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Why are are all Right hand drives in Canada 15 years old or more?

"Is it legal to import Right hand drives into Canada?" "Is it legal to import Japanese cars into Canada?" "Why are all right hand drives in Canada old?"

This is a common question, and has a pretty simple answer. This is, of course, Canada specific.  Provinces vary in the way they handle RHD vehicles (*cough cough* Quebec) but at a national level there is a single answer.

When vehicles get imported into Canada, you must go through the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV), whose website is http://www.riv.ca/. The have certain criteria that must be met for a vehicle to be officially imported into Canada. This information can be viewed at their Vehicle Admissibility page.  There you can see a list of vehicles that can be imported into Canada. If your car is on that list, you should have minimal problems.  If it's not... you're trying to import a 'grey market vehicle'.  (Hot tip: all RHDs are grey market vehicles).

Moving down that page, you'll see

Grey market vehicles (excluding buses) less than 15 years old from the date of manufacture and buses (including school buses) manufactured on or after January 1, 1971 are inadmissible for entry into Canada.

Alright.  15 years.  That's our first indicator that we can import our RHD.... where did they pull this magical 15 years from?

Let's go to where our loophole resides.  The Exemptions page.

Vehicles are exempt from the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) registration if they are imported under one of the following conditions:

  1. Vehicles older than 15 years
  2. The vehicles (excluding buses) are 15 years old or more based on the date of manufacture, or are buses (including school buses) manufactured before January 1, 1971. The importer must be able to prove the age of the vehicle.

Yay!  This paragraph is why we are allowed to import our RHD cars after they are 15 years old.  They don't have to meet any standards, and are rubber-stamped into the country.

There is a drawback to this.  This also means that your car may or may not meet safety standards for Canada (Kei trucks would never ever ever pass Canadian safety standards....).  They're not designed for this environment, so you have to really watch what you're buying.  I believe that all provinces require a 'safety' before the vehicle can be registered, so that's something, but buyer beware.

So, yes. It is legal to import Japanese cars into Canada.... you just have to be patient.


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  1. I think it’s important to also note that’s possible to import a less than 15 years old RHD in Canada that pass through the RIV: the RHD version of the Jeep Wrangler from US. It’s on the admissible import list of the RIV since there is no standard from Transport Canada that said the steering wheel most be only on the left.

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