Motorcycles in the USA tend to cost less than they do in Canada, so this guide will walk you through how to import a motorcycle from the USA to Canada to save yourself some money.
There are only about 700,000 motorcycles in all of Canada, compared to over 13,000,000 motorcycles in the United States. That means you have a lot more opportunity to find a deal south of the border. Unfortunately, you can’t just buy a motorcycle in the US, throw it on your truck and bring it back home to Canada with you. You can’t just ride it back either (not legally anyway).
The bad news is that there’s a bit of a process involved, and it could take anywhere from one to three weeks. If you do it wrong, you could end up buying a motorcycle that you can’t legally license and register in Canada, or get in trouble along the way.
The good news is that the process is only eight steps, and this guide will walk you through them, so that you can import a motorcycle from the USA to Canada yourself, without having to hire anyone to manage it for you.
About this walkthrough:
We’ll try to keep this walk-through as clear as possible, but if you have any questions, comments, feedback, or just want to say thank you, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the article. Let’s get started.
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Step 1) Make sure the motorcycle you want to import from the US is even allowed in Canada
Step 1 is about letting you know what can or can’t be brought in, because not every motorcycle sold in the United States is allowed to be registered in Canada. To make sure the motorcycle you want can actually be brought in to the country, you need to check the RIV Admissibility list (or go here directly for the motorcycle list).
The RIV Admissibility website offers a complete list of motorcycles that can be imported from the USA to Canada. You’ll find your motorcycle options in Section 8 and Section 9 (for off road motorcycles).
Once you’ve clicked on one of these options, it prompts you with motorcycle manufacturers and then notifies you of what models are admissible.
The site states that “All other motorcycle, motor tricycles, scooters or mopeds not shown as admissible on this list are inadmissible unless not regulated at importation due to age (older than 15 years).”
Step 2) Know the rules so you can know how to save money
Step 2 is about knowing how different laws will effect you importing a motorcycle to Canada from the USA. Here are two tips that can save you some money:
- Motorcycles that are assembled in the USA are exempt from duty fees at the border! Surprisingly most Japanese and Italian motorcycles, Honda and Ducati for example, are assembled in the USA.
- Every state has it’s own tax rate, and some states have no sales tax, which can save you even more money. Oregon, Montana, New Hampshire, Alaska, and Delaware don’t have a sales tax.
If you’re buying from a dealership, this is something you may want to confirm beforehand. It’s also important to know that depending on the province that you are travelling back to, you will have to pay GST/PST/HST and if you’ve purchased from Washington, you may be subjected to paying an additional sales tax.
Step 3) Know what you’re getting yourself into
Step 3 is about being as informed as you can about your purchase. Buying from a private seller can be a little riskier than buying from a dealership, so make sure you get all necessary information about a motorcycle before purchasing and beware of any red flags.
Here’s a small list of things you’ll want to keep top of mind regardless of whether you’re buying from a private seller or a dealer:
- If the bike is used you can request the VIN number so you can run a history check on the motorcycle which costs around $30 through sites like AutoCheck or CARFAX.
- Do your research on freight and PDI fees, which may come up unexpectedly when dealing with dealers.
- You might want to consider looking up whether or not the speedometer can be converted from Miles per Hour to Kilometers per Hour, but personally I just used one of these Vapor motorcycle speedometers/dashboards that was easy to install and made for my bike brand. I used this for years without issues.
- If you are buying from a dealership, you may be asked to provide a money order or a wire transfer. Wire transfers generally cost more and have been known to fail from time to time. Money orders are drafted at the bank and tend to be more secure.
- Research what border you want to cross through. Some borders have restrictions on when import/exports can cross. RIV Canada’s website gives you the contact numbers you will need.
- If you spend more than 48 hours in the US you can get a GST exemption (refund) of 0.05 x $400 (a $20 discount), which won’t cover much, but if you’re there anyway you may as well get it.
Step 4) Do the paperwork
Step 4 is all about understanding the paperwork involved and getting it done right.
The paperwork you’ll need to do to import and American motorcycle to Canada is going to take some time. Once the sale has gone through, you need at least 72 hours, during the business week for the paperwork to get processed.
The pieces of paperwork needed are:
- A “Worksheet” – download a sample at the link.
You can contact the Border and have them send you the most current worksheet or you can find it online.
- A bill of sale (which requires both buyer and seller to have a signature of release on the back), or if the motorcycle is a new vehicle purchase you will fax a Certificate of Origin (both sides).
Double check that the paperwork is completed properly or it could cost you more time!
- Recall clearance document. This document is a formal letter with company letterhead that is signed or stamped, stating that the motorcycle has cleared the factory safety recalls and that all recall work has been performed. Basically it’s an authorized dealership of the manufacturer you’re buying from (example, an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer) saying that your Harley-Davidson has no outstanding safety recalls, and that any recalls that were ever issued on this motorcycle were already solved.
- Dealers must provide at least a screenshot printout from the motorcycle manufacturer service computer system, showing the VIN number, make, model, recall clearance and marked with Yes or No for work completion.
- Note this information is only important for after you’ve crossed back over to Canada.
After the 72 hours your paperwork takes to clear, you can call the border crossing to determine the status of your paperwork. This is an important step because if your paperwork was incomplete you will need to re-submit the paperwork and wait an additional 72 hours to be cleared before you can move forward.
Step 5) Get insurance (if riding it)
Step 5 is about helping you get your motorcycle moving legally. If you’re transporting your new motorcycle on a trailer or on a pick-up truck, you will not need insurance on your new motorcycle until you’ve crossed the border. No one checks for insurance at the border.
The only reason you’ll want to look into insurance is if you are planning on riding the motorcycle while in the States or back to the border. You can get insurance quotes before your trip or inquire with the dealer if you’re buying it from a shop, to see if they can set you up with a temporary registration while you’re in the US. You might also want to look into getting an International Driver’s License before leaving Canada, as you won’t be able to get one in the United States, and you may need one for American insurance companies to insure you.
Step 6) Transporting your motorcycle (if not riding)
Whether you buy from a dealership or a private seller you will need to remember that you have to get the original title (Ownership) and a bill of sale. Have the seller fill out the transfer of ownership sections on the back of the title/ownership paper.
If you’re purchasing from a dealership, make sure you also have an original receipt with a cost breakdown (showing how much of the total was for the motorcycle, parts, freight, PDI, etc.).
A lot of people will tow their motorcycles incorrectly, and end up with knocked over motorcycles, or motorcycles with accidental wear. If you don’t know how to tow a motorcycle properly, you should watch my videos on motorcycle towing on YouTube.
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Step 7) Crossing the border
Step 7 is about being prepared for the border crossing. On the US side of the border you’ll need:
- Bill of sale (a.k.a. Certificate of origin)
- Original receipt with cost breakdown (if buying from a dealer)
- Valid passport and photo identification
Once you’ve been approved, border agents will give you a stamp and you will move on to the next station where you will pay the additional province taxes as they apply. You will also be charged a $200 RIV Canada fee; this fee includes a background check on the bike, as well as pays for an authorized shop, like Canadian Tire, to do the import inspection.
If the motorcycle was assembled outside of the US, you may also have to pay duty fees. The officers from this station will provide you with a Form 1 paperwork that you must fill out while you are there. The Form 1 paperwork is very important, so make sure it is filled out and sent out appropriately.
Step 8) Getting your motorcycle home
Step 8 is about what you need to do when you get into Canada.
The first step should be sending out your Form 1 paperwork, including the factory recall clearance letter you should have obtained! These need to be sent to RIV Canada before you can proceed. Unfortunately RIV Canada can take up to a week to send you your Form 2 paperwork so you’ll have to make some follow up calls or check the status online.
Once you get your Form 2 paperwork, you can take your motorcycle and your paperwork to your local Canadian Tire to make sure they do the inspection. Be sure to set up an appointment in advance, and remember that they will not perform the inspection without your Form 2 paperwork in hand. The inspection of the bike typically takes just a few minutes with the mechanics making sure you have the original emissions EPA stickers on the frame of the bike, and checking that the VIN number on the frame of the bike matches the VIN on the Form 2. Upon completion of the inspection, Canadian Tire will provide you with another form that says you passed!
Lastly, it’s time to register your motorcycle with the ministry. You’ll need to gather your Form 2, bill of sale (or certificate of origin if it’s a new bike), ID, and any other paperwork your local Service Canada requests to complete the registration of your motorcycle.
That’s it, home run! You were born to ride, and now you can ride free.