Inherited a Model S.... But its in Canada and I'm in the US

edited November -1 in General
Hi all,

As the subject states... I've recently inherited a Tesla Model S 85. The only thing is, the car was purchased originally in Canada from Tesla (where it still is).

I'm going to be importing it and driving it into the US.

I know that I have to bring with me the correct EPA and DOT forms. But I'm also told that I need a letter from Tesla stating the the Canadian Version conforms to US Standards. Has anyone gone through the process of importing a Tesla from Canada to the US? What was your experience like? Appreciate any guidance!



  • edited November -1
    From what is known, importing to the US should be easier than to Canada because of a few things (the color of the seatbelt releases) that are different in the US.

    But you need to determine what is different in the Canadian version. I know that it has red seatbelt releases and daytime running lights, but do not know if there is anything else. A good thing is you do not have to worry about emissions. :)
  • edited October 2017
    I'd suggest that you simply take it to the local Canadian Tesla store and explain to them that you need to have it reprogrammed/outfitted to be compatible for the U.S. market if there are any marketable differences, afterall, it IS an electric vehicle.
  • edited October 2017
    This is turning into quite a headache.

    I spoke to multiple people at Tesla. Finally the ownership specialist came back to me saying:

    "Canadian Tesla's are specifically designed for Canada and the warranty would not be honored in the US, we recommend you trade it in at Tesla in Toronto and pick up one in the US."

    First of all, I really was not convinced by that answer, he didn't sound convincing or seem to really have many more details.

    Second, the Tesla I inherited has 8,000 miles on it. None of the trade in's available have a comparable value. So I'd essentially have to put down more cash to get a car with more miles, and potentially a smaller battery (60 instead of 85) if I don't want to pay too much. On top of that I really would rather keep my dad's car, for sentimental value.

    Third, regarding the warranty, I'm already out of the new vehicle limited warranty, but the battery and drive unit warranty is valid for another 8 years.

    I've been told by Customs and Border Patrol that I need to complete EPA form 3520-1 and DOT form HS-7. And that I needed a letter from Tesla stating that the car meets all US safety and emission standards.

    Looking at the car I see there are two stickers. One stating that it meets all US EPA regulations, and the other (the manufacturers label) that it meets the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (but it makes no mention of the US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards - FMVSS required by DOT... hence why a letter from Tesla is needed). If the FMVSS label was there I wouldn't need the letter.

    I bit the bullet and contacted an import broker, I was really hoping not to go that route, as it may be another $1,000 out of my pocket but unless I can get a letter from Tesla I have no choice.

    Any advice guys? :) Thanks!!
  • edited October 2017
    Admittedly, I'm not understanding all of the hassle...?!

    I mean, other than an import excise tax, a transfer of title from out of state/country form, insurance and a cursory inspection at your local DMV when you go to register it, I don't foresee any other complications in having the vehicle registered locally.

    Afterall, does it speak Canadian or register in metric instead of S.A.E. or something ('You're now traveling at, like, 104.607 kilometers an hour, ay!')?!?

    Something's not making any sense here and I wouldn't expect Tesla to sign off on a "letter" for a vehicle they haven't had an authorized representative from their headquarters personally inspect to insure authenticity because of the potential for shenanigans being a foot, ay?! (*picture image of SNL characters Wayne and Garth here*)
  • edited October 2017
    Just An allusion:

    US Customs and Border Patrol need four things to clear a car to be imported into the United States:

    1. EPA Form 3520-1 (I have that)
    2. DOT Form HS-7 (I have that)
    3. A Sticker on the car that states it meets the US EPA regulations (I have that)
    4. A sticker on the car that states it meets the US DOT regulations (I do not have that.... Canadian Vehicles have a sticker that state it meets Canadian safety regulations, it makes no mention that of US DOT regulations).

    If either 3 or 4 are missing then Customs and Border Patrol require a letter from the manufacturer stating that it meets the US regulations (regardless of what the sticker says)

    A car may meet both US and Canadian safety regulations, but on a vehicle specifically designed for Canada it may not be mentioned on the sticker. This is my current problem.

    As an update, I was able to get in touch with someone at Tesla's Trade Compliance division and he is being helpful! Keeping fingers crossed.
  • edited November -1
    There is usually no duty on products being reimported to the USA that were previously exported.

    So he should not have to pay any import tax at least. Form 3311.pdf

    But I seriously wonder what the difference between a USA and Canadian Spec Tesla is.
  • edited October 2017
    There are potentially other items, but two things that come to mind:

    Daytime running lights (Required in Canada, not required in the US)


    Seat belt button colors (Required to be red in Canada, not required to be red in the US) See:
  • edited October 2017
    But the good thing with those two items is that the USA is more open on those issues than Canada. The seat belt button can be any color in the USA. DRLs are not prohibited in the USA.

    So that should not be an issue.
  • edited October 2017
    You are right, but it doesn't matter to Customs and Border Patrol, if the right label is not there then I need a letter from Tesla.

    Not sure about Canada, but something else I thought about, in the US we must have amber reflectors in the front sides of the car, Euro spec cars don't require this.

    For the record, here is the message I got from Customs and Border Patrol when I contacted them:

    "Vehicles imported to the U.S. must have proof of compliance with both EPA and DOT standards.

    Proof of compliance can be a sticker on the engine of the vehicle stating in English that it complies with EPA standards and a sticker on the driver's side door stating in English that it complies with DOT standards.

    If one or both stickers are missing, the importer must obtain a letter from the manufacturer stating that the vehicle complies with EPA and DOT standards."
  • edited October 2017
    Can’t you drive it across the border and be done? Register the car in your state of residence? I think these restrictions are for commercial importers not your case...? (i’m not a lawyer or a robot! :) )
  • edited October 2017
    Since it will have a Canadian Bill of Sale and a Canadian Title, when I come to register it at the DMV I will need to prove that it cleared customs.
  • edited October 2017
    I have a Lotus Elise and it took a year for them to make a Canadian version. Europe has other rules too. Here is what I know. American cars must have 2 airbags. Headlights from European cars using H4 or non sealed bulbs are not allowed, US cars need reflectors on front and side of car. Csnadian cars require that clutch be depressed in order for car to start. Dont know if this means you also have to have your foot on the brake if you try to start a Canadian car trans. Windshield angle cant be over a certaint number of degrees on US cars. Lotus Esprit violated rule. European cars require rear fog light. Engines in US cars must be certified by EPA.
    Car makers can apply for a 7 year exemption in case of limited production vehicles or if it would cause a hardship to change the design of the car. After 7 years it must be changed or you cant import the car anymore. Cars over 25? years old can be imported into US and not meet rewuirements. I believe the NHSTA? site gives a list of current foreign cars that can be imported. Lotus still makes the Elise overseas but since their hardhip exemption ended they arent allowed to bring any cars into the US unless thry are for off road or racing use only.
  • edited October 2017
    Well, it sounds like Tesla is going to have to send an authorized rep up to Canada to sign off on the car because it would be unwise to do so sight unseen in case a/the previous owner made any modifications...You might have to pay for that, like, travel expenses or something, IDK...?
  • edited October 2017
    Do you have an attorney settling the estate? Maybe they have seen this come up before and could give you some advise. A former neighbor had a house in Canada and one in the US. I believe she had dual citizenship. She had a late 1990s Buick that was registered in Canada and it did not have a US speedometer and the temperature guages were in Celsius so it probably wasnt US compliant.

    Did you inherit any or own any property in Canada so that you can register it there and then bring it into the US as a visitor. Or have it reregistered jointly with a Canadian mother or sibling that you trust that will let you keep the car. I dont know how far away you are from the borde in case the car rewuires an annual inspectionr and I know they only let visitors to the US keep non compliant cars in the country for a year and then they have to bring them back or face confiscation and crushing.
  • edited October 2017
    Another option that might work is to find someone that wants to do the reverse - transfer a USA car to Canada. Perhaps you could trade cars and make a small cash adjustment for miles and/or feature differences. Someone was asking to transfer a Tesla USA car to Canada due to a move several months ago. It appeared that was very difficult if not impossible to go USA to Canada with a Tesla.

    The only other option I can think of (beyond what you are trying to do) is to emigrate to Canada. Seems like a nice place that's a bit better run than here in the USA :)
  • edited October 2017
    Lol I don't need someone from Tesla to come and evaluate the car, all I need is Tesla to confirm that Canadian spec Tesla's are identical to US spec Tesla's. And since my car is a Canadian spec Tesla it, by default, meets the safety regulations in the US.

    Another Tesla owner in Canada has confirmed to me that he has done the same and Tesla has sent him a letter confirming this. So it is possible.

    My mom lives in Toronto and we can keep the car at her place until this is sorted out. Unfortunately I live in Florida so I cannot just bring the car over here and return once a year for inspection and registration renewal lol

    It really should not be that hard to bring an Murican car back to Murica!!!
  • edited October 2017
    When I moved to FL I never changed my registation over from NJ since gas station or mechanics in NJ could do an inspection and give you the sticker after you paid your registration. At the time I still had a legal residence there and had a friend who had a gas station mail me a sticker so I didnt have to bring the car back up for an inspection. It isnt exactly legal but FL doesnt require inspections and I swore to him that the car would pass the NJ emission and safety check.
    Is there any way you could get a Canadian drivers license and use your moms address for the registation and pay it each year and not get the car inspected? There are so many Canadian cars down here that cops wouldnt notice or probably even know if the inspection hadnt been done. Or do they put a sticker on the car like they do in some states showing that the car passed inspection? Dont think you vould get a ticket in the US for violating a Canadian law for inspection that doesnt apply in the state where you are located.
  • edited October 2017
    @bigachx - May I suggest that you get in touch with the manager of the Toronto store? His name is Rishi Thaper and he is a very helpful person. He helped me sort out some complex matters when I picked up my S100D about a month ago.
  • edited October 2017
    Thank SteveZzz -

    I just got in touch with the Regional Service manager in the Toronto branch (was pointed to him by another forum member who actually did move a car successfully from Canada to the US). I'm also talking to a person at Tesla's Trade Compliance department.

    I'll give it a few days, if no luck, I'll get in touch with Rishi. Really appreciate the help!

    Hopefully this will get sorted out soon - I'm hoping it will be simpler than I'm making it out to be.
  • edited October 2017
    Hey all- wanted to update you. Tesla came back very professionally and gave me a letter confirming that the car meets all US Safety standards and EPA standards which I can now use to submit to Customs and border Patrol!

    Awesome work by Tesla delivering on this so quickly.
  • edited November -1
    @bigachx - Congratulations! Thanks for reporting back too.
  • edited October 2017
    Nice! Thanks for the update.


    Can we update the RTFM thread?
  • edited November -1
    @Sam0 RTFM? Real-Time FM?:) What thread are you talking about?
  • edited October 2017
    Sorry @TT I was being cheeky. "Read the fucking manual" . . . this thread:
  • edited November -1
    Cool! I figured the car probably met all US standards, but you never know.
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