I’m tailoring these instructions for people importing motorcycles, but the same steps will almost all apply to importing any other vehicle so if you’re importing a car feel free to read on.  The potential for saving money is good, particularly when the Canadian dollar is strong.  As an Alberta resident, I have imported a new 2007 Ducati 1098 in 2007 from Oregon into Alberta via an Alberta border crossing, and imported a used 2008 Honda CBR1000RR in spring of 2011 from Washington into Alberta through a BC border crossing.  I touch on some of the implications of being a resident of different provinces – you may be charged US sales tax if you are a BC resident for example (unless you buy from a sales-tax free state), or if your province has HST or PST you will have to pay those when crossing which is higher than just GST if you are an Alberta resident.  On each occasion $3000 was saved after all was said and done.  For a little effort and about 2 days of traveling and having a bit of an adventure, I think it is worth it.  Even if I wasn’t buying a motorcycle, the trip itself would have been worth it. I love road trips!  You can either fly down to the USA to get the bike and ride it back using temp registration that the dealership can help you obtain, or you can drive down there in a truck or with a trailer to bring the bike back.  Personally I attached a trailer hitch to my Acura Integra (~$200), and borrowed a very light weight motorcycle trailer from a friend.  Read on for all the steps required to import.


SHORT ANSWER:
To import a motorcycle to Canada from USA from time of purchase to time you can ride in Canada will require a little paperwork, due dilligence on your part to make sure paperwork is being processed correctly and on time, a trip to get your bike and then registering your bike in Canada.  The time from purchase to final registration can be as fast as 1 week, or as long as 2 or 3 weeks worst case scenario. You will have to agree to buy the bike up front from a seller over the phone or by email, make sure there are no liens and that all safety recalls have been cleared on the bike, buy it via wire transfer or bank draft, then have the appropriate paperwork faxed to a border crossing, have a 72 hour wait, you call the border to make sure your paperwork is cleared, you can arrange for insurance on your motorcycle before you go, then you make a trip to the USA to get the motorcycle and take it back, the dealer can give you some temporary registration for riding in the USA optionally, there’s some paperwork that you present and fill out at the border, you pay the sales tax of your province of residence (HST, PST or GST depending on where you live) and a $200 fee for inspection by Canadian Tire. If you are buying from Washington and you live in BC they may also charge you Washington sales tax if buying from a dealership.  Once in Canada you will fax a form to RIV Canada, wait about a week or less, get a form back,  arrange to get the motorcycle inspected by Canadian Tire and get that done, then go and register the bike.

STEP-BY-STEP LONG ANSWER:
Transport Canada’s website directs people to look at the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) website for the procedure.  You should read this too just to double check everything, procedures might have changed since 2011, but below I will give more detail and tips from an experience standpoint.

1. Check that the vehicle you want to import is on the RIV Admissibility list.  The PDF list link seems to work best on this website.  If it is not on the list, you will probably not be able to import it.  Section 8 on the list is for motorcycles.  Also check how to convert the speedometer to metric (Kph), you’ll want to make sure you can do this before the Canadian Tire RIV inspection.  All vehicles on this list should likely have this ability, on bikes it’s usually a button combination you push on the handlebars or HUD menus.  For example, hold button A while turning ignition key, navigate menus with buttons A and B, select CAN … etc. Note, that I have found that at the Canadian Tire inspections I’ve witnessed, the inspector is lazy and never checked the speedometer. So if you don’t switch it, I wouldn’t worry about it.

2. You will be exempt from duty fees at the border if you buy a motorcycle that is “assembled in the USA” or built in the USA, and maximize your savings.  Surprisingly, I am finding that most if not all Japanese and Italian motorcycles are assembled in the USA such as Ducati and Honda, so they are exempt.  Also it will be in your best interest to buy from a US state that has no sales taxes and is ideally close to Canada, distance wise.  Oregon, Montana, New Hampshire, Alaska and Delaware are the ones, last time I checked.  I have had good success with Oregon.  Interestingly, I purchased the CBR1000RR from a dealer in Washington, and even though Washington has a sales tax, they did NOT CHARGE ME it.  So if you want to buy from a state that has sales tax you may just be able to get away without paying any.  You should phone the dealership you are buying from to confirm.  If you are lucky and reside in a province that has only GST and no HST or PST, you will pay just the GST.  If you live in a province with HST or PST you have to pay those when crossing the border.  Details can be found in the FAQ section at the RIV website here.  There is one last thing to be careful of.  If you are importing from Washington into BC (or perhaps other states as well), the dealership may be required to charge you an extra fee on top of your purchase price, I believe they are required to charge you Washington sales tax.  I’m not 100% sure of the details, you should phone the dealer to find out.  I do know, that if you import from Washington into Alberta that you do NOT have to pay their sales tax.  I advise that you call up the dealership you are buying from and ask them if there are additional taxes or tax exemptions based on which province you reside in.   I have heard that residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are all exempt from paying Washington sales tax.  In my case, crossing at Eastport/Kingsgate (BC crossing), and being a resident of Alberta, and purchasing a bike from Washington, I did not have to pay Washington sales tax because I am a resident of Alberta, and I did not have to pay HST even though I used a BC border crossing, I only paid GST and the RIV fee being an Alberta resident.

3. Research and buy.  Generally I trust dealerships in the USA rather than buying from a private seller.  If the bike is used, ask for the VIN number from the dealership and run history check on the VIN, it costs about $30 through sites like AutoCheck or CARFAX.  You want to make sure it has a clean history, or know about any accidents that the bike might have been in.  The reason is dealerships you can do a background check really easy and see them on Google Street View, get their address and phone number.  So it would be difficult for a dealership to steal your money and not give you a motorcycle.  On the other hand, a private sale is more risky because somebody could be posting a motorcycle up as a scam artist.  So I advise people buy from dealerships, new or used for this reason.  I have had good success finding used motorcycles sold by dealerships through Cycle Trader website, which is very similar to Auto Trader.  Make sure the dealer shows you lots of photos of the bike, and tells you everything about it, like damage, mileage etc.  Generally I’ve found that negotiation on price isn’t really effective when buying from a dealer in the USA, unless that dealer is going to have a really tough time selling a particular bike.  If there is a high demand, even be prepared to pay additional freight and PDI fees.  A wire transfer of the money through your bank, or sending the dealer a bank draft or money order are the most common ways to send the money.  I have done both, and I recommend that you just send a money order in US funds to the dealer.  I had some issues with my wire transfer, and wire transfers are prone to failure, and the number of days for a wire transfer to get through is about the same number of days sending an envelope 2-3 days delivery.  Also wire transfers cost MORE to send than a money order!  I think a wire transfer fee is about $30, but it only costs about $8 for a money order and perhaps $10 for fast mail service.  So I highly recommend you just send a money order to the dealer, you’ll save time, money, and complication.  Also check and see what your bank is charging for the percentage fee they are taking over and above the US->CAD conversion rate.  I found that anything less than 2% is normal, ideally you should see if they will do 1.5% or better but that’s probably out of your control.  Also might be worth trying to buy the motorcycle with a credit card with cash-back rewards.  I have not been able to do this as of yet because I think most dealerships don’t allow credit cards for such large purchases due to large fees they would have to pay to MasterCard/Visa etc, but with some credit cards that take 2.5% commission , a 1% cash back rewards card would end up only taking 1.5% which is probably 0.5% better than your local bank’s conversion rate when making out the money order.  If you use a credit card find out exactly what cut they take on foreign exchange.  The best credit cards take 2.5%, the worst I have seen as high as 4% which is unacceptable.  CapitalOne MasterCard and most VISA cards tend to have 2.5%.

4. Select which border crossing you will want to cross at.  Be sure that this crossing will be open for import/exports at the time and day you expect to cross.  You should call them up to make sure.  RIV Canada’s website gives you the contact numbers here.  Also instead of using the internet, you should call up the US side of the border crossing you want to import your vehicle through, and ask them for the fax number that you will fax the “Worksheet” to 72 hours (working days) in advance prior to export.  The fax number likely will NOT be the fax number for that border crossing.  For example last time I crossed through Sweetgrass, I had to first fax my paperwork to Whitlash crossing 72 hours in advance.

5. Paperwork:  72 hours working days in advance, you will fax a “Worksheet”, a bill of sale (BOTH SIDES with signiture of release on the back), or if the motorcycle is brand new you will fax a Certificate of Origin (both sides).   I have provided this worksheet hosted on my website because I had difficulty and could not find it on the CBP website today, I advise that you call up the border and ask them to fax you the most current worksheet just in case it has changed, this one is from 2007.  You will need these sent to you from the dealership.  Do not trust the dealership to properly do your paperwork.  I learned this the hard way, if they forget to fax BOTH SIDES of the bill of sale, or title, along with a PROPERLY filled out “worksheet”, this is bad news and could cost you up to 3 more days of waiting with a bike on your trailer, in the USA.  It happened to me, but I was lucky it was cleared up in just 1 extra day.  It is also difficult to call up and find out if your paperwork was complete or not, so get it right the first time.  While you’re at it, you should get some recall clearance.  You can get it in one of 3 ways.  1. Get the dealership to send you a formal letter with company letterhead and signed or stamped, stating that the motorcycle is free from all factory safety recalls and that all recall work has been performed on the bike.  OR   2.  Instead of the letter, just have the dealer provide you with a printout from the motorcycle manufacturer service computer system that states all recall work has been completed, this is a database screen shot showing the VIN number, make, model, recall clearance, and work done YES or NO and it is one page long.  If the dealer does not want to give you this, most authorized motorcycle repair shops will be happy to email you a screen shot from their database for free.  You will not need this until AFTER you get back into Canada but it’s best to get it as soon as you can.

6. See if you can get insurance on the motorcycle before it gets into Canada, for the Canadian side. You don’t actually need any insurance if you are not riding the bike back, they do not check it when you cross the border, the only reasons you might want insurance is if you are riding it for any period of time on the way back or if you are concerned of theft or damage when you are brining it back.  I’ve had great success with State Farm.  With a clean record they also have excellent insurance rates, however they require you to have your car insured through them which can be expensive.  Also inquire with the dealer if they can set you up with temporary registration for riding the motorcycle while you’re in the USA, particularly if you’re riding it back.  Contact the DMV directly to get the temp registration if the dealer will not help you.

7. After 72 hours on working days, call the border crossing to determine if your paperwork is cleared.  This is very important, because if your paperwork was incomplete, you need to know this and to re-submit it and wait up to an additional 72 hours for the completed paperwork to be cleared.  Sometimes they are quicker than this though but don’t bet on it.

8. Go to the USA and get your bike!  At the dealership:  Get the ORIGINAL receipt with cost breakdown (add-on parts, freight and PDI).  At the border they will want to know the value of the bike, not the freight and PDI or other things.  Also at the dealership get the ORIGINAL title and/or bill of sale, and have you and the dealership fill out the transfer of ownership sections on the back of the Title.  You may also need to fill out an affidavit form that waives you from paying state tax, that the dealer provides for you.  Get the bike.  My advice is to bring a good LONG ramp to load your bike up (with short ramps, motorcycles will often bottom-out on the edge of your truck box or trailer), and PULL STRAPS and a Canyon Dancer harness.  Use at least 4 pull straps, one on each side of handle bars, and one on each rear foot peg bulling at an angle rearward, or other secure locations.  Be sure to partly compress the front forks when you are tightening the front straps so the bike is rigid but don’t compress too much or you may damage your fork seals.  Periodically check the straps as you are coming home for tightness.  It helps to have a wheel chock in the trailer or truck box too.  There are videos on youtube how to load and secure a bike.

9. If you spend more than 48 hours in the USA you will get a GST exemption (refund) of  0.05 x $400 = $20 discount when you go to pay the GST later for the bike at the border.  If you spend more days, I think the next is a $750 x 0.05 = $37.50 after 7 days time.

10. Border.  At the US side of the border, present the bike and your bill of sale / certificate of origin and original receipt with cost breakdown  (all original copies) and your ID / passport.  They will likely give you a stamp and have you go to the Canadian side of the crossing.  At the Canadian side and if you are an Alberta resident, they charge you just the GST minus the exemption fee (0.05x$400 for 48 hours in the USA for example), and charge you a $200 RIV canada fee, which pays for RIV to do a background check on your bike soon, and pays for Canadian Tire to do the import inspection soon.  If you reside in a province with HST or PST you pay those.  Hopefully they will not try and charge you any duty fees, for example, if the motorcycle was assembled outside of the USA. At the Canadian side they give you “Form 1″ that you fill out while you are there.  This is a very important paper.  They will not fax it anywhere, this is your responsibility…

11.  Take your bike home, and fax (or email) your “Form 1″ PLUS the factory recall clearance letter PLUS the recall clearance system printout to RIV Canada.  I think the letter is optional, but the system printout from the manufacturer is required.

12. Call RIV Canada periodically or check the status of your application using their online system.  When your recall has passed, request from them to email you the “Form 2″.  RIV Canada will likely take about a week complete their investigation before sending you Form 2.

13. Take your bike and “Form 2″ to an authorized Canadian Tire to do the inspection. This is required for new or used vehicles.  Canadian Tire will not do an inspection without Form 2. Call ahead to make sure the CDN Tire you select does inspections.  Be sure you changed your odometer so that it reads in kilometers and not miles prior to going to Canadian Tire.  However, note that a lot of Canadian Tires won’t even bother to turn on the ignition of your bike, all they will do is just check to make sure you have the original emissions EPA stickers on the frame of the bike, and check that the VIN number on the frame of the bike matches the VIN on Form 2.  It takes like 1 minute for the entire inspection.

14. Register.  Canadian tire will give you another form saying you passed the inspection. Present your Form 2, bill of sale or certificate of origin, ID, and any other paperwork they ask for at a registry office, and they will register your bike.  You can ride now! You’re done!   Please comment below if I’ve made any mistakes, or if you have any questions and I’ll be sure to add or modify.
 

96 Responses to Step by step, how to import a motorcycle from the USA into Canada

  1. Geoff scales says:

    Thanks for this post.
    I just want to confirm that the charges in BC are GST (not HST) in addition to RIV and duty (if applicable)?

    I have read conflicting reports about whether BC charges HST or GST.
    Thanka

    • Curtis says:

      If your home address is Alberta and you are using a BC border crossing, you should only be charged GST. This was the case with me importing a 2008 CBR1000RR last year. I crossed at the Eastport/Kingsgate crossing which is near Creston BC, and the wire-transfer of the money was $7563.46, and according to my bank statements that I checked just now, the tax that was taken from my credit card at the border crossing was $361.27 which works out to approximately 5% GST (no HST). Additionally, I had to pay an additional $218.40 for the RIV/inspection fee. That was it :) Hope that helps. If they try to charge you more, they are making a mistake. If they charge you extra duty, it will depend on the vehicle. I think the reason I have never paid duty is because the Japanese and Italian bikes I’ve imported were “assembled in the USA” even though the components were built outside of the USA.

      • Walt says:

        I imported my last Victory in May, 2010 from Oregon to BC. I was charged the RIV fee at the border, as well as GST. I paid the PST when I went to my local insurance broker to register the bike.

    • Curtis says:

      One thing I did not mention though, was at the dealership (I90 Motorsports, in Washington) if I was a resident of BC, they would charge me Washington sales tax. I’m not totally sure why, perhaps they are having too many exports to BC residents because of the close proximity….

    • Curtis says:

      And thirdly, I just found out another tidbit of info. If your province of residence has HST or PST, you will have to pay the HST or PST at the border, according to the FAQ section on RIV website: http://www.riv.ca/HelpFAQs.aspx
      So if you live in BC and are buying from Washington dealership (rather than private) it would suck, because not only do you pay Washington sales tax, you also pay HST :( Buying private you would still have to pay HST but just not Washington sales tax. I’m going to update my article to include the info in these comments, thanks for commenting!

  2. Ryan says:

    Anyone out there import a street legal dirt bike from the U.S. into B.C.? I purchased a plated 2000 WR 400 from seattle and brought it back to Canada and I am wondering if I should buy the neccesary signals and a horn to pass the inspection, or I am I wasting my time and I will never be able to plate it here.

    • Curtis says:

      I would think that if you followed the typical export procedures with the worksheet and Form 1 and whatnot, that you should be able to register the bike. The inspection done by Canadian Tire is pretty lame… I bet you could skip the horn all together and they would still likely approve it.

  3. Carl says:

    I’m trying to import a 2006 Ducati from the US. I spoke to someone at a local Ducati dealer and they are telling me that a recall clearance letter from the manufacturer costs $500! Is this normal or is this just pure ridiculousness?

    • Curtis says:

      Carl, who is the dealer? That’s pretty much bull and I would not deal with that shop, they’re manipulating you and want your business to stay in Canada. I’m certain that you do not actually need a “letter” any more for recall clearance, the requirement through RIV Canada is that you submit a Ducati electronic system print-out of recalls for your bike, it is one page long and has a single row table in it, the table lists your VIN number on the left, Bike Description, Owner Name, Campaign Code, Campaign Description (recall), and Intervention Performed (Y/N). If it says “Y” then you are free and clear. If it says “N” you need to get the bike fixed (or just photoshop the printout and send to RIV Photoshopped lol :) The recall clearance screen capture printout can be sent to RIV as a PDF file with your other forms as specified on the RIV website’s instructions. To obtain a printout, I called up a trustworthy shop and asked them if they could email me a screen shot of the recall table… they did it for me for free.

      • Kirk says:

        Hi I could use a little help as I am trying to get through the same issue now with a Duc bike. I was able to obtain a screenshot of the recalls from a U.S. dealer and there is one recall. I had a local shop that fixed the issue for me already, I don’t want to pay the $500 because I think that is a rip off. Does a ‘Y’ on the recall printout mean that the issue was fixed on the bike? any help would be great

        • Curtis says:

          Correct, the Ducati system printout you have a table with headings Serial Number, Bike Description, Owner Name, Campaign Code, Campaign Description, Intervention Performed. If under Intervention Performed it is “Y” then the recall was fixed and entered into the Ducati system. If it says “N” still you may want to call up the shop that fixed your bike because they may have forgot to update the Ducati database. That happened to me actually.

      • bal says:

        I live in vancouver,bc and trying to get recall letter for 2012 ducati 1199,do you know and dealer who can help as i tried one in richmond but they dont want to help.

        • Curtis says:

          Try Sport Cycle in Calgary. I don’t think you actually need a “letter”, all you need is to send RIV a printout of a screen-shot of the Ducati service database where it says that there are no outstanding recalls on your bike. I’ve got one for my bike and it was a one-pager, no text or stamps or anything. If you could ask the dealership to just email you a screen shot that can’t be that hard.

  4. Paul says:

    Hello how & where do you transfer title/ownership on a bike purchased in the USA that will be brought into Canada?
    thank you,

    • Curtis says:

      The seller should have a “Vehicle Certificate of Ownership” which is also called the “Title”. On the backside of this piece of paper is a section where you write in your info, and the seller writes in his/her info, and that is all you need to do to transfer ownership, you can fill out the back right there with the seller when you give them the money. On the most recent title I have there was enough room to fill out two transfers, so if there were 2 previous owners there should still be one spot on there for you to fill out a 3rd transfer of ownership.

  5. Gregg says:

    FYI, there is NO duty on motorcycles ….

  6. Ryan Ferrie says:

    Am I required to send RIV the recall clearance letter? I thought this was meant to be attached with the information when I bring the bike to Canadian Tire…

    • Curtis says:

      The recall clearance letter is not required. If you send a factory database printout showing that your bike has no outstanding recalls that is fine, you would fax that sheet to RIV along with Form 1. In a week or so RIV will give you Form 2 (you can request it by email), and then you bring only Form 2 to Canadian tire for the inspection.

      • Ryan Ferrie says:

        Amazing, thank you. A lot easier once you’ve done all the steps. This process is definitely not as hard as I thought it would be.

  7. Royce says:

    Hi thanks for the post…I am bringing in a Harley from the states into Canada can you clarify what the boarder needs 72 hours before crossing I understand the part once it is here and the recall letter but not quit sure about the 72 hour part thanks for the help

    • Curtis says:

      The border needs the “Worksheet” filled out, plus both sides faxed of the bill of sale (or title). If a used vehicle the previous owner must fill out the back of the bill of sale for transfer of ownership. I’ve provided a link to the worksheet in the article above, but it’s an old worksheet from a few years ago, I suspect it should still be ok to use. I’m having difficulty finding an updated copy online.

  8. Quentin says:

    I just received my 2006 Harley Sportster from Orlando FL yesterday. Used a large Trucking company to ship it, but I still had to deal with the paper work. Everything went fine because I followed the step by step list by Curtis. But I did have some problems that were over come with out to much problems.
    1) I faxed the Title and Bill of sale to the US Border the trucking company said they would cross. They ended up crossing at different one instead.
    2) I did not want the original title being shipped with the Harley because with that there is nothing stopping a truck driver from selling your bike to someone along the way in the USA, so I UPS the Title to the border depot for the driver to pick up. 3) If your going to use a Trucking company to ship your Bike it has to ship in bond to your location or City that has a Canada customs office. There I went down to the Canada Customs Office with the Trucking Release Form and the Title and The Bill of Sale. Canada Customs was great they cleared the Harley, Stamped the Trucking Release Form (BOL)gave me a Form 1 to take to Canadian Tire to have filled out and now I am off to get my Out Of Province done at the Harley Dealer so I can get it registered and on the road. I would do this again in a heart beat. I was a little worried with the title and wrong crossing but know that I have done it I will do it again and again….

    • Michael says:

      Quentin, when you say you UPS’d the title to border depot for the driver to pick up… why? As in, why not just UPS it to yourself? Why did the driver need it? Wouldn’t a copy/fax suffice?

      And by border depot do you mean the actual border crossing where he was about to cross? Would they accept shipments like that and keep them for you/your driver? How did you arrange that?

    • Harlan David Thomas says:

      Hi,

      Do you mind telling me who you used to ship your motorcycle?

  9. Quentin says:

    Just to let others know, when I brought the Harley into Calgary By Truck in Bond. The only thing Canada Customs in Calgary asked from me was the following:

    1) Bill of Sale (my bill of sale was made up very simple)

    2) Title

    3) The In Bond form needed to release the bike from the trucking Company

    When I went to Canadian Tire for the Out of Country or RIV Inspection the only thing they asked for was the copy of Transport Canada Vehicle Import Form 1 to make sure I paid my $200 and the Vehicle Inspection Form that RIV emailed me with in one hour after leaving Canada Customs in Calgary. They used the form that RIV e-mailed me to do a 1 minute walk around. Paid $8 for the Tire Recycle program and they gave me back the form stamped appoved. I took that to a Registry Office were they took more money from me and gave me a Out of Province Form to have completed at an Inspection Center. Canadian Tires in Calgary that I contacted would not do it because they don’t have a motorcycle Tech???? (what ever). So I went to the Harley Dealer. All they asked for was the Form Registry gave me and $200 for the inspection then I was back to the Registry Office with a completed out of province inspection and proof of Insurance and they finally Regestered my bike and I was done.

    I read online of recalls, Speedo’s having to be changed making sure the bike was Admissible, check lists being filled out. Waiting days or even weeks for RIV to e-mail forms. Never once did anyone ask for these and I was not about to bring it up. With the groverment, keep your mouth shut and provide answers to there questions only. As far as from the time the Harley Arrived in Calgary to the time I had the bike registered in my name it is possible all in one day. Just depends on how fast someone can do your out of province inspection that is the biggest hold up you may find.

    Thats how it went for me, yours could be different…

    • Curtis says:

      Thanks for the info, I never imported a bike using a shipping company before. Also if anybody wants to know a good out of province inspection place, the best deal in town is the “Old Motorcycle Shop” in Ogden… the funny thing is most people don’t even know about this AWESOME motorcycle store, they have a ton of awesome bikes in there that you won’t see anywhere else…

      • Quentin says:

        The Old Motorcycle Shop was my first choice, I needed some Harley Advise and Work done so I went to the Dealer only because of that.

  10. Pete says:

    Great info Curtis! Thanks so much!

    However the link to the 2007 worksheet seems disabled! Can u post it again!
    AnyOne have a more current copy?
    Thanks again! Pete

  11. Fred says:

    If you intend to ride the bike back to Canada, how do you do so legally after you cross the border?

    • Curtis says:

      Before crossing the boarder is explained in the article, but I didn’t explain after the boarder. From my experience, it is ok if you take the plate and registration/insurance from one of your “other” vehicles and affix the plate to your motorcycle for transporting it. I’m not sure what all the details are for that though, (time limits, or if you have to notify anyone). I’ve done this myself when buying a motorcycle in Alberta and it’s what all my friens do.

  12. Al says:

    Does anyone know if you are a Canadian and have a house in Arizona. How long from date of purchasing a used motorcycle do you have to import it into Canada. I was looking at buying a bike in November and not importing until next May. thanks

  13. Michael says:

    Here’s a trick question (I actually need an answer to this) – can I get an insurance and register a motorcycle in Canada without importing it into the country?

    What I have done is I bought a bike in Washington State, and I want to ride it in California while I’m here (for the next 4-5 months), without having to 1) ship the bike back to Ontario (cross country, pretty much), 2) importing it, paying all the taxes, duties, dealing with all the paperwork, 3) having to wait a week or two to get all the paperwork taken care of and get the bike inspected, 4) having to fly from Cali to Ontario and back for this, 5) having to ship the bike back to Cali from Ontario.

    To me it seems a bit too much work for just taking care of some paperwork, so I’m wondering would I be able to register it somehow without having to go through all that, until I actually move back to Canada in spring and bring the bike with me? Or is it practically impossible to do so?

    • Michael says:

      … OR, as an option, could I import the bike into Vancouver, for example (as the seller is only 200km from Vancouver), take care of all the paperwork there, have it registered and get insurance in BC (even though I am an Ontario resident) and then just ride/ship it back down to California? Do you guys see any issues with that scenario?

      • Curtis says:

        I think your best bet is to call up an importation office at a border crossing (US and Canada sides) and ask them these questions. I’m thinking the first idea you had is a no-go, but the second one might be doable. But I wonder if you could even get registration for BC if you don’t live there? Also you’ll have to do an out of province inspection for each province. Also since you are not a resident of BC you shouldn’t get penalized with the Washington sales tax that BC residents pay I think.

  14. petebcca says:

    When considering importing a motorcycle from the USA I found your advice to be the most valuable and up to date. I thought I would write and say thanks to you and also give you my experience so that maybe others might benefit. Firstly, I am a resident of BC and imported a used Yamaha Super Tenere from Washington State on 1 November 2012. I used the Pacific Highway (Truck Crossing) just south of Vancouver. I purchased from a dealer who was selling for a private owner who had crashed another bike and was recovering from his injuries (Sobering!!). Skagit Powersports in Burlington, WA is a really good dealer and I would recommend them. My price was great and I figured that I could endure the hassle of importing in return for a good price. I liked the idea that I would buy from a dealer as this gave me greater security as dealers are regulated by the state and must be complaint with good practices to keep their authorized status from the manufacturer.

    I was able to visit the dealer, take the bike for a test drive and leave a deposit. The dealer did not want to take any payment on a credit card; so later I paid the full price with a bank draft. I couriered the draft to the dealer when I completed the purchase. I tried to time the full payment so that I would have the title about 3 days before I wanted to export from the USA to Canada.

    However, I had neglected to ask the dealer how long it would take him to get the title after I made full payment. As it turned out, the bike was titled in the name of a finance company located in Las Vegas and they put the title in the mail and it took 7 days by US Postal Service to get to the dealer. Advice: find out where the title is and how long it will take to get to you, so you can plan for your filing at US Customs and your import date.

    I made a second mistake with the dealer. I had originally asked that the purchase price of the bike only be put on one invoice, and that my “add-ons” be put on another invoice. Of course, the accessories that I added, about $1,500 worth, would be taxable in Canada (at least Federal Tax at 5%), but certainly not the service, labour charges, documentation fee, Washington State taxes on the accessories should NOT have been taxable, either Federally or Provincially. At the closing, the invoice had everything on it, including accessories and labour. When I showed up at the Canadian border and presented the documentation to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), I was charged federal tax (5%) of the total cost and when I registered it later in BC, I paid 7% on the same amount. On both occasions I protested but the lovely officials were unmoved. I was not happy, but in the end the additional tax was only $238, but still, that is a lot of beer! This expense could have been easily avoided if I had been more diligent and insisted on two invoices.

    One question has been posted recently about riding bikes back to Canada and insurance. I was issued a Washington State three-day trip permit by the dealer. I found out from ICBC that the trip permit was valid in BC as long as I had a “Binder for Owner’s interim Certificate of Insurance.” To get this I had to email a knowledgeable ICBC Auto plan agent my Certificate of Title and my invoice. I paid by credit card and they issued me the insurance by return fax after I paid the premium. I paid $41 for the third party liability and $24 for own damage coverage. I did not need an A to B permit in BC.

    As stated, US customs required three days to export. However, I was happy to learn that they don’t count the first day. So, if you file you work sheet, title and bill of sale or fully paid invoice on a Monday, you can export on Thursday. I did my filing on a Saturday and on the following Monday morning I had an email back from US customs stating “We will export your vehicle on 1 November (in three days”). This was a great relief. I would recommend doing all filings and communication with US Customs by email. Email address for the Pacific Highway Crossing is: blaine-ofoexport@dhs.gov They will respond to inquiries and will send you the info package including work sheet on request. They don’t answer the phone!

    When you park as instructed by US Customs at Pacific Highway crossing, you will be at the entrance of the commercial truck lane. After done with US Customs, don’t use the commercial truck lane as I did. Try to park at the upper part of the parking lot so that you can drive into the personal lanes, not the commercial lanes. The walk to the Customs office is not that obvious. Just walk down the east side of the personal lanes and cross over to the US Customs building. There is no cross walk so be careful.

    There should be no issues at US customs or CBSA if all documentation is in order.

    The RIV office is on 0 Avenue just a few minutes drive from the Canadian Customs office. Two issues with RIV: if there have been recalls on our bike, make sure that the recall letter and other recall proof of clearance are sent to Toronto by the local RIV office. The local RIV office does not produce the RIV inspection form. This is done out of Toronto and they won’t produce this form unless they have evidence that any recalls have been remedied. In my case there was one recall that had been fixed and I had both a clearance letter from the dealer AND the dealer’s screen print showing that the recall work had been performed. But the local RIV person at O Avenue did not send these documents. Normally, you can get the Inspection form back from RIV in a matter of a few hours. But in my case I got a follow up email asking for recall information. I had to scramble and email the documents to RIV. Several hours after receiving these documents RIV issued the inspection form and I was off to Canadian Tire.

    A second issue with RIV is that they close at 5 pm Eastern time in Toronto and you won’t get the Inspection form by email from RIV if you show up at the O Ave RIV office at 130 pm as I did, then you won’t get your Inspection form the same day. My goal was to get the bike imported, inspected and insured and registered on the same day. It didn’t happen.

    But in the end it all worked out and I have a great bike in my garage at a great price. It was well worth the effort involved! I would highly recommend that those seeking a good bike at a good price consider importing. Again thanks to Curtis for his article. A second source, also good, is David Morrow’s article at ldrider.ca You guys really helped me!

  15. Quentin says:

    Michael,

    I used UPS to send the Orginal Title because I did not give the Orginal to the Trucking Company because of what I explained above. A faxed copy is required 72 hours in advance but a Orginal title is required when the bike gets to the US border you faxed your copy to. Don,t try to understand why because we would have to write a book on that.

    You asked how I arranged this, any bonded trucking company can do this Con Way , FedEx Freight or UPS Freight are all bonded and they will get your bike across the border with out you needing to be present. Small shipping, companies you see on line like We Hual Motorcycles, are not bonded and you would need to meet them at the border crossing to do the customs yourself.

    Thank you Curtis for starting this as you can see a lot of people are interested in doing this and require a little help, because when I asked any bike shop most told me they have no idea or said it is not recommended. The way I shipped my bike was the most expensive way but I still saved over $2000 “that’s a lot of beer”
    Quentin

  16. Quentin says:

    Hey Michael I did what you want to do with riding the bike before bring it into Canada. My insurance company told me the only way I could ride my newly purchased bike in the USA insured by them before importing was this:

    If you have another bike in Canada sell it to someone and you can use that insurance and plate for 15 days after the sale date written on the back of your reg papers. That is an Alberta law and I sure??? It is the same across Canada but check first with out telling them what your really doing. Soon as I got the new bike back to Canada I sold the other one back to me again.
    Hope this helps
    Quentin

    • Curtis says:

      Thanks for all the additional information Quentin! I’m glad to help get people started and local shops don’t want people to know these details because they loose money knowing or telling this kind of info.

  17. Dustin says:

    Hi Curtis,

    Thanks for the best info around on importing a bike. My question or conundrum is this:

    I am looking at importing a WR450f that was made street legal after the fact in WA. So my question is, how will I know when I go to get it insured, (after the inspection at Canadian tire) that I won’t have an insurance agent say “No you can’t insure this “modified for street use” motorbike?”

    Help! The funny thing is there are some registered/plated in BC so I know it can be done.
    Thanks for your help.
    Dustin

  18. Jeff Patterson says:

    CARFAX doesn’t do motorcycles. use Autocheck.

  19. Chaz says:

    Thanks for all the useful information on this thread. I’m in the process of importing my second motorcycle this year. My first import went very smoothly, I was able to fax a copy of the title, BoS and ID to a small border crossing in Quebec. This current bike is coming over the Prescott crossing in Ontario and they will only take the original copy of the title. I purchased the bike and brought the original title and BofSale to the US border and I’m now waiting clearance. I had to store the bike for 3 days while this is completed. It does mean another trip to the border (1hour drive from Ottawa) to complete the import.

    I don’t think I will ever buy another vehicle in Canada. Our prices are inflated and most Canadians are content with being gouged.

    Cheers

  20. norman tam says:

    Hi,
    I am thinking of importing a mv Augusta Brutale 800 from USA. It is a bike that will only be available for sale in USA and not Canada this year. Is it possible to import this type of bike?

    • Curtis says:

      I can’t find any MV’s on the RIV admissability list. I have heard of people having much difficulty importing MV’s in the past. I think you have a very valid concern, it might be next to impossible to import one because it doesn’t appear on the import list, border officials go by this list. Anyone else know?

  21. Panigale says:

    I also had to do an ‘out of province’ safety inspection after the Canadian tire ‘inspection’ to register the bike in Alberta. Fyi.

  22. Geoff says:

    Thanks so much for posting this information! You rock!

  23. Kelvin says:

    Just a question, where did you get the Ducati Recall information from? Anywhere I’ve talked to says that Ducati North America charges $500, local dealers will not do it for me, and the only place I’ve talked to in the USA so far said they would do it for $300 for me.

    • Curtis says:

      I got Sport Cycle (out of Calgary, Alberta) to email me a one page printout from the Ducati database for FREE. I don’t see why printing one page from a database should cost you anything, if they charge you it is because they’re being dicks… you only need the printout from the database I think, you don’t actually need a letter. You can confirm the lowered requirements by contacting RIV Canada.

  24. joe and marianne lafontaine says:

    i bought a bmw r1200r from illinois and had the recall letter problem too. I went to argyll motorsports Edmonton and they tried to charge me 500 bucks. Same with all the dealerships in the illinois area. So I randomly called a dealership in arizona and gave them the vin, telling them that I wanted to get a copy of the recall notification faxed to me in illinois. I think, b/c they’re not used to people importing, they didn’t know about the regular charge and they faxed it to me not charge in illinois. I told them i was from arizona, looking at a private bike in illinois and wanted to make sure all the recalls had been done.

  25. motogpfan says:

    quentin can you tell us who and how your bike was shipped, also price to ship , i would like to buy plus ship a duck to this side of border,lots of good deals on e bay, im north of toronto thnks in advance

  26. motogpfan says:

    also so sorry ,big thnks to curtis for starting this , cheers bro

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  28. Max says:

    Hey,

    Excellent information. Just looking to purchase my first bike from the US. It is a bike from Ohio from a private individual. I was thinking of calling the US side and seeing if they will charge me the Ohio state tax at the border. Also is the RIV fee and Canadian Tire fee $200 + $200 or $200 for both?

    Thanks for the awesome information!!

    • Curtis says:

      The Ohio state tax, if it gets charged, would be charged by the dealership (if you are buying new). The only taxes you pay at the border are Canadian taxes. I would call up the dealer and ask them if they charge tax or not, to Canadians.

      The $200 RIV fee pays for the Canadian Tire inspection directly so you only pay that once. I think most of that $200 goes into RIV’s pockets, because the Canadian tire inspection only takes 5 minutes. It’s basically a bit of a scam, but cheap considering how much you save importing.

  29. Jay says:

    Does any know the ‘hours of operation’ for importing at the border crossings?

  30. Shane says:

    Has anyone ever brought a bike over that has had modifications. I see alot of bikes with slip on exhaust. I called RIV and they gave me the impression that the bike has to be basically in manufacturer condition, as when it was bought new.

  31. Nick says:

    Hi there,

    Where to put the RIV sticker?

    My bike’s frame is all covered with many stickers from the US already.

    Would appreciate any suggestion/s.

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  33. Peter Wilson says:

    I bought a bike from a Missoula dealer on June/13. When I picked the bike up I got BC insurance before I left, and checked that all paperwork was ready at the border. We stayed overnite so that we would arrive at the border at mid-day. Crossing went slick. On the Canadain side(Montana into BC) I was only charged GST, and told to contact RIV online. Went online to RIV next morning, paid fee by Visa. Then checked status of my file, printed form 2, and was done. The holiday weekend prevented me from going to Canadian Tire right away.

  34. Juan says:

    I own the bike and want to import it into BC from Oregon… What’s the deal with aftermarket exhaust systems? It’s a 08′ Kawasaki Concours 1400 with a exhaust system that eliminated the cat converter. It is not “super” loud but is does rip at high rpm. WILL I RUN INTO PROBLEMS GETTING IT THROUGH INSPECTION AND REGISTERED AS IS?

  35. brian b says:

    Curtis. Harley will only sell a new bike to you if you have a US address. I am from Alberta and have a vacation home in Southern California so they will sell me a new bike. But I can not drive the bike back into Canada. What are the rules around exporting a new bike into Canada? Do I have to put a certain amount of miles on the bike? Do I have to wait a certain amount of time? Thanks

  36. Tony says:

    Does anyone know the process of bringing across, from the US into Canada and registering a custom built motorcycle? Most of the previous posts are for moving motorcycles across the western boarders. I live in Ontario, is there anything different here? Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  37. Paul says:

    Just for info harley Canada will do a recall clearance for $50 and up to 15 days to process. Also a harley dealer in CO told me the way around not being able to buy a new harley is simply have your friend buy it (with your money) and then you buy it off off him. I am still shopping for the right bike and have a bigger appetite than a sportster so am topping up my budget as well. Deals can be had – my friend in CO bought a sportster for his wife for 1500 – I drove it and it was running and looking fine.

  38. Mark says:

    Hi Curtis, great website, lots of good info. I have a slightly different question, I’m sorry if I missed this in the comments.

    If I wanted to import a race bike, with no intentions of registering it with the ministry, how different would the paper work be? If its not going to be plated would I still need recall letters? Would appreciate any insight. Thanks.

  39. Sean says:

    Just an FYI… BC residents do not pay Washington Sate sales tax on the bike. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=82.08.0264

  40. Jay says:

    I was asked for an “out of province” vehicle inspection at the registry. They wouldn’t register my imported bike without it. Does anyone know where I can get one done in Calgary?

  41. Alan says:

    Wow – what a wealth of information. Just what I needed as I am in Florida for the winter (until mid April) and want to trade in my 2009 SYM scooter for either a Yamaha Majesty or Suzuki Burgman. You were so thorough with your information, at first I was overwhelmed with all this, but I read it again, and it makes more sense. I’ll make sure I have everything covered (paperwork, faxes, phone calls, appointments etc) by the time I leave to go back home to Ontario. Thanks to people like you who share their experiences so that other people can benefit from it. Kudos!!

  42. Mary says:

    I just wanted to thank you Curtis. I’m finally buying my first bike. The one I like is not available in Canada (just my luck) :) so while doing some research to import from the States, I came across your page. You’re a treasure of information and I’m very grateful for your helpful post.
    Thanks again & Have a good one! :) MP

  43. Scott says:

    Does speedometer have to be in kilometers if from USA imported to Canada ? Thanx

    • Curtis says:

      Technically yes, and usually it’s really simple to convert a spedo to km/hr if it is digital, it’s usually a button combo, for examle: hold button A while turning ignition key, press button A and B until you select CAD…

      If you cannot change the spedo easily, I found that Canadian Tire did not even check this… they just don’t seem to care. So even if you can’t change it, I wouldn’t worry too much, just take it to another Canadian Tire until you find a lazy inspector. lol.

  44. Alan LeBlanc says:

    Hi Curtis. I just bought a 2005 Yamaha Majesty while vacationing here in FL. I don’t plan to ride it across the border – it will be strapped down in a utility trailer. Do I still need to have / show insurance? Who do I need to show it to on the Canadian side? CBSA? I do plan to insure it properly when back in Ontario in April.
    Thanks,
    Alan

    • Curtis says:

      Hi Alan, you don’t need any insurance if you are not riding the bike over the border. You would only need liability if you were riding it. Above I mention getting insurance, but I only did that because I was worried somebody might steal the new bike while it was on my trailer or if for some reason I got into an accident with the trailer attached, totally optional. Also you don’t need to show anybody at the border your insurance (even if you were riding it they don’t ask).
      Just be sure to do the various paperwork and stuff 72 hours in advance mentioned in the article and you should be good to go. The border officials will only want to see the title/bill of sale, reciept, passport etc. Thanks for the question, my article wasn’t really clear, I’ve edited the original article to be more clear.

      • Alan LeBlanc says:

        Ah, ok – makes sense. Glad you mentioned about the 72 hour thing as I was going to ask about that as well. Is 72 hours the minimum, or can I fax the paperwork earlier than that, or will it get lost in the shuffle in their office?
        I also called Yamaha today and was told that there was a recall from 2008 that hadn’t been done on the scooter yet, so I will have to get that done asap. I was then told to call back once that was done so that they can fax me the letter needed at the border – just like you mentioned above. This was crucial information – good thing I found your article. Very valuable information. Thanks again. Alan

        • Curtis says:

          Yeah you can fax in both sides of the title and the worksheet to the border more than 72 hours in advance, no sweat.

          Yeah the clearance letter thing is important in my step 11 above, actually I think it’s most important to get the “database printout” stating there are no recalls on it, and send that to RIV. I think that is more important than the letter. The letter may also be helpful though.

          • Alan LeBlanc says:

            Hi Curtis. Since I am heading back to Ontario in the next 2 weeks, I decided to call the CBP office in Port Huron (Michigan) to make sure I had the necessary paperwork and to inquire about the fax number. I was told to email my VIN in the subject line. No need to fax documents ahead of time. Not sure if this is only for Ontario, or if this is new instructions for all border crossings. I then received an automated reply from the Port Huron office indicating in the body of the email: “This e-mail response serves as your confirmation that CBP has received your vehicle export information. You may export the vehicle 72 hours from receipt of this e-mail.” It also included information on which documents that are needed when you arrive at the border. This makes it a lot simpler and less worry if they actually received a fax.

            • Curtis says:

              That’s way better for sure! First time I’ve heard of that, maybe it is a new standard for all provinces, I would hope so.

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  46. Nick says:

    Hello! Im hoping you can help. In Aug 2013 I purchased a 2000 Harley that is reg in the state of California. The gentleman I purchased it from gave me the title of ownership..deed.I live in BC and have possession of the bike.Ive been told I have to trailer it back n forth across the border to export ….but if I want to simply import and not travel to the US I can do the paper work here.Any information on what to do would be greatly appreciated. Cheers!

    • Curtis says:

      You should do the paperwork as described in this blog post, but I think you might have to actually drive down to the border 72 hours after you fax the papers to the border to do the import. You should call the border to verify this though.

  47. Gord says:

    Does anyone know if a Canadian citizen can take an Arizona registered and plated motorcycle across the Canadian border on a temporary basis without importing it? I have a winter home in AZ and want to take my bike home just for the summer. I would appreciate any comments.

  48. […] a few links on importing bikes into Canada, and realize it's not without its hassles.. Importing ?: Step by step, how to import a motorcycle from the USA into Canada | Thinkbox Importing But if I find a bike I like here in BC, I'm happy to pay more or even finance it until […]

  49. Melvin says:

    Thanks for the information you provided here Curtis it helps me a lot. I just have 2 question:
    1. Have anybody tried to use the AES direct filling system? Do I have to do this or emailing the neccesary documents is good enough?
    2. The bike I bought is used and been repainted and the EPA sticker is gone. Is the EPA sticker a show stopper for inspection.

    Thanks Inadvance.

  50. Jerry says:

    Will Alberta based Honda dealers do any required service work on a new Honda bike imported from the US? I’m assuming the warranty on a US Honda bike is null and void in Alberta.

    • Curtis says:

      The Honda that I brought over was already past the warranty period so I’m not sure, but I do know that Ducati had an international warranty and the shops in Calgary did work on warranty issues on my bike, but there was a lingering attitude coming from one of the Ducati shop owners that they didn’t approve of the fact that I imported my bike (thus taking profit away from a Canadian shop). That particular shop is not in business any more. But anyway, what you are saying does ring a bell based on some hearsay I’ve heard and your best bet is to call up a few Honda dealers (like Honda Powerhouse in Calgary) and ask them this – say you imported a Honda bike from the states and if they will honor and do warranty work on it. I’d be interested to hear what they say.

  51. Gary McCrudden says:

    First let me say this is absolutely awesome. Than you so much for taking the time to do this. I was just wondering if any one knows. I have a bike in Arizona that I bought new. I have had it for a year now and am planning to bring it back to Ontario. I will follow all the steps you have so graciously provided. I ‘m wondering about the bill of sale. I have the original, but seeing as the bike will be at least a year and a half old when I bring it back. I’m just wondering if any one Knows if I have to pay duty on the original purchase price? Thanks again for the help!!!!

  52. Greg says:

    I’m in BC and brought vehicles (cars) into Alberta when I lived there. Thanks for your info as I’ve thought about importing a bike but at the end of the day, I’m not sure it’s worth the downside for a bike I’d like (vstrom). By the time you add the cost of going to get it, the wait and expense at the border, the Canadian Tire inspection thing and the stigma of it being a US bike if you want to sell, the hassle seems more than its worth. I like saving $$ like anyone, but be aware of the time and effort before.

  53. Neil says:

    Step 14. I just brought my Canadian Tire inspection form completed to the registries, and was handed another inspection form for out of province. Did you have to do out of province after the RIV was done? You do not mention it, I am in Alberta.

    • Curtis says:

      You’re right, I’ll be updating the post to include that. This is only required for used vehicles being imported. The Old Motorcycle Shop in Calgary does a good job for a good price for out of province inspections.

  54. Orv says:

    Excellent post, thanks for putting it all together!

    I’m curious how much of the process would be different for an older bike. I gather some of the requirements are waived for vehicles older than 15 years?

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