Are there deals north of the border?
For many years, Canadians have headed south to the United States to buy vintage cars, where they scour Arizona and California for rust-free classics. But a plunging Canadian dollar, which has lost more than 25 percent of its value over the past two years, has stopped the flow of American cars heading north. With Canada’s currency still weak, is it time for Americans to look to the Great White North for a classic car bargain?
The first thing to determine is whether the vehicle a buyer wants is actually cheaper in Canada, and that depends entirely on the car. Sites like kijiji.com are a great place to look and can give buyers a snapshot of the market. Generally speaking, there’s a much smaller inventory of classic cars in Canada, so air-cooled Porsche 911s, 1960s Lotus Elans, and special muscle cars are rare and priced accordingly. For more common cars like sedans, early Mustangs, C3 Corvettes and less powerful muscle, there are definitely deals to be had.
Let’s assume a buyer finds a good deal north of the border. What else needs to be considered? In much of Canada, snow, salt and grime are a reality for four to six months of the year, and nearly every car has been exposed to that at some point. However, in milder areas like Vancouver, a buyer is going to have better luck than in Ontario or Quebec, two provinces notorious for the amount of salt used on the roads.
To ship a car, there are many variables, but for even a short haul across the border, expect to pay $1,000, plus a brokerage fee of around 4 percent, to get the vehicle through customs. For longer hauls from major Canadian cities to southern states, expect to pay upwards of $1,500 for open transport and up to $2,500 for shipping in an enclosed trailer. If the car doesn’t run, you’ll pay more, if you can even find a company to haul it.
There is no duty when importing cars originally built in the U.S. or Canada, but if you wish to import a car built anywhere else, expect to pay 2.5 percent at the border. If the car is older than 25 years, importation is pretty easy, but expect lots of paperwork and red tape with anything newer.
If buyers are comfortable purchasing the car sight unseen, they’ll be on the hook for a few long-distance phone calls, but no other major expenses. If they want to see it in person, tack on at least $1,000 for flights and hotels, if the car isn’t within driving distance.
The verdict? If you’re buying a fully restored, high-value car, there are definitely good deals to be had. The amount you can save with Canada’s weak dollar can outweigh the fixed costs of transportation, duties and travel to see the car. But if you're looking for something on the lower end of the valuation spectrum, you're better off buying stateside.