy. Armed with Certificates of Origin, separate bills of sale for both the boat and trailer, and a letter confirming there is no lien on the boat from the owner, customs took 10 minutes. Know the date of manufacture for the trailer. I drove with no plate to get the trailer to the Canadian Border, and after that, the RIV paper work is good for 45 days on the Canadian side. (I did have a trailer plate in the car for a homemade trailer just in case, but many states do not have a requirement for a plate on trailers.) Liability insurance for the trip back into Canada is provided by your auto policy generally, but the boat is not covered for an at-fault loss, i.e. you drive off the road and crash. Insurance for this can be purchased separately from most insurance brokers for about $250. I did not stop to report at U.S. Customs. No Compliance Certificate is required. All that is needed is to get licence through Service Canada and complete the RIV with Canadian Tire. Thanks to all who provided information on this page. It is an excellent resource and was a determining factor that gave me the confidence I needed in the process to make the journey.

Comment about importing New Hampshire boat/trailer (Sept. 2008)

First things first. Thank you Pat for this website and to all the contributors for taking the time for contributing your experiences.

I purchased a boat in New Hampshire and brought it into Canada. I had separate bills of sale for the boat and trailer (critical to have this when you arrive at the border). It took a total of 15 minutes to fill out the paperwork and pay the taxes. It was a very efficient process.

When I received the Form 2 from RIV I had the trailer inspected at CTC and they faxed the form off to RIV while I waited. From there I went to the MTO and registered the trailer. The only hiccup was that the MTO wanted to know both the Gross and Net weight of the trailer. I only had the gross weight but this was not a show stopper. I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone else who is considering bringing a boat into Canada. The information in Pat's website provided me with all the information that I needed to avoid any problems. I figured I saved between $4 - 6K on this purchase.
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Comment about importing a boat by water in 2006 (Oct. 2008)

This is to confirm that I also brought a boat (32' cruiser) in by water from Detroit to Windsor two years ago (see April 2008 comment). All we needed to do was phone Canada Customs and report entry - no Nexus cards. Then proceeded to Canada customs with the reference number obtained in the phone call to pay taxes. Had all required documents to prove ownership etc. of course - took about 15 minutes. Then I moved the boat by road to Midland... I did that in October 2006.

Comment about importing boat/trailer to Manitoba (September 2008)

In September 2008, I purchased a boat and trailer from Wisconsin and towed it back through Emerson Customs into Manitoba. I got the seller to fax the Bill of Sale so I could purchase a temporary insurance permit from Manitoba Public Insurance, as Manitoba car insurance does NOT cover the trailer being towed. Period. No exceptions. In Manitoba, the trailer is a separate vehicle and requires its own insurance. I called RIV and confirmed that a 15 yr trailer did not require Form 2.

I printed out the original ad, my sales receipt and headed off to Wisconsin. At the U.S. Border I declared my intention for entering the U.S. They wanted to know how much cash I had and the method of payment. I declared the credit card payment and went on my way. I picked up the boat/trailer and drove back to Emerson. I had: I declared boat and trailer (purchase) and handed over title and sales receipt. Customs asked for: eBay auction proof of winning bid, proof of my eBay user name. I provided eBay auction printout and eBay payment receipt. I paid tax and drove home. Called Canadian Tire to arrange for a safety and was told it was over 15 years old and didn't require one. Went to Insurance agent, handed over Form 1 and got my trailer registration plates. No problems.

Lessons: Have your Documentation ready. If you are importing a trailer over 15 years old make sure Customs stamps Part 16 of your Form 1 (the RIV exemption). You will need the Gross Vehicle Weight of your trailer for MPI (Manitoba Public Insurance) to register it. Search your boat prior to Border crossing to make sure NOTHING suspect is in there.
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Comment about importing boat/trailer to Alberta (Nov. 2008)

Thanks very much for the information on your site - made the process extremely simple. I'm from Calgary and just imported a boat. I arranged to pick it up in Sweetgrass, and then came back across into Canada. As others have noted, make sure to have a separate bill of sale for the trailer and boat. In my case it was a new boat - so had the Manufacturers Statement of Origin (MSO) (instead of a title) assigned to me by the dealer. Also had the "No recall" letter [no longer required] on the trailer from the manufacturer. Stopped at the 'Exporting from US' sign before reaching the Canadian Crossing - NO NEED TO DO THIS. The U.S. Agent said I should have just proceeded to Canada Customs without stopping - they had no interest in boats. At Canada Customs they helped me fill out the (RIV) Vehicle Import Form - FORM 1. After paying the GST, I was on my way in less than 20 minutes. I'm going to riv.ca to finish the process, get my FORM 2 after paying, and then will head to Canadian Tire (for trailer licence).

Extremely simple thanks to reading this site in advance. Even with the exchange rate at $1.27, I still saved $14K over the best cost from a dealer in Calgary ($36K v.s. $51K) including the shipping and GST. Thanks very much Pat!!

Comment about importing boat/trailer N.Caroline to Ontario (June 2009)

Hi Pat
Just wanted to thank you and your (readers) for helping me get my new boat over the border. I purchased a new 2008 Nautic Star Bay 2110 with a 150 E-Tech from a dealer in North Carolina. With your help I managed to bring it over the border in less than twenty minutes. I was well prepared. I crossed at the Thousand Island Bridge (Ivy Lea, Ontario). Paid the GST on the whole package and PST on the boat and motor at the border. Paid the PST on the trailer later when licensing. The agent did the RIV for me and I paid the fee. Everything showed up in the mail in about one week. I had the inspection done at Canadian Tire and that was it. Everything was so easy I can't believe more people don't do this. I saved more than $10,000. The whole key is being prepared with all the paperwork in order.

(Second email) When getting ready, I did phone the RIV office... You no longer need a statement from the trailer manufacturer. That was more important when I was thinking about a used unit. The thing they seemed interested in most was the compliance sticker on the trailer. Mine even said good for T.C in Canada. R.I.V. did send me a new sticker as well.

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Comment about importing boat/trailer to B.C. (Sept. 2009)

I purchased a boat from a dealer in Bellingham, Washington. Boat had a "paperless title" and no trailer. The previous owner traded in the boat to the dealer I bought it from. I hired a company out of Anacortes Washington, Marine Document Services (MDS), who came highly recommended. Here's how it went.
  1. I needed an "Affidavit of Loss Release of Interest" form (green) from Washington State Department of Licensing, signed and notarized by the previous owner.
  2. I needed an Affidavit in Lieu of Title (DMV Washington State) releasing interest and signed by the bank manager.
  3. MDS arranged to get notarized statement "bill of sale" from the previous owner (who traded in the boat).
  4. MDS made up another "bill of sale" showing the dealer had sold the boat to me. This also had to be notarized.
  5. I also needed the purchase invoice from the dealer showing what I paid for the boat.
  6. MDS also provided a great cover letter for the package explaining all documentation provided and to "please afford all rights and interest to the above". It was the best 250 bucks I ever spent. We took boat from Bellingham to Roche Harbor and from there to Sidney (by water) to check into customs and pay duty. The customs guy saw her letter and pretty much just scanned the rest. In a nutshell, customs likes to see a paper flow of ownership that has no holes in it. As long as it was seamless, there should not be a problem. I never did get the actual "title". There are more and more states going to this "paperless title" system. Anyways, it was quite the adventure and well worth the effort.

Comment about importing boat/trailer to B.C. (Sept. 2009)

Hi Pat, Would like to thank you and all of the good folks that submitted their stories and experiences on importing a boat/trailer into BC, Canada. I have done just that and it was a breeze. Made my deal via Craigslist and email with tons of photos. Had the seller split the cost of the boat and trailer into 2 separate Bill Of Sale and had the original title of Ownership papers. U.S. customs does not want to see your boat or trailer as it is deemed "non self-powered vehicle". Went through Blaine Truck Crossing with the custom officer filling out the RIV form #1 in less than 15 minutes + taxes and gone...
Couple of points to make:
  1. Get the VIN number of the trailer and validate with RIV before purchasing / closing deal.
  2. Separate Bill Of Sale for trailer and boat - only way that CBSA will process and generate RIV form 1.
  3. Ensure you have Binder insurance prior to going down to pickup boat and trailer and then you also need temp transport plate (Washington State in my case).
  4. Sea trial boat if possible. (We found a great public launch off of 199th (Marysville) that was free and took us into Skagit River Slough.)
  5. Make sure you have correct trailer hitch plugs and correct receiver for level height to trailer + 2" ball.
  6. U.S. Customs does not need to receive your paper work (usually 72 hours in advance). I verified as of 09/2009.
  7. Pay GST / PST and GST on trailer only. ICBC will tag you with PST on the trailer when you license it.
  8. With your Form #1 in hand, register online with www.riv.ca and pay your RIV fee.
  9. Fax in your Form #1 and Title of Ownership and give RIV an email address to send you the Form #2 for Federal inspection
  10. Book an appointment with your local Canadian Tire Service Manager and bring all documents + Form #2 to get stamped
  11. Once stamped - you can go directly to ICBC to register / license your trailer
  12. Send in the Form 2 and RIV will send you a new label from Transport Canada for your road worthy trailer
  13. Decide on how you want to register or license your boat with Transport Canada (Services Canada) for new numbers on your hull.
  14. Clear your Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) and enroll in courses to get into boating.
  15. Recalculate your final cost to import your boat and trailer and figure out how much you saved. Buy wife expensive dinner!
Fish On...:=)
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Comment about importing boat from California to New Brunswick (Sept. 2009)

All well after reading the section on importing boats from the U.S. I realized it was fairly easy so I ventured into deep waters and this is my story. I was looking for a boat online at a repo/auction in California and found one that I liked, so I contacted the repo place. After getting info on the boat I Googled a marine surveyor in the area and got them to inspect the boat. The marine survey was favourable. I then had to secure transport to New Brunswick. I posted a description of the boat on {commercial website} and after a few hours the bid started coming in from companies that ship and transport boats. Here is a helpful tip: get all the logistic done ahead of bidding as you may only have days to remove the boat from the auction/repo place. Once the transport was in my price range I placed a bid on the boat. Low and behold they accepted my very low bid and the plan was in motion. Bank tranfer to their bank, got the marine surveyor to arrange with the transport guy to pick up the boat. They trucked it to Houlton, Maine (border crossing), where I met the transport guy, paid the tax (now a 13% HST combined federal and provincial tax) on the boat at the Border. Apparently folks were not {licensing} their boat, therefore not paying the rest of the provincial tax. The info was correct on the bill of sale and ownership papers. AND tell the truth at the Border. I told them how much I paid - they did a search online for the repo place and called them, so have names and Phone number handy. Once they confirmed the sale price with the Repo guys, all was cool. After the tax was paid we drove to my house. I've fixed the minor issues with the boat, mainly cosmetic, and the next day I was sailing in a 2006 Maxum 2600 Se that I picked up for a song. Add on average of $10,000 to the U.S. price for exchange, taxes and shipping.

Comment about importing boat from Washington to B.C. (March 2010)

We bought a brand new boat in Washington State and brought it into BC and had no problems whatsoever. We drove down with our own trailer (saved a lot of confusion/title search/taxes/paper trail that way), had the new boat loaded onto the trailer, drove through the Truck crossing, showed our retailer issued sales receipt and paid the GST and PST with our credit card and were on our way. It couldn't have been easier.

Comment about importing jet-skis/trailer from Washington to Alberta (May 2010)

This site made it easy to bring back 2 jet-ski and a trailer from West of Spokane, Washington to Calgary - Thanks! I purchased online, with final payment to be made after inspecting the units. I followed all provided information from this site, which really amounts to:
  1. Obtain separate title for each jetski and trailer
  2. Obtain separate bill of sale for each jetski and trailer
Check your trailer for:
  1. Correct hitch and towing ball
  2. Ensured your vehicle can tow the trailer (www.campinglife.com/towrating/)
  3. Lighting connectors
  4. Check the lights
  5. Check the condition of the tires and have a good spare.
Make certain you have a method to make payment if you don't want to carry U.S. cash. I was traveling over the weekend when most financial institutions are closed. I verified with my bank, credit card company, and Western Union to ensure that they would all support a direct transfer or other method of payment. My bank allowed the online transfer, but it never showed up in the sellers account. I called my Canadian bank to find that the money transfer from Canada was not being allowed by the American Bank (something about terrorist money laundering act) and I would have to return to Canada to complete the transaction. Next I tried my credit card company, who said they would only support payment through Western Union. So I drove 15 km. to Western Union but they would only take cash to purchase money orders (something about not wanting to pay the credit card fees)! I finally was able to make payment via PayPal, with each of us having to pay additional fees ($143 for the seller, and I paid half of the Canadian funds transfer fee $75).

At the border I had no issues, but once I was home it seems I paid GST on the trailer amount plus $800 - $40 extra tax. The only thing that I can see is the border (Kingsgate BC) added our $800 ($400 per person) exemption to the trailer value. The border did not charge me PST, since I live in Calgary, Alberta.

The border no longer accepts RIV payment. They gave me an outdated slip which had incorrect instructions to make online RIV payment. I looked up RIV in Google and made online payment. Shortly after I received an email stating RIV cannot process the file, as they have not yet received the forms from the border. The email told me where I can Fax/email a copy of the form to expedite registration and now I wait for a response from the RIV office. This could be a problem if you had no plates. Would I do this again... absolutely yes! The dollar was at par and I paid about half of what they sell for at home.

Comment about importing boat/trailer from North Dakota to Saskatchewan (May 2010)

I used the information on your site to import a nice 17 foot cruiser from North Dakota, and the information you have available made it so easy to do. A couple tidbits of information: This afternoon I made my RIV payment online. I called later with a question about a recall clearance letter for the trailer [No longer required since 1997]. She looked up my case number and said it was a good thing I called as the fax from CBSA was not very clear, so I faxed another copy to her. I could possibly be setting sail less than a week after import. Now all that's left is registration of the craft with Transport Canada. Thanks again for the great site! -- Jeff from Saskatchewan
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Comment about importing boat/trailer from Michigan to Ontario (May 2010)

Hi Pat,   Just wanted to thank you for the information on your site. .. I picked the boat up and towed it back the same day. It took no more than 20 minutes to get through Canada customs. I got the trailer registered and the boat licenced and was ready to go boating within 48 hours of buying the boat. The following steps were taken: Thanks to everyone who contributed to your site. ... I have the satisfaction of having saved a bundle compared to what it would have cost in Canada. -- Thanks a Million!

Later added: I had never towed anything before and towing a 3,000 pound boat sounded challenging. My 2002 MDX pulled the boat comfortably and the trailer was very stable. The trailer had surge brakes and I am sure that helped. One thing to remember is tow with the overdrive in the off position - I used the 4th gear. I didn't have a transmission cooler and that didn't seem to be a problem.

Comment about importing boat/trailer from S.Dakota to Manitoba (May 2010)

I imported a 30-ft sail boat from South Dakota to Manitoba. I used your site to get ready and it was very helpful (thanks very much). One thing that was not included was the information about wide load (>8.6 ft) and how to deal with that. It actually is simple. The rest of the paperwork is all the same; you need the bill of sale, temporary registration of the trailer (I used MPI which I called from South Dakota, fax them the bill of sale and current registration and they faxed me back the temporary registration 15 min later, cost was $36), your vehicle registration and proof of insurance for your vehicle (the temp registration in Manitoba includes the insurance for the trailer; note that if you want insurance on the boat while in transit you have to get it from your house insurance and it takes a few days -- I did without). For wide load (>8.6 ft) you need a permit for each State and for Manitoba in my case. You can get the permit over the phone on the spot the same day you travel But why don't you do it the day before? It costs about $25 per state, $6 in MB. If it is less than 10 ft wide (check the details each state has its own regulation on this) and 14' high you don't need an escort (or 2) but just 18" by 18" inches red or orange flags at each corner of the load (+ mast if you have one sticking out). I got red fabric cut to the size and tie-raps at Walmart for $7). When you call for the permit you need all the paperwork and it is easier if you stand next to your towing vehicle, you will need information that is in the door frame AND the precise driving directions you will be following. The person will be making sure that there is no problems (low bridge or wires, constructions, etc. that you could strike with your load). Once you have committed you cannot deviate, or let's say that if you do you're on your own on all levels.

For South Dakota permit you can call: 701-328-2455, and for MB it is 204-945-3961. Mention first that you don't have a DOT number and just a dude that needs to drive back with your dream boat. I pulled a 11,000 lbs, 12' high, 9.5' wide boat with a 45' mast (down) with a diesel F250. Stressful but all went well, the border took only 30 min. Have fun.

Comment about importing boat/trailer from Maryland to Ontario (June 2010

[Duplicate information has been removed.]
.. returned via the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, ON. ...Customs questioned how I had located the boat. Since It was via the internet, CBSA attempted to validate my documentation. The vendor's advertisement was no longer online, but fortunately I had copies of all email correspondence. I suspect Customs may have phoned the seller as well. As suggested by others, I strongly recommend you have copies of all negotiation correspondence as Customs can question the declared value. In my case they did. ... I used the Service Canada web site to access the vessel {licence} web form then took this to their local office to obtain the document and numbers. ... I had a previous deal collapse due to problems with the trailer. In that case it was in South Carolina, a "non title" state, so there was no paperwork on the trailer. Also the VIN sticker was unreadable making a replacement VIN sticker impossible to obtain from the trailer manufacturer (Shoreland'r). With no VIN number or title, I backed out of that deal knowing there would be problems at the border. The trailer can be more complicated to import than the boat.
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Comment about importing boat/trailer from Washington to Alberta (June 2010)

Hi Pat, just wanted to thank you for all of the information I got from your website. I recently imported a used boat and had zero difficulties. Here's how it went: My friend also imported a trailer and had one problem. Canadian Tire forgot to fax the Inspection Form to RIV showing the trailer passed. When the inspection deadline passed, RIV phoned him saying he had to export the trailer or they would seize it. It took him a little while to prove that he had the inspection done. ... I now have a boat that I saved about $15,000 on. Only thing I didn't do was test drive the boat .. thankfully it works like new. Next time, I would definitely test drive it. Thanks again!!

Comment about importing boat from Washington to B.C. (Aug. 2010)

Yet another success, thanks to this page. Using the notes above, I agreed to purchase the boat. I then got a 3-day Temporary Permit from Washington's State Licensing Centers (www.dol.wa.gov $30 USD) to drive the boat all the way home.

I arranged a Binder of Insurance from ICBC Autoplan (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia $29-$55). Either do this before you go, or call 1-800-328-4484 to arrange it. Once home, you cannot drive with it again. To drive it to get registered, you must get a 1-day Temporary Operators Permit from your ICBC broker. Before going, I also called RIV to check the trailer VIN number. The woman informed me the fastest way to get Form #2 is NOT to pay for it at the border - instead tell the officer you want to take the Form #1 home. When home fill in the details from Form #1 online (www.riv.ca), pay online, and provide an email address. You then fax the form to them. I crossed the border Saturday afternoon, and received my Form #2, Monday at 9:30am via email!

{After returning} the Canadian Tire {trailer} check took 10 minutes. They put a second stamp on Form #1. Take Form #1 to your ICBC dealer, pay the insurance, get the plates, and you're done.

No major change with HST {began July in B.C.}. I only paid 5% tax on the trailer, the other 7% at ICBC. Registering at RIV was $219. Service Canada do not charge to license the Boat, but numbers {stickers} will cost you $20 from Staples for 2 sets. You must keep the boat licence in the boat. Canadian safety equipment requirements are tougher than U.S. (another few hundred dollars). Easier than I could have imagined, thanks Pat and to all other contributors.
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Comment about importing to Ontario (Dec/2010)

I cross the border 3-4 times per week with commercial goods, I have been doing this for over 20 years and I can tell you that each border crossing has their own interpretation of the rules. If you are importing anything I would call the border {office}, ask your questions and get a NAME. Getting a name and explaining that is what you were told will make all things go much better. Also the rules and policies are changing all the time so what was good a couple of months ago may not apply now.

Comment about importing to Ontario (May 2011)

What is required has been explained often so I will add: MAKE SURE ALL SERIAL AND VIN numbers are shown. I crossed the border at Sarnia recently with a Michigan boat and trailer and passed through in 15 mins.

Comment about importing Boat/Trailer to Ontario (May 2011)

I recently imported a 2001 Bayliner from NY state and thanks to all the info here, everything went well with a few hiccups that were prevented by following up and great customer service.

Problem #1 My boat came with an Escort trailer. They were manufactured for Bayliner for my model of boat. I took pictures of the compliance sticker on the trailer (actually under the boat on the inside) and when I got home I realized I couldn't see any numbers on the sticker. I phoned RIV and they told me to get a letter from Escort to verify the trailer numbers, specs, compliance, etc. Problem is that Escort is out of business. Called Bayliner head office (phone # on web site) and they said no problem. Lady I talked to punched in my VIN (on the ownership) and it was in the system. She emailed me a compliance letter with all info and a photocopy of the new sticker they are sending me. No cost for this and it took 1 hour. Well done Bayliner!

Problem #2 NY DMV has very few offices. Syracuse, NY has 2 and one is not open Fridays. Of course that is the one I needed. I then drove my new boat with the old owners plate to Watertown, NY to its DMV. I waited 1.5 hours to finally get help. Then they didn't really know what to do, suggesting I should just register the trailer. Me living in Canada didn't phase them at all! They then told me I couldn't carry anything on the trailer with a trip permit. I told them it was empty and $12.50 later had my permit. I also told them how stupid that rule was. I then proceeded to the border, my boat "floating" above the trailer.

Problem #3 Customs officer didn't fax in Form 1 to RIV so I had to do it a few days later. Wouldn't come up in system because of it so had to call to correct this problem.

Canadian Tire did the FREE federal inspection in 10 minutes, faxed off the form for me right away. This is NOT a safety, they just took the info from the compliance sticker and read the info on the tires. Didn't care about lights, chains, etc. Drove to Service Ontario a few minutes away and out the door legal in 15 minutes!
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Comment about importing Boat/Trailer to B.C. from S.Carolina (July 2011)

I appreciated the information on Pat's site. It eased my anxiety around this somewhat intimidating importation process. Most of the information on the site is accurate but perhaps abbreviated - this is not as quick and easy a process as some have suggested. However, it's do-able. I imported a boat and trailer from S. Carolina to B.C. in May 2011.

1. Finding the "right" boat requires many hours of research, many phone calls and even more emails.

2. It's not easy to find an accredited and available surveyor or engine tech for inspections on short notice - the good ones are busy.

3. Wiring money to the U.S. is an expensive nuisance and clearing still takes a few days. I ended up using a courier for bank drafts (cheques).

4. A broker is a nice way to go - mine provided great service, negotiating with the seller and had an escrow account for my funds.

5. I found a great transporter through U-ship at an excellent price - rely on good feedback from the prior shippers - with 75 happy shippers before me, I felt comfortable. Plus he had full licensing and good insurance.

6. Expect delays - I had brake problems on a brand new trailer! Then the transporter encountered a flooded highway and another 8 hour delay. He took it all in stride and kept me informed. If you pick up the trailer in the U.S., as I did (saving lots of money), get a transport permit at a DMV office - $30 in Washington state. You will also need your own insurance on the boat and trailer, plus a binder from I.C.B.C., before you pick the trailer up.

7. As others have observed, boats are easy to import - not so much for boat trailers.

8. Canadian border officials can be trying - the guy that should have processed my Form 1 in 15 minutes ignored me and several others for 30 minutes while he attempted repairs on a copier. Once he decided to provide "service", Form 1 was completed in 10 minutes. Make certain you have all the documentation required for both boat and trailer and a credit card to pay the tax. Ensure the form is fully completed - my guy neglected to include his agent's badge number - required by RIV. No one even looked at the boat or the trailer.

9. Once home, you must provide the RIV with the required documentation and payment or nothing happens. They will provide Form 2 by email very quickly if you have done your part .

10. Get a one day insurance permit, then take Form 1 and 2, the trailer compliance letter and registration documents or certificate of origin if it's new, to Canadian Tire for the federal inspection. They look for the date of manufacture, VIN, GVWR, tire load rating, compliance sticker and lights. (If the trailer has a GVWR much over 6,000 pounds, surge brakes are not acceptable - you need electric/ hydraulic brakes, which are much more expensive.) It takes 15 minutes for this inspection and costs $24.00

11. With Form 1 and 2 stamped by Canadian Tire, the bill of sale for the trailer, Casual Goods Accounting Form (from customs), the trailer (they must see it and the VIN) and your wallet (for provincial tax and fees) to a I.C.B.C. agent. They will process the new registration, insurance and provide the trailer plate.

12. Apply for the Pleasure Craft Licence, remove the old numbers, apply the new ones and you're boating.

The savings are worth the hassle - I now have a 2007, 24 foot boat with a new aluminum trailer and four stroke outboard, for about one half of the local market valuation.

Comment about importing Boat/Trailer from Michigan to Ontario (May 2011)

{This person did not include an email address so I cannot ask how this ended.}

... Importing a trailer without a VIN number caused problems. I bought a boat through a Michigan boat broker. The sea trial went well and the deal was set. I called the broker about the trailer and VIN plate (after reading how important it is!) and he said he was 99% sure it was on the trailer. When I went to pick up the boat I discovered there was no VIN number on the trailer. I called Canadian Customs and they said no problem - just get one from the trailer manufacturer afterwards. It took two weeks for manufacturer to get back to me.

Also, the VIN on the Michigan registration only had 15 digits, but the RIV form needs 17 digits to be re-registered in Ontario. (Canadian Customs never warned me it wasn't long enough.) I'm not sure how I can now get the right number. If it's possible, maybe I could categorize the trailer as home-made and get a new VIN.

There's a lot going on when you are trying to buy an boat. The seller doesn't know what's required and will say anything to make the sale. Slow down and make sure you have everything you need.
  1. Make sure VIN numbers are good before you buy anything.
  2. Put a down payment on the boat and get a receipt.
  3. After a satisfactory sea trial, arrange for final payment. (I used wire transfer.)
  4. Get a bill of sale, a boat title, and a trailer registration with a correct VIN on it signed over in your name.
  5. At the Canadian border, fill out RIV form and pay taxes.
  6. Apply for a boat licence. Keep copies of BILL OF SALE, TITLE, APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION, on the boat until your new papers arrives.
  7. {Get trailer inspection at Canadian Tire.}
  8. License the trailer.
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Comment about importing Sailboat/Trailer to B.C. from Washington (Sept. 2011)

I have just imported a 14-foot (4.3m) sailboat and trailer into British Columbia from Washington State. The 38-year-old trailer had no VIN number on it. Apparently after 38 years these numbers wash off. I phoned Canadian Border Services and the agent indicated that because the trailer was over 15 years old, they would accept the information on the title. RIV fee and inspection is not required over 15 years. I asked if the agent was confident about this information and she said that she would transfer me to my port of entry to obtain their "operating procedures".

I spoke to an agent in the Osoyoos Border crossing and was asked to bring the Titles for the boat and trailer, any advertisements and correspondence with the vendor, and bills of sale for each item purchased (boat, trailer, outboard motor). When I got to the border, I got the same border agent! I filled out the Form 1, and was assessed HST on the boat and motor cost, and 5% only on the trailer cost. In 10 minutes I was on my way.

Earlier, my insurance agent would not sell me a rider to my existing insurance policy to bring the boat home because there was no VIN number on the trailer, even though a VIN was listed on the title and a Washington State licence was attached to the trailer. "How can one insure a trailer with no identifying VIN inscribed on it?" The agent gave me an ICBC application to obtain a VIN number for trailers that had no VIN numbers.

So I went to another ICBC agent, showed them the VIN number on the title, and they sold me a rider on my truck insurance to just for towing the boat home. But the insurance agent said that my insurance would be invalid if I didn't get the trailer licensed to me in Washington. I then phoned the Washington State Dept of Vehicles and was told that the licence transfers to the purchaser - so I took that as sufficient for my needs.

When I got the trailer and boat home, I then applied for a VIN number ($25 application fee). Since the trailer is under 3,000 pounds, no inspection was necessary. The VIN number had to be applied by an ICBC-approved mechanic, so another $20 (2 minutes to install the plate). A lot of worry, and a fair amount of preliminary discussion to understand the rules of the game, but I am now licensed and ready to sail. Thanks for your helpful website.

Comment about importing boat/trailer to Ontario from NY (Aug. 2011)

I used your site to import my boat/trailer...it was painless! I bought a 2002 Bayliner boat on eBay and paid the dealer in Florida for it. I got my boat shipped from Florida to Buffalo, NY where I crossed the border, picked it up and brought it to the border at Niagara Falls, NY. I declared it to the {border official} and he directed me inside. I parked my boat and went inside. I had to fill out a form (make sure you have the title and separate receipts for trailer and boat). Major Mistake: I filled out Form 1 for importing a vehicle but thought I was to fill in information about my boat...WRONG. Form 1 requires information about my trailer. I then had to pay the GST and PST on the boat/trailer package and the shipping fee from Florida (Yikes!)

After returning home, I figured something was wrong with my Form 1 so I contacted RIV and they told me to get a new Form 1 at a local Border Agency (there's one in almost every city) and after a few minutes of inspection got my new Form 1. I paid the fee to RIV and then took my trailer into Canadian Tire to be inspected. Major Problem: my trailer sticker was half worn off. Make sure the sticker is legible! This should take only 5 mins of time for Canadian Tire to inspect. Luckily I got a guy who figured out the numbers. CT faxed the form to RIV and got my trailer sticker the next week. Got her plated the next day and that was it. Unbelievably easy because I read so much on this site - wouldn't have imported anything if I didn't have Pats Boating to help me out.
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Comment about importing boat/trailer to B.C. from Oregon (Feb. 2012)

After reading all the great advice here before my trip I have decided to post my experience.
Before leaving:
  1. Contact dealer, get lots of pics, have his scan and email copies of the titles (boat and trailer).
  2. Leave a deposit, 500 on credit card ? subject to approval of boat buy buyer.
  3. Let them know that you want to see it running in test tank, all gages, lights, bilge, blower etc, must be working. Including trailer lights. Make sure trailer has a spare.
  4. Find out what size ball the trailer requires and whether it is a 4, 5, or 7 pin connection.
  5. Find out if the trailer has current valid tags (licence plate). I towed the boat with no problems from the cops all the way home. (if no current tags then you must go to DMV and get t 3 day trip permit).
  6. Go to ICBC with a copy of sales invoice and get an insurance binder for the trailer attached to your towing vehicles insurance.
  7. Secure insurance for the boat, in case it is damaged in transport. (usually 400.00 for the whole year with liability for water sports ect).
  8. If you are brining US dollars in the states make sure you have withdrawal slips from your bank. (They want to know your not a drug dealer washing money). In my case, the US did not ask, but the Canadians did.
  9. RE: money. If you are taking 10 grand or more across the border, you must let the Canadian and US side know. (stupid I know).
  10. A copy of any advert or Craigslist posting for the item is recommended.
At dealer:
  1. Check the trailer vin numbers and boat serial numbers against the ones on the title. They must match. Also, ask that these numbers are noted on the sales invoice.
Crossing Back to Canada: Have these ready:
  1. Past port
  2. Sales invoice
  3. Titles signed by owner or dealer
  4. Withdrawal slips if you paid in cash
  5. A Craigslist or wed add of the boat
  6. Payment Cash, Credit card.
  7. You will get a FORM 1 which must be stamped by the border agent.
RIV:
  1. Online (or at the border if crossing during business hours), produce FORM 1, Pay the fee, and get an inspection certificate.
  2. Take Trailer to Canadian Tire for inspection.
  3. Go to ICBC: Produce FORM 1, all receipts, titles (basically all documents collected), in BC (and some other provinces) pay your provincial sales tax,
  4. Get a new Plate, registration, and insurance for your trailer.
BOAT LICENCE:

Go to Services Canada to acquire a new set of boat licence numbers (bring all documents). You can do this by mail or in person.
That is it. First time was a breeze. Just make sure you follow every step.

Comment about importing boat/trailer to Ontario from New Hampshire (Mar. 2012)

Hey Pat,
I just imported a trailer, boat, and motor at Cornwall. All the registrations were in order but I got a very poorly written receipt. So I decided that I would try to save some tax by duplicating a false receipt and Craigslist ad. I would ask you too tell people that this is a TERRIBLE IDEA! While I was filling out the RIV form one of the border agents actually took the time to check Craigslist and discovered that I was an idiot. The 55% fine for undervaluation was way worse than paying 13% HST. Also having your vehicle, boat, and trailer seized until you pay the fine is not very convenient, nor is being red flagged every time you cross for the following 7 years! Yes you can call me an idiot -- my wife has been since this happened. Cheers and keep up the good work!

Comment about importing boat/trailer from North Carolina to Ontario (May 2012)

I imported a boat and trailer at Fort Erie, Ontario. I had never imported a boat and trailer before so this website gave me the information I needed to get through customs in 20 minutes.

The only problem we had was with the original trailer manufacturer. We required a 17 digit VIN. The 14-yr-old Florida-built trailer had a 7 digit VIN. The manufacturer refused to provide a recalculated VIN for us. The RIV emphatically stated the trailer would not be allowed into Canada without the 17 digit VIN. I was forced to call the NHTSA (U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). They had a conference call with the manufacturer, and within 6 minutes I had a recalculated VIN with required trailer details faxed to me on the manufacturer's letterhead. On the Form 1 at the border you must list the VIN affixed to the trailer, not the manufacturer recalculated VIN. Form 1 was faxed from CBSA to RIV - on the RIV website I had to list the recalculated VIN and then request a new sticker for the trailer from the original manufacturer. We received our Form 2 for the trailer inspection from RIV via return email, and the sticker from the original manufacturer which we affixed to the trailer. We were then ready for the trailer inspection at Canadian Tire. The border guards were not interested in the boat beyond looking at the original ownership papers and bill of sale.

Comment about importing boat from Michigan to Sarnia Ont. (July 2012)

I just imported a boat from Michigan, crossing at Sarnia ON. I had brought a trailer with me. When I got to the border I was asked the normal question, and showed him the Ontario trailer registration. He then asked where I found the ad for the boat, how much I paid, as well as the receipt. He then gave me the little piece of paper and told me to pull over by the building and to go in and pay my taxes. Total time to get through was about 45 minutes and $5k less in my bank account. I questioned him about just paying the taxes when the boat was registered* and he said it was due now and he knew the rules. He appeared to be younger so might be going strictly by the book, not sure.
* (probably meant licensed)

Comment about importing boat from North Dakota to Manitoba (July 2012)

Hello Pat. Your page was very helpful. I bought a 24' pontoon boat, and had the dealer deliver to within 10 miles of the border .. at 6 AM, loaded up and was back at the border by 6:30 AM. I had all my paper work. The border crossing was EASY - 15 minutes and I was on my way. I received my email from RIV that my form 2 was ready at 10:30 AM. I made an appointment at Canadian Tire for inspection at 1 PM, which was done before 1:30. I then took my bill of sale, title, and 2 RIV forms to my Autopac (MB auto insurance agent), and had plates on the trailer by 2 PM. I cannot believe how quickly this all went - I would recommend a U.S. boat to anyone!

Comment about importing boat from New York to Nova Scotia (December 2012)

Just brought a 20-ft Scout from Southampton, Long Island, NYS. The information on this page made the experience seamless. Because all the paperwork was in 100% good order and the titles were unambiguous, and vin #s clear and legible, there were no delays at the border. The broker even had the paperwork notarized. We were through in less than an hour even though it was busy at the border. Paid our fees and they did not even come out for a look at the boat/trailer. They took no fees for the RIV - told me I could do it online or phone. I did this the next day and RIV deferred my registration date until June 30 (I asked). This is well beyond the 45 day limit for inspection and registration of the trailer. (Canada winter rules with boat/trailer in storage). This site gave me the confidence to do it on my own. Other wise I would probably have used a broker, a waste of money. Thanks again.


Hi Pat, Catch 22! Ten days after I did the boat transaction, the broker emailed that his bank will not release the funds for up to 6 weeks. I had paid with a certified cheque in US funds in the broker's name (he had insisted on certified cheque over a bank draft). He asked me to call my bank to try to clear the funds sooner, but my bank said the money is already transferred. (I had sent the 10% deposit before even seeing the boat using a wire transfer, but that isn't an option once you are in the U.S.)

The broker's American bank is required by law to release the funds only after it has completed fraud investigations on the certified cheque. The funds are there and the cheque is good, however American bank laws seem to prevent {a reasonable transfer time}. I doubt if the broker would deal with a Canadian purchaser ever again because of the hassle involved with clearing the cheque.
Best Regards, ...
PS I will undertake a PayPal contribution to your valuable resource.

Comment about importing boat from California to B.C. (Feb. 2014)

Hi Pat, A great store of information. However, a new wrinkle. I was negotiating the purchase of a used sail boat and dual axle trailer in California. I had checked off all the documentation etc. according to all the good advice on this page, and it came up clean as a whistle. The trailer was constructed in 1990, so only needs a Form 1 at the border. However, to get from California to BC it has to pass through Washington State. The trailer is registered and totally legal in California, but only has brakes on one axle. Washington State law requires brakes on both axles for the 6000 lb GVWR of the boat and trailer. I assumed that State reciprocity would permit transiting a California registered trailer through Washington to the border at Blaine, where it could be picked up with a BC registered tow vehicle. I exchanged numerous emails with the Washington State Highway Patrol, and was told that State reciprocity only applies to Licensing, not to equipment. That kills the deal, because the boat is sitting on the trailer, and replacment of the idler axle with a brake equipped axle would require taking it to the coast, putting the boat on the hard at a marina and taking the trailer to a shop to have a new axle installed, or hiring a crane and stands to offload the boat. All very costly when dealing from BC. Has anyone else had to deal with this?
{Anyone with a solution, please submit it and I'll publish it here.}

Comment about importing boat from New York State (Feb. 2014)

I bought a boat and trailer in Rochester, NY for $10,000 from a private seller. I paid $500 down payment leaving $9,500 on purchase. (I had to pre-order the U.S. cash as banks do not keep that much on hand.) I called the RIV office with the trailer serial number, and they said that there were no problems. If the trailer is 15 years old or older -- by the manufacture stamp not the model year -- you are exempt from paying the registration and safety fees. Mine was 14 years old - darn.

You must declare if you are entering the US with $10,000 cash or more. $9,500 is pretty close so I took copies of the ad and e-mails, the downpayment receipt, and the cash withdrawal slip.

When we arrived at the US border at 6 am, told the U.S. border guy that I was buying a boat, had $9,500 US cash plus $35 for spending money - he said 'Go". For the seller, I had prepared 3 receipts: boat, trailer, and 2 motors with their serial numbers. The seller just had to sign them and give me the ownership documents, which saved a lot of time.

On the return {entering Canada}, I declared the boat and trailer. The guy at the booth was very friendly and explained the process to me (which I already knew from reading this forum). They took the information from the ownership cards and receipts and explained that I will get a package from the {Canadian} RIV folks for the trailer safety inspection and licence. I paid sales tax and was on my way. They did not even glance at the boat or trailer. It took 10 minutes plus 10 minutes waiting {shift change}. Although I was nervous, they were very friendly and it was a very positive experience.

The only improvement that I could have done was to list the accessories such as marine radio, fish finder, ladder, etc. on the receipt. Initially they raised their eyebrows, but when I mentioned that the accessories were 14 years old, they no longer seemed to care.

Thanks Pat and for all of the contributors here. I would not have had the confidence to do this without it. Now, if we can only get the weather to warm up!

Comment about importing boat from Minnesota to Manitoba (Jul. 2014)

Great website - it made getting my {boat/trailer} up from Minnesota into Manitoba a breeze. ... I had all the documentation on hand that was recommended here; copies of the ad, cash withdrawal receipts for USD and the hotel accommodations where we stayed one night. The seller had titles for both the boat and trailer.

The only problem .. was that the VIN plate on the trailer was too faint to read clearly. ... At the border, the officer checked over all my paperwork, then handed me the Vehicle Import Form 1 to fill out.. He asked me to go out to the trailer and write down the serial number of it on the form. I told him that I wasn't able to read it all and about the conversation with the {manufacturer}. He was silent for a second or two and then said again, "Go out and write down the serial number from the trailer". I filled in the numbers I couldn't read from the title document. When I got back in a shift change had just taken place. A new officer took the form, checked it over quickly, then stamped and signed it. I went to the cashier, paid GST for the trailer, and both PST and GST for the boat and I was on my way home. I had to pay PST on the trailer when I registered it. Again, this website made the entire process very simple and straightforward. Thanks so much!

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Budget Worksheet for Importing a Boat to Canada

Here is a free budget worksheet you can print out to keep track of your costs importing your boat: Cost Worksheet for Importing a Boat. It is provided by the folks who wrote the ebook “Crossing the 49th – The Complete Guide to Finding and Importing a US Boat to Canada”. It's only $10 using this link: www.importingusboats.com/index2.htm.

Testimonials

"Going through the border armed with the info from your site was awesome; I really appreciated it."   -- Manitoba Jul/2014

"Thanks again for your help when I imported my first boat six years ago. I have now imported three. The last one a brand new Stratos Bass boat. I saved $10,000 for a 16 hour return trip. Just wanted to let you know."   -- Ontario Apr/2014

"Unbelievably easy because I read so much on this site - wouldn't have imported anything if I didn't have Pats Boating to help me out."   -- Ontario Jan/2012

"Thanks to all who provided information on this page. It is an excellent resource and was a determining factor that gave me the confidence I needed in the process to make the journey."   -- Ontario Sep/2008

"Thanks Pat for your site. I saved a ton and the process was easy!"   -- Alberta Jul/2008

"..The whole process including buying, transporting, licensing and insuring the boat was a breeze. The total time I spent at the border was 15 minutes - incredible. The agent at the border as well as the insurance agent in Vancouver were impressed with the fact that I had all my documentation in order (thanks to your site Pat!!). Again I want to thank you for all of the valuable information you maintain on your site - keep up the good work."   -- British Columbia Oct/2008

"Used .. some of the feedback you had received. Wow, did this make my job easier. Customs people are appreciative of people who are prepared and this site prepared me for every possible glitch. I highly recommend it."   -- Manitoba Nov/2007

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Terms used on this page:

Boat Licence Most common way to identify a pleasure boat.
Pleasure boats may also be registered. (more)
CBSA Canadian Border Services Agency (customs) [Locations] 1-800-461-9999, (506) 636-5064
Compliance Label No longer required to verify boat construction standards. (more)
Duty Federal tax may be charged depending on country of manufacture. No duty on boats made in Canada, U.S., or Mexico
FORM 1 Trailer - Vehicle Import Form
FORM 2 Trailer - CBSA collects fee for Transport Canada's federal inspection for a trailer (safety standards) to be done at a store.
Forum Similar to a newsgroup, but on a web site
GVWR Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
GST Federal Goods and Services tax on imported boats, trailers
HST Harmonized tax (GST & PST)
Licence plate Trailer licence issued by provincial Vehicle Licence Offices
Licence Boat licence issued by Services Canada
MOT Ministry of Transportation (provincial government)
NAFTANorth American Free Trade Agreement (duty)
Newsgroup Public online discussion
PST Provincial Sales Tax may be charged on boats but not trailers
Trailer Recall Clearance letter from manufacturer or dealer - no longer required
RIV Canadian Registrar of Imported Vehicles
Title Ownership paper with a registration date
VIN Vehicle Identification Number of trailer (should match papers) Check Transport Canada or RIV records (1-888-848-8240)
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