This is one of the first things we had to worry about before trip ! And yes, no Road Trip without a vehicle ... For a moment we asked ourselves the question of importing our Volkswagen combi alias Toaster from France the time of the trip or from buy one on the spot, but it seemed to us more profitable in our case to take it directly there, among other things becausewe would surely keep it in the Americas thereafter. And more than three years later, we do not regret our choice at all.
So where are we started our research ?!
Well, you can imagine, we did not wait to be there to start looking at what you can find there and especially at what price.
Whatever type of vehicle or van, and your budget, here is where to look:
The site, the reference is Kijiji ! The equivalent of our "leboncoin". There are ads across Canada and can be sorted by province and region. Very convenient because remember, it's great Canada ... You can put the site in French by clicking on the icon FR at the top right. The site is clear and well donethere is even a built-in messenger to easily chat with the sellers.
Second site, LesPAC : Honestly, we hang a little less with this one. There is a few less ads here and often duplicates with Kijiji but some in Quebec swear by him. Then you can find nuggets too. Not to neglect so in your research.
Third "site", Facebook Marketplace : It is widely used across the Atlantic, it is through this that we found "Bob" our Pick Up that was not on any other site.
So much for the websites that we advise you to use.
Let's move on to serious things now! VWe think we have found THE VAN, THE PERFECT VEHICLE.
Yes but it's on paper ...
One of the first things to know is that unlike France, there is no mandatory technical inspection to make a sale in Quebec. In other provinces it's different, in Ontario for example you have to make one.
Unless you have to do business with a mechanic, difficult to know the exact state of the racing car before having seen it.
In other words, it is good to inquire before leaving but do not buy anything from a distance.
One of the points very (very) important to check here is rust! Winter is tough in Canada and the roads are hugely salty. If the vehicle drove in the winter, chances are it is more or less rusty. Well, when we talk about rust, there is rust ... and rust. We let you see that in image ...
So now you understand the problem better? And no, we didn't go far to take these photos, it's quite common, even for fairly recent vehicles. Fortunately, if you are looking for a fitted van, there is still a good chance that it was stored in winter and that'he did not put the wheels in the snow.
This is not an absolute rule but usually they are not used in winter and so there is less likely they will be attacked. Of course, the older the van, the greater the risk.
Convinced? The black dots are the wheel arches, the crates, the door sills and the steps. If the vehicle has been repainted, we advise you to watch more in depth and especially below, the chassis. It's quick to make misery cache and if you do not want to end up with a van that holds by the paint is better.
Search so rather priority ads that specify "Never rolled the winter"If nothing is noted, ask the seller about rust.
Well ! Let's move on to the next points. The fact that he is not there no mandatory technical inspection in Quebec means that there is rarely preventative maintenance That has been done. We don't want to generalize, but still a little... It's less obvious when it comes to a camper van since they are used to go on weekends or on vacation and therefore more pampered.
For example, it is common to see that only one damper has been changed! Basically, it was completely HS and the seller did not bother to change the latter ... Try to avoid this kind of ads. Generally it means that the periodic maintenance (emptying, filter change, etc ...), has not been done correctly.
Also watch out for ads with photos from “ten years ago”, or with pictures of another vehicle, etc… A good clue sometimes is when you see an ad with accessories that are present on one photo but not on the other, photos taken in winter while we are in summer, in short be attentive… Always ask for recent photos.
Some sellers are quite elusive about what has been done, what is to be done and they tend to “play down the issues” (here again do not generalize and we remind you that winters are not the same in Canada, nor are the road conditions, so the level of requirement is necessarily different). Again, of course, we are talking about our personal experience…
From there you will say: "Oops but there is not much choice then ?! ". Yes. Kind of, between rust and bad maintenance, hard to find the rare pearl. It sometimes takes fetch far. If you find a van whose owner has kept all the invoices, that's a good sign!
The much desired vehicle is not necessarily next door and when we buy we do not want to move for nothing especially when it is 300kms, believe us, we gave ... and not only once ... So follow these tips and you will already have less chance to move for nothing! In any case, NEVER buy a vehicle without seeing it! Do not even make a down payment to block the sale.
We give you these advice especially for Quebec and Canada. Of course as when you buy a car, anywhere in the world, do not neglect the road test and the classic inspection tour!
- Sometimes you will see ads where it says “Past/recent mechanical inspection”. And there you say to yourself, “but they just said that there was no technical control?! ". Good you followed! But there are exceptions. If this is the case, ask for the reason for the mechanical inspection and the report, which will allow you to more easily assess the general condition. A vehicle must pass an inspection, for example: if it has not been plated for more than a year (understand that it has not been driven, that it was stored), if it has been seriously damaged and repaired, if he is coming from another province.
- Often vendors practice first-come, first-served. Be careful to return a message or call before moving.
- Take a local phone number if you need to make calls. Sometimes we will not answer you by seeing your French number appear.
- Negotiate! Everything is negotiable. Sometimes if the seller does not want to lower the price (and it is justified by the state), you will most certainly be able to negotiate accessories (bicycle carrier, etc.).
We saw previously on which websites to get your van and especially the important points not to be overlooked.
In this part, we will now explain how to transfer ownership of a vehicle in Caribou country, and more precisely among our cousins in Quebec. And yes, we tell you again, each province has its own rules, so we'll talk to you about our experience in Quebec! But know that the approach is a few details, identical in other Canadian provinces.
We told you again and again, there is no mandatory technical control to make a sale or papers to fill (in Quebec). Once you have concluded the deal with an individual, you just have to go with the seller in an office of the "Société de l'Assurance Automobile du Québec" (be careful with the mandatory vehicle insurance) more commonly called the SAAQ in order to make the transfer of ownership. If the owner can not move, it exists a form of proxy available on the SAAQ website.
Once there, this is where it can get a little tougher if, like us, you are foreign residents with a tourist visa.
It is necessary specify to the person at the counter of to make a file of "non-resident" otherwise he / she can spend a moment looking for the right boxes, or tell you that it is impossible ... For that, it will be necessary to bring you your French and International driving license as well as your passport. Indeed, it is the address that appears on the latter which will be taken into account in the file. So be careful before leaving that your address is up to date otherwise it will cause you some problems later ...
If you want register a second owner (spouse, friend) this does not pose no problemit is also sufficient to point out that the address entered in the file will be that of the "main" owner.
Then you will be asked how much you bought the vehicle. This information is crucial for the SAAQ to calculate the tax you will pay (only once) the QST (around 10% of the total amount of the sale).
Unlike France where the price to make the registration is based on the number of tax horses and the department in which you live, here is the selling price that counts ...
So there, offers itself to you two possibilities if the vehicle is more than 10 years old: give the real selling price and pay the high price or grant you in advance with the seller for indicate a lower price and pay less tax, (but it's not good ;)). Still remain a bit consistent… If the vehicle is less than 10 years old, the tax will be calculated from the “red book”, a sort of Argus.
But, there is a but… if the vehicle is older than 25 (hello I just bought an old combi ...), an expert appraiser will be required otherwise it is impossible to transfer ownership ... (for having lived it believe us it's not funny, we lost 3 days because of that because the seller was not aware ...). Make sure the seller has this paper in his possession!
Once the file is completed, the person the SAAQ will also ask you to pay the annual fee: the payment of the plaque.
And yes, every vehicle traveling in Canada must pay for it (the equivalent of our old sticker for those who remember it). It is payable on January 1st for the coming year and each year.
Of course, at the time of purchase you will pay pro rata of the remaining months for the current year.
This may seem exaggerated at first, but it includes some sort of liability insurance.
Attention, plan some liquid (cash as they say here) because French bank cards are not accepted!
You will find all the information and prices on this link.
In short, after having spent a little more time than generally because you have an address abroad (bah yes, it's not every day that it happens in the offices of the SAAQ), that you are relieved of several hundred dollars (fortunately Canadians, it hurts less), we will give you your papers directly for the current year and especially the famous license plate (only one to put at the back). With a little luck you will even have the right to choose between the few signs available at the counter where you are 🙂
If you have a work visa, a work permit, etc. the procedures will be almost the same except that you will then be able to make a standard file like any Quebecer since you are supposed to have an address on the spot and to have exchanged your permit for a provincial license.
Know that you will receive each year the request for payment of the tax in France. So if you are out of Quebec at the beginning of the year, make sure to open your mail to have the necessary information to pay online. If you are in Quebec, you can go to the SAAQ office of your choice for pay the tax directly and have your new certificate.
Here, you are the proud owner of a vehicle in Quebec! Good road ! Do not forget the insurance, but that's another story:
Know that in Canada you can store your vehicle (they usually do it for the winter period). If you do not use it for an extended period, you can go to the SAAQ website to report it. You will then be refunded part of the annual tax since you will not ride. Attention, once again the refund will be sent to the address of the file by check and of course in Canadian dollars! It's also the same principle for insurance. Be careful though, if you store your vehicle for more than a year with the SAAQ, you will have to do a "mechanical inspection" (technical inspection) to put it back into circulation (about 120 $ CA). Be careful not to exceed the date, even to de-discount (and pay the annual fee) and then re-store (and be refunded the annual fee), to avoid wasting time and especially money ...
Here is the link if you need to store your vehicle or if you want more info.
EDIT: As we post this article we also bought our new house on wheels: the Airstream. If you read the article of presentation, you already know that we have it recovered in Ontario. We will explain to you steps to follow when we buy a vehicle in another province of Canada and that we wish register it in Quebec :
After concluding the deal with the seller he will have to ask him to you make a bill of sale with the date, the serial number and the amount where you buy the vehicle.
It will then imperative to go with him to an office in the province in question. Over there at the licensing office, you will explain (with your finest English of the coup, or if the seller and friendly it will do it for you), that you will have the vehicle plated in Quebec. The person in the office will then record the request and make a transfer file with a temporary registration.
In Ontario, you will pay this approach around $ 20 CAD. That's it for here, you're going to have a temporary plate (usually 10 days), which will allow you to return to Quebec. In these ten days, you are going to have to do do a mechanical inspection of the vehicle (CA $ 120 even if it's a trailer like us). Just make an appointment at an approved center and go there on D-Day. If everything is ok, you will have your sesame, otherwise you will have to carry out the repairs requested and go back to the inspection. Why this inspection? Because even if you are in Canada, it is as if the vehicle was imported even if it is from one province to another…
Once this famous inspection in your pocket you can go to the SAAQ with all documents (temporary plate, transfer paper from previous province, mechanical inspection, passport, driver's license) and the approach will be the same as before ...
We will tell you a little later how did the search for "Popo" go for us. You will laugh well!
Thank you for all those informations ! Everything is clear and well explained, I think it will help more than one ?
My pleasure ! Thanks for the feedback, it's not always easy to explain the intricacies of the administration 😉 We're glad it's clear then!
Congratulations Joana and Eric for your site. After endless research, I have finally found THE essential site for preparing for our trip to North America. Like you, we want to buy a Volkswagen Westfalia motorhome in Canada to travel in North America for several years. Like you, we want to be able to store the vehicle (for periods of one to several months in our case). Your vehicle purchase and insurance information is complete, clear and up-to-date. It's a mine of information! Cheer !!! There is no more…
Besides, your site seems really nice and the photos beautiful (I haven't had time to discover it yet).
Thank you for sharing all this information and good luck ...
Thank you Erik for all these compliments! The blog is very young, there are not yet a lot of articles but to read you we say to ourselves that we are on the right track! More than just a travel blog, we would like to share as much practical information as possible for future travelers like you, we are planning lots of articles like this! If you have any specific questions, don't hesitate to send us an email, we will be happy to answer them. For storage, you'll see there are some everywhere in North America, it's very easy and not very expensive 😉 Thank you again for taking the time to write these lines!
Thank you for all this information which will be very useful to me once there 🙂
I just had a question if you don't mind, what was the model and price of your van? Was it furnished?
Thank you for your reply,
Hi Elodie, this is a Volkswagen T3 (called Vanagon in North America) with original Westfalia upholstery. We paid 10.000$CA for it 4 years ago, today and with its restoration and what we did to it it is worth more than double. We let you discover it on this other article 🙂: https://www.desfenetressurlemonde.com/presentation-van/
Hello Joana & Eric!
First of all congratulations for your blog, your superb photos and your very valuable advice!
My girlfriend and I are leaving in April to travel by van between Canada and the United States, and your articles help us a lot to prepare for the administrative procedures in particular.
However, we have a question about the purchase of the van on site (which we want to do): how did you organize yourself for the necessary money (purchase, SAAQ tax, registration, insurance, etc.)? This can represent a large sum at the start of the trip, difficult to withdraw in cash according to the withdrawal limits of French banks… How did you pay for all these expenses?
We appreciate your experience and any good advice on this! Thanks in advance.
Gladys & Matt
Thank you Gladys & Matt, it's adorable!
Great project! We are not going to say the opposite 🙂
To pay for the van we had to ask our bank (BNP Net Agency) to exceptionally raise the limit for withdrawals abroad. We were then able to withdraw at a counter (as long as ScotiaBank is a partner bank, so no fees). At the counter we are generally limited to 1000$ per withdrawal so you have to do this in several times.
At the SAAQ you have to pay in cash, foreign bank cards do not work!
And for insurance, on the other hand, it's by bank card over the phone.
You know everything !
Super thank you for all these details !!
At the beginning of your story, you say that you had asked yourself the question of importing your van.
That's what I would consider doing.
What made you change your mind?
The little information I have gleaned so far (I am at the preliminary project stage…) suggests a transit for around 4000 €. But I imagine that the customs formalities are restrictive and that is why the first destination would be Quebec in order to better understand what we are being asked to do.
In any case, well done for your blog and all this very useful info.
Hi and thank you for your message 🙂
What made us change our minds is actually several things: the first is that our T2 is not fitted out from the outset and we didn't want to distort it for the trip. The second is that we were already planning to spend more than a year in the USA and that the temporary importation of a European vehicle is only valid for one year in the country, being stuck in America we have no not this limit. And the last is that as long as it was, it saved us transportation…
That being said, we advise you to get a quote from SeaBridge, which is the reference in the transport of vans/camping cars/4×4 by cargo. For a combi we are around 4000€ for the round trip indeed. A little less memory, it's the volume that counts so it can vary depending on the model. The formalities on arrival are quite simple, SeaBridge will be able to give them to you in detail, nothing very complicated even in English since you will arrive in Halifax in Nova Scotia (with a little luck you will come across a customs officer who speaks French).
Do not hesitate if you've got other questions !