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How to Transport a Motorcycle | 2020 Guide with Cost

Man looking for motorcycle transport services online

Posted By

Clint Lawrence

Clint Lawrence, founder of Motorcycle Shippers. Helping give riders more freedom to enjoy the bikes they love. [email protected]

 

How to Transport a Motorcycle – 4 Options Plus, Pros/Cons and Cost Estimates for Each

If you’ve ever had to move your motorcycle before, you already know that the process is a lot easier said than done. Maybe you’re moving your family cross-country for a new job or greener pastures. Maybe you found a sweet deal on a motorcycle located a few states away. Or maybe you want to attend one of the many motorcycle rallies but don’t have enough time to ride your motorcycle both ways. No matter your reason for needing to transport a motorcycle, one thing is clear: knowing where to start is the trickiest part.

Should you move your motorcycle yourself? What special equipment would you need to do so? Should you hire a professional to ship your motorcycle? How do you choose the right shipping service for your precious cargo? There’s a lot to consider when moving your motorcycle. Let’s cut through the confusion and weigh the pros and cons of each option.

(Want to assess your options based on the cost to your wallet? Read our guide on how to find cheap motorcycle transport.)Map of the US and man riding motorcycle

Your Four Best Options When You Need to Transport a Motorcycle

When you need to ship your motorcycle from Point A to Point B, you have three main options. You can go the DIY route. You can hire a general freight shipper. Or you can choose a company that specializes in exclusively shipping motorcycles. Each comes with its own risks and rewards.

1) How to Transport a Motorcycle Yourself

Upon first glance, the DIY approach might seem like the best bet. While there are definitely some advantages to doing everything yourself, there are also some downsides you may not have considered. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of DIY motorcycle shipping.

The Pros

You’re in control and could save money (if you do it right)

 Every rider loves to be in control; that’s one of the reasons that we ride in the first place. Your bike means a lot to you, so letting it out of your hands and into those of a stranger can feel unsettling. And then there’s the shipping schedule: by going DIY style, you can control when your motorcycle departs and reaches its destination. Moving your motorcycle yourself can also be less expensive than other options, but that depends upon distance and whether you already own a well-equipped truck.

(Want to move your motorcycle yourself? Read our quick 2020 guide.)

The Cons

Time, money and equipment costs can quickly add up

Transporting a motorcycle yourself might sound like the cheapest way to get your bike where it needs to go. But the DIY route isn’t as easy as it sounds. One of the first things you’ll need to consider is the equipment involved. Do you have a trailer or flatbed big enough to safely move your bike? How about a ramp to get your motorcycle onto the trailer? If you don’t already own it, you’ll need to purchase all the equipment—like ratchet or clam buckle tie-downs—that’s necessary to secure your motorcycle. If you scrimp on tie-downs, you could wind up with a damaged motorcycle.

As with nearly all DIY projects, getting the job done right takes more time and money than you initially estimate. (And as the adage goes, “the only thing you can’t get back is time.”) You’ll also want to factor in gas costs and the wear and tear on your vehicle when you evaluate the pros and cons of transporting your motorcycle yourself.

How to Do it

Motorcycle strapped in the back of a pickup truck

Choosing the correct angle for your straps and place them high on the bike

Take the time to do it right

If you decide to take the plunge and move your motorcycle yourself, you’ll want to make sure you take all necessary precautions. Here are a few highlights from our article on transporting a motorcycle yourself:

  • Get the right vehicle or trailer: Make sure you have a vehicle or trailer that’s properly equipped to secure your motorcycle. Most people use their own trucks. Other options include renting a trailer from UHAUL, which we’ve done from time to time, buying a motorcycle carrier or for the true DIYers, building your own motorcycle carrier. (Check out this helpful video on the DIY route and this quick article on the best motorcycle hitch carriers.)
  • Get help: Even though you’re shipping the motorcycle yourself, don’t try and load it onto your moving vehicle alone. We’ve heard of people getting seriously injured when attempting to drive their motorcycle up the ramp onto their vehicle. Find friends to help. Put your motorcycle in neutral and have a person on each side to balance the bike up the ramp.
  • Tie it down: As we mentioned above, tying down your motorcycle properly is critical to keeping it stationary, and damage-free, during transport. Start with a soft tye and find a structurally solid place to wrap it. Try the lower triple clamp or fork assembly, and avoid wires and brake lines. Make sure the strap doesn’t apply pressure to the fenders and bodywork, which is one of the quickest ways to cause damage to your motorcycle.
    Overhead diagram of proper motorcycle strapping locations

    Make sure you use at least 4 straps per bike, 1 from each corner

  • Check your insurance: Make sure your motorcycle is covered by your insurance just in case an accident occurs during the move.

What’s the bottom line on transporting a motorcycle yourself? If you care about keeping your motorcycle safe, you need to spend the time, and the money, to do it right. Don’t scrimp on equipment, or else you could run into damage that far outweighs the time and money involved with properly securing your motorcycle in the first place.

2) How to Transport a Motorcycle Using a Freight Company

Don’t have the time to ship your motorcycle yourself? Is speed and reliability your main focus? Are you willing to pay for speed and reliability? One option is to enlist the help of a local and/or national freight carrier. These companies specialize in moving large shipments throughout the country. A simple Google search for freight companies will turn up numerous companies offering to transport your motorcycle to your destination. There are far more of these standard freight companies out there than there are specialized motorcycle shippers (professional services).

When you go this route, your bike must be loaded into a fully-enclosed wood or steel crate as it will be shipped along with other business and industrial goods. This allows the shipping company to maximize its load and minimize its costs.

The Pros

Freight Truck and Crated Motorcycle with Destination Map

Moving a bike using a freight truck requires a fully enclosed crate. The image above is for reference only.

Reliability and timeliness

While freight shippers typically lack specialized experience and equipment for shipping motorcycles, these services are generally reliable and quick. Average transit time is 3-7 days to most areas of the US. Remember, this is the transit time only and does not include the time it will take you to get the motorcycle crated and ready for transport. Because these companies make their money by being on time and providing dependable service, you can typically count on your bike arriving when it’s supposed to, and in one piece. The faster your motorcycle arrives, the sooner you can start riding.

The Cons

Cost and preparation time

There are some pitfalls to shipping your precious two-wheeled cargo with a freight company. The cost to complete the actual move is fair, but overall cost is high because you have to supply the custom crate. Additionally, you need to make sure that you provide them with an accurate weight and dimensions when you request the quote. If your numbers are off, you will get a larger bill than expected. These hidden costs can be substantial. Insurance can also be costly and may be subject to a deductible. In some cases, insurance may not even be available from some carriers.

The time require for preparation is consumed mostly by the process of having the bike crated. Every crating service will be different, but most will take a minimum of 3 days and most will average 4-7 days to build the crate. If you can plan ahead for your shipment, this delay may be irrelevant to your needs. But if you are in a hurry to get the motorcycle on truck, it’s a serious factor to consider.

How to Do it

It all starts with the right crate

You’ll need to have your motorcycle crated and secured before a general shipper will take it onboard. You can either build the crate yourself or purchase one online.

  • Build the crate yourself: Here’s a video that walks you through the process and the materials you’ll need. Make sure that you build your crate in a well-ventilated area, and wear your safety goggles at all times.
  • Hire a company to build the crate: Your crate must be built to withstand the normal hazards of shipping. You can have a local crating service build you a custom crate that accurately fits the dimensions of your bike. This will help keep your freight costs to a minimum.
    pop up motorcycle crate

    A proper crate can be made of wood or steel

     

  • Purchase a pre-built crate: If you’d rather not go DIY or anticipate that you’ll need to ship your motorcycle more than once, it could be economical to purchase a crate. The best options will include motorcycle-specific features such as soft synch tie-down straps and strategically placed anchor points for easily securing your motorcycle. Ready to get started? Find quality motorcycle crates for sale here and here.

Once your motorcycle is crated, you’ll need to hire a general freight shipper, also known as a common carrier, or a trucking company that will pick up the crate and move it like normal cargo. General freight shippers are easy to find with a quick internet search. You can use a tool like Freight Quote to compare quotes from different carriers.

Once you locate your carrier of choice, pick up the phone. By asking specific questions about the service, you’ll be able to get a clearer picture of the freight company’s requirements, protocols and fees for shipping your motorcycle. An actual conversation with the company is often a better barometer for quality than online reviews alone.

3) How to Transport a Motorcycle Using an Independent Hauler

An independent service, which you often locate through a website that connects you with hardworking people willing to haul just about anything.

The Pros

Cost, usually

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 as these “road warriors” work extra hard to make a fair living. There are many good websites today that can help you get connected to an Independent Service provider who will offer affordable motorcycle transport, but the final cost depends on their availability. Although they are usually on the more affordable side, prices can vary greatly and often may eclipse the cost of a more professional service.

The Cons

motorcycles loaded on an open trailer

Open trailers are a usually a cost-effective way to move motorcycles

Familiarity with motorcycles, insurance and licensing

A good portion of the independent service providers are choosing to provide transport services based on their ability to match the pickup and drop off location request. In other words, they are don’t care as much about the type of products being moved as they do the location. Many times these providers are not familiar with motorcycles and don’t know how to safely secure them, let alone do they have the right equipment for the job.

In addition, additional insurance policies are virtually non-existent with the service providers. This means they may have the basic insurance they need to operate, but any damage claims might be hard to get covered. There are usually other ways to purchase this additional insurance, but it does add to the overall cost.

How to Do it

Start with asking the right questions

What type of straps do you use to secure my bike? What type of vehicle are you going to move it with, open or fully enclosed? Do you have any pictures of motorcycles that you have moved?

It is vital that you check the licensing of anyone that is offering to ship your motorcycle. This rule stands for Independent Services. All interstate carriers should be able to produce documentation proving that they are in compliance. You can verify that their license is current here on the FMCSA website.

We always recommend buying insurance or valuation coverage to cover yourself. If your motorcycle never shows up, or shows up in a less than pristine condition, you’re out a good chunk of change.

In addition, ask about the deductible. Some do have an option to avoid the deductible for a cost, and some don’t even have a deductible. It’s best to know the cost up front so that it can be factored into your final decision. Lastly, get the details on how you might file a claim in the event of an accident.

4) How to Transport a Motorcycle Using a Professional Motorcycle Shipper

If you don’t want to transport your motorcycle yourself, that leaves you with independent services, freight companies and professional services. Of these non-DIY options, professional motorcycle shippers offer the most specialized experience and equipment. Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of going with the professionals.

The Pros

A shipper that knows motorcycles

The biggest advantages of hiring a professional motorcycle transport company are equipment, experience and ease.

  • Equipment: In most cases, a company that specializes in shipping motorcycles will have equipment that’s custom-designed to meet the unique needs of your ride. From specialty trucks to hardware and tie-downs, professional motorcycle movers will have invested in all the gear needed to get your cargo from Point A to Point B.
    Motorcycle shipping truck inside a warehouse with motorcycles on skids

    Professional motorcycle movers sometime use specialized equipment to help protect the bike and make handling a bit easier

  • Experience: Have concerns about extra protection for a custom paint job? Want to ship an especially large (or especially valuable) motorcycle? Does your motorcycle have a unique feature that needs to be considered during the shipping process? When you choose a professional motorcycle transport company, its team will have the experience needed to help you navigate these situations and more. Experience doesn’t just ease your mind; it also translates to a timely, damage-free process for your two-wheeled cargo.
  • Ease: With a professional motorcycle transport company, there’s no need to get a crate, get insurance or otherwise get your hands dirty. These specialized shipping companies typically provide an end-to-end service, picking up and dropping off your motorcycle from the location you choose with minimal time required from you.

The Cons

Because professional motorcycle transport companies have specialized equipment and expertise, the cost of using these services can sometimes be a little higher than doing everything yourself. However, the price will be less than using a general freight company. You might be relinquishing control of the shipping process by using a service rather than DIY, but in the end, high-quality motorcycle shippers will deliver a streamlined, safe experience that saves you time and hassle.

How to Do it

If you’ve ever searched for a professional motorcycle mover, you already know that a Google search will provide many options. But look a little more closely at those search results. You’ll quickly realize that many companies say they ship motorcycles, but most of them lack the special equipment and training to safely transport your bike. When your motorcycle matters, it’s critical to go with an expert.

Use these quick tips to ensure you choose the best professional motorcycle transport service:

  • Confirm that the company is licensed and in compliance; you can search for this yourself using their US DOT number and the FMCSA website
    Loading a motorcycle on a liftgate in a residential neighborhood

    Large liftgates are helpful when loading motorcycles

  • Confirm accessibility of both pickup and drop-off locations before you finalize your quote to avoid extra fees
  • Ask about the company’s equipment for shipping motorcycles; if they don’t have a clear answer, they’re not a specialist
  • Make sure that the service’s basic valuation coverage is sufficient for your motorcycle, or upgrade if it falls short
  • Confirm that the service provides online booking and tracking information

If the company has all these capabilities in place, then move forward with your quote. You should be able to get a quote for free. If a motorcycle transport service requires payment in return for a quote (or won’t be transparent about added costs), consider it a major red flag and move on.

The cost to transport a motorcycle

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:

Chart showing cost comparison for motorcycle shipping methods

  • 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

 

The Bottom Line on How to Transport a Motorcycle

No matter the reason for transporting your motorcycle, your top priority should be to ensure your bike arrives at its destination in pristine condition. Moving your motorcycle yourself can be a good option as long as you factor in the true costs of the process and secure the right equipment. If you forego the DIY route, you’re left with independent services, freight companies and motorcycle shipping specialists. These services offer varying degrees of experience, costs, insurance coverage and transport equipment, so it’s important to look at the full picture before deciding which motorcycle transport option is best for you.

Have you decided to use a professional motorcycle transport company? Do you have questions about how to transport a motorcycle? Motorcycle Shippers is here for you. We’re one of just two companies truly specialized in transporting motorcycles, and we love helping riders find the solution that gets them back on their motorcycle faster. When you’re ready to take the next step, our flat-rate quotes offer the transparency you deserve.