Feasability of importing used Dutch / Danish / German bike to USA
July 12, 2014 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with trying to import *used* Dutch bikes (or Danish, or German, etc) into the USA? I've only been able to find *new* bikes for sale, and they tend to cost much more than similarly priced American / Chinese / Taiwanese re-makes (Linus, WorkCycles, Etc).

I live on the east coast and can physically pick the item up from major sea and air ports, but it would be much nicer if it just showed up at my door via mail.

Also note - I'm talking about importing a single bike for personal use, not multiple bikes for sale.
posted by NYC-BB to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Craigslist usually has tons of used bikes for sale, but perhaps not in your area. Some shops will carry used bikes but a lot won't - I don't know where you're based but if you say someone can probably lead you in that direction. Somehow I doubt an imported bike, even used, will be cheaper.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:20 AM on July 12, 2014

Seems tough. You want to make sure the bike fits you and that's hard to do without actually trying the bike or knowing exactly what size frame you need. Some Craigslist sellers know the frame size but many don't.

Maybe a Metafile jobs post for someone in Europe to buy from their Craigslist and ship a specific make and frame size?
posted by vespabelle at 7:27 AM on July 12, 2014

Dutch bikes are big and heavy. Shipping costs might well eat up the cost you're trying to save.
posted by entropone at 7:52 AM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'll bet that David Hembrow of Dutch Bike Bits has been asked this before, and has some advice. Import duty on complete bikes can be high (I looked at doing this a few years ago; also, historically it's why N.American bikes don't have chaincases or mudguards), and it needs a trustworthy mechanic/shipper to knock them down and pack them.

In speaking to the former Canadian importer for Batavus, shipping in small quantities was ridiculously expensive, and the exporters are set up to move thousands of units and nothing less.
posted by scruss at 9:16 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If this website is to be believed, the import duty on bicycle frames into the USA is 11%. So on top of shipping costs you'd need to consider that, unless you could plausibly come up with some sort of personal-property exemption.

Surface shipping, assuming you could get the bike's handlebars and pedals removed so that it would fit in a reasonably-sized crate, from the port of Hamburg to the port of Newark, are currently somewhere around $225.* That's exclusive of duty, brokerage fees (if any), etc. That is based on a crate 80"x48"x8" and weighing 60 lbs, which would be enough for even a really big bike. It does not really get any cheaper if you make the crate smaller. It is also the same rate up to 80 lbs, so you could probably do at least 2 bikes in the same crate for the same shipping rate.

Anyway ... can this be done? Sure, absolutely. Unlike importing, say, automobiles or firearms or even food, which have a ton of special restrictions, bicycles / "bicycle parts" seem pretty straightforward. But I question whether the difference in price between Germany or the Netherlands and the US is really enough to justify all the costs involved in bringing one over here. If it was, given the current popularity of Dutch bikes, I suspect people would be shoveling used beater bikes onto containerships in Hamburg by the dozen.

It is nearly always the case when a particular good costs more in one place than in another, there is a reason why people aren't getting rich arbitraging it down.

* I don't know if a single shipment would get that rate; I suspect you'd have to go through a freight forwarder and there would be additional weird fees they'd find to screw you with, as an individual. If you pose as a business or have a business interact with the freight company you might do better. International shipping is just not geared towards individuals sending odd lot packages; you may get a lot of "don't waste my time" attitude.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:16 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Kadin2048 - a single Dutch fiets, fully specced, comes in at around 20 kg, or 44 lb. You might be pushing your freight limits.)
posted by scruss at 2:21 PM on July 12, 2014

If you're in NYC and want a used Dutch bike, you should probably just watch Craigslist like a hawk. Dutch bikes appear to show up, e.g.:

Search for:
WorkCycles (actually a Dutch brand)

Old Raleigh 3-speeds are also a lot like many Dutch bikes, and are a lot more common in the US.

Also, are you in a first-floor apartment or an elevator building? Because Dutch bikes are very heavy, and not fun to take up & down stairs.
posted by akgerber at 6:40 PM on July 13, 2014

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