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How to Find Cheap Motorcycle Transport (and Avoid Hidden Costs)

cheap motorcycle transport


Maybe your perfect motorcycle already costs a little more than you wanted it to. Or maybe, you got the deal of the century—well, barn finds aside—buying your motorcycle that is halfway across the country. No matter what you shelled out for your ride, one thing is for sure: no one wants to pay a fortune to ship their motorcycle.

Are you looking for the cheapest way to transport your precious two-wheeled cargo? Use these quick tips for cheap motorcycle transport to ship your bike without breaking the bank. (Because that money would be better spent on your motorcycle, don’t you think?)

What’s the Cheapest Way to Transport a Motorcycle?

It’s About More than Just the Initial Price Tag

There are 3 ways to get the job done.

  1. Move it Yourself. Get a truck or trailer and make the drive.
  2. Find an Independent Service. This is usually “a guy in a truck” who works on their own.
  3. Hire a Professional Service. These are companies who specialize in transport with multiple trucks and drivers.

Throughout this guide we will help you choose the most affordable method.

Cheap Motorcycle Transport Tip #1:

Moving a motorcycle yourself can be a quick, simple and cheap option if done correctly.

If you’ve decided to forego the DIY approach of moving it yourself  and scour the internet for a cheap motorcycle transport options there are some things to keep in mind. Whether you need to ship a motorcycle you bought online cross-country or are moving and have to get your motorcycle to your new home, these quick tips will ensure you’re actually getting the cheap motorcycle transport you’re looking for.

If you have a pickup truck, or you can borrow one from a friend then you are well on your way to using this solution. A good ramp and tie-downs are a must have, along with someone to help you load and unload the bike. We have put together a list of tips to use when moving a motorcycle yourself. This DIY option can be fun and rewarding in more than just your pocket book. It’s a road trip and it’s certain that the drive home will be just as fun as the drive there. When you get home its “Ride Time”!

Keep in mind that you will want to consider making it a 2-day trip for longer travels, and include the cost of the hotel stay in your plans. It pays to stay rested and arrive home motorcycle shipping

If you don’t happen to have a pickup but have a vehicle with a hitch, there are very affordable trailers available from companies like Uhaul. One model in particular has an extra wide, built-in ramp that works very well for motorcycles. Most of these trailers have the eye hooks you need to secure the bike using straps. Of course, you’ll need to buy the right tie-downs. (Hint: Go for ratchet or cam buckles, not the $10 pack from your local home improvement warehouse). Here is a good article to help you choose the right tie-downs. There is potential for damage if you don’t strap down your bike quite right. When looking for cheap motorcycle transport, you will want to factor in the value of your time, fuel, vehicle wear and tear and possibly a hotel stay. We will provide a sample later in this article to help you visualize the costs involved.

Cheap Motorcycle Transport Tip #2:

When Using Any Service, Make Sure the Driver is Licensed and Insured (and the Delivery is Tracked)

You’ve probably seen a few websites online that seem to connect you with people who are willing to haul most anything. These are referred to here as Independent Services, provided by hard working individuals who provide transport for motorcycles, cars, equipment or general freight of any type as requested.  Sometimes, this is simply the cheapest motorcycle shipping available because the person hauling your shipment doesn’t have the overhead costs that a larger company might have. It’s can be common for these Independent Service providers to show up in a pickup truck, van or with a personal sized trailer in which they load the freight.

Many times, these truckers are super responsible and get the job down just as promised, but it is vital that you check the licensing of anyone that is offering to ship your motorcycle. This rule stands for Independent Services as well as Professional Services. All interstate carriers should be licensed and should be able to produce documentation proving that they are in compliance. You can ask them for the US DOT number and verify that their license is current here on the FMCSA website.

Avoid the extra cost: Make sure the person or company offering cheap motorcycle transport is licensed and provides a way to track your shipment. In the case of using an Independent Service, your tracking may be limited to calling the driver for updates, so make sure you have the drivers phone number.  More importantly, make sure that you have verified their phone number by calling them before your motorcycle is actually picked up. This exercise simply increases the chances of your bike arriving safely—and saves you from the considerable costs of dealing with a damaged or MIA motorcycle.

Cheap Motorcycle Transport Tip #3:

Go for the Expert

When your motorcycle is being shipped accidents can happen. No matter whether you choose and Independent or Professional Service, if you choose a company that doesn’t have experience with shipping motorcycles, that risk increases exponentially.

Motorcycles have unique designs and equally unique shipping needs. Take tie-downs, for example. A failed tie-down could cause anything from scratches to major damage. But to someone who doesn’t know motorcycles, tie-downs might not seem like a big deal. The straps you choose, and how you use them, also impacts the ability to transport a motorcycle safely.

Pro Tip: Your transport company should be using at least four straps, and the hooks should never contact your motorcycle.

A motorcycle shipping expert will also be able to help you determine whether your bike can be loaded and moved safely in an open or closed trailer. But since we’re on the topic, here’s a good rule of thumb: if your motorcycle is being shipped a long distance, is fragile and/or holds value, go with a closed trailer. It keeps your motorcycle safer and stops the elements from damaging your finish. If you are moving a dirt bike or other off road vehicle that may already have some scratches or other damage, an open transport might be a good option for you.

Here’s a quick checklist of equipment that your motorcycle transport company should provide:

  • Specialty trucks that are equipped with a lift gate or similar loading-assist function. If a lift gate is not available, secure ramps for safe loading and unloading may suffice as well, but they must be wide enough to safely navigate the bike with someone walking along side. Air-ride suspension or a similar design that doesn’t bounce your motorcycle while in transit. Constant movement of your bikes suspension while in transit can cause unnecessary wear on your shocks, forks and seals.
  • Hardware that is specialized for the needs of shipping motorcycles. Some companies use skids or custom pallets to help ensure safety. Other companies may have wheel chocks, spacing bars or harnesses that work to keep the motorcycle from moving during transport.
  • Tie-downs that protect fragile finishes. As mentioned previously, handlebars and other fragile areas of your motorcycle should never be secured with metal hooks. Good tie downs have soft nylon soft ties that won’t mar the finish.

At the end of the day, choosing a transport company that’s well-equipped to ship motorcycles increases your chances of receiving your bike in the same condition as when it was shipped. That’s good news for your motorcycle and your wallet.

Compare the cost: You may be able to minimize the risk of damage by choosing a company that specializes in shipping motorcycles, but at what additional cost? The answer to this question will vary depending on factors like distance shipped, zip codes for pick up and delivery, size of motorcycle, season, fuel costs, etc. In short, every shipment will vary somewhat, but we wanted to help create a very simple comparison of the (3) ways to move a motorcycle:

cheap motorcycle transport cost comparison
Cost comparison done on May 5th, 2020.
  • Professional Service Cost rates were sampled on 5/5/2020

    aaa average cost per mile drive
    Average cost provided by the AAA
  • Independent Service Cost Quote
  • Average cost to drive a Pick up Truck is .53 cents/mile, based on data from AAA


Cheap Motorcycle Transport Tip #4:

Watch for Additional Fees (and Go Door-to-Door if Possible)

To confirm you’ve actually found a cheap motorcycle transport option, pay close attention to all the fees that the person or company is including in its price. Additional fees are more common to see when using a Professional Service. Some common fees include:

  • Rural or “beyond” fees based on pick up or delivery locations
  • Oversize motorcycle charges for large bikes
  • Fuel surcharges based on the Diesel Fuel Prices posted by the EIA
  • Toll road Fees
  • Lift gate fees
  • Insurance fees
  • Residential fees for door-to-door shipping
  • Attempted delivery fees. This happens when you are not available to meet the driver, or the driver cannot access the location.
  • Storage fees. These can occur when the bike cannot be delivered on schedule, most often related to an attempted delivery as stated above.

Pro Tip: Many Professional Service providers offer a door-to-door shipping service. This is obviously the most convenient option and may not even cost you any more than a service that utilizes a one of their terminals, but many times you need to ask for it. If a door-to-door pickup and drop-off is not something they offer, make sure you agree to both locations before finalizing your quote. Otherwise, you could be facing additional fees for accommodating your location. You see, some companies use large trucks won’t fit on smaller streets, and some don’t offer service at all to high density “down town” locations or remote areas. This could also mean that your shipment is delayed. All of the frustration that comes with a “surprise” on your final invoice.

Avoid the extra cost: Confirm the specific details of your requested pick up and delivery locations when you book the order. That way, any additional fees will be clear before you get the invoice.

Cheap Motorcycle Transport Tip #5:

Get the Right Type of Insurance

Almost all Professional Service providers offer some sort of insurance or valuation coverage and some even include it in the price. Some Independent Service providers offer coverage as well, but more often than not, you will need to inquire about the coverage and the cost. Most commonly, the cost is not included in the price.

When you’re assessing the true cost of your cheap motorcycle transport solution, it’s also very important to give the providers basic coverage a second look. Does it cover everything that you need? That answer won’t always be “yes,” especially if you have a valuable motorcycle.

It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your motorcycle. Ask the motorcycle transport provider about its insurance or valuation coverage and what isn’t included in its base-level coverage.

The gig economy is thriving these days, and it’s a true blessing to all of those who make a living working on their own. There are many good websites today that can help you get connected to an Independent Service provider who will offer cheap motorcycle transport and deliver your motorcycle without a scratch. But when using these services, we always recommend buying insurance or valuation coverage to cover yourself. It’s an added cost but it’s important to remember that the service provider or website that you used may not take responsibility if something goes awry. And if your motorcycle never shows up, or shows up in a less than pristine condition, you’re out a good chunk of change.

Pro Tip: Ask about the deductible. Many policies have a deductible and some may not mention it up front. Some do have an option to avoid the deductible for a cost. As with every other aspect of motorcycle transport pricing, it’s best to know the cost up front so that it can be factored into your final decision. In addition, get the details on how you might file a claim in the event of an accident. Having coverage is one thing, but how long will you have to wait to be paid?

Avoid the extra cost: This does highlight a major hidden cost of motorcycle transport: the cost of something going wrong. Choose a motorcycle shipper that includes insurance or valuation coverage that matches your budget. Then, ask questions so that you understand whether the basic insurance coverage is sufficient or needs an upgrade.

motorcycle riding hawaii
Getting the best shipping deal feels almost as good as the open road.

The Bottom Line on Cheap Motorcycle Transport

“I want to deplete my rainy-day fund to ship my motorcycle.” – Said No rider, ever

You’ve invested time and money into your motorcycle. And now, you’re paying to ship it hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of miles. By spotting red flags, asking the right questions and being smart about shipping locations and fees, you can make sure that what seems like a great offer is actually the best motorcycle transport option.