A VANCOUVER VAN
December 29, 2019
IMPORTING A CANADIAN DELICA
In this piece, I’ll discuss purchasing my Mitsubishi Delica 4×4 diesel van and importing it into the U.S. from Canada.
As I mentioned in a previous post, A Beginner’s Hunt for the Perfect Van, I wasn’t willing to spend the money on a VW Westfalia Syncro, 4×4, diesel, in good condition. Every one I found listed on Craigslist was at least $30,000.
Similar to the VW cult following on the American west coast, there’s a similar Mitsubishi Delica cult following in Canada!! These vans have a pretty solid presence in Canada (not so much in the U.S. yet) and a big reason for this is importation limitations to the United States. Foreign vehicles must be 25 years (based on manufacture date) or older to be imported into the U.S. in order to be exempt from Department of Transportation (DoT), EPA, and customs requirements.
In Canada, this import threshold is set at 15 years. So as long as a vehicle is 15 years or older, it is exempt from a significant number of requirements. Consequently, many of these Delicas have accumulated in Canada, directly imported from Japan. Then they’ve slowly trickled into the U.S. as they have hit the 25-year mark. I’ve begun to see them more frequently driving around the Pacific Northwest.
FINDING A DELICA
I found the van by searching through Craigslist and purchased from a used dealer. There are Japanese vehicle import dealers that go to auctions and bring the vehicles over to Canada. If you’re looking to purchase a Delica, I’d recommend finding one in Canada or purchasing from someone in the U.S. as there as an increasing number of them. It’s a bit more of a pain to deal with importing from Japan and shipping to the U.S.
I’m sure there are plenty of other places to find Delicas. My go-to is Craigslist. And the others I listed were just places I found through my research in the western U.S. A Google search of Japanese imported vehicles would be another good place to start.
The used vehicle dealership I purchased my van from is Silk Road Autos in Vancouver, Canada. This was the first pop-top I’d seen that was close to my location (Seattle Area). Pop-top Delicas are definitely rare. I’d done a lot of general research on Delicas but didn’t have any mechanical knowledge. I test drove the van and everything looked fine as far as I could tell. In particular, I looked for rust, which can be an issue in the Pacific Northwest. I defffinitely didn’t do the thorough inspection that I should’ve and I could have prepared a lot more. I haven’t had any serious problems yet, but just sharing my thoughts!
PAYING FOR AN IMPORTED VEHICLE
Make sure you come prepared with a method of payment: wire, cashier’s check, cash, etc and know the fees associated with all of these. Also ensure that you are knowledgeable of the currency and if the price is listed in Canadian or U.S. dollars.
Bring a list of required documents with you and make sure you do NOT leave the dealer or seller until you have everything you need to get across the border. You don’t want to get stuck because you trusted someone’s word.
In any case, I made it out of the dealer parking lot with all of the paperwork and headed south towards the Canada / Washington State border.
PAPERWORK AT THE BORDER
When I arrived at the border, the agent directed me to pull through the gate and move to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) office. The following list is what I needed (aka the papers you should not leave the seller’s location without having in hand!):
- Bill of sale.
- Foreign registration.
- Vehicle insurance (I had all the information for the vehicle beforehand and arranged for the insurance before I purchased vehicle so I had the insurance card in hand as I crossed the border.
- *Disregard if your vehicle is 25 years or older* EPA form 3520-1 and DOT form HS-7: these declare the “emissions and safety provisions under which the vehicle is being imported. Vehicles that meet all U.S. emission requirements will bear the manufacturer’s label on the engine compartment in English, attesting to that fact. For vehicles that lack such a label, the CBP inspector at the port of entry may require proof of eligibility to import under the EPA exemptions or exclusions specified on form 3520-1” (Straight from the CBP website). Again, I didn’t need to complete these documents because my van was exempt (25 years old or older).
- The undercarriage of the vehicle must be generally clean so you’re not tracking foreign soil across the border. My van seemed clean enough, and I didn’t fret about it or power wash it and it ended up being just fine.
- Any other vehicle documents (better to bring documents you didn’t need than the other way around!)
For the officially published information on importing vehicles, check out the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website: https://www.cbp.gov/trade/basic-import-export/importing-car
I would even encourage you to identify the Customs and Border Patrol office you will deal with when you cross the border and give them a call. There may be specific requirements to that particular border crossing you aren’t aware of. If not, at least you can confirm the information you found through your research. 🙂
CUSTOMS AND BORDER PATROL OFFICE
So I was slightly apprehensive to get to the border because my friend and I had carpooled from the Seattle area to Vancouver, Canada, and I didn’t want to get stranded on the Canadian side and inconvenience my friend as we somehow tried to figure out the logistics of getting across if I needed to turn around and obtain additional documentation or some other crisis.
When we arrived, I went inside with all of my papers, waited in line for about 30 minutes, and spoke with the customs and border patrol official. He took all of my documents, verified that I had everything I needed, and made copies of them. For fees, I paid 2.5% of what I paid for the van, which CBP referred to the bill of sale to determine. That’s the standard for automobiles. I paid this fee using my credit card.
At that point, I gave my friend waiting patiently in the parking lot a thumbs up. I had passed the inspection. The agent stamped my passport (don’t let them forget to do this!) and I was on my way!
Thanks for reading! Feel free to contact me with any questions, and I’ll try to be helpful. That’s the whole reason I’m documenting all of this!