Importing motorcycles – my experience

Hi, just finished reading the article on importing a motorcycle and thought I’d pass along my experience with the issue.


Triumph Speedmaster – $2,800 cheaper in the US.

I was planning on buying a Triumph Speedmaster from my local dealer
when I decided to check the price south of the border. The price at the
dealer here was $2,800 more than the same bike just 2hrs down the road! This price difference does not include the $1,500 in accessories that
Triumph in the US will throw in to sweeten the deal.

Being like most
people, cheap – I mean looking for the best value – I investigated what
was required to bring it across the border.

(1) The first stop was to see if it was allowed in. All Triumphs since 2000 are and you have to pay just
the $195 fee.

(2) Then a call to the border guards to find how much duty
was payable – none on street bikes, just the standard pst/gst.

3) Then I
discovered the Letter of Recall Compliance – to show the vehicle is
safe. This comes from the OEM (in this case Triumph USA) but for
Triumphs, RIV uses the VIN website and so doesn’t require one.

Armed with this info I went back to my local dealer to see if I could
get some flex in his price (since I really wanted to buy local). His
initial response was that I wouldn’t be allowed to bring it in, see (1)
above. Following my comments he told me that Triumph would not issue a
Letter of Compliance, see (3) above. Lastly, he stated that the warranty on
the bike would not cross the border. I asked him whether it was
reasonable to expect the new version of Triumph to undergo effectively
$4,300 worth of warranty work in 2yrs and he admitted no.

In your article you stated that Triumph has an international warranty,
where did you find this or was it just quoted by the Triumph guy? If
this is the case then there is even less reason to buy from my local
dealer, especially since he seems to have no qualms over trying to snow
people (at least he’s seasonable).

The prices have just come out for the ’08 Speedmaster $10,800 here and
$8,200 in New York State (no comment on the accessory bonus). Come
the spring it looks like I’ll have to drive south to get a bike unless
something major changes.

Graham Edwards
(in the process of replacing a 1978 CX500 with 101,000 Km on it)

Wow, interesting letter. Based on your comments, your dealer is either
seriously misinformed, or desperate and is simply lying to you.

know about the border stuff already, and I used to work for a shop that
sold Triumph, and can confirm that Triumph’s warranty is a world-wide
one … unless that policy has changed in the last few months.

As for buying south … your money, your choice. Canadian vs U.S. The Canadian dollar
has dropped back to about par in the last week or so and is likely to
drop further in my opinion (please don’t quote or sue me on that one).

Clearly, if you’re just replacing a ’78 CX500 you’re in no desperate hurry anyway, lol.


What Larry said – your money, your choice. The dealer didn’t go out of
his way to help himself, but a lot of the blame doesn’t rest on his
shoulders. The OEMs set the dealer cost (many months in
advance) and if he were to sell you that bike for that price he would
very likely lose money in the process.

The price changes must happen
further up the food chain – witness Suzuki Canada’s recent reaction BUT
bear in mind what that does to resale values. I guess if you got
almost 20 years out of your last ride that’s not an issue …


My only concern would be if the option to get that deal will still be there in the Spring. This massive difference in pricing can’t go on for too much longer and I doubt that Canadian prices will come down much to close the gap.

Of course, there could be a whole host of incentives that come in to help bridge the gap (which might help to persuade you to go local), but I suspect that US pricing will have to rise.

Question is, when?

Editor ‘arris 


  1. I’ve bought 2 USA bikes in the last year:

    1999 Royal Star dresser 40,000 kms $6980

    2002 Honda Goldwing SE (ABS) 10,000 kms $10,800

    ALso a 2004 Cadillac SLS 80,000 kms $9,999

    I’m never going to buy Canadian again.

    Geets 😕

  2. Bought a Honda Rune out of Alabama this summer. Had it shipped into Missoula, Montana to save on Brokerage.

    Absoulutely NO hassles. Payed the gst and RIV cost. Saved a little over 6 grand Canadian

  3. I believe in shopping locally, only problem was when I first approached Kahuna cycle to buy a Concours 14 the best deal he offered was a bike with 260 kms on it that he wouldn’t charge me for pdi and freight. Arrogant about it too. $21750 out the door. Bought in PA on November 1, total cost to put it on the road here is going to be $13700. I have paper work to prove. Warranty is not an issue. Border was a breeze. Good to shop local but come one dealers drop the attitude and improve service and maybe just maybe people will go south less to buy.
    Recall letter from web site, no cost or prob

  4. I imported a used R1150GS in the summer. BMW tries to make it sound more complicated than it is. They too charge $500 for a recall compliance letter. When you read the fine print on the RIV site, they will also accept a letter or computer printout from a U.S. dealer stating there are no outstanding issues on the bike. It must contain the VIN and manufacturers logo. I found a dealer in the U.S. who was willing to print one off and fax it to me. That satisfied RIV, and I was pleased to tell BMW Canada where to go.

  5. It was the same way for us in the early seventies. A Trump was higher in Canada than the US. Our dollar was the same and we were in the Commonwealth. After all these years somebody is still lining their pockets.

  6. Yeah good deal but the girl on the Canadian bike in the Triumph flyer is much more attractive. Leave the bike alone and go south with the girl that’s what i call a triumph.

  7. I recently went and checked out this same stuff for another manufacturer, in my case, KTM.
    Bike I want is 7499 in detroit, vs 10500 here in waterloo, or toronto.
    But KTM charges 500$ for the letter of compliance, and you must wait 6-8weeks for it to be issued once you apply for it. once I found that out, the issue was moot

  8. Considering I bought my last 2 bikes 5 hours away (still in Ontario) to save about $1,000 a piece after all the trouble I can see why some of you would travel even less to save much more. At the end of the day if you can put a couple thousand dollars in your pocket then shopping at the local guy is a bit like charit and you may as well pick something registered so you get the tax benifit.

    Perhaps the local dealers should be getting the same bail outs farmers have had when things out of their control impact their business.

  9. I imported a Yamaha from N.Y this last April and saved quite a bit, Very little hassle aside from having to drive back and force (got stuck in a snow storm on the way back). When buying a Yamaha/Kawasaki/Honda/Suzuki, I wouldn’t care about warrenty since it never came handy in the past (this bikes simply don’t brake during the first 10 years). A Triumph is a different story though as I learned with my 1975 TR7 (single carb 750) …., Your dealer make it’s living from his shop, parts and accesories not by selling new bikes anyways so support your local dealer by not buying gear on e-bay.

  10. I won’t comment on the ethical considerations of buying “there” vs “here”, but I want to confirm that it is no big deal to import a bike from the US. Coincidently I imported a Speedmaster a couple of years ago (it was cheap because it had many improvements and accessories that I wanted and my dealer didn’t have any Speedmasters in stock). It was a used bike so there was the added complication of leaving it at the US border for 72 hours while they checked the title, but otherwise no big hassle.

  11. The comment about US prices rising is raised time and time again in this issue but I can’t believe the market will follow this theory. Bikes are hardly a necessity so higher prices will only hurt sales and turn more buyers to US (read Harley) product. No manufacturer will intentionally reduce market share.

  12. For a number of years I paid $1.50-1.60 to buy 1 US dollar. I still travelled in the states a lot.
    Now I get even money and if prices on some things are lower there, I don’t hesitate to purchase them.

    I suspect the dollar won’t stay on par but if there is a bike or car deal to be had, I’ll do it.

  13. Your money, your choice. The OEM’s set up a difference between US and Canadian prices and you don’t seem interested in paying that difference. I’m certainly not interested in paying it either. That leaves our local dealers to pay; one way or another. Somebody is biting the hand that feeds them. Actually, I think we all are.

  14. All of the comments about buying power, size of the market, etc. simply begs the question of why have a Canadian distributor at all? Why not have a North American distributor that can pass on reasonable (from the consumers’ perspective) prices for all motorcycles in Canada/USA/Mexico? I understand that I have to pay more for living in Canada because of the size of the market but I cannot get over the fact that it costs up to 40% more to purchase the same bike in Vancouver vs in Bellingham, Washington. If it does cost that much more, show us where the costs are. Show us the money trail.

  15. Obviously it’s your choice to buy from a Canadian dealer or American. My concern is that as people go south to buy, more and more Canadian dealers will lose money, and perhaps go bankrupt. Then who does the servicing for your bike???
    I don’t think it’s just a money issue. I think it’s important to support “our own” in this regard, even if it means a bit more money out of our pockets. We still have competitive pricing on bikes compared to many other nations. We don’t have the buying power of the U.S. so we shouldn’t expect the same pricing, even with on-par dollars.

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