The S model has been available in the U.S. for some time now, but in 1999 when the SV was introduced, it was not. This is my story on how I imported one.
My experience in importing an SV from Canada to the US
I, apparently, was one of the lucky few that was successful in importing the S model. I imported my SVS in March/April 1999. Due to the enormous interest in importing a "fared" SV to the states, I’ve taken the time to create this document to share my experience.
I’ve tried to incorporate the essential information along with notes about my personal experience. I’ve followed the format of Eric Stratten’s import document (http://userdata.acd.net/stratten/sv_import.html
- dead link) which helped me import my SVS to the states.
This document is available in a word document Importing
Step One: Find an SVS
The first task was to find an SVS. I went to the Suzuki Canada website: www.suzuki.ca
and searched for dealers. I called several dealers and located a couple of SVS’s. The prices were all about the same, so I was more concerned with the distance since I had to pay a freight company to get it to my house. I purchased my SVS from North Shore Suzuki, N. Vancouver, BC (604) 986-1581.
Decide if you want an untouched, crated bike or one off the showroom floor. You may not have a choice, but if you’re going to ship it, go for the crated.
Step Two: Find an import broker (optional)
What the broker does:
An import broker will handle all the necessary paperwork for getting your bike to you. There are several government documents that are needed in order for the bike to pass the border. The broker will also avoid your need to pay Canadian sales tax. Without a broker you may have to pay the sales tax, then submit more paperwork to have that money reimbursed to you. If you are familiar with the paperwork you may not want to pay a broker. A broker cost me $125.
How do I find a broker?
Good question. I used Cataract Customhouse Brokerage Inc. (716) 773-9207 in Buffalo, New York. The only reason I chose Cataract is because that is who Eric Stratten used when he imported. I assume a web search for import brokers would bring up several.
The infamous "Letter From Suzuki"
I think this where you’re going to have the most difficulty judging from what others are saying. It’s basically a form letter stating that your motorcycle (your VIN# is in the letter) is legal in the US. It states the bike is "49 state" compliant (sorry California) in that it meets the US Environmental Protection Agency emission standards, and US Department of Transportation requirements with the exception of the speedometer.
My broker called Suzuki of Canada and got this letter for me with little difficulty at the time. This was before the surge in popularity of the SVS however.
When I heard that Suzuki was not issuing these letters anymore, I became curious and contacted the Suzuki employee that actually signed my letter. He stated that Suzuki didn’t really have an obligation to produce the letters in the first place, it was more out of a courtesy. He was very nice but explained that Suzuki felt it was hurting their dealers in Canada since buyers in the US would not return to the Canadian dealer for follow-up purchases, ie. Repairs, service, accessories.
Since that conversation, however, I have talked to others that have successfully received this letter. I have also emailed another individual that stated the government is not allowing the letter anymore as of March 2000??
Step Three: Find a freight company (optional)
This is going to either save you a lot of money or cost you more than it’s worth. As I learned, distance means nothing to a freight company!
I found an SV in Toronto initially, so when I was ready to ask for price quotes I could tell them exactly (important!!) what address the bike was coming from and what address it was going to.
I used EagleUSA (800) 888-4949. A friend who races motorcycles and ships them uses this company and referred them to me. However, I did search the net for a freight company prior to choosing Eagle and received several quotes via email. Eagle did, however have the best price.
The SVS in Toronto didn’t work out, but the price I was quoted was approximately $200 for the 5 day "economy" rate. I assumed finding a bike in Vancouver, half the distance to Phoenix, would be even less. Wrong!! I was quoted $424 (US), which actually turned out a bit cheaper at $394. Why?? Apparently Eagle doesn’t have an office in Vancouver and they had to subcontract another company to get the bike to Seattle where Eagle does have an office.
The freight company may want to know the size of the crate/box, cubic volume, weight, and if the motorcycle has any fluids. Be prepared to answer all of these questions when asking for a price quote. My invoice shows: L86, W30, H45, and weight 600. I assume these are inches and pounds.
Also, a lot of commercial freight companies will not deliver to a residence, only a business. Make sure to ask.
Step Four: Pay the dealer
Obviously this is up to you and your dealer, I wired my money. I got the name of the dealer’s bank in Vancouver, account number, and transit number. After that I went to MY bank and wired the money.
The only catch here is the exchange rate. Your bank may sneak in fee or a percentage of the amount converted so be careful and ask questions first. My dealer requested $7000 Canadian dollars. My bank converted ($4692 US) and wired it to him.
In case you don’t know "wiring" money is not as fast as the name implies, it will take a day or so.
Step Five: Coordinate all three parties
This was my biggest headache. The broker needs to prepare the paperwork for the border. Then that paperwork must be given to the freight company. The dealer has his money, so he’s itching to get rid of the bike. My broker was in Buffalo, NY, my dealer was in Vancouver, BC, I was Phoenix, AZ, and the freight company was in Texas. Luckily the freight company has a local office, so that helped.
All three (and you) must communicate with each other for paperwork and scheduling to pick up / drop off the bike. Everyone needs a signature from you for something at one point or another, so if you have access to a fax machine it will help tremendously. Good luck!
Step Six: Setup the SVS
Now the fun stuff. Of course this is all after the bike arrives…
This was a breeze. Mine was crated so after disassembling the metal frame and removing the cardboard box, it was easy. Screw on the mirrors and windshield, fill and install the battery, and bolt the handlebars in place. That’s it.
Step Seven: Register the bike with the DMV
Tread lightly here. Remember the Canadian sales tax you avoided? You may have to pay sales tax in your city/state when you register. Obviously, it’s different in every state.
You’ll need your New Vehicle information Statement. The Arizona Motor Vehicle Department would not accept this initially, they insisted I needed a "Manufacturers Certificate of Origin". It took me an entire Saturday at the MVD (8 plus hours), several emails, and two trips to convince them the New Vehicle information Statement was the appropriate document.
In Arizona you need to have a vehicle inspection. I brought my SVS in the back of a truck, since it wasn’t legal to drive yet, and they checked it out. I showed them the "letter of compliance" from Suzuki and I went right through. She didn’t even notice my KPH speedometer even after I had to turn it on so she could write down the "miles", but I already had a MPH gauge from a TL that I was going to install anyway.
UPDATE 02 February 2000
While the TL instrument cluster is a nice fit in the SVS, it does not work. The TL gauges have a LCD temperature readout window, which the SV does not. I knew that would not work, the SV only has a temperature idiot light. I was able to get the neutral light to work, but that was it. It only took about 15 minutes to figure it out, so not a lot of lost time…
As far as I know, the UK is the only other place the SVS is sold that uses MILES versus KILOMETERS. The last time I checked, it was about $200 plus shipping to buy the gauges in the UK and ship them out (maybe someone can get a more accurate cost)?
Another alternative is a module that wires in-line from the "sending unit" to the speedometer. Though I have not seen one work, apparently it shows MPH in the LCD odometer display. I have the email archived somewhere (?) that explains how to get one.
Here is a breakdown of my total costs:
My local dealer wanted $5699 for the US model, plus tax. As you can see, I got the bike I really wanted and, due to the exchange rate, paid less!