Yea $26,000 CDN out the door for a new motorcycle is difficult to swallow (at least for me). Even the used ones up here are ridiculously priced, and that was if you could even *find* one.
I bought a used 2007 R1200RT in the US two months ago in Florida for $11,200US with cruise, heated seat/grips, computer, alarm, a few farkles. Had 18,000km on it (11,000 miles). Didn't have the radio nor the ESA (both of which I didn't want)
One owner bike, bought it from the authorized BMW dealership who had originally sold the bike new to that owner. I have the full history of it. Bike looks new, and runs perfect (well, except for it being in storage now until the spring...sigh)
Costs to bring it in (approximate, don't have the receipts in front of me):
Bike: $11,200 US
Florida temporary plate: $ 15 CDN
Exchange: $ 350 CDN
RIV: $ 200 CDN
PST: $ 900 CDN
GST: $ 585 CDN
Safety: $ 50 CDN
Total: $13,300 CDN
Got a Florida temporary plate from the dealership for $15.00 US which is good for 30 days.
I paid Florida state tax on the bike (around $800 I think), which the dealership immediately refunded me via my credit card when I faxed them the final Ontario registration form.
The RIV fee goes to the "Registrar of Imported Vehicles", which you pay at the Canadian border along with the GST. Lots of information here: http://www.riv.ca/
You pay the PST when you register the bike in (my case) Ontario.
I am not including the $200 cost for the airfare to Florida, or any motel/traveling expenses in this because I made it my vacation. I spent a week riding it up through the US back to Ottawa - had a great time.
There is *no* duty on importing motorcycles into Canada. Note that you will pay GST/PST (or HST) on the bike no matter where you buy it.
No matter what BMW Canada says, you *do not* need to pay a Canadian BMW dealer $500 for the "Recall Clearance Letter" if you buy it from an authorized dealer in the US. I had the BMW dealer in Florida print out the Vehicle Information report, and as long as it says something like "No outstanding campaigns" on it, RIV will accept it no problem.
Imported it through Detroit/Windsor -- the import process at the border took just over an hour (1/2 an hour exporting the bike on the Detroit side, the other half importing it on the Canadian site). You need to give the US Border Patrol 3 days (72 hours) notice to they can do their registry checks before allowing it outside the country.
After you get it back, email the Form 1 you got at the Canadian border, plus the Vehicle Information Report to RIV. The next day I received another form back from them that I brought to Canadian Tire (who does all the RIV inspections) for the final import inspection. Got the safety done the next day, brought it to the Ontario vehicle registry office and registered the bike with new Ontario plates.
It was easy - so much so that three weeks later a friend of mine did the same thing and bought himself one!
I think what helped was buying it from an authorized dealership, and not a private owner or a non-authorized vendor. Having the BMW logo on all the paperwork helped.
The only surprise was I found out you can't switch the bike computer from US measurements to Metric units without swapping out the entire computer. So it is 100% US units. Not a big deal for me, especially since I do most of my yearly riding through the US anyway...
If you want to know more details on this, let me know and I'd be happy to help.