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Travellers' questions that don't fit anywhere else This is an opportunity to ask any question, and post any notice you wish that doesn't fit into one of the other sections.
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  #1  
Old 2 Mar 2010
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riding around the states

hi everyone,
Im new to this site,but am looking for some help, I am travelling to los angeles in may from new zealand, to buy a bike and spend 50 days riding around the states, then at the end of my ride I will ship the bike back to new zealand,the question is what do I need to know when I buy the bike regarding registration, insurance ,etc?
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  #2  
Old 2 Mar 2010
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I am afraid I am not going to be too useful, even though I live here in the States.

I am not sure about CA, but in Colorado, you generally just need proof of insurance and ID to get title to the bike. I am not 100% sure if you need a Colorado address (I have always had one). Other than that, I think it is pretty simple. I am not sure what the requirements are for getting insurance if you live out of the country, but I know there are other links to that around.
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  #3  
Old 2 Mar 2010
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thanks earliv,every bit of info will help
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  #4  
Old 10 Mar 2010
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What a great adventure you have planned!

First, there will be two distinct tasks when you buy your motorcycle here in California: transferring ownership (title) and getting it licensed (registration). Actually, there is a third: paying taxes and fees, but you cannot do the first two without it anyway so I don't count it separately.

I've been a California resident for over half a century and have bought/sold many, many vehicles here. I've found that it's never the same twice! It sorta depends on who you get when you finally step up to the counter at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). But here's the basic procedure:

First you transfer the title. The seller will provide a "pink slip" (which has not actually been pink for many years but it will be called a pink slip until the end of time). He/she signs it to release ownership interest. You fill out your part of it, present it to the DMV clerk with a bill of sale (more on that in a second), pay the "use fee" (sales tax by another name), transfer fee, etc., and the vehicle is legally yours. No driver's license should be needed because anyone, even a child, is legally allowed to own a car if they want. They just can't drive it. But it never hurts to have a license because that's the de facto universal identification document here.

Back to that bill of sale: Legally, a handwritten note on the back of a bar napkin will suffice. However, if you want to get in and out of the DMV office with the least hassle, download the official DMV bill of sale form from their web site http://www.dmv.ca.gov/forms/reg/reg135.pdf and have it filled out before you step foot into the DMV.

Important note: Almost everyone tries to cheat by putting down a price lower than they really paid. It's up to you, but be aware that the DMV is not stupid and they have computers. Also, taxes are the way we pay for our roads. Also, being honest is simply a good way to live. I'm just sayin'.

The second major step is vehicle registration. I'm not actually sure how they'll deal with registering a vehicle to someone who is not a resident of California, but my guess is they'll do it happily -- because, of course, they get to charge more fees! There's a registration fee, a license fee, a transfer fee, a moon-phase fee, a fee payment fee, and probably a fee determination fee. Just kidding on the last ones, but it sure seems like that when you see the form with about four columns of mysterious fees.

When you've successfully registered the vehicle they will usually issue your license plates on the spot. (Actually it's license PLATE, singular, for motorcycles.) But they will need to mail you the new title because that must come from Sacramento. They will give you a temporary title document so you have something to prove the vehicle is yours, but you will need an address so they can mail the real one to you. If you won't have an address here, get in touch with me.

The DMV main site is:
California Department of Motor Vehicles

Info on buying/selling a vehicle:
Buying or Selling a Vehicle (Changing Vehicle Ownership)

Info on title and registration:
Vehicle Registration and Title Information

Info for exporting a vehicle out of California:
Vehicles For Exportation

And if you plan to ride in Northern California when you're here, let me know! I'll buy ya a cup of coffee at my neighborhood coffee shop, and maybe ride with you up to the world-famous Alice's Restaurant on Skyline if my schedule allows. Usually not difficult to talk me into THAT.
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Craig Haggart
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'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness' - Mark Twain
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  #5  
Old 10 Mar 2010
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Oh yeah, I forgot insurance. Although insurance is mandatory for all drivers in California, I don't believe they ask for proof of insurance at the DMV. At least they haven't ever asked me for it, but that may be because I'm in their computer system already and have had the same California driver's license since 1969. I dunno.

In any case, you WILL want insurance if you touch a tire to pavement in the U.S., and whoever you get it from will provide you with a proof of insurance card or document. If you need a recommendation for an inexpensive basic motorcycle insurer, let me know. Mine charges me only $85/year for a 600cc crotch rocket, though perhaps that's because I'm old, have a great record, and have never filed a claim. Worth an inquiry anyway.
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  #6  
Old 10 Mar 2010
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Why not buy in a state which has no sales tax? Oregon and New Hampshire and I think Texas spring to mind - save yourself 8% straight away.

Also, in California, bikes are fitted with emissions controls which can be a bit of a nause, so getting one in another state might be helpful from that point of view as well.

Address may be required - a dealer may let you use theirs; otherwise a friendly HUBBer would be useful.....

DS
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  #7  
Old 10 Mar 2010
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Docsherlock has the right idea. Don't buy in CA the bike will have loads of extra emmissions crap on it and you have to pay extra tax too.

However, if you're permanently exporting a vehicle from a country usually you can dispense with some or all local taxes. It may be worth looking into.
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  #8  
Old 11 Mar 2010
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It might be better to buy a bike in a different state if that works for you, but be aware that motorcycles are exempt from smog testing here so that shouldn't really be a factor. Also note that you will almost certainly pay less for the equivalent bike in Los Angeles compared to, say, Portland, because the market is so much larger and more competitive in Southern California. At the very least, you're far more likely to find just the bike you're looking for.
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  #9  
Old 11 Mar 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Docsherlock View Post
Why not buy in a state which has no sales tax? Oregon and New Hampshire and I think Texas spring to mind - save yourself 8% straight away.

Also, in California, bikes are fitted with emissions controls which can be a bit of a nause, so getting one in another state might be helpful from that point of view as well.

Address may be required - a dealer may let you use theirs; otherwise a friendly HUBBer would be useful.....

DS
Reason One:
20 times more bikes for sale in California, and cheaper, as noted correctly above. Why are Brits always wrong on California stuff?
"Loads of emissions stuff? Ahem, no. Maybe a charcoal cannister. Comes off in five minutes flat.

Reason Two: See reason one!

Actually the SF Bay Area is the best place to buy a used bike, even more bikes than LA and everything is closer together. LA is B I G, and hard to get around unless you know where you're going. (It's 50 miles wide and 50 miles long) If you are buying new, then Oregon would good, but of course you'll pay more there than in California.

ALL US bikes have some sort of emissions, CA bike have a bit more. Not a big deal in most cases. And no one pays full tax, not even close.
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  #10  
Old 11 Mar 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cb160racer View Post
Back to that bill of sale: Legally, a handwritten note on the back of a bar napkin will suffice. However, if you want to get in and out of the DMV office with the least hassle, download the official DMV bill of sale form from their web site http://www.dmv.ca.gov/forms/reg/reg135.pdf and have it filled out before you step foot into the DMV.
Hey Craig,
I'm afraid you've over complicated this process a bit:

1. First off, all modern Ca titles have a bill of sale built right into the Title (Pink Slip) See the back. They ask for DATE, PRICE PAID, CURRENT MILEAGE, and for Signature of both buyer and seller. So no further Bill of Sale needed like in "old days". Make sure you fill it out completely, but don't put in date unless you are going to DMV within 10 days. They require info from both buyer and seller to process transfer/registration.

2. The transfer and registration process is all done in one move if all your paper work is in order. You pay ONE FEE only. Your receipt breaks down the charges.

Don't confuse the young Kiwi with all the extra BS. Its all really so simple. You hand the clerk the signed and properly filled out Pink, sign a few things, pay and then are issued a temporary registration, a receipt and go.

Transfer and registration are done simultaneous, not difficult or confusing ... the clerk does the work.

3. If you buy a used bike, you don't get new plates, unless you want vanity plates or your plates are missing ... you keep the same plates. If the bike is new, then the dealer does everything for you .... no visit to DMV required ... and you get your plates and pink slip in the mail in 2 to 4 weeks. On a used bike, you may get a new sticker if yours is expired or nearly expired. But plates remain the same. That about it. Proof of insurance is not asked for at this time. You have 10 days to get it. But Police will ask for it, so you need it. It is law.

4. You are correct about listing a lower price than actually paid. Everyone does it and I'm sure Ca govt. could use it to improve our roads. IMO, tax has already been paid on the bike. Why should we pay again? Look at the original sales tax mandate. It has been rewritten to allow for payment of sales tax with each subsequent sale, something that has been in the Ca Supreme Court a few times, and has always been in dispute.

5. California allows you 10 days to buy insurance. But our Kiwi friend should buy it of course and this is probably the most difficult part of the whole thing. I hear Progressive sell to non citizen tourists for short term policies. Not sure on this. There are several "angles" to this.

6. Our Kiwi friend will need a local address. This way, DMV can send the new Title to you. But keep in mind, your temporary registration (issued on the spot) is good for 60 days and is totally legal, you can ride anywhere, in any state, including Mexico. Just arrange with your HUBB buddy to forward the paperwork when it arrives in 2 to 4 weeks.
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  #11  
Old 11 Mar 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey D View Post
Hey Craig,
I'm afraid you've over complicated this process a bit
Sorry about that! I was trying to give the poor kiwi a total info dump accumulated over 40 years of owning vehicles in California. Maybe it was too much...

Quote:
modern Ca titles have a bill of sale built right into the Title (Pink Slip)
I've registered a few used vehicles in recent years and in every case the DMV clerk asked for the bill of sale. It's a simple form to fill out, and it's downloadable from the DMV site. If I can provide a useful tip for anyone new to the DMV experience, it's this: Inundate them with paperwork. It's what they understand. Filling out a few lines on an official DMV form is simple and has no downside.

Also, if the motorcycle is fairly old, the title can also be one of the old style documents. Maybe even truly pink (I've got a couple myself).

Quote:
The transfer and registration process is all done in one move if all your paper work is in order. You pay ONE FEE only.
Again, sorry for confusing things. You do usually write only one check (although there are many, many actual fees). I was just trying to explain that there are two separate processes involved: transferring title and obtaining registration. That concept can be confusing to a DMV newbie. I've seen it many times while waiting in line.

Quote:
You hand the clerk the signed and properly filled out Pink, sign a few things, pay and then are issued a temporary registration, a receipt and go.
Never in my life has a DMV transaction actually happened in such a straightforward manner!

Quote:
If you buy a used bike, you don't get new plates, unless you want vanity plates or your plates are missing ...
The previous owner can take them off if he/she wants, and in my experience they often do.

Quote:
If the bike is new, then the dealer does everything for you .... no visit to DMV required ...
Thanks for pointing that out, Mickey. It was totally an assumption on my part that it was going to be a used bike. If it's new, the whole process is easy as pie. The same forms will need to be filled out, but the dealer often does everything for you except the signature -- and, unlike the DMV clerk, the dealer is on YOUR side!

Quote:
Our Kiwi friend will need a local address.
Yes, I agree. I'm over 400 miles from LA but am willing to try to help if necessary.
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Craig Haggart
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'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness' - Mark Twain
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  #12  
Old 11 Mar 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey D View Post
Actually the SF Bay Area is the best place to buy a used bike...
Sound advice indeed, Mickey. If our New Zealander doesn't have a pressing reason to fly to LA, SFO might be a better choice. And Skyline beckons...
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