Forms, Inspections, ID, Oh My!: Registering a Vehicle in BC

Last month, we gave you tips on how to transfer ownership of a BC-registered vehicle, when you purchase a new or used vehicle.

But what about when you move to BC and bring a vehicle with you? Or when you purchase a vehicle from another province, or country?

It can get complicated. So, here’s what you need to know.

Canadian-Registered Vehicles

Most vehicles have to be registered within 30 days of purchase/import; however, vehicles used for commercial purposes must be registered immediately.

If you are bringing a vehicle to BC from somewhere else in Canada, you will need a few things in order to register it here:

  • Your ID.
    • If you have a BC Driver’s License, that is your primary identification (even if it has expired – provided it did not expire more than three years ago).
    • If you do not have a BC Driver’s License, Primary ID could be an Indian Status card, a BCID card, a Canadian passport or citizenship card, a Canadian birth certificate, or a student/work/visitor/temporary resident permit. To supplement the primary ID, bring a piece of secondary ID, such as bank or credit card, a Canadian or American driver’s license, a passport or Nexus card, a social insurance card, or a student/school ID card. (For a full list of acceptable primary and secondary ID, click here.)
  • If the vehicle is being registered in a company name, proof of legal entity is required.
  • The current vehicle registration, or New Vehicle Information Statement if it is a brand-new vehicle.
  • A passed vehicle inspection report from an approved facility (see exemptions below).
  • A signed and dated bill of sale if the vehicle is new to you and has not yet been registered in your name. This proves continuity of ownership of the vehicle.
  • Letter of Authorization for leased vehicles, proving that the leasing company has authorized the registration.
  • If the vehicle is from Nova Scotia, a Certificate of Title is required.

Foreign-Registered Vehicles

Once a foreign vehicle is imported to BC (for info on how to do that, check out the ICBC website and follow the links to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles and Canada Border Services Agency websites),  you need:

  • Proof of identification (as outlined above), and proof of legal entity if the vehicle will be registered in the name of a BC-registered company;
  • Proof of ownership, such as a certificate of title, or certificate of origin for brand new vehicle;
    • If proof of ownership is in a previous owner’s name, documents proving continuity of ownership are required, such as a bill of sale.
    • If the vehicle is leased, a letter of authorization permitting registration in BC is required.
  • Vehicle Import documents: a stamped Form 1; and a Casual Goods Accounting Document, or Canada Customs Coding Form, or a Personal effects Accounting Document.
    • If the vehicle is imported from Japan, the Form 1 must be accompanied by a Japanese Export Certificate and a certified English translation.
  • A passed safety exception, and, if the vehicle was salvage, or previously totaled, a structural integrity assessment must be passed before the BC vehicle safety inspection.

Note: American vehicles that sustained damage in floods cannot be registered or insured in BC. Make sure you know the history of your vehicle!

Safety Inspection Exemptions

Some vehicles are exempted from the BC safety inspection. To qualify for the exemption, the following criteria must be met:

  • The vehicle must be privately owned or leased (not owned by a company);
  • Passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, and motorhomes must weigh 3,500 kg or less;
  • The vehicle must have been registered in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba immediately before coming to BC;
  • The model year of the vehicle must be four years old (including the current year) or less;
  • The vehicle must not have a salvaged, rebuilt, or altered status;
  • The person applying for registration in BC must be the person who owned the vehicle in the jurisdiction it’s coming from; and
  • The vehicle owner must be a new or returning BC resident.

Brand-new vehicles, low-speed electric vehicles, motorcycles, and trailers are also exempt. Call your local ICBC auto insurance broker to confirm whether an inspection is needed for your new-to-BC vehicle.

Important: In all cases, to register a vehicle in BC, the vehicle must be present at the ICBC Autoplan broker’s office when it’s being registered. The ICBC broker will need to see the vehicle in-person before it can be registered, to check for any damage and confirm the VIN.

Students

Students enrolled at recognized educational institutions in BC do not have to register their vehicles while studying in BC.

Instead, an exemption permit can be obtained from ICBC’s Financial Responsibility Unit, so the vehicle can be driven in BC with the student’s home jurisdiction’s insurance.

Insurance for Imported Vehicles

Once your vehicle is registered in BC, it will need to be insured.

Mandatory insurance in BC includes $300,000 Accident Benefits, $200,000 Third Party Liability, $1,000,000 Underinsured Motorist Protection, and $200,000 Hit-and-Run coverage, but higher limits and additional coverages can be purchased.

When you have chosen the auto insurance coverages that work for you, you will be given license plates and a decal indicating your insurance expiry date. Once that sticker is on the plate, you are all set to drive in BC!