Can I buy a bike on and have it shipped to me in the US?
March 19, 2012 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Can I buy a bike on and have it shipped to me in the US? I looked through the policies and stuff, and didn't see anything that would prevent it, but my Google Translate might be fooling me.

I had my bike stolen last week, so I'm in the market for a new (to me) one. I like the old, steel, road bike style, and there just aren't that many bikes available that I find attractive, either on NYC Craigslist or on eBay.

I just discovered, and holy cow, what a treasure trove! The Dutch are selling some nice bikes over there.

I'm looking for input on gotchas, too. Language barrier is an obvious one, but many Dutch speak English. Would I pay duties on a used item? Shipping could be expensive, obviously. And maybe sellers on Marktplaats don't like shipping internationally?

Help me not alienate a potential Dutch seller who has my sweet new (to me) ride?
posted by dammitjim to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total)
I've just skimmed through the Dutch (my Dutch is far from perfect, though) and I'm not seeing any terrible problems. It looks like they charge 19% VAT and I don't know that you'd be able to recover or avoid that just because you are buying internationally (although legally you should be able to). And on top of that I suspect you would have to pay tax when your shipment arrives, unless the seller is willing to label it as a gift (which is kind of fraud, so you shouldn't ask them to).

I think it will depend on the individual seller as to whether they are willing to do this. You should probably contact them before bidding. Some listings require pick-up only, so you'll want to ignore those.

The main difficulty is that they may not be able to estimate postage in advance, so they'd pay for shipping and then have to trust you would reimburse them. Given shipping will probably be several hundred dollars, you might find it hard to find a seller willing to do this.

Finally, I bought a dutch bicycle secondhand through a bicycle shop here recently which handled all the shipping stuff, and there were two small problems. One was that it was held up at customs FOREVER (like months) for some bogus inspection. And the othre was that it got a bit damaged in shipping - scratches, paint damage, a bent spoke, and the shipping company claimed the customs agents did it, so their insurance didn't cover it, and the bike company claimed it wasn't their fault or problem, and the customs people claimed it arrived like that. It wasn't worth fighting over in this case, but I wonder what you would do if the bike came in a condition that made it completely unusable.
posted by lollusc at 7:51 PM on March 19, 2012

Clarification: "do this" = "ship a bike internationally"; not commit customs fraud.
posted by lollusc at 7:55 PM on March 19, 2012

Email or call a bike shop in the Dutch city where you plan to buy a bike from. This is how I've previously shipped bikes, albeit not across an ocean. If they are at all reputable, they should be able to give you a good estimate on how much you can expect to pay the service of taking it apart and packing it (you don't expect the seller to do that, do you?) and a special box designed for shipping bikes. They'll give you the final dimensions of the package and a weight estimate that you can plug into various courier service websites, or maybe they have some sort of special deal with a shipper, although I very much doubt that would apply for international freight.
posted by halogen at 8:14 PM on March 19, 2012

I think you will find that shipping is prohibitively expensive. Like, quite possibly more than you're spending on the bike itself.
posted by adamrice at 9:30 PM on March 19, 2012

I'm not sure that adamrice is necessarily right. It depends what your expectations are. Shipping will be at least $200, and I'm guessing more like $300+ But if you are looking at vintage Dutch bikes, you might well find there is more than a $300 difference between the same-style bike sold in the USA and in the Netherlands, simply because there is an oversupply of old Dutch bikes over there, for obvious reasons.

My bike cost 175 EUR from the Dutch seller, and I paid $425 (=340 EUR) at this end, which included the shipping and a cut to the bike shop intermediary. (The bicycle shop got a shipping discount for me, because it was in a shipment of multiple bikes - your shipping will no doubt be much more, unless you can also partner with a shop.) If I had been looking for a vintage Dutch bicycle here in Australia, my options would have been severely limited and I'm not seeing any for under $600 in my quick browse of australian classified listings (and that's not including local shipping charges).

But yeah, if you are looking to pay less than $400 total, I think you will be disappointed, and/or if you feel like spending more than half the total money on shipping is unthinkable, you might have trouble too.
posted by lollusc at 9:40 PM on March 19, 2012

If you have no luck with buying a bike there, you might like this line of bikes: Globe, by Specialized

I own an older model of the Live and it's been the best bike I've ever been on, including a classic Dutch bike IN AMSTERDAM. Specialized knows how to make bikes.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:41 PM on March 19, 2012

Hi, input from an occasional Marktplaats user here. Along the lines of lollusc's first comment: My guess is that, unless you're buying from a particularly willing and enthusiastic retailer many sellers would prefer to sell locally and not deal with the hassle of shipping, forms, and the financial transaction. Have you looked at Stateside importers of Dutch bikes? There's My Dutch Bike in SF and Dutch Bike Co. Seattle.
posted by knile at 12:09 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check what airlines charge for taking a bike as luggage (and I guess security implications), but I wonder if it would be worth looking for someone who is flying from Holland to US anyway would be willing to take it as checked luggage for a couple of hundred bucks. No guarantee it wouldn't get damaged, but you'd probably get it sooner and with less customs hassle.

Or, as two lights suggests, check out the alternatives for sale in the US. There's been a big upswing in this kind of bike in the US.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 12:11 AM on March 20, 2012

Maybe I need to clarify a little bit: I'm not looking for a "Dutch Bike" style bike. It's just that there DO happen to be many bikes of the style that I want (classic road racing bike) on marktplaats. Thanks for the input, everyone. I guess I was hoping that the shipping would be cheaper, since I've seen so many "will ship internationally for X flat rate" sellers on eBay.
posted by dammitjim at 5:52 AM on March 20, 2012

Are you seeing "will ship bicycles internationally to the USA from Europe" flat rates on ebay? If those specifics differ, then you probably can't find the same deal. Shipping from some countries, particularly in Asia, seems to be MUCH cheaper than it is from Europe, and shipping to the USA is generally the most expensive, since you guys seem to have extra fees and taxes on everything. I have friends who have moved internationally recently and shipped bicycles and it wasn't cheap, but they might not be finding the best deals. Perhaps you could contact some of the Ebay sellers you mention and ask who they ship through, and then see if you could use the same shipping provider.
posted by lollusc at 1:45 AM on March 21, 2012

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