Importing a Motorcycle Camper or Cargo Trailer into Canada

Photo by Brian Wilson
Photo by Brian Wilson

You’ve spotted the perfect motorcycle camper or cargo trailer and you’d like to add it to your garage. But it’s in the U.S. and you’re in the beautiful Great White North. So what do you need to do to get it across the border? And what will it cost?

Let’s break it down. To get a camper or trailer from the factory to you, you’ll pay:

  • Crating and shipping costs
  • Customs brokerage fee
  • Provincial taxes
  • A trailer import fee

Shipping Costs

Considering the vast expanse that is the Great White North, shipping expenses can vary a lot. One obvious factor is distance, but a more important factor is manufacturer volume.

Here’s a recent example. I recently shipped a Time Out camper to Edmonton, Alberta for $350 USD. That’s not a bad rate when you consider the distances involved. However, a recent quote for shipping a Mini Mate camper to the same destination came in at $776 USD, more than double.

This happens because Time Out is a larger manufacturer and ships a higher volume of units. As a result, they’re able to negotiate higher discounts on shipping rates.

Alternative: If it makes sense, you can arrange to pick up your trailer or camper at a U.S. freight terminal, assemble it and tow it home, or have it loaded on your truck/trailer. If it would cost you several hundred dollars in missed time at work and travel expenses, it might just pay to have it brought to you.

Customs Broker

Before your trailer can be shipped, you’ll need to appoint a customs broker. You’ll create an account with the broker and sign a limited power of attorney form that will allow them to collect the applicable tax amount from you and pay it on your behalf. They’ll follow your shipment through the customs clearance process and notify me and you if there are any issues.

As part of my job, I prepare three pieces of documentation for the customs broker. One is a commercial invoice, which reflects the full and accurate sale price of the trailer. The second is a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) certificate of origin, a document that is similar in purpose to the certificate of origin provided by the manufacturer. The NAFTA document certifies that the trailer or camper was manufactured in a NAFTA country (Mexico, the U.S. and Canada). The third document is a scanned and signed copy of the certificate of origin from the manufacturer, a document you could consider to be a camper’s birth certificate.

A customs broker will charge about $100 USD for their services. I like using Borderbee.com. They specialize in helping private citizens import vehicles (a camper or trailer is considered a vehicle). They’re helpful and reasonably priced.

Alternative: If you have your trailer shipped to a U.S. terminal or commercial address and bring it across yourself, you are the customs broker. You’ll pay the taxes, complete the paperwork, and bring the trailer across yourself. Not complicated, many people have done it. You’ll need just a regular bill of sale (or commercial invoice), and the manufacturer’s certificate of origin. You won’t need a NAFTA document.

Provincial Taxes

This one’s pretty simple. You’ll pay your standard sales tax on the value of any trailer or camper that you import or bring into the country. Most provincial rates run between 10 to 15%, although Alberta checks in at a thrifty 5%. How’s that eh? That must explain why I ship a lot of units to Alberta.

Alternative: Hah. An alternative to not paying The Man? Get serious.

Trailer Import Fee

This one surprises some people because it sometimes comes a month or two after they’ve had their camper. I’ve also found this fee to be inconsistently enforced over the years. In the last few, it seems to be more uniformly applied. Probably because of upgraded computer systems that make it easier to track these things. Damn computers.

Anyway, once you’ve brought your trailer into the country, you’ll need to take it to an inspection station to make sure it’s legal to tow. All the campers and trailers I sell are legal to use in Canada. As a token of your appreciation for that rubber-stamp inspection, you’ll pay around $200 CDN.

Alternative: None.

If you have questions about the import process, exact shipping costs, or any other questions about motorcycle campers or trailers, feel free to contact me.

Best Motorcycle Trip Winners: 2014 10 Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards

Cabot-Trail-----lightphoto-iStock_54_990x660Best Motorcycle Trip Winners: 2014 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards.

This was a fun thing to do. Last year, I was invited to nominate 25 of my favorite roads to be considered for a Top 10 poll at USA Today. My contributions were combined with two other riders/writers and the roads that received the most nominations between us were put on a list for readers to choose from.

A bunch of my nominations made the top 10 list including the Cabot Trail, Beartooth Pass, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Cherohala Skyway, the Twisted Sisters, the PCH and US 101.

The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel, 2nd Edition: Planning, Outfitting, and Accessorizing

The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel, 2nd Edition: Planning, Outfitting, and Accessorizing: Dale Coyner: 9781884313424: Amazon.com: Books.

“Adventure” in motorcycle travel can be a double-edged sword. You want to enjoy unexpected pleasures and great roads, but leave behind things like fatigue, discomfort and danger (most of it, anyway). I wrote this title in 2007 to include everything I could think of to help riders enjoy more of the good side of adventure in their travels. The title was updated in 2014 to reflect advances in motorcycles and touring technology.

And finally, after 20 years of publishing, I got my picture on the cover of a book! That’s me riding my Honda ST-1300.

 

2014 Harley Trailer Wiring Video

This video demonstrates how to install a trailer wiring harness on a 2014 Harley Ultra. This kit is available for all 2014 and newer Harleys including all Electra Glides and Ultras, the Tri-Glide, and the Road King, Street Glide and Road Glide.

It is available in two configurations to operate the lights on trailers with combined brake lights and turn signals, and those with separate brakes and turns. Click this link to buy the 2014-15 Harley plug-and-play trailer wiring kit at the Open Road Outfitters website.

Harley CAN-BUS Trailer Wiring

Oh boy. If water cooling weren’t enough on new Harley models, now they’ve gone and added another BMW-like feature. CAN-BUS wiring. (Can an electrically adjustable windshield and integrated caviar cooler be far behind?)

In any case, the introduction of CAN-BUS wiring to the 2014 Harley touring bike line-up has created a lot of concern and questions.

Relax.

You can still wire up your Harley for a trailer. And it won’t blow up your bike, it won’t trigger fault codes, it won’t transmit data behind your back to executives in Milwaukee who have an itchy finger on the “Delete Warranty” button.

Now, there is a twist. As I’ve written about before on this blog, and probably will again, there are two basic types of wiring setups for trailers, four wire systems and five wire systems. These refer to the number of wires used for your signal circuits and nothing else. A four wire system has one set of lights that function as both brake lights and turn signals. A five wire system has brake lights that operate separately from the turns.

For decades, motorcycles have been set up as five wire systems. Your brake light is a separate circuit from your turn signals. And so, the majority of motorcycle trailers made here in the US have been five wire systems.

Here’s the twist. In 2014, Harley eliminated the separate turn signals on the rear fender of MOST (not all…more on that), of MOST of their touring bike line-up. In the process of doing that, they combined the turn signals and brakes, making most 2014-to-present Harleys a FOUR wire system.

If you’ve purchased one of those little import trailers, you’re in good shape, because most of those trailers have a “flat four” plug and are four wire systems. Install a Harley plug-and-play wiring kit and it will, by default, mimic your bike’s four-wire system and drive your trailer lights without any problem.

Now, what if you have, or are planning to purchase a trailer that has separate brake lights and turn signals? In your case, what you need is a “four to five” converter — pretty much the opposite of what every auto parts store sells. You need to split out the brake light from the turn signals.

Luckily, the  wiring kits I sell have an extra CAN-BUS module option that does just this. It installs along with the other plug-and-play components and converts the Harley four wire system into a five wire system for your trailer. No muss, no fuss.

Now, I mentioned that most 2014+ Harleys have gone to this new setup. But there’s an exception. Any CVO model touring bike that has a set of separate turn signals down around the brake light are still set up as five wire systems. That means, when you want to connect to a five wire trailer, you need to do nothing other than buy the standard wiring kit. It will work, by default, with your five wire trailer. To connect to a four wire trailer, you’ll need a five to four converter, just like all the previous Harley models.

I realize that’s all a lot of information and some of it may be confusing. So don’t hesitate to ask for help to get the right kit for your bike. In the end, the thing that’s most important to know is that despite everything you may hear or read about the difficulty of adding a trailer to a CAN-BUS system, there’s really nothing to it. You just need the right kit.

If You Enjoy Riding, Thank a Politician

Dale HeadshotDoesn’t matter where you identify yourself on the spectrum, few are happy today with the political process or our elected officials. Believe it or not though, we do have something to thank our local politicians for. Many of the roads we dream about riding–many of the most scenic, out-of-the-way slabs of beautiful, swoopy asphalt–were the result of political horse trading.

Consider this short list:
1) Cherohala Skyway
2) Needles Highway
3) Blue Ridge Parkway
4) Natchez Trace Parkway
5) Beartooth Highway

The Cherohala, for example, is a seductive ribbon of highway in the Appalachians bisecting the Cherokee and Nanthahala National Forests. It’s magical 43 miles connects Robbinsville, NC in the east to Tellico Plains, Tennessee in the west. Construction began in 1958 and was completed nearly forty years later in 1996 at a cost of about $100 million. Beautiful, but hardly essential.

420px-BeartoothHwy_near_BeartoothPassThere’s no particular purpose for US 212’s run between Red Lodge Montana and Yellowstone’s northeast entrance. This route which follows General Phillip Sheridan’s trail over the Beartooth Mountains requires constant maintenance and is open just a couple of months out of the year. Practical? Hardly. But this 68 mile byway offers us a stunning ride through one of the most diverse and beautiful ecosystems anywhere. The same could be said for its nearby cousin, the Going to the Sun Highway or any of a thousand other such projects.

Be glad they were built when they were. In today’s political climate, the chances any of these roads would be built is ZERO. As you stand at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway this summer or enjoy a ride along some other lonely ribbon of road, offer a word of thanks to the politicians who made it possible.

A road to nowhere makes little sense to the average citizen, but we riders know just what to do with it!

How does a motorcycle camper affect a bike’s gas mileage?

The Impact of a Motorcycle Camper on Gas Mileage

I’ve read a lot of discussions about the impact of a motorcycle trailer on a bike’s gas mileage but had never tracked it for myself. On my recent run down to the Georgia Mountain Rally in Hiawassee, I decided to pay closer attention.

Heavy weight should be evenly distributed in the bottom of any motorcycle cargo trailer or camper
Heavy weight should be evenly distributed in the bottom of any motorcycle cargo trailer or camper

I thought it would be especially interesting since I was pulling a Mini Mate motorcycle camper loaded with four boxes of books. It would be the heaviest pull I’ve done in a while. The Mini Mate weighs in at 265 lbs. empty and I usually carry very little gear, so my total towing weight with the Mini Mate almost never exceeds 300 lbs. In this case, four boxes of books added 160 lbs., plus the additional stuff I needed for my booth at the rally. I figured by the time I was done, I was looking at a weight of something in the range of 420 to 450 lbs. That’s about the same weight as a Time Out Deluxe loaded with gear.

A lot of factors go into determining gas mileage. The biggest factors are speed and weight, but other elements play a role, too, like the size of the bike and its power (Honda ST-1300), riding style, terrain, and weather. Especially headwinds. More about that later.

motorcycle camper mpg table

The ride to the rally and back covered about 1200 miles of mixed roads including state primary routes, US highways and some Interstate. On the way down, I plotted a leisurely route that included a greater variety of roads than the return trip. About half way into the run to the rally, I picked up I-40 from Greensboro, NC to Asheville, NC where the pace picked up. I increased my pace to stay up with traffic.

After climbing for several miles on US 64, this scenic overlook provided the best view of the trip. It was wet and windy from here out.

After climbing for several miles on US 64, this scenic overlook provided the best view of the trip. It was wet and windy from here out.

The last segment included long pulls up steep hills on US 23 and US 64 to the turn for Hiawassee, but also corresponding long runs down those same grades. Borrowing a page from the hypermiler’s handbook, I pulled in the clutch and coasted. On one stretch down US 64 I coasted for 4 miles at or above the speed limit. That was kind of fun. It probably boosted my mileage on those long grades by 1 mpg.

Let’s just say the trip back was an entirely different story. After 3 days of unceasing high winds, toppling trees, 45 degree daytime highs and intermittent wind-driven rain, I was ready to get back. Right now. Seeing a break in the precip on my iPhone RadarScope app, I executed my escape plan.
The winds were unbelievable, and in my face for the first 100 miles from Hiawassee to Asheville. Believe it or not, having the camper attached to the back of the bike makes it feel better in strong winds, like attaching a tail to a kit. Headwinds tossed the front end around like a pup with a rag doll, but the rear end stayed planted.

Mileage, predictably, took a hit. While I wasn’t averaging very fast speeds, the headwinds added to the work the bike had to do to pull itself and the camper up those long grades, and the bike actually slowed on the downhill grades with the stiff headwinds buffeting the bike. I don’t think it would’ve mattered whether I was towing or not, the combination of hills and weather conditions caused my mileage to plummet for the first segment of the return.

Return mileage wasn't as stellar, but it still wasn't that much of a deviation from my regular hammer-down riding style.

At Asheville, radar revealed that a turn north would get me ahead of the weather front and out of the rain, so that was a no brainer. I-26 is an easy run over the Bald Mountains of the Appalachian range between Asheville and Johnson City, Tennessee. At this point, the path home was made clear by predictions of 3 to 5 inches of rain and the sight of animals lining up two-by-two. I would pick up I-81 and make a bombing run home.

Riding now on long straights with lower grades, my mileage ticked up just a little bit even though I was twisting the throttle at a decent rate, keeping up with or passing some traffic, what most riders would consider a normal, safe pace. I stopped for the night in Salem, VA. I’d gotten well ahead of the bad weather, but it was still chilly. Escaping the worst of it tired me out, so I decided I would make the final run home the next day.

I didn’t waste any time getting home. Let’s put it that way. It was a brilliant sunny day out, but the lack of cold weather gear made it uncomfortable. So I just put my head down and banged out the last 225 miles.

Comparing this to my usual mileage without a trailer revealed that the impact isn’t a much as I’d expected, even at the faster rates. My ST-1300 averages around 46 MPG when I’m making a long run at modest highway speeds, about 3 points higher than the best MPG I averaged pulling a loaded motorcycle camper at those same speeds. When moving at a faster pace on the Interstate or when I’m carving up some twisties, my average drops to 37 MPG or about 4 MPG better than when towing.
I would have thought the difference would be greater, especially on the return trip with higher speeds, but the numbers don’t lie. Over the course of a 1200 mile trip, towing the camper cost me about one extra tank full of gas, or about $21.

Considering the difference in comfort between camping in a puddle (complete with wind-driven whitecaps) and camping off the ground, high and dry, I’ll gladly pay for the extra tank of gas and bring the camper along for the ride, every time.

P.S. Incidentally, I should add the camper handled great behind the bike, even with that much weight. I inflated the tires to 50 lbs. PSI (max is 60), and made sure the bike’s tires were at their max as well. I loaded the books evenly across the bottom of the camper to keep the weight low and evenly distributed. I used engine braking when slowing for traffic lights so I didn’t add too much strain to my brakes. Even descending the mountains of western North Carolina in driving winds and rain, I never felt like the camper was pushing the bike. It was still a fun ride!

Chrome Hitch Installation for Harley Electra Glide 2009-2013

This video demonstrates the installation of a chrome receiver hitch on a 2012 Harley Ultra. This model fits Electra Glides from 2009 to present that have the standard rear fender. Models are available for CVO and other special builds as well as Road Kings, Road Glides, Street Glides, Softails and more. For more information or to order, visit www.OpenRoadOutfitters.com or contact dale@openroadoutfitters.com.

Time Out Deluxe Motorcycle Camper Setup

The Time Out Deluxe is a roomy lightweight trailer that can be pulled by a full-size motorcycle, trike, or any car, crossover, SUV.

In this video, I’m demonstrating how the camper arrives at your house, how to unpack it, and how to assemble it.

If you like this video, consider subscribing to my Open Road Outfitters YouTube channel. You’ll be notified when I post new videos about motorcycle trailers, campers and motorcycle travel-related topics.

—– Video transcript ——

Well it doesn’t look much like spring yet but the arrival of my Time Out Deluxe motorcycle camper must mean that spring is just around the corner, and I thought you might like to take a look at how these are assembled.

After I get it off the truck, I like to go around and take a look at the carton to check for any potential damage. I’ve got a hole here, but this looks like it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong here. So I’m going to go ahead and pop these metal straps off and put this together.

The first thing I’m going to do here is pull out the aerodynamic cooler out of its box and check that to make sure that’s okay. That looks like that’s fine.

So now I’ll lift the top off and I’ll use that to hold all the stuff I’m going to get rid of. These are wrapped up pretty well so I’ll take this off and just take a look at the exterior to make sure it’s okay. I’m sure it is.

All right, the next thing I’m going to do is pop the latches on either side of the lid and I’m going to open this up. I’m going to prop the top and the bed area together and that will hold it open and let me unload it.

Let’s see, so what have we got here? Well, we have the Add-A-Room. We’ll take a look in another video about how to set that up. We also have the l-shaped awning. We have the air conditioning stand. We’ve got some poles that you can use to support the tent if it’s wet outside. I have ten poles associated with the Add-A-Room. These can also be used for the l-shaped awning.

Let’s see what else do we have here? Well, we have a bag of cat crap…(record scratch noise)…wait a minute. A bag of cat crap. She kind of snuck that in there. I guess I’ll deal with that later.

This is a tripod in case I want to use the table outside of the camper. I’ve got a chair. And these are the standard wheels that come with it. 12″ white steel wheels. I might change those later. I’ve got a queen-sized air mattress, a cover for everything.

The I’ve got some instructions, license plate frame, wiring harness, brake controller, center caps, a coupler for the tongue, some safety chains and some hardware. So let’s take a look at how all this goes together.

The first thing I’ll do here is remove the tongue. As you can see, that has the VIN on it. If you’re looking for the sticker, that’s on the tongue. Now, I’m going to take the screws out of the jackstands in the front of the camper so that I can use this flat jack to jack it up. And that will make it real easy to put the wheels on.

Center cap goes on and then I will slide a wheel in place. I’m going to tighten these down just enough to move the camper. Before I take it out for the first time, I’ll tighten those down to about 50 to 60 foot pounds of torque.

Now I’m going to pull out the wiring harness so I can run that through the tongue. I got the lighted cooler package and the wiring harness is prewired here so I have a pair of leads for the cooler package. On the front I’ve got a five pin flat plug for the lights and a two pin plug for the brakes. You can always change that. I might change that later to something smaller but for now I’ll leave it as it is.

So after I run the wiring harness through the tongue, I’m then going to run the tongue back through those two brackets on the front of the camper and I’m going to use the Grade 8 hardened bolts that come with it to lock that into place. This comes with nylock nuts so you don’t need to use washers with it.

And now, looking under the camper, I’ve got a nice solid powdercoated steel frame, an independent rubber torsion suspension. I’ve got a spot in the back where I can mount a spare tire underneath. It’s just a nice, clean, sturdy setup. This camper will last for a long time.

Now, I’ve run the two bolts through the coupler and I’m ready to pull this off the pallet. I would recommend that you either put a set of runners or something under the tires to run it off the pallet. Or, since I’m not going to keep the pallet, I’m going to cut it up. Because if you try to run it off the pallet, the wheels will drop down into the center section and you’ll be stuck.

Well, this is just the start of the snow we’re supposed to get this spring, so I’ll put this camper away for now. If you’d like to learn more about the Time Out camper, visit my site here at OpenRoadOutfitters.com. Feel free to drop me an e-mail.

So until next time, this is Dale Coyner for Open Road Outfitters, wishing you many happy journeys.

Motorcycle Trailer Wiring Harness for Honda Gold Wing

You just bought a motorcycle camper or cargo trailer and now you need to wire up your Wing. What’s the best way to do it? This video demonstrates how to install the Gold Wing Trailer Wiring Harness on a GL-1800 Gold Wing. This particular kit fits the 2001-2010 model years. The kit for the 2012 installs similarly, but the wiring sub-harness (the first piece you install) connects to different points on the bike.

Advice and how-to's for motorcycle travelers.