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Thread: Importing a bike from Canada into the US?

  1. #1
    Registered User rocketmanli's Avatar
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    Importing a bike from Canada into the US?

    Contemplating buying a BMW from a private seller in Toronto. I live in New York.
    (1) Can I just go there, buy the bike and trailer it home?
    (2) Does it need to be inspected/registered in Canada, or can that wait until I get home?
    (3) Do you think the BMW dealer in Toronto can facilitate the transaction for me?
    (4) Any issues getting back over the border?

    Anything else you can think of?

    Thanks,
    Larry
    2009 R1200RT, 2005 R1200C Montauk (The elusive Piedmont Red & Silver "350" commemorative model); and 2002 R1200C Montana
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  2. #2
    Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat Omega Man's Avatar
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  3. #3
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    Larry,

    I've never imported a motorcycle. The closest I've come is I'm a retired lawyer, and in the 80s I had a client who engaged in the private (grey-market) import of cars. The short answer is this seems like it ought to be easy, but it isn't.

    The convergence of three regulatory streams make it complicated: first, EPA has had increasingly restrictive emissions standards for motorcycles since the late 70s; second, DOT has had safety standards (labels, instrument lettering, lights, noise, etc) since about the same time; and third, CBP requires certain specific applications and actions before one appears at the border with a vehicle (including a motorcycle) to import.

    A bike more than 25 years old (i.e., manufactured before today's date in 1991) is exempt from the DOT requirements, and those over 21 years old (i.e., manufactured before today's date in 1995) are exempt from EPA requirements. A prospective importer might still have to do DOT and EPA paperwork to claim the exemptions. If the bike is not exempt, it's usually prohibitively expensive to have it brought into compliance, as the bike must be imported, held in bond, and the work accomplished by a federally-licensed firm. Even if DOT/EPA exempt, the CBP hurdles remain.

    We've read here on the Forum that BMWNA (the importer) and BMW AG (the manufacturer) won't assist riders by issuing certifications about bikes; it's assumed that they refuse in order to protect BMW's official import-and-sale stream of commerce. Too, neither BMWNA nor BMW AG knows what, if anything, has been done to the bike since it was made. As a trickle-down, dealers aren't usually very cooperative, either.

    The difficulties of private importation may be worth it if the target bike is extremely rare or desirable. If the seller won't wait, you may have to buy the bike (to prevent it being sold to another), leave it in Canada while you get your ducks in a row, and hope that you can eventually get it across the border.

    OTOH, many would avoid these challenges and uncertainties by buying a similar bike that's already in the US, even at a higher price.

    -David
    Last edited by dbrick; 08-14-2016 at 06:23 PM.
    David Brick
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    2007 R1200R

  4. #4
    Registered User rocketmanli's Avatar
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    This is a rare bike indeed for a 2005 and I want it badly. Spoke to Cole Internaional Broker from Port Huron and Rochester who quoted me $350 to handle all the paperwork. Emissions on this bike should be the same for a US or Candian bike. Will be calling BMW Toronto tomorrow morning to see if they'll help with EPA and DOT emissions issues. Really don't want to have any issues after the fact and own a bike I can't register.
    Last edited by rocketmanli; 08-14-2016 at 08:14 PM.
    2009 R1200RT, 2005 R1200C Montauk (The elusive Piedmont Red & Silver "350" commemorative model); and 2002 R1200C Montana
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  5. #5
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    Good luck. Let us know what you discover.
    David Brick
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    2007 R1200R

  6. #6
    Registered User rocketmanli's Avatar
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    Thanks. Right now I'm just bouncing off the walls and doubt if I'll get much sleep tonight.
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    Registered User WalterK75's Avatar
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    The speedometer will be in kilometers as will the odometer and trip gauges
    Walter

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    What kind of rare '04 are we talking about?

  9. #9
    Registered User rocketmanli's Avatar
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    2005 Commemorative R1200C Montauk-only 350 made at the end of the production run. October 2004 manufacturing date. Piedmont Red and Silver. 350 made..no more, no less. Like the holy grail of R1200C's. No 2005 Montauks were ever slated for the United States, NONE whatsoever. So a total, confirmed by BMW Canada, of 6, in North America, with that color variation as the only option.
    DSC_0180.jpg
    2009 R1200RT, 2005 R1200C Montauk (The elusive Piedmont Red & Silver "350" commemorative model); and 2002 R1200C Montana
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  10. #10
    Out There Somewhere ricochetrider's Avatar
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    Good luck!

    Not sure how relevant this is- but my 89 R100RS came into the USA thru Canada. Original Canadian import, I assume- with metric speedo. Story I got was the buyer (in Pittsburgh) bought the bike, the owner rode it down from Ontario, they went somewhere together and did the paperwork, then the Canadian former owner flew home. Clearly there must have been more details than that, but that was the gist of the story I got. Obviously the bike, pre 1991 and 1995, would have been exempt from some of the restrictive EPA & DOT mandates.
    Be The Change You Want To See In The World

  11. #11
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    COOL

  12. #12
    Registered User rocketmanli's Avatar
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    Wow, this is much more difficult than I had imagined. Service Manager at Budd's BMW in Oakville, ON says he has never heard of a BMW or Harley being exported from Canada into the US successfully. US to Canada is easy. Canada to US is almost impossible.
    If I can do it, he says I'd need to add the charcoal canister, change the CAT code plug, and change the instrument cluster from KM to MPH so the odometer reads in MPH in order to register it in the states. All that is feasible.
    US Border Patrol at Buffalo says if I don't show up with Emissions Certification and Emissions sticker, they won't let me cross the border. Talking to the customs broker, Cole International in Port Huron in a couple of hours to see what magic they can come up with.
    2009 R1200RT, 2005 R1200C Montauk (The elusive Piedmont Red & Silver "350" commemorative model); and 2002 R1200C Montana
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  13. #13
    Registered User rocketmanli's Avatar
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    Newest wrinkle..
    As per BMW North America and BMW Canada, the emission compliance letter can only be obtained from a registered NHTSA importer. Spoke to a very knowledgeable guy in Hamburg, NY (of all places) who I just e-mailed the VIN# to. He's going to contact BMW NA to see if they'll waive the requirements due to the rareness of the bike.
    Otherwise, CAT code plug, charcoal canister, and kmph to mph instrument cluster conversion has to be completed by him or a registered Canadian BMW dealer before it can be released into the states, and photos of the conversion need to be shown as well as a visit to a lab to test the emissions. He also has to physically go get the bike and I can pick it up from him. $300+/- for pickup, plus $ 675 for all DOT customs clearing docs. Holy cow Batman!
    2009 R1200RT, 2005 R1200C Montauk (The elusive Piedmont Red & Silver "350" commemorative model); and 2002 R1200C Montana
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  14. #14
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    Sitting here reading this shaking my head in disbelief.

  15. #15
    Registered User rocketmanli's Avatar
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    Trust me, I'm living it, and can't believe it myself. Such a simple thing can become so difficult.
    2009 R1200RT, 2005 R1200C Montauk (The elusive Piedmont Red & Silver "350" commemorative model); and 2002 R1200C Montana
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