Motorcycle Riding into Canada + Canadian Customs

Riding motorcycles in CanadaThe time for riding your bike in Canada is fast approaching. Spring into Summer offer the most scenic rides though all parts of Canada. The light changes, the colors blossom, the roads are in good riding condition and the temperatures are warm. But it’s no good to you unless you have a bike to ride. So make sure, if you’re a purchasing a bike in the United States to ride back to Canada, or getting a motorcycle shipping company to ship it back, that all the border crossing information is in order. I can tell you from personal experience, it has cost me a lot of time and dollars when I did not prepare correctly.

First and foremost check with the Registrar of Imported vehicles (www.riv.ca) that the bike is admissible into Canada. Not all bikes meet Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). If this is the case they cannot be imported into Canada. I unfortunately did not do my homework a few years back and was caught at the border with a Buell beauty that was denied entry. The word nightmare could not accurately describe what I went through. I had taken a fantastic road trip from California, up the PCH to cross the border through Washington. Much to my chagrin, I was greeted by the friendly customs officer with, “nice bike, but sorry it’s not admissible into Canada. Please turn around, you’re holding up traffic!” I was speechless. I had no idea certain bikes were not allowed into the country. Apparently, not all bikes are made equal and some of them do not meet the strict safety standards of Canada. Sometimes, they can be modified to meet those standards, but most cases the bike cannot be modified and are specifically for the individual market. I was left with no other option, but to turn around, ride my bike back to a storage facility and leave it there, while a friend had to come pick me up to return to Vancouver. I ended up selling the bike on EBay and cutting my losses. Talk about learning a lesson the hard way!

Another important thing to take care of before crossing the border with a newly purchased bike is to notify US customs. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regulations require the exporter of a vehicle to submit all export documents to the port of entry from which the vehicle will be exported at least 72 hours prior to export. US customs will not allow a bike out of the country without proving that it has not been stolen and it has no liens or outstanding debts. So you will need to supply them with proof of a bill of sale and a copy of the certificate of title showing the title correctly endorsed over to the new owner. If the title has a lien on it, it must be signed off and a letter showing all-financial responsibilities have been met. These documents can be faxed or emailed to the relevant border crossing, along with a vehicle export cover sheet. You can find out where and who to send them to at www.riv.ca/USCustoms.aspx. Also check into their hours of operation. Some crossings are closed on the weekend and do not operate late. Do your research and you will not end up waiting longer than is necessary. Make sure that you have the original documents with you when crossing the border yourself. You will have to present them to the customs officer so he can match it up with the notification. If you are using a motorcycle shipping company to transport the bike on your behalf, ensure that they take care of the notification for you and that they have the original documents with them. The bike will not be allowed to enter Canada without the original title accompanying it.

When buying an item from another country, all relevant taxes and duties has to be paid, Motorcycles are no different. As soon as the bike changes ownership, the relevant province’s GST, HST and PST have to be taken care of. These are all based on a percentage of the purchase price. This is all taken care of at the border when you ride across, so keep your checkbook or credit card handy. You will have to produce all the relevant documentation to the customs officer so they can calculate how much you owe. If you are using a company to ship the bike to you, my recommendation is to have a customs broker clear the bike through customs on your behalf. For a nominal fee, they take care of any duties and taxes involved in crossing the border and you can sit at home and wait for your bike to arrive. Your other option is to have the bike delivered to a nearby bonded warehouse. Once the bike is delivered, you will have to appear at the warehouse to collect the paperwork, present them to customs, pay your fees and then return for your bike. A lot more hassle with the exact same result.

Over the years, I have learned the ins and outs of bringing bikes in from the United States. I think I have mastered the art. I haven’t been caught by any surprises in a very long time. But never forget, the customs officer is king. If he requests a particular item, make sure you have it. The destiny of the bike lies in his hands. Keep him happy and you will be happy.

1 thought on “Motorcycle Riding into Canada + Canadian Customs”

  1. Hey! Not sure if you monitor this page anymore, but I have a question. Used Harleys are cheaper in Florida than anywhere else I’ve been looking. I want to fly down, buy one, and ride it back to Toronto. I’m trying to figure out how to register it in Florida with temp plates to get me to the border. I want to take about a week or two to get back home.

    Possible? I can’t seem to find definitive information, and most Florida county officials don’t know about a non-US resident.

    Thanks!

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