Vehicle branding history
It is important for you to research the background of the vehicle you intend to import. If a vehicle had previous damage substantial enough to result in an insurance write off, the insurer is legally required to report a vehicle “brand” to the U.S. state licensing authority. This brand becomes a permanent record on the vehicle’s U.S. title. Brands are carried forward from state to state. The Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) reports all U.S. brands on vehicles to all the provinces and territories through a system called the Interprovincial Records Exchange (IRE).
Depending on the type of U.S. brand, a province/territory may require a second, more rigorous, structural integrity inspection before issuing a license for the vehicle. Some U.S. brands are equivalent to the Canadian “non-repairable” status. Vehicles with a non-repairable status cannot be legally licensed in any jurisdiction in Canada.
RIV recommends that you obtain a complete title history for any vehicle you may consider importing.
What is a vehicle brand?
A brand is a permanent designation on a vehicle’s title indicating that the vehicle has previously sustained substantial damage through collision, natural disaster (flood, fire, hail, etc) or any other occurrence requiring repair.
In the United States, brands vary from state to state but generally align with equivalent Canadian brands (or vehicle status). Examples of Canadian brands include:
A vehicle that has never been written off or declared as a total loss.
A vehicle that has been written off or declared a total loss. It may be safely rebuilt and re-licensed provided it passes a structural integrity inspection administered through a provincial/territorial licensing body.
A vehicle that was previously titled as “salvage” but has now been repaired and has passed a structural integrity inspection. Subject to a successful provincial/territorial safety inspection, these vehicles qualify for licensing.
A vehicle that has sustained structural damage to the extent it cannot be rebuilt and safely put back on the road. Once designated as non-repairable, a vehicle can never be licensed in Canada, and can only be used for parts or scrap.
The brand record is associated with the vehicle identification number (VIN) and remains part of its permanent history. A vehicle’s status may change from “clear” to “salvage” to “rebuilt”, but each status will be part of the vehicle’s permanent record.
Are brands the same in Canada and the United States?
By sharing branding records, licensing jurisdictions across Canada and the United States work together to ensure that previously damaged vehicles are properly repaired before they can be licensed for the road. Similarly, they keep unsafe vehicles with major structural damage from being licensed for use anywhere in Canada.
U.S. jurisdictions have a greater variety of brands reported on title documents. Some issue a brand specific document while others annotate brands on their standard title documents.
Note: Please read the next sections carefully as they explain how a vehicle’s current brand and its complete branding history are processed and monitored at importation.
At the border
Canada Border Services Agency officers will record one of three possible Canadian brands (clear, salvage or rebuilt) on a Vehicle Import Form (Form-1) according to the U.S. brand or annotation found on the official title document. See table below for common Canadian – U.S. equivalencies.
For non-repairable brands or designations, the vehicle’s entry will be documented using the Vehicle Imported for Parts Form (Form-3).
Canadian brand to be recorded on Form-1 (except for non-repairable brands)
Common U.S. brands or
annotations found on U.S. titles
Clear, clean, normal, none, standard, original
Rebuilt, repaired, reconstructed, prior salvage, restored, reconditioned, damage/repair
(vehicle will have to comply with provincial/territorial programs to qualify once again for road use)
Salvage, salvageable, total loss, total insurance loss, write off, salvage/re-buildable
(most severe, cannot be licensed for road use ever again)
Entry is to be recorded on Form-3
Junk, scrap, parts, parts-only, dismantled, non-repairable, destroyed, irreparable and any brand with flood* or water damage* designation
When additional U.S. branding information such as: collision, fire, smoke, hail, stolen/recovered, lemon law buyback, manufacturer’s buyback or others is supplied on the title, they are not considered a brand re-assignment. In such instances where further annotations (or designations) are present, the brand on the document associated with the annotations will be reported on import forms as per the table above and a copy of the title will be forwarded to the RIV.
* Flood or water-damaged vehicles coming from the U.S. are considered junk/non-repairable by all licensing jurisdictions in Canada and can only be imported into Canada for scrap or parts via the RIV parts program by using a Vehicle Imported for Parts Form (Form-3).
If you have questions regarding a U.S. brand and the equivalent Canadian brand, please contact the provincial/territorial licensing jurisdiction where you intend to license the vehicle.
After vehicle entry
As part of the import process, RIV searches available electronic U.S. databases to determine what brand, if any, is associated with vehicles being imported into Canada. If a vehicle has a previous U.S. brand, this brand will be made available by RIV to all licensing jurisdictions in Canada through the IRE. A U.S. brand remains part of the vehicle’s permanent record and is one of the factors used by a jurisdiction when determining whether or not to license a vehicle. RIV does not brand or alter the existing brand of any vehicle; this authority lies with the provincial/territorial licensing jurisdictions.
Where more than one brand has been issued for a vehicle, the highest-risk or “worst case” will appear on the IRE. For example, if a vehicle’s history shows a “junk” brand in one state and a more recent “rebuilt” brand from another state, the “junk” brand will be displayed on the IRE with the equivalent Canadian vehicle status of non-repairable. Simply put: if the vehicle you intend to import has ever had a “junk”, “scrap”, “parts-only”, “dismantled” or similar type of brand at any time from a U.S. jurisdiction, it will have the equivalent Canadian status of non-repairable. Non-repairable status vehicles cannot be legally licensed in Canada and can only be imported as scrap or “parts-only”.
Licensing in Canada
If the vehicle you plan to import has a U.S. brand, you should contact your licensing jurisdiction before you import, to determine whether or not the vehicle can be licensed and if additional requirements apply.
Flood damaged vehicles
While it is possible to import a flood-damaged vehicle, its admission into Canada cannot be declared using a Vehicle Import Form (Form-1).
Licensing jurisdictions in Canada consider vehicles with a ”salvage/flood” brand or bearing a supplementary designation of “flood” or “water damage” as non-repairable. This also applies to vehicles where evidence of water damage is observed by a border service officer during inspection of a vehicle when presented for entry into Canada.
These vehicles cannot be licensed for road use anywhere in Canada and can only be imported into Canada for scrap or parts via the RIV parts program by declaring the vehicle’s entry using a Vehicle Imported for Parts Form (Form-3).
Disputing a U.S. brand
If you feel a brand was applied in error or you wish to try and change a brand status, contact the authority in the state that originally issued the brand. You must obtain written confirmation of the brand adjustment from the state and forward copies to both RIV and your provincial/territorial licensing jurisdiction for further consideration.
Title history searches
RIV recommends that importers conduct a complete title history search on a vehicle before purchase, in order to see all brands assigned to that vehicle by U.S. licensing jurisdictions.
The following companies provide title histories for a fee:
Note: RIV is not responsible for the web site content, services or results provided by companies offering these or similar services.