Zappos Shipping Center By lizzielaroo [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC-BY-SA-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Zappos Fulfillment Center by lizzielaroo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

You've probably experienced the frustration of browsing an online shop, choosing the item your heart desires, and discovering at the checkout page that the site won't ship to Canada. This article will show you

Here are some of the largest American websites that won't ship across the border:

And that's just a few of the many American companies that won't ship to Canada. But it's worse than this as other websites have dedicated Canadian websites with selection greatly limited compared to their American counterparts. For example:

What would you say if I told you that you can ship to a US address and pick up your package at your leisure? Well you can. There are depots all along the US border which will let you ship to them so you can buy American products and bring them to Canada. Choosing the right one is usually as simple as discovering the location closest to you.

Best Border Shipping Services

Across Canada: Kinek

Boasting an impressive network of associated businesses all across the Canada-US border, Kinek works like U-Haul, leasing its services to a wide array of merchants. Their affiliates operate semi-independently, and have easy-to-navigate, self-explanatory web presences like Shipping to Buffalo and Shipping to Ogdensburg. Kinek covers the entire country, but is especially convenient for Ontario shippers. See their website for the individual depots.

Quebec: Freeport Forwarding

Just one hour from downtown Montreal, Freeport Shipping in Champlain, New York serves the Quebecois shipper's needs out of its large warehouse. Geared toward commercial customers as well as small-package one-offs, Champlain can serve you in either French or English.

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BC: Ship Happens

Washington State's largest network of border shippers serves the coast and the interior. Their popularity leads them to decline large items during busy seasons, so be sure to check first if you need trailer or palette space.

Near Abbotsford, BC:

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Near Osoyoos, BC:

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Prairies: Border Shipping Services

Dunseith, North Dakota's finest. They've got a great, straightforward website and tons of space – truck, RV and boat shipping is welcome.

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Maritimes: Package Depot

Don't forget the east – Calais, Maine serves New Brunswick and maritime shippers with its affordable and friendly services. 

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Border Depot Tips

We asked some of the shipping service providers on our list for some tips, and here's what they told us:

  • Don't forget about the border itself:
    • Sure, you've gotten around Zappos' Canada-snubbing website and your shoes are sitting in Dunseith, but you've got to declare those babies when you're coming back across the border. Plan to declare and pay if your item doesn't fit within the government's personal limits. Obviously if you're buying a boat, you're going to need to budget carefully and plan for extra time at the border to keep everything on the up-and-up. 
  • Don't forget to make sure that your item fits in the border depot you choose:
    • Not every shipper can handle that Ford F150. Call first! Our contact in New York says “you'd be surprised how many times we've had to decline enormous shipments because we just ran out of space. All it takes is a phone call, and you'll save yourself and us a massive headache.” 
  • Keep it legal:
    • “Every once in a while you get someone asking us to lie about the contents of a package, which we obviously won't do. I guess it's possible that firearms or drugs have come through here without us knowing, but I doubt that it happens very often. We're pretty thorough with our paperwork and inspections. We're not in the business of smuggling.” Smugglers: take your business elsewhere.
  • NAFTA Exemption:
    • ​If your goods are made in the US or Mexico you don't have to pay duty on them at the border. You will still have to pay tax (HST if you live in Ontario), however. Before placing your order try to get the seller to write "American made" on anything made in the US, which should make things easier when you cross back into Canada. This may be easier or more difficult, depending on the vender you are dealing with.
  • Know your state tax policies:
    • States such as New York do not tax vitamins, for example. It is worthwhile learning about which states have sales tax and which states tax what before you go. You need to remember that the government of Canada and your province charge sales tax on most items so you may be required to pay sales taxes anyway. Here is a list of items you don't have to pay tax on: "No tax applies to items specified as non-taxable importations. Examples of non-taxable importations are:
      • certain zero-rated goods (goods that are specifically taxed at 0% in Canada, such as prescription drugs);
      • medals, trophies, and other prizes won outside Canada in competition (but not saleable goods, such as an automobile);
      • tourist literature imported by governments or specified organizations for public distribution free of charge;
      • goods imported by a charity or public institution that have been donated to the charity or institution;
      • goods imported for the sole purpose of maintenance, overhaul, or repairs, if the title or use to those goods does not pass while they are in Canada, and the goods are exported as soon as the services are completed;
      • goods imported by manufacturing service companies where the goods are processed for non-residents and later exported without being used in Canada. Any parts to be used in or attached to, and materials directly consumed or expended in the processing of those goods, are also non-taxable. The manufacturing service companies must apply in writing for an import certificate to be able to import goods on a non-taxable basis;
      • warranty replacement property and replacement parts supplied by a non-resident at no charge other than for shipping and handling; and
      • goods valued at $20 or less sent to a person by mail or courierat an address in Canada, except for the following prescribed goods:
        • excisable goods (such as beer, tobacco, and wine);
        • books, newspapers, magazines, periodicals, or other similar publications, where the vendor was required to register for the GST/HST, but did not do so;
        • goods bought from a retailer in Canada and mailed or transported from outside Canada directly to the purchaser." (CRA Imported Goods Policy)
    • Here are two tools which will help you:
    • Tell the truth at the border:
      • It's not worth it to try to hide your purchases coming back through the border. In our experience, if you are honest, you may be waived through without having to pay taxes or duties, even if you exceed personal limits.
      • Note: Whether or not you pay taxes and duties is solely at the discretion of the border guard and you are legally required to pay taxes on any goods not on the above list and pay duties on many goods.

For more information on taxes and duties, see this guide to cross-border shopping.


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