"In our search for a nice Bigfoot trailer we continue to find most in Canada and very few in the US. Research and inquiries to US Customs have given us these guidelines for importing a camp trailer for your own personal use. We have not been successful yet, so if you wish to add or correct this information, please feel free to do so.
What you will need:
- You will need a complete bill of sale from the Canadian owner.
- There is supposedly no import duty on a personal camp trailer, but if you are assessed duty, 2.5% appears to be the max rate. Write your bill of sale accordingly and remember that you can always take your trailer to another crossing or come back later or the next day... :)
- Your vehicle needs an EPA sticker (obviously lacking as there is no engine) and a US Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker, required if less than 25 years old. Although there is no exemption for trailers not having an EPA sticker which typically only is found on a motor vehicle with an engine, most Customs officers seem to have the good sense not to deny you for this reason. That said, you could happen upon the overzealous newbie.
- The DOT stickers are supposed to be on the forward half and driver's side of the vehicle in a visible location (not covered).
- How persnickety a Customs' agent gets if your sticker is "mostly there" or "legible but painted over" is hard to say. Assume the worst or write to them in advance to ask:
- If older than 25 years, US DOT sticker is not (supposed to be) required as it is considered an antique.
- If there is a month of manufacture, Customs will be calculating based on the month or day. "Almost 25 years old" will not get your new trailer into the US.
- A Canadian Department of Transportation sticker is not the same as a US DOT sticker and will not get your new trailer into the US.
- Being in Oregon, it was suggested to do the paperwork at a lesser check-point, Point Roberts where there is a campground on the US side (Lighthouse by the Bay RV Resort), to avoid using a busier border station. Even if you are oozing charm, it was inferred that Customs at Point Roberts might redirect us to a larger crossover point if we didn't have a specific and nearby destination in mind.
- If your trailer is newer than 25 years and without a US DOT sticker, there are two ways to import: 1) get a letter from the manufacturer stating that your trailer met the US DOT safety guidelines or 2) use a Registered Importer (RI) who, for a fee, will import, bond and make any safety modifications to your trailer that need to bring it into compliance.
On these last two manners of importing, the latter is not cost effective unless you have a trailer that was essentially given to you.
The former is best accomplished with the original Canadian owner obtaining a letter from the manufacturer stating that he is moving to the U.S. or needing the letter for some other plausible reason.
The positive for you is that the Canadian owner is doing the legwork and assumes the risk in getting that letter that you need. If the Canadian owner is not successful, you have no loss. The negative for you is that once the Canadian owner has the letter, he can sell in a broader market with more competition (higher prices). If you call the manufacturer, (Remember that you are not wanting to buy a new Bigfoot,) you will be at a disadvantage as you are neither an existing client nor a prospective customer.
There are no doubt many others like me who would like to get a Bigfoot, or another brand of trailer physically located in Canada. By now, you are thinking that, if there is no US DOT sticker, all you need to get is a manufacturer's letter.... NO PROBLEM! Unfortunately, the manufacturer Bigfoot recently went through a bankruptcy. I have heard from one Canadian Bigfoot owner that the newly reorganized company will not provide any letters on pre-bankruptcy trailers manufactured by the now defunct company. :(
Does the trailer you are looking at have a US DOT sticker? Does the Canadian owner already have a letter in hand from the current or former manufacturer? If you have further questions on the subject, you can do your own reading here: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/trade/basic_trade/importing_car.xml or contact Customs at this email address: BLAINE-OFOEXPORT@cbp.dhs.gov
If and when you score your dream Molded Fiberglass travel trailer, make sure that your insurance covers you, your tow vehicle and your prize while in Canada.