As winter sets in, many Canadians seek refuge from the cold by heading south to warmer areas in the USA, such as Southern Florida and the Arizona/California deserts. Given that the USA is a car-dependent country, having a vehicle becomes a necessity for getting around. Snowbirds often choose to drive their own vehicles down or have them shipped. Here are the rules and regulations associated with shipping your vehicle as a snowbird.
US Customs and Border Protection (USCBP)
USCBP is the federal agency responsible for allowing you and your vehicle to enter the USA as a snowbird. The attending officer at the border has full discretion to permit your vehicle to cross or return it to Canada. The requirements vary by the port of entry. Some may require proof of imminent arrival, while others may check for documentation indicating your ties to Canada. Additionally, USCBP ensures no illegal or undeclared items are being shipped into the USA.
Packing Your Vehicle
You can pack your vehicle, but there are limitations. The US DOT does not allow your vehicle to be used as a shipping container. Over-packing can result in overweight fines for the trucking company and increased fuel consumption. Most companies limit you to 2 suitcases of clothing and a set of golf clubs. Items should be placed in the trunk area only, out of sight, to avoid temptations for criminals. Avoid putting food, alcohol, or medicine in the vehicle, and make a detailed list of items left in the vehicle to share with the trucking company.
To ship your vehicle to the USA, you must own it. If there’s a lien, you need written permission from the lienholder. If the vehicle is owned by someone else, their written permission is also necessary. You’ll need to provide documentation demonstrating your “closer connection” to Canada, indicating your intention to return. Required documents may include bank statements, mortgage documents, utility bills, and more. The shipping company will require a copy of your passport and flight details to prepare the necessary forms for USCBP.
Shipping times vary depending on the route and distance. Typically, Ontario to Florida takes 5-8 days, while Vancouver to Palm Springs or Arizona takes 8-12 days. Remember that it’s a door-to-door service, so drivers must collect and deliver multiple vehicles. Mechanical breakdowns can also lead to unexpected delays.
Absentee Handover and Receipt
If you are unable to hand over your vehicle to the carrier in Canada or receive it in the USA, you can nominate a third party to do so on your behalf. This provides flexibility in meeting scheduling needs while ensuring your vehicle is taken care of during transit.
Importing Your Vehicle: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you are planning to ship your vehicle to the USA as a snowbird, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process:
Step 1: Vehicle Ownership
Ensure you own the vehicle or have written permission from the lienholder if there’s an outstanding loan. If the vehicle is registered in someone else’s name, obtain their written consent.
Step 2: Documenting Your Connection to Canada
Gather documents that establish your “closer connection” to Canada, proving your intention to return after your stay in the USA. Examples of such documents include bank statements, mortgage papers, utility bills, property tax statements, pay stubs, and return air tickets.
Step 3: Preparing Your Vehicle
Pack your vehicle following the specified limits, typically 2 suitcases of clothing and a set of golf clubs. Place items in the trunk area only and ensure they are well out of sight. Avoid packing food, alcohol, or medication in the vehicle.
Step 4: Documentation for the Shipping Company
Provide the shipping company with a copy of your passport, flight details, and any other required information. They will use this information to prepare the necessary forms for USCBP.
Step 5: Transit Duration
Be prepared for varying transit times, which depend on the route and distance. Ontario to Florida typically takes 5-8 days, while Vancouver to Palm Springs or Arizona takes 8-12 days. Remember that this is a door-to-door service and may experience occasional delays.
Step 6: Absentee Handover and Receipt
If you cannot personally hand over your vehicle in Canada or receive it in the USA, you can designate a third party to do so on your behalf. This provides flexibility in managing your schedule while ensuring a smooth shipping process.
By following these steps and understanding the rules and regulations, you can make your vehicle shipping experience as a snowbird a seamless and stress-free one. Stay warm in the USA while your vehicle arrives safely for your enjoyment. Safe travels!