Transporting Your Motorcycle

Whether you're planning to buy or sell a motorcycle, it's important to understand how to safely transport a bike for long distances. In most cases, hiring a shipping company that specializes in transporting motorcycles is the best choice.

Finding a Shipping Company

First, research motorcycle shipping companies in your area. Obtain price quotes from three or more shipping companies.

The price depends on the distance it must travel, the type of bike you own, the departure date, and the shipping method. Some companies also add service charges or handling fees to your order.

Many motorcycle transport companies require customers to pay the entire balance before the bike is shipped. The best idea is to pay a deposit at the time of your service order, with the remaining balance due upon delivery, so you'll have some bargaining power if anything goes wrong.

Understanding Open and Enclosed Shipping

You'll be asked to choose between open and enclosed shipping. Open shipping is usually the less expensive option. If you're transporting your bike more than 500 miles, however, enclosed shipping is highly recommended. They put the bike into a container or strap it to a pallet and load it into an enclosed trailer. This method offers increased security and helps protect your bike from snow, rain or other potentially damaging elements.

Door-to-Door Shipping

You may hear of some motorcycle transport companies promising door-to-door shipping services. However, this does not necessarily mean that the vehicle will arrive directly at your door. Since the trucks used to move motorcycles can be up to 75 feet long, they simply cannot travel to some residential areas. You might be required to meet the driver at a nearby mall, grocery store, school, or large business parking lot.


The shipping company is supposed to be insured against damage or theft to your motorcycle. However, to cover yourself, ask to see a copy of its insurance coverage before you sign anything. Some businesses will pay all costs, while others will ask you to pay a deductible if something happens to your bike during transport.

Your own insurance might also protect your bike during the shipping process. Call your carrier's customer service department to verify the details of this coverage.

Safely Transporting Your Motorcycle

Some companies prepare your bike for you with their door-to-door shipping service. For others, you might have to get your bike ready.

  • Wash your bike and make a note of any existing damage for insurance purposes. For extra security, take pictures.
  • Remove all personal items from your bike's saddlebags and under-seat storage.
  • If you've installed an alarm on your bike to prevent theft, deactivate it so it doesn't go off during transport.
  • Check to make sure all tires are properly inflated.
  • Look for fuel leaks.
  • Fold in the side mirrors and lock the handlebars.
  • Leave your bike in neutral. You should never ship a motorcycle while in gear, since an engaged transmission can cause internal damage.
  • If you are choosing to have your bike shipped in a crate, drain the gas tank and remove the battery.

Before you turn your motorcycle over to the shipping company, ask for a copy of the pre-trip inspection report. Shipping companies are required to keep records that contain pick-up and delivery information, as well as the bike's mileage and a description of its current condition.

Receiving the Motorcycle

When your motorcycle arrives at its final destination, use the original inspection report to check for signs of damage. If you notice any scratches, nicks, or other problems, insist that they be documented immediately. Without complete records, it will be very difficult to collect reimbursement for shipping-related damages.

Typically, you should receive your motorcycle during daylight hours. This makes it easier to quickly spot any shipping-related damage. Never agree to receive your motorcycle at night unless you can take it to a nearby well-lit location for inspection.

Dealing with Problems

The vast majority of motorcycle transport experiences are worry-free. If there is a problem during the shipping process, however, first speak with the motorcycle shipping company. Most legitimate businesses are committed to customer service. They will be willing to work with you to find an acceptable solution if you state your case firmly and politely.

If you are unable to resolve the issue to your satisfaction, then consider filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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