Saturday, April 30, 2011

Importing a Royal Enfield from India? Think twice

Somebody's dream, now for sale, cheap.
Importing a Royal Enfield motorcycle into the U.S. from India?

Here is the latest advice about importing classic or antique vehicles into the U.S., from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The advice sounds encouraging, if the motorcycle can be proven to be 25 years old or older.

So, probably, you can get and old motorcycle into the country. This does not resolve additional questions: will your state license it for use on the road? Can you get a state title?

Americans who ride Royal Enfield motorcycles in India naturally fall in love with them and want to bring them home to the United States. Few questions come up more often than this one: "How can I ship my Royal Enfield motorcycle from India to the U.S.?"

It's not a question I try to answer. I've never done it and, although there are people who have and people who say they can do it for you easily, there is some evidence that it is not so easy or so wise.

Royal Enfield advises against it, for many reasons. But, of course, cynics would say, Royal Enfield would advise against it, since it makes its money importing them through official channels and selling them through dealers. The temptation is always there to try beat the system.

But who gets beaten? The system? Or you?

There's a pretty 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet for sale on CraigsList in Lomita, Calif. for the shockingly low asking price of $950. Why so low? Here's what the seller says (I've edited it down to emphasize the important points):

"Bike rebuilt with original parts in 2005. Personally supervised full restoration in India, both cosmetic and mechanical. Engine takes unleaded fuel. Has new tires. Imported to U.S. 2006. I put 50 miles on it when it got here and then it has been in storage since then.

"I have wanted one of these for the last 20 years. Finally I got to realize my dream, but...

"I haven't registered this bike with the DMV, so that needs to be done. I had intended to fix it up to get a good price but I am now about to move from Lomita back to the San Francisco Bay Area and so want a quick exit..."

There will be those who say Americans are foolish to pay more for a Royal Enfield imported officially. I'm not so sure.


  1. Hi David,

    I had the same concerns here is South Africa. At one time the was an official and an unofficial importer. The unofficial was bringing bikes for almost half the price to the official one.

    The problem I beleive really came when one tried to register the "grey" imported bike. I cannot say I have first hand experience but did hear some stories about people battling to get the bike registered.

  2. Anonymous12/08/2012

    I successfully bought an enfield in India in 2006 and shipped it home to Maryland. Loooong story, but in the end I was able to have it put on the road in the states, but a lot of extra unforeseen expenses went into this, none more so that the fleecing of certain parts off of it once put into the crate and into shipment (in India). The bike is badass, and it cost me less than it would here in the US, but it's got it's mechanical issues and I was narrowly close on several occasions to not clear certain hurdles: Customs, electrical parts that were on the bike in India but didn't make it to the US, the title needing translation from Hindi to English, the India Embassy in DC needing to authorize the importation of a "classic/antique" bike to the US and also verifying the title from Uttar Pradesh, it needing to be an antique in order for me to import it by law as a non-licensed trader (only an individual wanting my bike brought in, not to make money on sales), and finally the DMV approving the bike to title and register. In retrospect, I wouldn't do it again, but I'm happy that once I made the naive decision to do it....and all the headaches...that the bike runs and is on the road. One of the coolest souvenirs I could ever have. All said, the bike is a british/indian classic. In my opinion, the sweat equity and back story make the ride that much sweeter.

    1. I'm currently in India. Planning to move back to IL with 40 ft container. Wanted to see if you can share additional details of how you got the bike to US and registered with DMV (associated costs would be helpful)


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