Friday, November 4, 2011

Importing a motorcycle from the USA to Canada

2009 Yamaha WR250X

If you're a Canadian considering the purchase of a motorcycle from the US market, you should spend an hour or so reading the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) website. Bringing it back home to Canada and making it road legal isn't as difficult as you might think, but it does require a little research and some patience.

The RIV website can make the process feel daunting...lots of complicated rules and regulations, and lots of exceptions. Fortunately, once you get started, you'll quickly realize that the process isn't that scary. Here's a quick summary of how it worked for me:

** keep in mind that I bought my bike used, from a private seller in New York State, although I suspect the process would be pretty much the same for a new or used bike being sold at a dealer.

Step 1: Once you've found your dream bike and negotiated a price will the seller, pay for the motorcycle in full. A deposit to hold the bike isn't going to fly for most people because the US Customs folks will want the paperwork for 3 days before you arrive (more on this in Step 2).  Therefore, you will probably have no choice but to pay the entire purchase price in full right away because the seller isn't going to feel comfortable proceeding to the next step until he has received all of his cash.

Step 2: The seller needs to send the original copy of his title document and registration paper (plus 3 photocopies) to the US Customs office at the border crossing where you plan to cross back into Canada. Because the seller is giving up his title documents, he/she probably won't be willing to do that unless they've been paid in full.  For the state of NY (and other states may be different) the title and licence plate regitration is the same document. It needs to arrive at the US Customs desk at least 72 hours before you plan to show up with the motorcycle. The clock starts.ticking the moment they receive the paperwork. But remember: while the border guards are there 24/7, the customs person who processes vehicle export/import only works 8am-4pm, Mon-Fri. My paperwork arrived on a Thurday afternoon (I called them to confirm) and they said they'd be ready for me to show up with the bike on Monday at 8am.

Step 3: Go get the bike and bring it to the US Customs desk at the border crossing. They will check the bike to ensure the VIN matches the paperwork, then they give you the original copy of the title and you're on to the next step.

Step 4: Cross the border with the bike and stop at the Canadian customs booth to declare your purchase. They'll send you inside and you'll need to provide your bill of sale (anf to make things easier, it's wise to bring a copy of the sales advertisement, and proof of your payment (ex: PayPal receipt). Also, you'll need the original title /registration document, and a letter from the manufacturer which states that there are no outstanding safety recall notices against your new bike (I called Yamaha Canada a few days earlier with the VIN and they emailed me a PDF document that confirmed this.

The Canada Customs person will charge you 5% GST on the purchase amount indicated on your bill of sale (my bill of sale was hand written by the seller and listed the VIN, year, make, model, plus his name & address, and both of us signed and dated the paper). I suspect that if you paid an unusually low price for the bike, they will probably charge the tax based on the redbook/bluebook value (...better to just be honest as trying to cheat Revenue Canada out of a few tax dollars is probably not worth the risk). Then they will ask you to complete the RIV form (just a 1-page form with info about the bike, and you will need it to complete the next step once you're back home).

Step 5: Back home in Canada, the next thing you want to do is hop onto the website and pay your $209 RIV fee (if they didn't charge you at the border). From there, it will take 1 business day for them to process your payment and link your payment to the "case number" that was opened in relation to your file when the Canadian border folks had you fill out the RIV "Form 1" paper. Now is also a good time to call your insurance company and get that taken care of because it may take a day or two for them to setup your policy. My insurance company was able to email me a printable temporary insurance card. You'll need this when you eventually get to the DMV to register the bike for the road.

Step 6: After one business day has passed, you can go back on the RIV website and choose the option to "Track my case"  ... just input your "Case number" (the red number on the top right corner of Form 1) and the last 6 digits of the motorcycle's VIN.  As long as they've processed everything, you'll see a message that everything is complete and you will see a link to "download and print the Vehicle Inspection Form".  This is just a PDF file that contains your bike's info, and you need to print it and take it to any Canadian Tire service centre (along with the RIV Form 1). At the Canadian Tire, they will do a very quick check to ensure the speedometer reads in Km/h (and they'll give you MPH->KMH stickers if it doesn't), and they'll check that your headlight comes on automatically with the ignition. That's it. Takes 2 minutes, and it doesn't cost anything. They will sign and date the Vehicle Inspection Form, then they will fax it to RIV on your behalf.

Step 7: Now you've got a Canadian compliant motorcycle and you can have it mechanically certified (in Ontario, this is the safety certification as required by the provincial Ministry of Transportation). Funnily enough, the same mechanic at Canadian Tire will do this at the same time as the RIV inspection, but they charge $49 for this. While it's a more detailed inspection, it took all of 3 minutes on my bike because the bike was practically new and only had 1,800 miles on the odometer. Essentially, they make sure your tires have reasonable tread remaining, check turn signals, headlight high/low beam, tail/brake lights, and the horn. I paid the fee and left with the completed RIV Inspection Form, and the Ministry of Ontario "Safety Standards Certificate" and the whole process to less than 20 minutes.

Step 8: Proceed to your nearest Ontario Motor Vehicle Registration Office, pay the 8% provincial tax on the value of the bike (remember, at the border, you'll only pay the 5% GST tax). You will also need to bring your bill of sale, and proof of insurance. They'll also charge you for a new license plate and the registration sticker, and then process is complete.

Trailered it across the border on Monday, and by Friday 
all the paperwork was done and it was legally plated.