London to Nova Scotia

Importing a car into Canada...

Taking a car from the UK to Canada is much more complicated. Firstly there are the rules around imports which make it almost impossible to bring over a car that isn’t Canadian or American unless it is more than 15 years old. Then there are challenges around shipping, taxes, registration and insurance. For us this was all made a bit more complicated because we were planning on arriving in one part of Canada and settling in another - Canada is provincial and so this just confused everything.

There are two ways of shipping a car around the world - one is in a container, where your vehicle has a whole metal box to itself, and one is called roll on - roll off (RoRo), where your car is strapped down inside a ship with thousands of other cars. RoRo is much cheaper but is slightly more risky for your car, makes it impossible to ship other possessions with your car, and means that you can only ship to very specific locations (rather than a container that can be picked up and put on a lorry to a be taken to a more convenient place). We decided that RoRo was the way to go.

Early on we found a very useful blog 'This Makes Us Tick' that helped us make some decisions about shipping. Inspired by their success we contacted two shipping companies, 1st Move International and KRL some shipping companies and they were extremely helpful - much more friendly than we had expected.

However there were still a couple of things that slowed us down. Our biggest challenge has been that when you take a car over, you’re meant to take it straight to the province where you intend to live and register it there. This means we could get a temporary registration in Nova Scotia that would allow us to drive to Vancouver, but it would only cover us for a month and that wasn’t long enough for our road trip. Our alternative was to find an address in Halifax that we could use to properly register the car when we arrived, then re-register it 2 months later to a Vancouver address.

We also had a minor freak out about taxes when we realised that importing a car into Canada involves both import duty of 5% and sales tax of 6%. This would be an unexpected bill of about £1500 for us, but it turned out that Canadian citizens bringing their car with them as an existing possession were exempt from this.

However all of that rests on the fact that Eve would be a citizen and unfortunately the timing of our trip meant that those document wouldn’t be back in time. After a call to the CBSA and a conversation with a very helpful senior officer named ‘LaFrance’ we decided that our best course would be to bring the car over as a temporary import and explain to the customers officers that our plan was to switch it to a permanent import further down the line but that we understood that if for any reason our documents didn’t come through that we would leave the country and take the car with us.

The final piece of the puzzle is insurance, due to the fact that the car will remain on UK plates for the duration of our road trip, car insurance has become the most frustrating part of the puzzle. UK insurers do not cover vehicles outside the continent of Europe (even though AXA, very irritatingly, uses a photo of Route 66 on their page for information on insuring your car abroad, and yet does not cover the US or Canada!)

I refuse to let this be the thing that stops us!

So we’ve sent out a hundred emails to insurance brokers in British Columbia and even to the Superintendent of Insurance in Nova Scotia!

In summary getting the car over to Canada has been a pretty stressful process but it is doable. And for us the benefits are massive - we get to have the car we want, kitted out to the spec we want, and we even have the potential of making some money on it when we get to the other end!

Hopefully you haven’t been put off if you’re thinking about doing the same thing, and if you have any questions please feel free to give us a shout and we will try to help.

Alex & Eve

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