Cross Border Kayak Purchase

What to expect/ required at the border, when a US citizen buys a used kayak in Canada and brings it back to the US

The boat was made in North America

It should have a sticker somewhere on it

There is no duty on NAm made boats

The bill of sale can be handy

Check your state for additional requirements

I’ve never had to pay tax on boats at the border US bound but it is worth checking if your state has additional requirements. It sucks to have to provide a chain of ownership later if you have to title it

I’ve bought all my CDN boats from dealers

previous discussion
There was a thread on this a couple of years ago.

Base on my experience crossing the border, you need to have a receipt with the price on it, signed by the seller. And it really does depend on the customs agent. 40 years ago we bought a “blem” fiberglass canoe from a small builder outside of Toronto, which we dutifully declared at full value when we crossed the border at Niagara Falls. We should have been required to pay a duty on it BUT we ended up caught in a 4 hour clusterf**k when an overzealous young US customs agent decided one of our party looked “suspicious” (he had a beard and ponytail, though he was the straightest arrow in the group, a vegan teetotaler). He insisted we all step out of the car (a vintage Jaguar touring sedan that said vegan had bought a few weeks before the trip) and he began searching the corners of the floor of the vehicle like he’d lost a contact lens – within minutes he emerged triumphant and declared we would be detained for “transport of controlled substance”: he had allegedly found a single cannabis seed in the carpet under the front seed. We were strip searched and harassed and the agents also claimed that the contents of a bottle of prescription antihistamines one of the party was carrying were actually amphetamines. While we were being browbeaten, a team of agents was tearing apart the interior of the Jaguar. We were genuinely terrified.

Then the border office supervisor showed up (he had been away at a meeting) and questioned the agents as to why 4 citizens had been made to sit on separated chairs in public behind the customs counter (by then one of the women in our group was openly weeping.) I was nearest his office and could hear him reaming his employees out – evidently they had failed to check the “false positives” list on the new drug testing kit they had used on the allergy meds and had failed to find any “evidence” in 4 hours other than the single supposed cannabis seed.

The supervisor then apologized to us and told us we were free to go. When we asked about the duties on the canoe, he looked at our “green form” and then tore it up. The agents had done considerable damage to the Jaguar by prying off dash and door panels but we were relieved to just get out of there.

I also declared a backpack I had bought new in Alberta while up there on a mountaineering trip when I crossed over into Montana. The agent asked if I had used it while I was up there and I said yes. “No duty then” he said (honestly I think he just did not feel like doing any paperwork.)

Even reading the current guidelines on the customs website it isn’t clear how they handle used gear, especially if the product is NOT manufactured in Canada or the USA. I think all you can do is be sure you have solid paperwork declaring when and where you bought the boat. Or just don’t bother declaring it at all. I’ve crossed the border numerous times in both directions with canoes or kayaks on my vehicle and no agent has ever asked me about the boat’s provenance or required any documentation on it. But then all my boats obviously have some miles on them.

that would be a crazy story if

– Last Updated: Oct-13-16 12:10 PM EST –

I hadn't already heard many similar stories. Still awful though.

…that is a tale of woe to be sure. It sucks to have idiots damage a nice old car for no reason. I had my car fully searched on the shoulder of the NJ turnpike based on suspicious ‘vegetable matter’ in sight on the floor mats, aka pine needles. It was quite a yard sale with a week’s camping equipment piled up.

I’ve driven into Canada a couple of times with boats on the roof. Coming back to the US, we were not questioned about them. How would an agent know whether I took them north or bought them up there? One of the boats is even a Canadian-made CD. It never occurred to me I might have to prove they were mine when returning.

I would buy the boat in Canada, take some pictures of myself paddling up there and bring it back. I doubt there would be a question, but I suppose I would make sure to have a receipt of some sort.

I really think there will be no boat
related issues.

I go to Canada some four to six times a year. Usually with a boat on the roof. Sometimes its for sale sometimes its bought My state does not require proof of purchase…not titled nor taxed nor registered must it be

Much of my paddling is in Canada… not surprising. Ottawa is pretty close.

I am on a frequent flyer program.Not a NEXUS card but with some 500 crossings over 50 years( we used to live on the border) I am pretty predictable in their computer system.

Things are way more complicated for a Canadian buying a US boat and taking it across the border. The tax man plays a big role.

Pre 9-11
was returning to the U.S. from a concert in SS Marie. No problem leaving Canada but U.S. Customs took one look into my vehicle and ordered us out of the car and into their holding pen (office). They then searched luggage and every nook and cranny of my vehicle for close to an hour before allowing us to proceed with no explanation.

What was most alarming was the agents were told a case in the back contained an oboe and English horn - instruments valued at around $15,000. They refused an offer to open the case for examination nor would they allow it to be brought inside. I think they suspected we were gunrunners.

It shouldn’t be an issue
As with the TSA at airports, volunteering information at the border can cause more problems than it solves. Just let them do their job and only provide the information they ask for, nothing more. Be polite and honest and you should be fine.

We have had our vehicle and belongings searched by Canadian customs on trips to Quebec, but like most Canadians, they are incredibly polite and we were actually allowed to stand by the vehicle while they went through it. It was a slow time of the day and we suspect that it was basically a training exercise and something for them to do, rather than any real concern on their part.

US Customs can be a major PITA and stories of them getting completely out of control abound. I witnessed them mercilessly harass an Israeli engineer I worked with and impound $10,000 worth of tools and test equipment for no reason. Fortunately, we haven’t had any issues in our cross-border travels, but I suspect that it has a lot to due with being “of a certain age” and the fact that we tend to declare every little purchase, some of which make the agents chuckle.

They know
No idea about buying a boat up in Canada BUT paddle in Canada often living in Buffalo NY. Sometime paddle over to Canada.BUT when crossing the border from US to Canada my bet is Canadian customs makes a note of whats on the roof of your car. So when you come back with say an extra boat the US customs guys knows about it as iam pretty sure they share info between US and Canadian customs such as when you tell the Canadian Customs guy why your coming to Canada so when you return to US they expect the same reason. BUT hey maybe iam wrong and US and Canadian customs don’t share info, I don’t know for sure but it would make sense to do so.