Importing Salvage Vehicles into Canada

Importing Salvage Vehicles into Canada

Trade Talk Blog


mporting a salvage vehicle from the US into Canada may severely limit your ability to get the vehicle licensed and insured in Canada. The basic rule is that if the vehicle has been damaged beyond repair and declared a total loss by the insurance company, then it cannot be imported into Canada. That is because Canada has strict laws regarding the import of vehicles with salvage titles. However, once your vehicle has been repaired or rebuilt, you may be able to import it.

In this article, we will discuss how you can import salvage vehicles into Canada.

What is a salvage vehicle?

A salvage title is given to vehicles that have been damaged beyond repair, where the damage cannot be repaired by a body shop or auto mechanic and must be deemed unsafe to drive due to its condition. The damage can come from an accident or natural disaster such as fire or flood. A salvage vehicle is declared “totalled” by an insurance company and, while it can still be driven, it requires extra paperwork and the payment of a higher insurance premium once repaired.

Although salvage vehicles are considered a total loss in terms of the insured monetary value, they may qualify for repair provided the brand is not junk, scrap, non-repairable, flood or water damage (or similar irreparable branding).

Depending on the condition of the vehicle you wish to import, a salvage vehicle may carry the title of rebuilt vehicle instead.

What is a rebuilt vehicle?

A rebuilt vehicle or car is one that has been damaged beyond repair and was restored to its original condition by a licensed auto shop. A rebuilt title indicates that the vehicle has been repaired after an accident or major damage event. It should be safe to drive but may have cosmetic issues such as missing parts or mismatched paint colour on panels.

Can I import a salvage car into Canada?

Yes, but you can only import cars into Canada if they’ve been certified as roadworthy by Transport Canada (TC). This means that every vehicle must pass safety inspections before it’s allowed into Canadian territory — including those with rebuilt titles. However, in some cases, it may be possible to import a salvage vehicle if it is repaired and has had its title updated by an authorized inspector.

Salvage or rebuilt salvage vehicles can be licensed in Canada provided the original damage was not flood-related and the vehicle is admissible under Transport Canada’s List of Vehicles Admissible from the United States. Moreover, licensing jurisdictions in Canada will require an additional structural integrity inspection for U.S. salvage vehicles in order to verify that the necessary repairs have been done to make the vehicle roadworthy.

Salvage or rebuilt vehicles can also be imported into Canada as parts-only vehicles through a Vehicle Imported for Parts Form 3 regardless of the source of the damage. Once a vehicle has entered Canada on Form 3, its title cannot be changed and there may be limitations on its licensing and insurance in Canada.

What are the requirements for importing salvage vehicles?

The process and import requirements for salvage vehicles is similar to importing vehicles into Canada. However, you will need to submit a salvage certificate to CBSA and Form 3 instead of Form 1 to the RIV. Your vehicle will also be subject to more rigorous inspection at the border. The documentation required are:

  1. Bill of Sale
  2. Original Certificate of Title
  3. Last copy of registration (for used vehicles)
  4. USMCA/CUSMA Certificate of Origin (if applicable)
  5. Letter of Gifting with Letter of Appraisal (if applicable)
  6. Form 1 – Submitted to RIV
  7. Form 2 – Received in the mail and required for inspection purposes
  8. Salvage Certificate

How can I declare a salvage vehicle at the border?

As an importer, you may declare a salvage branded vehicle at the border using Form 1, provided the following conditions are met:

(a) The vehicle’s branding status indicated on the vehicle’s Certificate of Title does not bear any indication of junk, scrap, non-repairable, flood or water damage or similar irreparable branding, and the vehicle is listed as admissible on the VIC List.

(b) The VIN must be readable through the vehicle glazing (windshield) as normally affixed by the original manufacturer. If the VIN is damaged to the point that it is no longer readable or has been removed, the vehicle is no longer in full compliance with all US requirements, cannot be made to comply and, therefore, cannot be imported into Canada. If the VIN on the compliance label has been damaged but the VIN on the dashboard is intact, the vehicle may be admissible.

(c) The importer submits the original salvage title or certificate, or a certified copy of the original may be accepted. CBSA does not retain originals or certified copies.

Once the above conditions are met, an importer may import salvage branded vehicles through the RIV Program by:

  • Completing a Form 1 and presenting a Salvage Title from a state licensing authority or a licensed insurance provider to the CBSA. CBSA will then record the vehicle condition and title brand status observed at the time of import on the form.
  • Ensuring that the vehicle is rebuilt within one year after being imported into Canada. The vehicle must be fully operational and made CMVSS compliant prior to being presented to the RIV for the final inspection. The original importer is responsible for ensuring that the vehicle is made CMVSS compliant and presented for RIV inspection before the vehicle is presented for licensing to a provincial or territorial licensing authority.

Please note that some Canadian provinces and territories have salvage/rebuild programs that can limit the importer’s ability to register the vehicle even though import formalities have been fulfilled.

Who regulates the import of salvage vehicles into Canada?

In Canada, the importing of salvage vehicles into the country is regulated by Transport Canada (TC) and the Canadian Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV). To ensure that these cars do not end up being sold on the Canadian market, all salvage vehicles must be inspected by Transport Canada before they are allowed to enter Canada.

TC has strict stipulations on what can be brought into the country and what cannot, and you cannot import a salvage vehicle into Canada without first obtaining approval from Transport Canada. your salvage vehicle must also be registered with the RIV, the national database for imported vehicles, before it can be licensed and insured in Canada.

Moreover, you will need to be in compliance with Canada’s Customs Act and follow the import process set forth by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), including the payment of duty and taxes.

The process for importing a salvage car into Canada may seem complicated, but it does not have to be difficult or expensive if you hire the right customs broker to handle all of the paperwork for you. Book a meeting with one of our Trade Experts to discuss your importation options to help you import a salvage car.


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