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The truth about bringing guitars in from the U.S.

8791 Views 46 Replies 25 Participants Last post by  elindso
This question was raised that we as Canadians do not have to pay duty on U.S. goods because of the Free Trade Agreement know the facts before you have anything shipped in from the U.S.
Fact Sheet
This document is also available in PDF (79 Kb)
May 2006

Visiting friends or relatives outside Canada? Proper planning can help ensure you have a worry-free cross-border trip. Whether you've been gone for only a few hours, or for several days, returning to Canada means a stop at a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) office. Here are a few tips to get you on your way.

Bring Identification
Make sure you carry the proper identification for yourself and any children travelling with you, including any documents the country you intend to visit requires, such as passports, birth certificates, and visas. Proper identification includes birth certificates, baptismal certificates, passports, citizenship cards, records of landing, permanent resident cards and certificates of Indian status. These will help prove your citizenship and residency when you return to Canada.

Travelling with Children
Our officers watch for missing children and may ask detailed questions about the children who are travelling with you. If you have legal custody of the child(ren) or if you share custody, have copies of relevant legal documents, such as custody rights. If you are not the custodial parent or not the parent or legal guardian of the child(ren), carry a letter of permission or authorization for you to have custody when entering Canada. A letter would also facilitate entry for any one parent travelling with their child(ren). This permission should contain contact telephone numbers for the parent or legal guardian. If you are travelling as part of a group of vehicles, be sure that you are in the same vehicle as your child(ren) when you arrive at the border.

Check Border Wait Times
Check our border wait times () for the latest waiting time of the border crossing along your route. Border wait times are updated every hour.

What can I bring back with me?
When you return to Canada, you may qualify for a personal exemption. Personal exemptions allow you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying the regular duties. If you have been outside Canada for:

24 hours or more, you can bring in CAN$50 worth of goods free of duty and tax;
48 hours or more, you can bring in CAN$200 worth of goods free of duty and tax;
7 days or more, you can bring in CAN$750 worth of goods free of duty and tax.
Alcohol and Tobacco - Restrictions apply to the amount of alcohol and tobacco you can bring into Canada under your exemption. If you have been outside Canada for at least 48 hours and are of legal age, you can bring in these amounts of alcohol and tobacco products free of duty and tax as part of your personal exemption:

Alcoholic beverages:

1.14 L (40 oz.) of liquor; or
1.5 L of wine; or
24 X 355 ml (12 oz.) containers of beer.
Tobacco products (all of the following):

200 cigarettes;
50 cigars or cigarillos;
200 tobacco sticks; and
200 g (7 oz.) of manufactured tobacco.
If you bring in more than the free allowance of alcohol or tobacco, you will be required to pay the applicable duties and taxes.

As of October 1, 2001, if you include cigarettes, tobacco sticks, or loose tobacco in your personal exemption allowance, only a partial exemption will apply. You will have to pay a minimum duty on these products unless they are marked "CANADA - DUTY PAID - DROIT ACQUITTÉ." You will find Canadian-made products sold at a duty-free shop marked this way. You can speed up your clearance by having your tobacco products available for inspection when you arrive.

What if I want to bring back more alcohol and tobacco?
Except for restricted items, you can bring back any amount of goods as long as you are willing to pay the duties and any provincial and territorial assessments that may apply.

Restricted items / Prohibited Items
Handguns and weapons like mace and pepper spray are prohibited from entering Canada. Also, some fruits, vegetables, meats and plants from other countries cannot be brought into Canada. Review our travellers’ frequently asked questions for more information.

What if I'm away for only a few hours?
If you don't qualify for a personal exemption, you can still bring back any amount of goods - except for restricted items - as long as you are willing to pay the duties and any provincial and territorial assessments that may apply.

Keep all your receipts handy
CBSA officers may ask you to show receipts for the goods you've purchased while out of the country. They may also ask to see your hotel receipts to verify the length of your stay outside Canada. Keeping these items all together and readily accessible will help to avoid unnecessary delays.

Make a full declaration
If you are not sure what to declare when you arrive in Canada, declare all items first and then discuss them with the officer.
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21 - 40 of 47 Posts
I've ordered a number of things from the US.

I ordered a shannon pedal, made in the US w/ no duty.

I got a pair of THD Yellow Jackets today, w/ no duty.

Set of Gotoh tuners, sent priority Fedex, got screwed on the doodie. :eek: Duty on those was almost as much as they cost.
I received my 2001 LP R9 this week from the US East Coast.

This is the second guitar I've brought in this year. In both cases I paid the extra $150 to get FedEx overnight. The shippers both knew how to pack a guitar. And they came through with no problems whatsoever. I also arranged to pick them up at the FedEx warehouse, so I don't have to risk them driving around in a truck for a day.

By buying in the US I saved some money, but more importantly both of these guitars would be very hard to find up here:
- 1960 Melody Maker singlecut, modded to 2 humbuckers
- Les Paul '59 reissue
Bonus on the LP was I bought from a very respected dealer, who gave me a tone report, idea on the neck size etc before I bought it, sight unseen.

I think, if you are buying a guitar that is more available up here, you are better off buying up here.
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The best deal I got was a 2003 Gibson Melody maker for $299 US. I didn' t get nailed for taxes or duty (US made) at the border, though I should have got nailed for taxes. So it was about $340 US with shipping. Those guitars are $750 at Long and Mcquade I believe.

The place I bought it from is a respected online used dealer, does full setups on anything he sells, and offers a 7 day return period.

You really just need to go by each sale. I personally look around Craiglist and local used sources before buying stuff from the States. But there (a) are some deals you just can't beat and (b) some stuff you just can't find.

The thing that is annoying is the used deals I find in the States are pretty common used gear prices there. They are realistic. The prices stores in Toronto charge are ridiculous and since I am near Toronto, those prices bleed over to here. I know the gear is more abundant in the States, but still the markups are ridiculous here.
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dwagar said:
I received my 2001 LP R9 this week from the US East Coast.

This is the second guitar I've brought in this year. In both cases I paid the extra $150 to get FedEx overnight. The shippers both knew how to pack a guitar. And they came through with no problems whatsoever. I also arranged to pick them up at the FedEx warehouse, so I don't have to risk them driving around in a truck for a day.

By buying in the US I saved some money, but more importantly both of these guitars would be very hard to find up here:
- 1960 Melody Maker singlecut, modded to 2 humbuckers
- Les Paul '59 reissue
Bonus on the LP was I bought from a very respected dealer, who gave me a tone report, idea on the neck size etc before I bought it, sight unseen.

I think, if you are buying a guitar that is more available up here, you are better off buying up here.

How do are you liking the R9?
SCREEM said:
How do are you liking the R9?
Thanks for asking, I am completely overwhelmed by what a great guitar it is, perfect, for me anyway. May not be someone else's cup of tea, but I've spent most of my playing years on LPs and this is my first historic. Love the neck, sounds just great, and its 8 3/4 lbs, nice weight for me.

I can see the other guitar cases getting dusty real soon.
dwagar said:
This is the second guitar I've brought in this year. In both cases I paid the extra $150 to get FedEx overnight. The shippers both knew how to pack a guitar. And they came through with no problems whatsoever. I also arranged to pick them up at the FedEx warehouse, so I don't have to risk them driving around in a truck for a day.
Curious about this method of shipping...did you have to pay brokerage fees on the overnight shipping? I've heard that you might as well go overnight or second day air on more expensive stuff because UPS/FedEx throws in the brokerage fees and it turns out to cost about the same amount as ground.
That's quite possible, I'll try to find the bill, but it worked out to roughly GST only. Of course, I might be getting another bill in the mail from FedEx.
I didn't look that close, since the guitar was significantly less in the USA than I could find in a store here, the GST was less too.
There was one time i got a set of tele pickups which cost $50 and i got charged another $50 when it came here, $35 of which is the brokage fee.

I always try to ask shipper to use USPS instead of UPS or Fedex, then again, I buy cheap guitars online side unseen. I'd never buy a Gibson Les Paul without trying it first though.

As much as i know i could save a bit buying from US, i'd get it from canada if it's available...
I just stumbled across this thing here from Canada Post. I noticed an eBay seller out of the States using it. If you use it, all the customs and fees are calculated prior to shipping. So you at least know what to expoect if anything. No surprises. It's called BorderFree

http://www.borderfree.com/en/consumers/index.jsp
I believe Teleplucker was correct in his post above - the $150 overnight shipping must include the brokerage fees, as I only paid GST on the Les Paul I imported.

There was a blurb on CBC News this week about how we're currently getting screwed on exchange rates. We're still paying prices based on old exchange rates. So I expect we'll see more importing until Canadian dealers get their act together.

As Silverkw mentioned, how do you buy something as expensive as a Les Paul without trying it? Never a good idea. You can either go with the best Ebay deal you can find, so you can safely resell it if it's a 'dog', or pay a bit more and buy through a trusted dealer.

I bought my LP through Marks Guitar Loft in New Hampshire. This guy has an exceptional reputation, so I had no worries. Mark will tell you about every single scratch on a guitar, play it and give you a tone report, etc.

I bought a 2001 '59 LP Reissue for $2950US. Add $150 for freight, and exchange at about 1.11, and you're under $3500 Cdn. The ONLY used one L&M had (well, it was actually back to Gibson for repair, so I'd also have to wait for it) was an '03 for $4500. So I saved about $1,000 (plus the GST on the difference, so closer to $1100). Mine was also previously owned by Mick Ralphs of Bad Company/Mott the Hoople - came with a letter of provinence (sp?). I didn't think he'd play a 'dog' - this guitar can be seen on his '02 Mott the Hoople tour.

And yes, it is a fantastic guitar. Absolutely the best I've ever owned.

I would always suggest you try out many guitars before you lay out a bunch of cash (as Silverkw recommends). But sometimes you simply cannot find the guitar you want (L&M Calgary doesn't even stock new ones, you'd have to order one - too expensive: $5895 VOS finish, the guy I talked to thought he could order a gloss finish for about $400 more if I wanted), or the savings importing are simply too big to ignore.
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dwagar said:
There was a blurb on CBC News this week about how we're currently getting screwed on exchange rates. We're still paying prices based on old exchange rates. So I expect we'll see more importing until Canadian dealers get their act together.
Nothing demonstrates like that Fender Products. The pricing on the MIM and MIA Fender guitars doesn't make any sense here when you compare it to US pricing.
I'm thinking of purchasing an amp head off ebay from someone in the states... what's the cheapest way to ship it to Canada? How much should I expect to pay in customs etc? It looks like if the sellers ships UPS/Fedex I should get the more expensive overnight since it includes brokerage fees? Thanks!
hey jane. i didn't read the whole thread, but in response to your questions... i do this all the time, but i live 5 minutes north of the border which helps alot. i buy my stuff, pay by paypal, and have it sent either to my p.o. box in sumas, wa or have it sent to a ups counter in sumas, wa. i then go over pick it up and bring it through myself. if made in the us or mexico, there is no duty and you just pay the taxes. if you have it brought through by a brokerage co. or ups, for example, you'll pay brokerage fees and the wait will be much longer. see if you can do the pick-up yourself, it works sweet. regards, al.
US shipping Gear

I've ordered two guitars and several necks from Warmoth and Ed Romans and have been fortunate to have had everthing arrive. Mail ordering is by far the cheapest route. Canadian retailers dont like us buying elsewhere but when you figure in the cost of travel especially if you dont live in a major metro centre, it makes a lot of sense. Havent tried an amp yet though........has anyone ordered large amps and how much was the shipping cost??
Ray
satim said:
This question was raised that we as Canadians do not have to pay duty on U.S. goods because of the Free Trade Agreement know the facts before you have anything shipped in from the U.S.
Fact Sheet
This document is also available in PDF (79 Kb)
May 2006

Visiting friends or relatives outside Canada? Proper planning can help ensure you have a worry-free cross-border trip. Whether you've been gone for only a few hours, or for several days, returning to Canada means a stop at a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) office. Here are a few tips to get you on your way.

Bring Identification
Make sure you carry the proper identification for yourself and any children travelling with you, including any documents the country you intend to visit requires, such as passports, birth certificates, and visas. Proper identification includes birth certificates, baptismal certificates, passports, citizenship cards, records of landing, permanent resident cards and certificates of Indian status. These will help prove your citizenship and residency when you return to Canada.

Travelling with Children
Our officers watch for missing children and may ask detailed questions about the children who are travelling with you. If you have legal custody of the child(ren) or if you share custody, have copies of relevant legal documents, such as custody rights. If you are not the custodial parent or not the parent or legal guardian of the child(ren), carry a letter of permission or authorization for you to have custody when entering Canada. A letter would also facilitate entry for any one parent travelling with their child(ren). This permission should contain contact telephone numbers for the parent or legal guardian. If you are travelling as part of a group of vehicles, be sure that you are in the same vehicle as your child(ren) when you arrive at the border.

Check Border Wait Times
Check our border wait times () for the latest waiting time of the border crossing along your route. Border wait times are updated every hour.

What can I bring back with me?
When you return to Canada, you may qualify for a personal exemption. Personal exemptions allow you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying the regular duties. If you have been outside Canada for:

24 hours or more, you can bring in CAN$50 worth of goods free of duty and tax;
48 hours or more, you can bring in CAN$200 worth of goods free of duty and tax;
7 days or more, you can bring in CAN$750 worth of goods free of duty and tax.
Alcohol and Tobacco - Restrictions apply to the amount of alcohol and tobacco you can bring into Canada under your exemption. If you have been outside Canada for at least 48 hours and are of legal age, you can bring in these amounts of alcohol and tobacco products free of duty and tax as part of your personal exemption:

Alcoholic beverages:

1.14 L (40 oz.) of liquor; or
1.5 L of wine; or
24 X 355 ml (12 oz.) containers of beer.
Tobacco products (all of the following):

200 cigarettes;
50 cigars or cigarillos;
200 tobacco sticks; and
200 g (7 oz.) of manufactured tobacco.
If you bring in more than the free allowance of alcohol or tobacco, you will be required to pay the applicable duties and taxes.

As of October 1, 2001, if you include cigarettes, tobacco sticks, or loose tobacco in your personal exemption allowance, only a partial exemption will apply. You will have to pay a minimum duty on these products unless they are marked "CANADA - DUTY PAID - DROIT ACQUITTÉ." You will find Canadian-made products sold at a duty-free shop marked this way. You can speed up your clearance by having your tobacco products available for inspection when you arrive.

What if I want to bring back more alcohol and tobacco?
Except for restricted items, you can bring back any amount of goods as long as you are willing to pay the duties and any provincial and territorial assessments that may apply.

Restricted items / Prohibited Items
Handguns and weapons like mace and pepper spray are prohibited from entering Canada. Also, some fruits, vegetables, meats and plants from other countries cannot be brought into Canada. Review our travellers’ frequently asked questions for more information.

What if I'm away for only a few hours?
If you don't qualify for a personal exemption, you can still bring back any amount of goods - except for restricted items - as long as you are willing to pay the duties and any provincial and territorial assessments that may apply.

Keep all your receipts handy
CBSA officers may ask you to show receipts for the goods you've purchased while out of the country. They may also ask to see your hotel receipts to verify the length of your stay outside Canada. Keeping these items all together and readily accessible will help to avoid unnecessary delays.

Make a full declaration
If you are not sure what to declare when you arrive in Canada, declare all items first and then discuss them with the officer.

Unless you're a registered Indian:wave:
You guys are depressing me. I am currently waiting for the FedEx bill on a German made guitar ordered thru the States. I got a feeling it's gonna be a whopper.
Well jazzalta One thing for sure...a NAFTA Certificate will not be able to save you from the applicable duty as it can only be applied to goods manufactured in the U.S.
Sorry.
Benee Wafers
jroberts said:
There is a big difference in the requirements and paperwork required for commercial importation vs. casual or non-commercial importation. Pretty much everything you have said applies to commercial importation only, which most people here will not be doing. For example, there is no $1,600 trigger for non-commercial importation, and the export documents do not have to be filled out by a manufacturer.

In short, importation for personal use is actually a lot simpler than you're making it out to be. A note to the average reader: Canadian retailers will always try to convince you that buying from the U.S. is very complicated and very costly. Why do they do this? Obviously, they have a vested interest in you buying locally. There are many reasons to buy locally rather from the big U.S. retailers, but high duties and complicated import procedures are almost never part of those reasons.
So for us “average people” (non-commercial importers), should we be providing a “certificate of origin” or some sort of Nafta document to a US retailer with our payment? (providing that we are buying a US made instrument).

FrogRick12 said:
... Apart from that, BUY CANADIAN! SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL RETAILER!:smilie_flagge17:
David, I agree with JRoberts on this. Believe me, aside from the convenience of seeing and trying the instrument at a local retailer, I am 100% for supporting Canadians. But there’s something quite wrong when for the same item, we Canadians have to pay hundreds of dollars more by buying from local retailers. What is it? Greed?

A guitar that retails at $1500.00 US can be bought for about $1200.00 US. But it retails at $1900.00 at a Canadian retailer and can be bought for $1900.00 no less. At $1200.00, the conversion to cdn dollars (x 1.12082 today as I write this) is $1344.98 cdn !! With USPS Air at about $41.00 US (about $46.00 cdn) for shipping, that’s about $1390.00 cdn. $1900.00 here in Canada plus 14% GST and PST, we’re at about $2166.00 cdn. $2166 minus $1390 is about $775.00 cdn dollars difference. If the US retailer makes a profit at $1200 (about $1350 cdn), then a Canadian retailer makes a profit at $1350 PLUS and extra $775 ??!?

When I’m looking to buy, I now check with US retailers first to see what is the best price that I can get it at. I usually find something much below retail. Then I send emails to local retailers asking them what their best price would be and (when and if I get a reply) they come back with this out of whack retail price as if to say “if you really want to buy from me, that is it”. Well I didn’t need to send you an email Mr Canadian Retailer, I already knew before emailing you what the retail price is. The extra cost combined with this attitude is unfortunately pushing me and many others to buy from the US.

I would love to see something happening with our Canadian retailers; even if I had to pay A FEW extra dollars, I would buy local. But as my example above, saving about $775 dollars (cdn), even if I get gouged at the border for a few hundred dollars, I still saved a whole bunch.
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support local

I too agree to support local business.... however I enquired to the local Washburn dealer in Kingston, about a particular guitar and never got a answer, so... I bought it from ebay, paid a whopping 8.65$ to the post office for handling and gst and got my guitar, for a couple hundred less than toronto, :confused-smiley-010 So if local folk won't take the time I will shop elsewhere
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