Ottawa, ON

Importing a Boat

Dayana Moreno

If you live in Canada but the boat you are just itching to have is all the way across the border, don’t fret, buying and importing a boat from the U.S. is not as daunting as it may seem. According to Don Crawford from Ed Huck Marine, “It is not hard for an individual to go to the states and buy a boat, not at all.”

There are a few things to you must get in order however. “You need to get the owner to sign over the original title and give it to you,” says Crawford. You will also need any bills of sale. They should cover the boat, motor, and any other gear attached to the boat (radio, depth sounder, downriggers etc.).

According to, “Before you can take the boat across the border to Canada, you must fax a copy of the boat title to U.S. Customs a minimum of 72 hours in advance prior to crossing into Canada. U.S. Customs will do a "title search" on the boat.”

Make sure your boating documentation has the name of the OEM, lists where the boat was manufactured and has the date the boat was manufactured. “I suggest getting  a broker to help with the paperwork.” says Crawford.
The website also suggests that you call the Canadian Registrar of Imported Vehicles to have the trailers Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) verified ahead of time as the Registrar of Imported Vehicles program staff have often found cases were the VIN numbers don't match.

Before you cross back into Canada with your new vessel, you must report to United States Customs. Assuming everything checks out with the title Search and inspection, U.S. Customs will stamp the title document and you can move on to Canadian Customs.

You will then produce your stamped title document, registration and sales receipts for the boat. You will pay PST and you can now request to license your boat.

“At that point is is a Canadian boat,” says Crawford. “You then go through Service Canada and apply for vessel numbers.”

Now, if your case is the other way around, and you live in the States and are interested in purchasing a boat from Canada, the process is just as simple, but it varies slightly.

“Buy it with all of the necessary papers stating that you are importing the boat,” says Crawford.  “You do not pay any duty at that point. It will be inspected and serial numbers will be matched. When you go back to your state, that is when you will pay the boat fees.”

But according to Lucas Pearson from Tunnel Bay Marina, because of the value of the Canadian versus the U.S. dollar, “that is almost never done.”

He believes it would not be beneficial for a U.S. Citizen to buy a boat in Canada because due to our currently strong dollar, they could get a boat from the U.S. at a similar (or more competitive) price. “The prices of the boats drop (in the U.S.) because it becomes cheaper for them to buy across the border. Unless the boat was manufactured in Canada and the dollar dropped, it wouldn’t be a good deal.” says Pearson.

Whether you live in Canada and want to buy a boat in the U.S. or vise versa, the process itself, is pretty cut and dry. “It’s really not that difficult,” says Crawford. “Though it may appear to be, either way, it’s relatively simple.”

But as a helpful guide, be sure to talk to Canadian Customs, the Registrar of Imported Vehicles and an insurance agent before setting out. They will provide a great deal of help if you have any unanswered questions.

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