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The Simple Guide to Importing a Motorcycle

motorcycle importing guide - The Simple Guide to Importing a Motorcycle

That’s my bike, sat in a crate in a customs yard in Plymouth, just a few hours after arriving from Japan. Stripping back the crate to see the bike in all its glory was a very happy moment indeed.

It took months to find the bike and when I’d found it, I realised I knew nothing about what I needed to do to import it.

Importing a motorcycle can be a daunting task but with this simple guide, you’ll know what’s involved. If I can do it, then so can you.

Table of Contents

A 10 Step Guide To Importing Your Next Motorcycle

Although there are lots of lovely motorcycles up for sale here in the UK, you may have found and fallen in love with a bike that comes from foreign shores. If this is the case, it should be easy enough to have your dream bike shipped over for you to enjoy back here in Blighty.

Getting your bike back to you will depend on a number of factors, including:

The kind of bike you are looking for

Some makes and models of motorbikes are easier to come by in different countries, then they may be over here.   If you do happen to fall in love with a model from overseas, be sure to look into the logistics of transporting it back to the UK, as well as any obvious safety issues that would make it a poor choice for a British biker.

Just as you would do over here, never buy a bike without seeing evidence of title and the relevant registration document in the seller’s name.

Popular routes to import from a USA to UK and Japan to the UK. The USA appeals to many bikers as lots of bikes sold in the US weren’t sold in Europe and so you can find rare models. Also some states in America have a very dry climate meaning that old bikes can be in great condition, with hardly any signs of corrosion.

The other popular route is from Japan to the UK. Japan is the home of motorcycling for many and over the years they have produced hundreds of special editions. Bikes that were grey import back in the day, like the VFR400, rare two-strokes like Suzuki’s RGV250 VJ23, and many more.

There aren’t any import restrictions for permanently importing motorcycles from the USA into Europe. However, the age of the motorcycle will dictate the total duties owed and taxes to be charged on any import into the EU.

If the motorcycle is more than 10 years old, you might find that you need to fill out less paperwork, depending on the country you’re importing from.

Finding an agent to help you

Once you have found a bike that you want to buy, see if you can find an agent to help you navigate your way through the shipping and delivery process.  There are companies all over the world that will manage every aspect of the shipping process, from collecting the bike from the seller to delivering it right to your door.

Transit times will vary depending on where your bike is coming from, and there may be varying costs associated with transporting your bike by air, land or sea.   An experienced agent will be able to advise you on the most reliable and cost effective way of getting the bike over to you.

Prepare your bike for shipping

The most common methods to ship your bike are usually either:

Using a dedicated motorcycle container where your bike may be secured directly to the container alongside other motorcycles or

Shipped using a shared cargo container where your bike will fare better if fully crated.

If you are using an agent, you should ensure that they are directly dealing with crates and/or shipping, and that your precious new bike is not going to be loaded into a container full of other stuff by a less concerned sub-contractor.  Better still, if you are buying through a franchised dealer, see if they will crate it for you.

However you choose to have your bike brought home to you, there are certain considerations that will need to be dealt with before it is shipped:

  • Petrol tanks and fluids will usually need to be drained
  • Batteries must be disconnected
  • You may want to have certain parts of the bike dismantled to reduce the overall size

Measure and weigh the finished crate and pass the information on to your shipping agent

Ensure you have the right documents

You will need the following documents in place before you ship:

  • The correct collection and delivery addresses complete with postal or zip codes
  • A full inventory of the contents including any spares included with the bike itself
  • An invoice of sale that shows both the seller and buyer’s details, as well as the price paid and frame/VIN numbers
  • The logbook and registration document for the motorcycle.

Get them ready in advance where you can, to prevent delays in shipping.

Start prepping the import paperwork

Here in the UK, the gov.uk website has most of the information you need in respect of import legislation. The DVLA also has useful packs available to help people who choose to privately import motorcycles.  In most instances, you will need to order the “used vehicle import pack”

If you are buying a motorcycle that is more than 30 years old, it will be classed as a “classic” and the duties you pay may be cheaper.  Your agent should be able to advise you on this.

In order to get customs clearance, you will need to provide at least one of the following:

  • Transport document
  • Bill of lading
  • Air Waybill
  • Commercial invoice
  • Statement of value
  • Packing list

A top tip to avoid HMRC examining the goods on arrival is to avoid undervaluing the bike in order to reduce import duty.  They have agents that deal with this, so they know a dodgy looking invoice when they see one!

Get ready to receive your new bike

If it is being delivered to your door, be sure that you are home to receive it in person and that there is enough room for it to be unloaded.   While you may need to be flexible about delivery times, we are sure that you won’t mind taking the day off to wait for its much anticipated arrival.  You should also try and accept the earliest date the delivery company offer you, because if they need to keep it in storage on your behalf, they will charge you extra.

If you can see past your excitement, do take the time to inspect the bike fully once it has been delivered.  Damages in transit will need to be notified straight away, and you will need to let the seller know also.

DVLA and the “NOLA”

Once you have your beautiful new bike in your possession, it is time to turn to the ‘used vehicle import pack’ that you have already ordered.  This will guide you through the steps needed to register the vehicle in the UK.

The system works as follows:

You have 14 days from the arrival of your bike to notify HMRC, where they will then make a NOVA application on your behalf

Your NOVA application will arrive by post within a couple of weeks, telling you how much duty and VAT you need to pay (this will depend on the typed of vehicle and where it came from)

When you have paid the duties and taxes that are now due, you need to send the NOVA letter to the DVLA to begin the bikes official registration

Registering your bike

The pack sent to you by the DVLA will contain all the information you need to initiate the registration process. This must include current MOT certificate (unless your new motorcycle is exempt due to age).  The DVLA will also need:

Proof of age of your motorcycle

The original non-uk logbook (note these won’t be returned so take copies if you need to)

Evidence of your name and address

Payment for any applicable fees

Proof of insurance is NOT needed at this stage

Your V55/5 registration form

It can take up to 6 weeks for the registration certificate to be sent out to you. 

Go ahead and get your plate made

As soon as you have confirmation of the registration mark, you can go ahead and get your number plate made.  At this point you can also purchase your insurance policy and get ready to hit the road.

Get rolling…

Once your newly important bike is registered, insured and ready to rumble, there is only one thing left to do…get out there and enjoy it!

Questions or Comments?

If you’ve got a question about this article and you need a bit more guidance, drop a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

Likewise, if you’ve got something to add to this article or an experience you’d like to share, let’s hear it!

We love reading your comments and helping our readers.

  • Mark says:

    is it still legal to ride an unregistered motorcycle to the MOT station, without plates, as long as it is insured and the MOT is pre-booked?

  • Anas Ansary says:

    That’s a great thing. I am from Bangladesh, A motorcycle businessman. I sell official bikes. But I want to import bikes for business purposes. I have addiction in higher CC sports bike so I am going through the blogs that might help me to understand the importation process. Nice article. Thanks a lot.

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