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Buying a bike in the US

slimboyjimslimboyjim Posts: 367
edited June 2009 in Road buying advice

I am visiting the USA in a few months and this coincides with the time I will be getting some money to buy a new bike (or frame/fork combo). I was wondering whether, since things seem to be a bit cheaper in the US, if it would be worth sourcing a bike out there and shipping it back? I'd be looking at spending approx £1000-£1500 total, unless I can talk my wife around a bit more . However, I'm finding it pretty difficult to work out what costs/issues would be involved and I have a million questions - has anyone done this who can give me any advice or is anyone aware of a good internet site where I can read up on all this?

From what I can see I would have to pay the following:
1. Cost of bike
2. Import duty of 14% (I've emailed UK customs to check on this)
3. Shipping costs

Is this everything? I've seen mention of an 8.5% sales tax that is added to purchases made in the US somewhere or other - is this something that would apply? Also, in London it always seems you can buy stuff 'Tax Free' if you are not an EU citizen - would a similar system operate in the US whereby I could discount tax? If so, what is the US tax rate? Finally, does anyone know of any US bike mail order companies I could look at to get an idea of whether their prices are any cheaper?





  • APIIIAPIII Posts: 2,010
    You need to add UK VAT at 15%. Also, bear in mind that the 14% duty refers to complete bikes, bicycle components have a duty rate of only 4.7%, so this is worth considering if you just wanted to buy a frameset, wheels, etc.
  • Gav2000Gav2000 Posts: 408
    Surely if you bring the bike back yourself you'd hide the fact the bike is new by riding it a bit in the US and then avoid import duties? Maybe taking a used bike bag out with you would help on the looking used front.

    Like a streak of lightnin' flashin' cross the sky,
    Like the swiftest arrow whizzin' from a bow,
    Like a mighty cannonball he seems to fly.
    You'll hear about him ever'where you go.
  • GyatsoLaGyatsoLa Posts: 667
    I bought a bike (just a simple town bike) 2 years ago on a trip to the States. I was travelling fairly light so even with the bike I was under the 23kg limit - I just took my bike bag (Groundeffect Tardis) and packed it up and brought it back, the airline didn't even charge me the regular bike charge.
  • Mister WMister W Posts: 791
    AFAIK there's a limit on the value of stuff you can buy in the US and bring back into the UK without paying duty. However, you're unlikely to get caught particularly if you've ridden the bike around in America so it looks a bit used and it's packed in a well used bike bag.
  • slimboyjimslimboyjim Posts: 367
    As tempting as it is, I'm in a job where a 'dishonest' conviction would mean career over. It's not worth the risk to me for a couple of hundred quid... :D

    Interesting about the frameset only being a 4.7% import rate - may be worth doing a bit of research on that one, as even if I am adding VAT I'm sure I could do pretty well out of it...

    Anyone know of any decent US websites to get an idea of pricing?
  • crankycrankcrankycrank Posts: 1,830
    slimboyjim wrote:
    Anyone know of any decent US websites to get an idea of pricing?

    Usually a Google search will turn up the best deals since so many sites offer special sales or limited time offers. What brands/models are you considering? The tax chart posted above is very good but some cities may increase the standard state tax rate by .25-2% and most if not all internet sellers will have their tax rate posted. Not really a big deal but worth noting. The only way non-US residents can avoid the sales tax is to ship directly to another country or strangely enough shipping state to state tax is not added.
  • slimboyjimslimboyjim Posts: 367
    Hi guys - just wanted to say thanks for the help. I've decided that, after paying a 14% import tax plus VAT and shipping costs, the bike would not really work out much cheaper. Given that I'd likely lose out on the warrantee I'm gonna give the full bike a miss, although a couple of parts may still tempt me (and be easier to bring home)!

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