The U.S. imported almost 200,000 used vehicles from Canada in 2015, a 13-year high as the dive in the loonie spurred a cross-border rush for bargains.

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The U.S. imported almost 200,000 used vehicles from Canada in 2015, a 13-year high as the dive in the loonie spurred a cross-border rush for bargains.

“It’s price, price, price, price,” Dennis DesRosiers, president of Richmond Hill, Ontario-based DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, said in a telephone interview Thursday after issuing a report. “It starts to pick up when the dollar gets into the low 90s and it becomes an explosion as it gets into the low 80s, and even now, into the 70s.”

A 2013 Honda Civic four-door sedan, for example, has an average asking price of about C$14,902, or $10,370 in U.S. dollars, according to the Canadian Black Book website. The same vehicle would sell for an average price of about $12,328 in the U.S., according to the Kelley Blue Book website. The difference is about $1,958 per vehicle.

The Canadian dollar — or loonie, as it’s known for the image of the aquatic bird on the C$1 coin — fell about 16 percent in 2015. This year, the currency has weakened for 10 straight days against the U.S. dollar, the longest run of daily losses since the country ended its currency’s peg to the U.S. dollar in 1971 and let it trade freely.

The Canadian dollar is currently trading at about 70 U.S. cents, the lowest since 2003 when used vehicle exports to the U.S. were at their previous peak.

The market for these used vehicles is primarily made of up wholesalers, who purchase vehicles in Canada at a discount and resell them in the U.S., DesRosiers said. 

While there are expenses related to importing the vehicles, such as duties, and modifications that need to be made to make them roadworthy, the wholesalers are experts at the game and can turn a profit with the currency where it is, DesRosiers said. 

There are wholesalers out there who operate in this space and they’re very nimble,” he said. “They switch going each way, very quickly. It wasn’t that long ago we were importing 150,000 vehicles.”

The most common vehicles exported to the U.S. are light trucks and compact vehicles because they’re the cheapest to buy. When the currency is in Canada’s favor, it tends to be luxury vehicles that flow across the border, he said.

The vehicles are typically under 8 years old, he said.

The downside is that consumers don’t see much of a price discount because the savings go into the pockets of the wholesalers, he said. Most consumers don’t import vehicles themselves because of the regulatory burden, he noted.