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Motorcycle Shipping Guide for High-Quality Bike Hauling
There are many reasons why you may need to transport your motorcycle — you could be planning a cross-country trip to South Dakota this summer, excited to meet up with 500,000 fellow bikers at Sturgis’ Motorcycle Rally. Or, you’ve finally set eyes on the cruiser of your dreams, but the best price is at a dealer six states away. In the event you want to sell your bike for something new, you might be in need of a delivery service to ship it off to its new owner.
Whichever the case, you want to know your ride is in good hands. Sifting through motorcycle shipping options can be daunting, and the prices vary on so many different aspects. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming!
Just like every bike is customizable and tailored to your personality, your bike-hauling journey can be too. CitizenShipper is a shipping platform that specializes in hard-to-ship items. The CitizenShipper marketplace connects you with someone to match your needs — a professional, reliable and affordable transporter for your motorcycle. Every transporter is vetted and background checked for extra peace of mind.
Table of Contents:
The Motorcycle Shipping Process
Documents Needed To Transport Your Bike
Preparing Your Motorcycle For Shipping
How Much Does Motorcycle Shipping Cost?
Will Insurance Cover Damages to Bikes in Transit?
How To Find the Best Motorcycle Shipping Companies?
The Motorcycle Shipping Process
The process will be much smoother if you lay out a clear plan for how you want to haul your bike. You don't want to be left scrambling at the last minute, searching for misplaced paperwork or settling for less-than-the-best service. Here are some tips to set you on the track to success!
Document the Condition of Your Motorcycle
Prior to shipping, document any dings, scrapes or other damage to your motorcycle, no matter how big or small. Take pictures of your bike from several angles with closeups of specific areas. If you forget this step, your transporter may not be held accountable for damages caused once it’s loaded up and hauled away. Additionally, photographic evidence is necessary if you file an insurance claim for damages during transport.
Choose the Ideal Method of Transport
Another main consideration of motorcycle transport — door-to-door vs. terminal shipping.
Door-to-Door Motorcycle Shipping
While door-to-door motorcycle shipping adds a slight cost, it yields great benefits. Once your bike is ready to go, your transporter will come directly to where your motorcycle is stored to load it up. Once all the equipment is secured, the paperwork is checked and the transporter is ready to take off, they head directly to your specified drop-off location.
Terminal-to-Terminal Motorcycle Shipping
Terminal-to-terminal motorcycle shipping, on the other hand, can be more affordable but lacks the conveniences of door-to-door shipping. The transport company will specify a location and time for you to drop off your motorcycle. The shipping company will find a terminal as close to your location as possible. Once it’s picked up it will be relocated to another terminal to await shipping day.
There are two downsides to this option. If the motorcycle in transport is not in running condition, you will need to find a way to haul it to the terminal location using your own trailer. Terminal shipping may also take longer because there are more stops along the way instead of the direct-route approach of door-to-door shipping.
Select a Transporter That Suits Your Needs
Every bike is unique, from the style, to the shape, to the size, so finding a transporter that’s able to tailor their services to your needs — whether you ride a dirt bike, a moped or chopper — is an essential part of the process. Their transport services should also reflect the time frame you have in mind, the budget you’ve set aside for the shipment, and the experience needed to utilize shipping equipment.
Communicate with Your Transporter
If you’re at all apprehensive about aspects of your bike’s shipping journey, your transporter should be happy to answer any questions you have. This will leave no room for confusion or concern down the line. Consider what’s important to you:
- How much experience does the transporter have hauling motorcycles?
- What equipment does the transporter provide with their services?
- Does the transporter offer door-to-door services?
- Is the transporter willing to negotiate their price?
- What type of paperwork does the transporter require?
- How long will the transportation take?
CitizenShipper provides an internal messaging system where you can communicate directly with prospective transporters before, during and after booking. Additionally, the messaging system is helpful for getting updates while en route — though you can also arrange for mobile phone updates once you’ve booked the transporter.
If there are further questions or concerns that the transporter can’t answer, CitizenShipper will always be available to lend a hand. CitizenShipper’s world-class customer support team responds 324% faster than the industry average, so you won’t be left hanging.
Documents Needed to Transport your Bike
Though your transporter will handle the majority of the logistics to transport your bike, motorcycle shipping companies will likely require certain paperwork and original documents for your bike. These may include the insurance information, registration or proof of ownership. To assure smooth pick-up and drop-off, gather all the relevant documents you have about your motorcycle before transport day.
If you are shipping your motorcycle for permanent use in another state, research local laws to ensure your bike is up to legal standards before riding it. For example, according to the California State DMV, If you plan to use your motorcycle off public roads and highways in California, you must register it as an off-highway vehicle (OHV). If you plan to store your motorcycle and do not wish to operate it during the next renewal year, you should apply for the Planned Non-Operation (PNO) (REG 102) of your motorcycle.
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Motorcycle Transport Options
Most shipping companies offer two methods of motorcycle shipping: open or enclosed transport. The best type of trailer for your bike will be determined by several factors, such as budget, the weather during transport and the size and weight of your motorcycle.
Open motorcycle transport involves securing your motorcycle onto a trailer that doesn’t have a cover. There are several benefits to open trailers — they’re easy and convenient to use, typically less expensive and come in a variety of sizes. However, an open trailer can leave your motorcycle vulnerable to adverse weather conditions or debris, grit and dust that’s kicked up from the towing vehicle and other vehicles on the road.
Loose straps, movement during wide turns and rough terrain are other contenders for damage to your bike. Although these are rightful concerns, taking extra precautions and double-checking the bike is secure can alleviate the uneasiness of open trailers. After all, this type of transport is common for a reason. Millions of people transport their motorcycles nationwide on open trailers per year.
As the opposite option of open transport, enclosed motorcycle trailers have the advantage of being covered. Enclosed transport provides a more secure way of hauling a motorcycle because your bike will be contained inside, protected from the elements during transport. An enclosed motorcycle trailer also keeps your bike safe and out of sight while the vehicle is parked for pit stops. During long-distance transport, overnight stays might be necessary. With an enclosed motorcycle trailer, you have extra peace of mind knowing your prized possession is locked up while outside. Enclosed motorcycle trailers come in varying sizes and materials and may have other features like side doors and ramps.
Some bikers choose to crate-ship their motorcycle, closing it up in a metal or wooden container. While crates can be harder to load up, requiring a forklift or other loading equipment, they add extra protection and offer space to store spare parts and accessories in a compact manner. Storing these attachments is not recommended for open transport methods.
Another downside to crate shipping is the additional cost a transporter might add for the crate, typically ranging from $200-$400. Some people choose to build their own crate, but it will likely also come out to this amount, so it’s dependent on the individual’s preference.
Shipping your motorcycle has never been easier:
Preparing Your Motorcycle for Shipping
For the safety of your bike and the transporter, there are a few steps you should take to prepare your motorcycle before departure day:
- Deep clean your motorcycle, removing any dirt and soil. This includes the wheels and tires.
- Check the tire pressure: letting some air out of the tires will keep them loose. When they are too full, the tires will not be able to absorb small impacts, possibly damaging the frame. On the other hand, letting out too much air will deflate the tires, making them susceptible to gradual tears. A good rule of thumb is to reduce the pressure until it becomes soft, but not go any further.
- Check the fluid levels: Releasing all fluids, like coolant and engine oil for example, is a good idea to prevent leakage. The gas tank should not be filled with more than ¼ tank during shipping. Too much gas can create significant safety risks.
- Disconnect the battery and any alarm systems that may go off.
- To be extra cautious, remove any fragile, loose or detachable parts of your motorcycle that could become dislodged during the transport process. Pack these separately for safekeeping.
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How Much Does Motorcycle Shipping Cost?
Shipping a motorcycle is much cheaper than shipping a car because it's more compact and easier to haul — but motorcycle shipping costs will vary depending on several factors.
The cheapest motorcycle shipping option may sometimes be of lesser quality, so it's best to consider all the aspects that add up to the rate of shipping your Harley Davidson or Yamaha.
What Determines Motorcycle Shipping Rates?
Distance and Route of the Transport
Shipping companies may base motorcycle shipping costs on the distance of the trip, sometimes calculated on a per-mile basis. The price range typically ranges from $0.45 to $1.25 per mile. However, flat-rate options may also be available.
Size and Weight of the Bike
Larger and heavier bikes may add to motorcycle shipping costs. This is because they can be harder to move and require extra equipment like an oversized trailer, additional tie-downs or other special accommodations to ensure safe transport.
Pick-up and Drop-off Locations
If you live in a densely populated area, there may be more shipping companies to choose from and more transporters available. This will also keep motorcycle shipping costs down because prices will be competitive. If the pick-up or drop-off locations are remote and less traveled, additional costs may be added.
As mentioned before, most motorcycle shipping companies can provide door-to-door services for your convenience or terminal pick-up and drop-off at a location near you.
Type of Transport
The cost of an open trailer can be more affordable, while the benefits of an enclosed trailer may be worth the price. If you’re unsure which would be best for you, contact your prospective transporter for a recommendation.
Time of Year
During the months of popular motorcycle rallies, motorcycle shipping rates may surge due to high demand. If you plan on attending an event, compare prospective transporters ahead of time to beat the rush closer to the date.
Additionally, weather conditions may impact the price of the shipment. During adverse weather conditions like snow, traveling on your desired route may be more tricky and require more equipment.
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Will Insurance Cover Damages to Bikes in Transit?
In some states, personal motorcycle insurance is required by law, and for good reason. Typical policies will include liability insurance that covers bodily injury and property damage. Unfortunately, this likely won’t extend to when you are moving your bike with a transporter.
All motorcycle transport companies are required to carry liability insurance, but it may not cover the total cost in the event your motorcycle is damaged during the moving process. When choosing a transport service, be sure to communicate about what the transport insurance limit is.
Most companies also offer an add-on insurance package for an extra fee to ensure total coverage. In the case you purchase it, read the fine print for exclusion details in the policy.
How To Find the Best Motorcycle Shipping Companies
Avoid Motorcycle Shipping Scams
Shipping scammers are becoming more sophisticated every day, but they leave behind evidence trails. To protect yourself from fraudulent transactions, or the loss of your motorcycle, keep an eye out for key indicators of a fake motorcycle transport company.
Never hire a motorcycle transporter that isn’t licensed through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA is the lead federal government agency responsible for regulating, tracking and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles. All reputable motorcycle shipping companies will be officially licensed with the FMCSA. If your transporter is caught without their proper licenses, their truck may be impounded, along with your bike.
So, how do you check if they’re licensed? Motorcycle transporters are required to have an active USDOT number. This ensures that the company complies and adheres to commercial highway regulations, enhancing the safety of the driver and your bike. When you locate the transporter’s USDOT number, you can enter it into the FMCSA’s electronic record system. This will reveal any information the agency has associated with your transport company. If you cannot find the transport company in this database, this can be a sign the company is fraudulent.
Read Motorcycle Shipping Reviews
A motorcycle shipper’s reviews will tell you what you need to know about the quality of their services. Pay attention to trends in past customer reviews to gather a better picture of the motorcycle shipping company's quality. Are they raving and enthusiastic, or are they disappointed and concerned?
In addition to checking out the motorcycle shipping company’s site, look at third-party apps and websites. If the majority of past customers are upset about damaged property or hidden fees, let that be a red flag. If the motorcycle shipping company has no third-party reviews at all, this could be another sign of a scam.
Each motorcycle transporter hired through CitizenShipper has a profile that will reveal the following about their services:
- Average rating on a 5-star scale
- Number of completed transports and cancellations
- Detailed reviews written by past customers
- Compare Motorcycle Shipping Costs
Be sure to assess the pros and cons of all the prospective motorcycle transporters in front of you before making the final decision. Sometimes an added cost also means benefits and security for your bike beyond what typical transporters offer.
CitizenShipper makes it easy to compare prices and speak with transporters for free, so there’s no rush to commit to a service that doesn’t feel like the right fit.
What's the Best Way to Ship a Motorcycle?
Hauling a Motorcycle Yourself
No matter the reason you are shipping a motorcycle, the end goal is always the same — to get the bike from point A to point B as stress-free as possible and in glistening condition. Moving a motorcycle yourself may be a costly and strenuous task if you don’t have the proper equipment and help. You’ll be looking at the cost of gas, ramps, trailers, tie downs, insurance policies, food and lodging.
You can expect to spend $800 to $3000 on a no-frills open trailer, and up to $15,000 for spacious, high-end enclosed trailers with added features and equipment. Aluminum ramps range from $70 to $400 depending on size, quality and durability. As you can see, the task of hauling your motorcycle yourself can quickly add up to several hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
On top of this, motorcycles are heavy, and the risk of trying to load one up yourself may outweigh the reward of a successful DIY approach. Hiring a professional motorcycle shipping company will ensure you maintain the safety of you and your bike.
Hiring a Professional Transporter Through CitizenShipper
When you hire a motorcycle transporter through CitizenShipper’s online marketplace, you can expect a stress-free shipping experience so you can look forward to the fun parts of motorcycle transport— competing in your next race, taking a joy ride along the coast, or finally having the bike of your dreams parked in your driveway.
The core values of CitizenShipper revolve around maximizing your experience:
Simplicity — Using a motorcycle transport service to haul your motorcycle means leaving the logistics to the pros. Searching for the right shipper and comparing motorcycle shipping costs can take hours or even days. Luckily, finding the perfect match is CitizenShipper’s specialty. The process only takes minutes!
Once you’ve collected the required paperwork, you just meet up with your transporter and they’ll handle the rest.
Affordability — CitizenShipper strives to offer competitive transport prices compared to traditional motorcycle shipping methods without sacrificing quality service. The right shipping company will specialize in the unique type of transport you need. This means they will invest in the necessary equipment for your ride, so you don’t have to.
Reliability — Motorcycle transporters hired through CitizenShipper are reliable, and all bikes are handled with care. They are passionate about what they do, and strive to provide quality, safe and trusted services. As an added layer of security, CitizenShipper offers a Booking Assurance Guarantee that protects you from fraudulent transactions and provides driver replacement assistance in the rare case of cancellation.
Experience — You can enjoy peace of mind knowing your bike is in the hands of a shipper that is well-versed in the world of motorcycles and has the experience to back it up. CitizenShipper has accumulated 100,000,000+ miles driven by qualified transporters and has 14+ years of experience connecting bikers just like you with the perfect match.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it really free to list a motorcycle shipment?
Absolutely. There are no "listing fees" involved. You don't pay a dime before negotiating the cost of motorcycle transport with the driver you choose to hire.
How much does it cost to transport a motorcycle?
The cost varies, depending mostly on the mileage. When drivers send in their quotes, it'll be up to you to choose whatever sounds reasonable. Typical rates are usually between $0.45 to $1.25 per mile, but this can skew higher on shorter trips. Some shipments are more expensive than others: classic and exotic motorcycles, for example, require more attention so they often cost extra to transport.
The easiest, safest way to ship your motorcycle.
- All motorcycle carriers are background checked for felonies and DUIs
- Carrier and shipper addresses and contact information are verified for additional protection.
- Photos of motorcycle shippers and their vehicles help confirm who and what to expect.
- Detailed motorcycle transporter reviews provide insight and transparency to the selection process.