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Old 11-20-2012, 06:57 PM   #1
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Private Airstream purchase

We are looking at privately purchasing a used Airstream in California and import it to Canada. Can we pick up the trailer ourselves in California? Or does it need to be shipped to the State line to avoid state sales taxes? How do we check for liens? And how do we get a temporary plate? We would like to stay in the States for 3 months before we return to Canada and import it then. We are familiar with the actual import process using a dealer, but at somewhat of a loss when it comes to a private sale. Anyone have any answers? Thanks.

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Old 11-20-2012, 07:14 PM   #2
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If there is a title (which there should be), any lien holder should be listed on that document. If so, they should have signed the release and probably provided a release of lien document. When I bought my trailer, there was a bank loan on it. The owner and I went to the bank, paid off the loan, and the bank officer signed off the title. Check with the CA DMV to see if you can a temp plate for transport purposes. They shouldn't collect taxes there, but when you cross back into Canada you'll deal with that. Good luck!

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Old 11-20-2012, 07:27 PM   #3
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You might also send a private message to Okotoks - on the forum - who as I recall took an Airstream (a private sale) to Alberta -- he might at least be able to tell you what he learned about not only how to do it, but what to look for and so on. Good luck!
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Old 11-20-2012, 07:59 PM   #4
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In California, the license plate stays with the vehicle. If the owner does not have a personalized plate which they wish to keep, you will have a license plate with an expiration date for the registration. A month sticker and a year sticker. As long as the month and year are in the future, you have a valid registered vehicle. If you plan on staying away from home for three months, make sure that you have a future dated stickers more than the three months. Have the seller sign over the "pink slip" ie title and fill out the transfer paperwork for the California DMV (available on the web). Check with your local registration agency to see what else you will need.

Your mileage may vary and no liability is accepted for the above advice.

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Old 11-20-2012, 08:45 PM   #5
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Depends on the year of the trailer. If more then 15 years old you don't need any help at the border, just pull it up and declare that you bought it and they will handle the paper work for you. You will pay 5% at the border and 8% when you license it in Ontario, no duty on 15 year old trailer. I just use the license on the trailer, up to date or not,and carry the bill of sale or if you have any plate from Ontario you might just put it on and cheat ( not recomended). Do not tell the US customs that you are going to buy a trailer, tell them you are going to look at a trailer for sale. When you get back do not tell the Canadian customs that you bought the trailer from a friend, you bought it from a stranger. Both of these things complicate the transaction considerably (I have made both mistakes). I have done this 8 times with no problems with older trailers, I don't know about newer then 15 years, that's all different.
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Old 11-20-2012, 09:51 PM   #6
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I have imported 2 new(er) Airstreams... one from Nevada to BC, and the other from California to BC. It is easy, and the tax man is only an issue if it is a dealer who may be required to collect for in-state purchase.

First - the issue of registration... you can get a 'drive-away' permit in California that allows the vehicle to be on the road. It is NOT insurance. If you are going to be in the US for 3 months, I don't think a permit will extend that long. In any case, part 2 of what you need is called a BINDER. It is insurance on the trailer, even though it is not 'registered' in Canada.

If the seller wants to leave his plate and insurance on it, that is up to them, but it is a large grey area if something happens and the trailer is sold to you, but insured by the old owner.

For 3 months, you may need to actually register it in the States and get proper insurance... you won't be able to register or insure it in Canada until you import it, pay the RIV fee, and have it inspected (no big deal for that).

For importing, any trailer can be brought to the border with no notice. They will Google, Craigslist, eBay your trailer to see what it is really worth. For my 2006, they found the actual ad for it, compared it to the bill of sale, and used that to confirm it was a legitimate transaction. Don't lie about it's value... they can fine you the entire value of the trailer.

If the title isn't 'clear' (no loans on it), you will need extra time down there for the bank to release the title to you... it can take a day or maybe even a week... When you get to Canada, they will take the title from you when you go to register it. Not a big deal here, but if you ever want to sell it back in the USA, getting the title 'perfected' is a major PITA. It can take months.

So - drive-away permit, insurance, title... away you go. You should pick a local AIrstream dealer to meet them at to do the transaction, and they can get you a permit right there. I got mine in Manteca and they helped out with everything... they will even store a trailer there for cheap while you make your way down.

Also... you can look at uShip if you want it moved by a hauler. Some good deals there and those guys know the ropes as well.
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Old 11-20-2012, 10:25 PM   #7
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I imported a 2005 Airstream from Vermont to Ontario back in September. It's pretty straight forward.

Keeping the trailer in the US for 3 months might be a little more difficult - you will need to talk to your insurance company.

I arranged insurance for the trailer before I went to pick it up. They don't require that the trailer be registered in Canada. But they want the registration sent quickly once the trailer is imported.

Trailers newer than 15 years need to go through the RIV process. For this, you need to fill out some paperwork at the boarder, and pay a fee of $195 + GST. You also require a letter from Airstream indicating that there are no outstanding recalls on the trailer. This letter was easy to obtain by phoning Airstream and providing the VIN.

When you are importing a motorized vehicle into Canada under the RIV program you need to send paperwork to US customer well in advance of arriving at the border. With a travel trailer this is not required - there is no need to deal with US custums on the return leg.

For temporary plates, in my case I went to the Vermont DMV and purchased an in-transit permit that was good for 30 days and cost $5. One of the true bargins in this whole deal. I needed the title and bill of sale.

If there is a lien on the trailer, then I understand in the US the lien holder might actually hold the title. If the seller has the title, then it should have any liens listed, and they should be signed off on the title as being cleared.

At the border you will pay the 5% GST. You can pay the RIV fee there, or pay later on line. You will get the RIV paperwork which will have the case numbers that you use on the RIV website to reference your case. The agent will walk out to the trailer to inspect the label that lists the GVWR and VIN.

Once home you will need to go to the RIV inspection station - Canadian Tire, to have the trailer 'inspected'. This is a takes all of 5 minutes for the service rep to record a few items from the VIN label and the tires. He will then fax the information into RIV, stamp your form, and then you are good to go get the trailer registered (and pay the PST).

A week or so later you will get a sticker in the mail that needs to be affixed to the trailer. It indicated that the trailer meets Canadian standards.

Note - I am having an issue right now where Ontario wants to know the empty weight of the trailer in order to register and provide me plates. The weight is not listed on the title. They want me to weigh the trailer - which unfortunately is already in storage for the winter. I'm still trying to find a document that will satisfy the government.

Hope this or PM any questions.
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Old 11-20-2012, 11:09 PM   #8
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California One Trip Permit

be a little careful using a California One Trip Permit if you're staying here in the states for three months before returning home.

the permit is nominally for the purpose of a single trip from Point A to Point B, within or without California. details here - 25.010 One Trip Permit (CVC §4003)

pay notice to the second bullet at the bottom of the page where it says "Forbidden Uses of the One Trip Permit." if you're going from California to Brantford, there's probably some flexibility in deciding what constitutes "the most direct route". there is no time limitation per se to the permit; it is good until you arrive at the destination you write on the permit card.

suffice it to say that we walked into a CA DMV office (September 2012, less than 60 days ago) with an appointment time, a seller signed CA title, an insurance ID card, and for $18 we walked out 15 minutes later with a blank One Trip Permit that you fill out yourself! we used that permit from the West Coast to the East Coast, 3000+ miles.

make an appointment ahead of time and avoid the long lines. see the CA DMV webpage.

all that said, if the seller leaves their tags on your trailer, ask them for the registration, too. we did. imho, having plates on a vehicle is less of an attraction than not having plates.

and, if no law enforcement officer asks you for your documentation along the way home, then most of this discussion is academic.
Joseph & Gabrielle

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Old 11-21-2012, 08:22 AM   #9
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Thanks everyone

Thanks for all the useful information. I'm sure it will be quite an adventure!
thanks all!

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