My Purchase Decision

How to import a motorcycle from the USA into Canada

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Although the factors that influenced my purchase decision will not be the same as your’s, I felt describing mine may give you a clearer picture.

US vs. Canadian Pricing
A huge factor for me was the $5,000 to $6,000 savings by buying in the US. What more can I say – money talks.

Make & Model Choice
A favourable point in respect to my choice of a motorcycles is that the Honda Gold Wing is made in the US, in Maryville, OH. It can be imported into Canada duty free but that may or may not apply to bikes made in Europe or Japan.

Used vs. New
When buying used, you have do a little more work and recognize that buying used comes does come with some additional risks. I originally planned to buy used and encountered some unusual reactions from private citizen US sellers. One stated in rude terms that he would only sell to an American. Another Canadian buyer, asking perfectly legitimate questions of a seller, found his name posted on a popular GL1800 forum as a suspected scammer.

and others have had some interesting experiences dealing with private US citizens selling used motorcycles and I’ll cover some of that later, in a separate topic.

Once you find the right bike and seller, you have to do your due diligence to ensure it’s in good condition and has a clear title. You’ll also need a copy of the title and bill of sale to send to the US Customs Vehicle Export Office not less than 72 hours before the bike reaches that border crossing.

Gold Wings have very good value retention, which is good after you own one but not so good when you’re buying. For me, I finally decided that the meager savings I’d realize on a 1 to 3 year old bike was not worth it so I changed direction and started looking at new bikes. If used is what does it for you, check out Steve Saunder’s website (http://www.goldwingfacts.com/usedgoldwing.htm) for information on buying a used Gold Wing

US Mailing Address
What would you say if I told you that renting a US mail box for a couple of months could save you over $1,000 when buying a new motorcycle? It’s true, and if you have a close friend or relative in the US, you can save that $1,000 without renting mail box.

Honda controls dealer pricing through what’s called a “holdback”. If your dealer registers the sale with Honda using a non-US address, they do not get their holdback and therefore can not discount their price as deeply. By having a US address on the sales document, they are able to drop their price by more than $1,000 and it makes no difference at Canadian Customs or during the import process as long as it’s your name on the sales invoice. Of course, this only applies to new bike sales.

US Bike, US Warranty
Canadian Honda dealers and misinformed fellow riders like to spout their “import knowledge” by offering a friendly tip, “If you import a bike from the US, its warranty is void.” In some cases it simply ignorance of the facts and in some cases Canadian dealers knowingly lie, using this as a scare tactic. The fact is, if you buy a bike in the US, it still has the exactly the same warranty (OEM or extended) even after importing you bike into Canada.

The catch here is that your warranty is from and with American Honda, not Honda Canada. Canadian Honda dealers will not do warranty work on a US purchased bike that’s been imported into Canada. This is the same as doing warranty work on a US bike that breaks down while visiting Canada – they are not going to do the work at no cost to you. Warranty work can however still be done at any US Honda dealer, regardless of where (in the US) you purchased it.

Dealer Selection
There are many aspects to selecting the right dealer. You’ll want one that’s not adverse to selling to a Canadian and is willing to work with you on pricing of the bike, accessories and labour.

I talked to many dealers in Washington, Oregon and California in hopes of making a deal reasonably close to home. I found many didn’t have many Gold Wings in stock or they were not willing/able to price competitively with volume sales outlets. I almost had a deal with (Cycle Barn) in Lynwood, WA. I had visited their store and made my intentions clear to their sales representative, then when closing the deal, their Sales Manager decided that since I was exporting the bike to Canada they needed to jack the price up by $2,000.

Finally, I went to the internet and identified several volume dealers and then narrowed my list down to a few that had stock and didn’t appear to have issues with selling to a Canadian. I then narrowed my list down to a few key targets that where located such that I could ride my bike home in March without severe road condition concerns. I could have looked at dealers further away and transported the bike home but Honda dealers are contractually bound to have you at their location live and in person at some point during the sales process and I’ve heard a number of horror stories about bike transport incidents. Besides, who wouldn’t look forward to flying down and riding your new bike home?

At last I was down to 2 dealers, one in Texas and the other in Oklahoma. Most volume dealers sell at about the same price but what swung me toward the Altus Motorsports in Altus, Oklahoma was his willingness to price competitively on the bike, accessories and install labour, and Oklahoma temporary license plates. When you buy a new vehicle in Oklahoma you pay $55 for a 30-day paper license plate that’s good anywhere regular Oklahoma plates are. This makes the ride home less complicated that when having to acquire separate permits for the multiple states I’d be traveling through.

I dealt with the owner of Altus Motorsports and we put a deal together over the phone, using my Visa card to put down a $500 deposit. They faxed me a sales agreement to sign and a copy of the bikes Certificate of Origin (used in place of a Title for a new vehicle).