Like many consumers, I am usually shocked at the price discrepancies between Canadian and American merchandise. I notice when shopping online I can find an identical item across the border for significantly less.
For example, a good set of winter tires would cost me $815 here in Canada. I can get the exact same set of tires for $620 (including shipping and taxes) in the United States.
The only issue is that the shipping costs to Canada are prohibitively expensive, and if I bought the tires from the United States they would cost just as much (if not more) when shipping to Canada is added.
The solution? Shipping outlets.
What is a Shipping Outlet?
A shipping outlet basically acts as a receiver of goods for Canadians who want to buy American items for a cheaper price but don’t have an American address to get the items shipped to.
They are usually small offices strategically located close to the Canadian/US border, making it easy for Canadians to pick up their goods without having to drive too far south into the US. They became popular with the rise of the Canadian dollar and although the dollar has gone down, it still might be cheaper to have goods shipped to a shipping outlet and pick them up yourself.
How It Works
The buyer uses the shipping outlet’s address when buying goods online (rather than their own Canadian address) and pays a fee when the item is picked up.
Most shipping outlets charge a flat fee for the items – regardless of size or weight. In my case, there is a shipping outlet 15 minutes south of the border that charges a flat fee of $4 for every item, regardless of the value/weight/dimensions. I have seen someone get a washer & dryer shipped there and pay only $8 ($4 per item). Shipping the item to Canada would likely have been hundreds of dollars.
If the buyer is simply going across the border to pick up an item and then heading back right away, they will likely have to pay duties at the border. In my experience this has been hit and miss – items that are valued at $100 or less usually aren’t charged duties, but items that are higher value usually are. If you spend 48 hours or more south of the border you are currently allowed to bring back $800 of goods duty-free (per person).
How to Save Money Using a Shipping Outlet
I bought a pair of runners on eBay from an American seller who only ships to American addresses. I used the shipping outlet address and picked up the shoes 2 weeks later when I was in the area on a shopping trip.
I paid a total of $112 CDN for the runners ($108 for the runners, $4 for the outlet pickup and free shipping). The same runners sell at a major retailer in Canada for $208.95 ($199 + 5% GST). Since I had been in the United States for more than 48 hours, my personal spending limit was $800 and was not a factor. If I had been in the US for less than 48 hours I would’ve had to pay duties on the shoes. Overall I saved 54% on my shoes.
Keep in mind that I didn’t account for the cost to get down there since I was already headed down there for a ‘mini vacation’. This would only be feasible for someone who lived relatively close to the US border with a shipping outlet nearby. However, I have heard of consumers who have saved hundreds by making large purchases using a shipping outlet that charges a flat fee.
Shipping Outlets Near You
– Blaine, Washington – Hagen’s of Blaine (for shoppers near Vancouver)
– Sweet Grass, Montana – Montana Shipping (for shoppers near Calgary/Edmonton)
– Pembina, North Dakota – Pembina Parcel (for shoppers near Winnipeg)
– Niagara Falls, New York – CBI USA (for shoppers near Toronto/Hamilton)
– Ogdensburg, New York – The UPS Store (for shoppers near Ottawa)
– Plattsburgh, New York – Plattsburgh Mail & Shipping Center (for shoppers near Montreal)
– Houlton, Maine – Shiretown Package Receiving (for shoppers near Saint John/Halifax)
- Click here for a duties and taxes estimator
- Click here to read a recent article about the flock of Canadian shoppers visiting the Ogdensburg, NY shipping outlet.
Conclusion: Shipping outlets are another option for Canadian shoppers who buy their good online. If you live close to a border you may want to consider using one. It might not save you money all the time as you have to factor in your time/fuel but can be worthwhile for some.
Has anyone used a shipping outlet recently?