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Can I buy a motorcycle in Canada and bring it to the US?

Published by Tamar Hela.

Can I buy a motorcycle in Canada and bring it to the US?

Despite their proximity to each other, the US and Canada are still two different countries. The motorcycle market in each country has some differences. What can happen is an American citizen is on a trip to Canada, sees a motorbike, and buys it. The American wants to bring it home to the US. Thus starts the importation process.

Can this happen? Definitely. You can buy a motorbike in Canada and bring it back to the US anytime. What you must remember is to follow the appropriate rules for vehicle importation. Rules apply on both sides of the border, so get to know them before you bring the motorcycle back home.

Learn more about how you can send your purchased-in-Canada motorbike back home to the US. We'll explain the import process.


Why Buy a Motorcycle in Canada But Ride It in the US?

Buying a motorcycle in Canada to ride in America appeals for various reasons. Some motorcycle models may be available across the border but not at home. For example, classic or collector's item Japanese motorcycles can be more available in Canada but not in the US. Or perhaps you find some models at a lower price in Canada.

Once bought, it counts as an import when bringing you bring the motorcycle into the US. The process is the same whether you ride it yourself or have it shipped.

Meanwhile, Americans and Canadians frequently traverse the shared border, one of the longest in the world, for reasons ranging from tourism to trade. Every year, millions make the journey. While exact figures fluctuate, it's estimated that in pre-pandemic times, about 400,000 people crossed daily between the two countries.

However, importing a motorcycle involves following more specific rules than regular human crossing. The US Customs and Border Protection alongside the Canada Border Services Agency regulates such activities. Understanding their requirements is vital for a smooth transition from Canadian to American roads.

Motorcycles must comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and emissions standards required for US public roads. Engaging a Customs Broker could facilitate the customs clearance process. They will ensure all paperwork, including insurance policy and import process documents, are in order.

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The Import Process for Motorcycles from Canada to the US

When importing a motorcycle from Canada, you must take the following general steps.

At the Canadian border crossing

The Canadian Border Services Agency is at the frontline of the Canadian border, safeguarding against illegal entry and ensuring the seamless flow of legitimate travelers and trade. The CBSA operates at various points of entry, which include airports, seaports, and the long-standing Canadian land border shared with the United States.

Among its responsibilities are:

  • Regulating and monitoring cross-border movements of goods and people.
  • Enforcing immigration and customs laws.
  • Collecting duties and taxes on imported goods.
  • Preventing contraband and illegal substances from entering Canada.

When you reach the Canadian border, you must present the necessary paperwork for your motorcycle. This includes proof of ownership and identification. You may also need an insurance policy. Import duty and taxes will be assessed based on your motorcycle's classification and model.

Motorcycles meant for public roads will undergo a more stringent inspection than, say, dirt bikes intended for off-road use. Meanwhile, classic motorcycles often have different requirements.


Documents you need from Canada

From Canada, your motorcycle will already have its documents. Gather these documents and present them to the authorities on both sides when asked.

They may include:

  • Bill of Sale: Proof of purchase from the Canadian seller.
  • Original Title: The motorcycle's title from Canada.
  • Export Declaration: You may also need an export declaration document.

Entering the US through US Customs and Border Protection

The motorcycle's first point of entry in the US will be at the US CPB. You must declare the motorcycle to CBP officers. They'll follow up by providing instructions and the required forms.

The forms you're going to have to fill out may include:

  • EPA Form 3520-1: It declares the motorcycle and indicates its compliance with US environmental standards.
  • DOT Form HS-7: This describes the motorcycle for customs purposes.
  • CBP Entry Summary Form 7501: The document details the motorcycle's value for duty assessment.

Your motorcycle will then be subject to a safety inspection and a clean title check. Then you'll be asked to pay for the following:

  • Import Duty: A duty is usually assessed based on the motorcycle's value (around 2.4% for motorcycles).
  • Taxes: Depending on your state in the USA, additional taxes might apply.

Registering the motorcycle in the US

Once the customs clearance process is done, you're free to register your Canadian motorcycle in the US. The step is simple: go to your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. Ask for instructions for registering a motorcycle. Requirements will vary based on states, so your local DMV is the best bet to explain the specific details and forms you'll need for registration.

In general, the documents you need are:

  • Bill of Sale
  • CBP Entry Documentation (Forms 3520-1, HS-7, and 7501)
  • Proof of Ownership (Original Title from Canada)
  • Vehicle Identification Number Verification: The DMV will verify the VIN to ensure the motorcycle is not stolen.

Some states will also require an emissions test, depending on the motorcycle's manufacturing year and origins. After that, you'll pay the registration fees applicable in your state.

Some additional points on motorcycle import

  • Importer Security Filing: Transporting your motorcycle is likely done by road (land or track). But if your motorbike is shipped by sea, you may need to file an ISF.
  • Your motorcycle's age matters: If you happen to import a classic motorcycle or anything older than 25 years, EPA and DOT exemptions may apply. But be aware that some states may have stricter rules.
  • Motorcycle modifications: Are there significant modifications to your motorcycle? If so, you need to have the modifications documented. Also, you may have to certify them to comply with US regulations.

Temporary imports of motorcycles in the USA

If you're not permanently bringing your motorcycle to the US, you can import your motorcycle temporarily. This means declaring the motorcycle as a temporary import at the American port of entry with the US CBP. Temporary imports are intended for non-US residents. In other words, this may apply to a Canadian who brings his or her motorcycle into the US temporarily.

  1. Check your eligibility for temporary imports
  2. Provide the necessary documents (proof of ownership, insurance policy, registration)
  3. Declare the status of the temporary import

A temporary import is generally granted for up to one year in the US. But any longer than that, you must register the vehicle properly in the US. Before the authorized period expires, you must return the motorcycle to Canada. Otherwise, you'll get penalties.

Always verify with government authorities like the CBSA and Transport Canada for the latest regulations and processes, including temporary imports.

Vehicle Insurance Is Vital to Road Safety

Getting insurance coverage is not mandatory for importing a motorcycle from Canada. But it's still highly recommended. The motorcycle will pass clearance more securely if it's insured. And if you register the vehicle in the US, most states will likely ask for proof of insurance.

Plus, insurance coverage will protect your vehicle. An import insurance will cover the motorcycle during transit. And overall vehicle insurance will cover protection that meets state-specific mandates once the bike is in America. At a minimum, liability insurance will cover potential damages or injuries caused to others in an accident.

It's also more advantageous to get a US-based insurance policy when you register your motorbike stateside. The policy will be more compatible with US regulations.

Comparing Safety and Emissions Standards between the US and Canada

How different are the safety and emissions standards between the US and Canada? They're actually not that vastly different, but there are differences.

Both countries have similarities, such as:

  • Similar goals: both countries want to reduce gas emissions and ensure vehicle safety
  • Similar standards: both countries base their standards on international regulations with some regional variations
  • Motorcycle manufacturers often produce vehicles complying with both US and Canadian standards for wider market reach

But their differences lie in:

  • Regulatory Bodies:

    • The US: The Environmental Protection Agency sets emissions standards, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets safety standards.
    • Canada: Transport Canada is responsible for both safety and emission standards for on-road vehicles.
  • Specific requirements: There might be minor variations in specific requirements between the two countries. For instance, daytime running lights might be mandatory in Canada but not in all US states.

  • Timeline: The adoption of new standards might not always happen simultaneously in both countries. There could be a slight lag between when a standard takes effect in the US and when a similar regulation is implemented in Canada.

Due to the high degree of similarity, most vehicles compliant with US standards will also meet the required Canadian standards, and vice versa. This simplifies the import process between the two countries. But in some cases, a motorcycle or a vehicle may still need modifications. For the specifics, consult the EPA, the NHTSA, and Transport Canada.


Wrapping things up

You can buy a motorcycle in Canada and then bring it to the US. You can drive the motorcycle back home yourself or get it shipped by road or track. While you may need the assistance of a Customs Broker, the process is less tricky than importing from other countries. Thanks to the US and Canada sharing a border and the same language, importing a vehicle from Canada can be simpler.

A1 Auto Transport can definitely help you bring your Canadian motorcycle purchase back home. Check out our international motorcycle shipping service and get ready to import. Get your free quote here.

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Tamar Hela is one of our featured writers at A-1 Auto Transport, researching everything from AI auto shipments out of China to what paperwork is required to move long distance. We can safely say she's become well versed in all things shipping and logistics while making the information easy to digest and understandable. 

Tamar has been a copywriter for over 16 years and was trained in the 7-Figure Copywriting Accelerator course through American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI). She's also an incredibly seasoned copyeditor, having previously been the Chief Editor and Publishing Director for Cosby Media Productions, based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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