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Old 11 Apr 2011
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Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Adelaide
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Enquiry to buy a motorcyle in USA (NewYork)

My wife and I plan to travel from New York to Prudhoe Bay (Alaska) and then down the Pan American Highway to Ushuaia. After evaluating all the facts (buying the bikes in Australia, shipping to USA or buying new bikes in the USA) we came to the conclusion to buy new bikes in New York, but we have a couple of unknown facts. Any answer of these questions would be really appreciated and would make it so much easier for us to finalise our decision (one item less on the long to do list :-)

1. Can we as foreigners purchase and register a motorbike in the USA?

2. What -in addition to the motorbike purchase price - do we have to pay to get the bike registered and does anyone know how much would that be ( I read something about sales tax?)

3. If we have to pay the sales tax, can we get the tax back when we are leaving the USA?

4. Can I insure the bike in N.Y. and is the insurance valid in other states in the USA or in Canada?

5. If we can insure it, would anybody have an idea how much would it be for a new DR650 (rough estimate only).

6. Do we need something else when we travel from USA to Canada?

7. Is there anything else what we have to consider? .. and most likely forgotten..?

Bjoern & Sigrid
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Old 11 Apr 2011
farqhuar's Avatar
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Location: Oztralia
Posts: 566
G'day Bjoern. My info is very old (35 years +), but as an Aussie I did buy a bike in NYC.

1. Yes, you can buy a bike.
2/3. Yes, you will most likely have to pay sales tax, but is only around 8% - I wouldn't plan on being able to get it back, but if you do - hey that's a bonus.
4/5. I personally wouldn't bother again with insurance - I took it out but found it to be worthless. As a foreigner you will pay a premium - I doubt if anyone here will be able to give you an idea of what it is worth.
6. To cross the border to Canada you will need your passport and the rego papers for the bike.

More recently (1990s) I lived in Canada and bought a car in Buffalo (NY) to import into Ontario. I (and millions of others) regularly crossed the Canadian/US border without question - passport and rego papers are all that is required.
Garry from Oz - powered by Burgman
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Old 11 Apr 2011
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Eumundi, AUS
Posts: 88
Hi guys

As an Aussie I did this last year.

1. Yes, you can buy and register a bike but you'll need a local address. We bought 2 from dealers in Caliornia.

2. There will be sales tax to pay if you buy from a business but not sure about private sales, presume not. The sales tax varies per state. Some states like Oregon don't have any for instance.

3. Am not sure. In other countries you have to formally 'export' the bike to get your tax back. Am not sure if this is practical from the US.

4. You'll need to check your insurance company's policy but we used Progressive (who are really great) and covered us for all states and Canada although we needed to get a special insurance card for Canada. It cost nothing extra just took a few days longer to be posted out.

5. ebay, craiglist, cycletrader.com, cycletrader.com are all places to research prices

6. As farqhuar said, you'll need your rego papers and passport. Numberplates are optional as I found. The Canadians didn't mind that I didn't have one (thanks to a broke Californian govt with part time workers) and the americans had the VIN number etc. in their big database in the sky when I crossed back into the US.

7. Yes, how to have the most fun!

(One last tip - I tend to scan my documents and have them on a secure server in the cloud in case anything gets stolen. I also tend to offer photocopies when crossing borders to prevent damage to original papers).

Have fun.
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Old 16 May 2011
BMWAdvRider's Avatar
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Location: Brooklyn NY
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Buying a motorcycle in NY/USA

Just saw your post and have a little additional info for you. Hope it's not too late.

1. Each state has different laws regarding registering vehicles.

2. Most states have a sales tax (like VAT), they vary, but 8-9% should be the highest you'd have to pay. Oregon and perhaps Nevada have no sales tax.

3. Generally, in order to register any vehicle and get a license plate/tag/reg number one must pay the sales tax. If you buy from a dealer they will add the tax to the price of the bike. If you buy the bike from an individual then the state will most likely require payment of the sales tax at time of registration.

4. Usually if you buy from a dealer they handle all the interface with the state. You give them the $, they give you the bike and a couple of weeks later you receive the title/registration certificate in the mail. In the interim you will have a temporary registration and/or plate.

5. Therefore, you will need a local mailing address. There are many small businesses (like the UPS Store or Mailboxes Etc.) that rent "post boxes" & addresses for a small fee. They will even forward mail to you as you cross the Continent.

6. Many states also require a mechanical inspection of the vehicle. Some, like California don't (they do road-side safety inspections randomly). Some state require even new vehicles to be inspected. Most just for 2-3 year old vehicles. Motorcycles fall under the same rules as cars, generally.

7. Liability insurance for the motorcycle is required in most states. They are minimum amounts in each state- Progressive, GEICO and other insurers will help you, as will a motorcycle dealer (they get a commission on the insurance cost for referring you). But, you only need to obtain the insurance in the state where the vehicle is registered; all other states accept the registration and insurance. States that require insurance require you to furnish proof of insurance when you register the vehicle. The insurance company will provide a certificate of insurance for you to ride in Canada. However, you must buy separate insurance for Mexico, generally available at the border, Don't go there without it. The border guards may not stop you at the crossing, but they have checkpoints about 100km into the country and will stop you, they could confiscate the bike if you don't have insurance.

This all sounds very complicated, but it really isn't especially in New York, California and other states that have a lot of travelers from other countries. It is not unusual for visitor to buy a vehicle on the East Coast, drive it cross-country and resell it some where along the Pacific Ocean.

May I suggest you contact a dealer in NY, like BMW Manhattan, regarding your interest in buying a motorcycle, explain the situation and ask them how to go about doing it. You shouldn't be obligated to buy from them, but it's a good dealership (as are Irv Seaver-BMW and Brown's in Southern California). Contact BMWMOA.org and they may be able to help you too.

If you are a member of RAC or another national auto association, you may be able to get advice form them and then utilize their colleagues at the American Automobile Association(AAA) in the US to help too.

Anyway, enjoy your ride and ride safe.
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Old 17 May 2011
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Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Berkeley, CA USA
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A note on paying sales tax: if you do not buy from a dealer, then you register the bike yourself and they will ask you how much you paid for the bike. You can pretty much tell them anything you like and pay whatever tax the state you are in charges (which can range from nothing to almost 10%).

You can get really badly screwed if you do not have at least liability insurance and you are in an accident.

You may get away with not having a license plate for a while, but you are asking to be pulled over by the police and that could open a can of worms. With everything in order, you should never have to speak to the police while driving around the US.
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