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Best Motorcycle Shipping Companies

You can use an auto transporter to ship your motorcycle across the country

By Tom Rains

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Compare motorcycle shipping companies
Using an auto transporter to move your bike will help ensure it arrives safely and quickly to its destination. While there are many similarities between shipping a car and shipping a motorcycle, it’s best to work with companies that have specific experience shipping motorcycles.

Our picks for best motorcycle shippers

What to look for in a motorcycle shipping company
To find the best motorcycle shipping company for your needs, make sure to do the following:

Get motorcycle shipping quotes from a few different carriers and verify their licensing and insurance before utilizing their services. Also, check out motorcycle shipping reviews to see what other consumers have to say.
Confirm that the company you choose carries the proper licensing. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), auto transporters (and transport brokers) are required to be registered with the FMCSA and are issued a six-digit MC Docket number. You can confirm the validity of the MC Docket number by doing a search through the FMCSA licensing website.
Verify that the carrier is registered with the Department of Transportation and has a seven-digit USDOT number. In addition, there are other licensing requirements that are state-specific. Carriers must have the licensing required for their state in order to operate legally.

How much does it cost to ship a motorcycle?
Motorcycle shipping costs depend on several factors, including distance of travel and shipping method. The average cost to ship a motorcycle in the U.S. a distance of 1,000 miles is $400–$600. The average cost to ship a motorcycle internationally can range from $650–$2,000.

Motorcycle shipping cost estimator
It helps to know all the variables that will affect shipping cost so you can get an accurate motorcycle shipping estimate. The cost of shipping a motorcycle is based on several factors, including:

The method of transport
Exact costs will be determined by carrier and method. Enclosed bike shipping costs, which will protect your motorcycle from the elements, are higher than open shipping costs. You can expect enclosed shipping to be about 50 percent more expensive than open shipping.

The weight of your motorcycle

The weight of the bike can affect the shipping cost. Heavier bikes on average are more expensive to ship than lighter bikes.

The time of year

The season you’re shipping impacts rates. Summer and early fall are more popular times of year for vehicle transport than winter and spring. The rates in winter and spring are therefore lower.

Your delivery location

The specific location where your bike will be shipped matters too. Urban shipments are less expensive than remote or rural deliveries. Door-to-door residential shipment costs more than terminal-to-terminal shipping.
The total distance of transport

How far you are shipping your bike will impact cost. Typical motorcycle shipping rates in the U.S. are around $.50 per mile.

Motorcycle shipping insurance costs
Motorcycle transporters are required to carry liability and cargo insurance to cover theft or damage, so the cost of insurance is included in the initial quote. A typical insurance cost is $.50 per pound, but this could be higher on heavier or specialty motorcycles. Minimum insurance amounts are established by the FMCSA; according to federal guidelines, carriers must maintain coverage of $750,000 or more. However, this amount applies to all the motorcycles or vehicles the carrier is transporting, not just your bike.

Ask for proof of insurance prior to making arrangements with the company, and inquire about what specifically that insurance will cover. If you have a very valuable or vintage bike, this is an especially important step. You may also want to check with your own personal insurance provider to see if they will provide any additional coverage when you transport your motorcycle.

Cheapest motorcycle shipping

Most motorcycle transport companies will offer relatively similar quotes. However, with a little bit of thinking ahead, you can save some money when shipping your motorcycle:

Try open shipping

If you are not overly concerned with the risk of light damage to your bike, then consider open shipping. It is much cheaper than enclosed shipping, which will ensure your bike arrives in pristine condition.

Ship in the winter

If timing is not as big of an issue to you, ship your bike in the winter. This is the offseason for motorcycle and car shipping, and your quote will be lower.

Plan ahead

The more lenient you are with the shipment’s arrival time, the lower it will cost to transport your bike. Waiting until the last second, especially if you have to opt for expedited shipping, will cost much more.
Although it’s great to save money, you shouldn’t necessarily just go with the lowest quote offered you. A quote that is significantly lower than others often may be hiding additional fees, so be careful.

How to transport a motorcycle

Understand the different motorcycle shipping services

There are two pickup and drop-off services for motorcycle shipping:
Door-to-door shipping

This means the motorcycle carrier will pick up your bike at your home and carry it directly to its new location. Door-to-door shipping is typically more expensive than terminal-to-terminal shipping.

Terminal-to-terminal shipping

This means you will take your motorcycle to a terminal, and the carrier will take it to the terminal nearest to your motorcycle’s new destination. Then, you will have to arrange for alternate transport home.

Choose a type of motorcycle transport
The most common methods for shipping a motorcycle within the U.S. are open or enclosed transport trailers. When determining which type of motorcycle transport is right for your situation, make sure to consider:
How far your motorcycle has to travel
Transport experts recommend using enclosed shipping for longer distances (such as more than 500 miles), to protect your bike from the elements. Open transport is suitable for shorter distances.

What the weather conditions are
If you’re shipping a motorcycle during a time of year or through a location that may experience inclement weather, consider enclosed shipping over open shipping.
How soon you need your bike delivered
If you are on a strict deadline or need the bike to a certain location at a specific date, open shipping may be the better option.

What type of motorcycle you have
If you have a luxury, vintage or otherwise fragile or very valuable bike, it’s best to use enclosed shipping.

Determine if you need expedited shipping
If you are in a rush, expedited shipping for your bike is always an option. Expect to pay more, just like with any other type of expedited shipping. Your bike will likely be picked up in just 1 to 3 days. If possible, though, try to plan ahead so you can be flexible with your pickup and dropoff dates. That will result in the lowest cost for you.

Prepare your motorcycle for shipping

Before your motorcycle is transported, the last step is to prepare it:
Clean your motorcycle
Wash your bike thoroughly prior to shipment and make sure there is no dirt or debris deposits on the bike or tires.
Drain fluids

In most circumstances, carriers will require you to drain all fluids for safety during shipping.

Remove the battery (in some situations)
For enclosed shipment by crate, you may need to disconnect and remove the battery.
Remove accessories and alarms
Remove any accessories and disable any alarm system for the smoothest ride possible.

Fold the mirrors
Fold the mirrors against the motorcycle to prevent cracking or other damage.

Check the tire pressure
Make sure the tires are adequately inflated. This will act as another protection against damage during transit.

Document any existing damage
Take note of and photograph any existing damage of the bike. Some carriers also document existing damage, but it’s best to have your own record as well. Ask to see the pre-trip inspection report to make sure it aligns with your documentation.

Bottom line

It’s important to fully prepare your bike for transport to ensure it arrives undamaged at its final destination. Save money by planning ahead and shipping in the offseason. If you want to make sure your bike arrives in pristine condition, choose enclosed shipping to protect it from damage. Last of all, make sure to ask for proof of insurance. Every reliable motorcycle shipper will provide it.

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