It sounds like a bargain to import a motorcycle from overseas where they may be cheaper, but there are also pitfalls for riders.
Bruce Hartwig, consultant to Queensland Imports, which is one of about 14 federally registered workshops for complying imported used vehicles, says the easiest and cheapest motorcycles to import and comply are in standard trim. “Highly modified choppers are difficult to import and can be very expensive,” he says.
Even bikes in standard trim may require modification by a company such as Queensland Imports. Most of those compliance changes involve lights (size, colour and distance from the rear of the bike), but may also involve the exhaust, handelbars and number plate holder. He says most are an easy fix, but choppers with a low seat and high bars can be expensive to remedy.
If you are after an historic bike, the news is a little better as bikes made before 1989 are easier to comply and those made before 1975 when there were no Australian Design Rules only need a roadworthy certificate.
Note that the rules on importing vehicles changed in 2018. You will be able to import vehicles that are not already imported by official distributors, have comparable standards to Australia, are no more than 12 months old and have no more than 500km on the odometer. You will also be able to import only one vehicle every two years.
Bruce says costs to comply a bike start at about $2500, which includes fitting new tyres and brake pads, metric speedo, amber indicators and reflectors.
He says most people buy bikes from the US and it costs about $1000 to ship from LA. “You can get cheaper quotes, but check whether it includes quarantine and other fees,” he warns. You will also need to pay GST on the landed cost of the bike.
He says that these costs make it unviable to import cheap bikes. He says the general rule of thumb is that if it’s $5000 cheaper than you can get it in Australia, it’s viable if the current exchange rate is good. It becomes unviable when the Australian dollar is below 80c.
“More expensive bikes are better value, but it depends on their accessories, mileage and the rarity of the bike. Some people want to import Royal Enfields from India, but you can buy them here for under $5000.” He says the most popular brands to import are Harley-Davidson and Ducati.
Qld Imports can also find suitable vehicles, buy them, ship them, handle all the compliance issues and even deliver them to the new owner. The whole process can take up to 10 weeks.
Bruce is a rider and collector of bikes, some of which he plans to sell. They include two Honda Runes, a Heritage Softail, a Ducati Diavel, BMW R 1150R, Kawasaki Mean Streak, Honda Goldwing and a three-wheeler Grinnall Scorpion powered by a BMW K100 engine.
He owns a business, Sapid, which does testing and approvals for modifications – such as single seat modifications for cheaper registration in Queensland and trike conversions – and individually constructed vehicles which can be motorcycles using an Australian or imported frame, or trikes or sidecars, or wheelchair sidecars.
Vehicles which can be imported under SEVS are on the SEVS register. However, being on this list does not mean that anyone has actually done the testing to allow them to be sold as used imports.
Vehicles on the unrestricted imports list are mainly motorcycles and are mainly from mainstream manufacturers.