*Updated May 11, 2008*
Several people have asked me to write an FAQ detailing my recent experiences importing a new bike from the US, so here it goes.
My initial research came from this topic written by Tackle, however it was a little incomplete and dealt with a used bike, so here it goes....
When I wrote this FAQ, the Canadian dollar was somewhere between 85-90 cents US. Since then it's shot to, and above par. The OEMs have answered back with rebates, incentives and other pricing adjustments. As mentioned in this FAQ - DO YOUR HOMEWORK. It may or may NOT be worth your while to shop south of the border.
New or Used?
The FAQ below details importing a new motorcycle, however the steps involved are identical for importing a used vehicle.
Can I Import a bike from the US?
Yes... provided the bike you want to import is on the following list, it can be imported to Canada... If the bike is new there's a good chance it's switchable to metric etc and you wont need to make any mods to the bike at all for compliance.
Is there a downside to importing from the US?
Possibly... You may have difficulty trading your bike in at a local shop, or receiving service. Why? Because you didn't support your local economy, and local shops will take notice.
This is confusing - it seems like local dealers are out to get me
Local dealers in Canada are not out to get you. They're business men and women who have supported your riding habit for years, and now they're caught in the middle
Caught in the middle? How can the dealer be caught in the middle?
Remember... the dealer buys product from a wholesaler... Canadian dealers are in the tough position of often paying more WHOLESALE for their product than you can pay retail in the US for the same bike. They don't have a choice in the matter.
So if it isnt my dealer, then who's to blame for these high prices?
Well, I guess it's the Canadian and Japanese OEMs. They're setting the prices and telling you what you have to pay, whether you like it or not.
What can you do about this?
Tough call... importing a bike from the US sends a strong message to the OEMs that you dont want to play their price fixing game, but at the same time it alienates the dealer network that keeps this sport alive. It's almost a lose - lose situation.
Do I have to pay Duty Importing a bike?
No... ALL eligible bikes (see list) are duty free into Canada. All you have to pay is GST/PST and a $207 cdn registration fee (this is the only fee you have to pay and it also covers the inspection)
Why Would I Import a bike?
OEMs havent adjusted their Canadian pricing to reflect the stronger dollar. You could save thousands of dollars.
Will I have a warranty?
You'd have to check the specific policy of the OEM before you import. Each OEM has their own rules.
Can I Import a Used Bike?
Yes... however all of the same rules in this FAQ still apply. You'll still need to buy a bike that's on the approved vehicles list, and you'll still have to get yourself a recall clearance letter.
What State should I buy from?
As far as I could determine, there was no way to get a tax credit/rebate for a purchase from Washington State, so I went with Oregon since they have no tax at all.
Do I have to Export the bike first?
Yes... After you have chosen your bike from a dealership and have a deal on the table, follow the instructions for Export from the USA in the following PDFs:
PDFs MOVED TO END OF THIS POST!!! SCROLL DOWN FOR ATTACHMENTS!
It is IMPORTANT that you have ALL the paperwork in order to complete this transaction. You can NOT get the bike out of the USA without completing the paperwork properly.
Do I have to be there in person
No... you can do ALL the prep work by phone, fax, email and FEDEX, but you have to go to the border for the actual export.
What do I do next?
After you've worked with your dealer in the US to pick out the bike and you've had them fill out and submit ALL the papers the US Govt needs for export, FEDEX the dealer a bank draft in USD to pay for the bike. Make sure you get an invoice that breaks out the cost of the bike only separately from freight, pdi etc (this will be important later) The US govt mandates a 72 hour hold on the bike AFTER they've received the paperwork for export. 72 hours not including weekends or holidays Use this time to plan your trip down to pick it up. BEFORE YOU LEAVE, make sure you had confirmed via phone or email that the bike is released for export (see PDFs)
Read this site.... It's incomplete, but helpful
This part was very difficult for me to figure out. ICBC's customer service department and their managers were exceedingly rude and outright denied that they sold any coverage for importing a bike. Needless to say they were dead wrong. If you have a problem ask to be transferred to a person in "Special Coverages".
ICBC sells two different types of insurance for importation... The two policies are an APV 45 and an APV 38 . An APV 45 is the policy you need to bring a bike back in a trailer, and really it's the policy you need to buy. Even though it's labeled as a "storage policy", don't worry.. this is the correct policy to purchase and should be rated at 60% of the base rate according to special coverages (whatever that means). For about 10 days of coverage you'll only have to pay $30 and it'll cover you for comprehensive, collision etc in the event a crackhead takes your bike while you're in mid transaction. Note ** You CAN NOT ride the bike with this policy **
An APV 38 will allow you to ride the bike back, but you'll have to register it in the USA first and get a plate on it. No US plate, no insurance. A bit of the chicken n the egg thing here and the 45 is your better bet IMHO since the entire import process is 7 to 10 days. TO buy your insurance you'll need a copy of your sales contract with the model of the bike and the VIN
The Recall letter
The RIV website is actually wrong about this. You need one of two things... a printout of a screenshot of the dealer's internal dealer network system showing there are no recalls on your bike, OR a letter from the OEM. These are the only acceptable documents, no ifs ands or buts.
Though there is anecdotal evidence that suggests you may be able to bypass this step, RIV's official policy remains as stated above. There are also several cases of people getting stuck at this step because they did not complete it correctly.
Again, it is a hoop to jump through... and you are dealing with the Government. Make it easy on yourself, take the time to get the recall letter. For the grief you could save yourself down the line, it's time well spent.
What if there's a recall pending on the bike I'm buying?
If the bike you're purchasing has an outstanding recall in the USA, that recall needs to be completed by a dealer, and then a clearance letter issued from the OEM confirming that the recall is complete before you can register your new purchase.. this can add considerable time to the import process...
I'm lazy.... I don't want to trailer it
What? And miss a road trip? The USA is great... there are lots of options for shipping motorcycles... check out the AMA's website for links or you can try rolling the dice and going with someone random at uship.com . It's such a short drive picking the bike up yourself isn't that big a deal.
Okay... I have my insurance.. now what
After you have your insurance, a trailer or pickup truck or some other means of transport, paid for the bike and confirmed it's released for export, plan your trip... here's the catch: To complete the export you need to get a stamp from the Truck crossing, and the rubber stamp office is open 8-3:30pm mon-fri , no weekends, no holidays... You have to schedule your travel around this time... if you buy a bike in Portland, factor in 6 hours travel. If it's from somewhere farther like Bend, factor in 10 hours or so. If you miss the office hours you're screwed and they don't care. If you don't have the right paperwork, you're screwed and they don't care. When I was there a lady was trying to import a truck. She had incomplete paperwork and they told her to get her truck away from the border and that she'd have to walk back to Canada. They don't fool around.
I'm at the border... now what
Follow the instructions, park where they tell you to, get your stamp and then drive to the Canadian side. When you get to customs, declare the bike and you'll be sent inside. Hand over all the paperwork you need to supply and then wait. They'll be totally confused and not as fast as the US side. They're used to charging duty on bikes so it takes a while for them to wrap their heads around it. Be honest and answer all their questions truthfully.
Present them with your invoice for the bike. They will assess you GST on the cost of the bike only (why you needed it broken out)... they'll give you a form showing this and you'll need it later for ICBC. Make sure you pay for your inspection at this point and get a copy of the receipt.
What form of payment do they accept at the border
Visa, other credit cards and cash worked when I was there. I didn't check about Interac so I can't confirm that.
I'm back in Canuckistan... how do I ride my bike??
Not so fast, Stan... the RIV website neglects to mention that there's now a Canookian 72 hour hold period on your bike while they input your VIN into their system. The very first thing you should do when you get into the country is find a place with a fax machine and fax your FORM 1 (stamped at the border), your RECEIPT for your $207 reg fee and your recall letter to the folk at RIV... once you've done this you're in limbo... you can call them all you want, but it takes as long as it takes... Now's a good time to feel okay about the APV 45 and your 10 days of insurance.
Exclusively for recall service
Registrar of Imported Vehicles
Fax: (416) 626-0366
I'm tired of waiting
No kidding, but it's all worth it. Screw the 72 hours... after about 48 hours of waiting phone those guys at RIV and see if you're cleared for import. When they say you are get them to email you a PDF with the inspection form. Print out that form and head down to Cambodian Tire for your rubber stamp inspection. North Vancouver and Marine Drive appear to be familiar with this process. Call ahead so you don't waste your time. Load your bike into your trailer, head down to CT and get them to check the VIN, the running lights, reflectors etc and get your last rubber stamp.
Take ALL your papers to your autoplan agent ... it may be worth your time phoning ahead to an agent familiar with registering a foreign import vehicle. Buy some insurance and you're good to go...
A week or so later they send you a sticker in the mail. Stick it to your bike (just cuz they want you to). That's it!!
Was this worth it? Yes... it really is... It sounds like a lot of steps, but it's not. Organization and prep is the key. Knowing all of this ahead of time really helps. I wish I had known about the Canadian wait period ahead of time, as well as the confusion surrounding the APV forms.
Hope this helps someone out there!!
PDFs you'll need...
Blaine Information Packet
Blaine Export Worksheet
Blaine Status form