My Motorcycle Shipping: 13 Dos and Don’ts

My Motorcycle Shipping: 13 Dos and Don’ts

In the early days of my marketing career, I worked in the marketing department of an online-based 3PL. My team was great, but the company was not so great. One good thing from that experience was learning about motorcycle shipping. Not just in a research and theoretical way. I got to stand in the truck and help palletize a few motorcycles. I got to talk with our call center sales team and learn about successful and unsuccessful shipments. This real-world experience gives me a unique perspective when talking about motorcycle shipping.

Don’t Go With the Cheapest

Seriously, don’t go with the cheapest motorcycle shipper you can find. You will get what you pay for. At best, your bike will get damaged. At worst, it will disappear for forever. Paying more for reliability and quality is definitely worth it in this situation. 

If you aren’t familiar with what a 3PL is, it is a freight shipping middleman. They negotiate rates with shipping companies and then pass those rates on to you. As the person shipping, you would never get as low of a rate on your own. This bulk model works well for freight shipping needs. It does not always work out for automotive and motorcycle shipping. There are several potential pitfalls to going through the third party instead of directly with the shipper.

motorcycle shipping

Sometimes, the motorcycle owner would blindly choose the shipper on price alone. What they didn’t know is that the lowest bidder doesn’t usually ship motorcycles. They just had space on a load and needed to fill it. This means the bike is in a trailer with pallets loaded with anything. If any of those pallets are loaded incorrectly, your bike gets damaged. 

Other times, the lowest bidder would be a single truck owner-operator. Now, not all of these independent drivers are bad. In fact, the opposite. However, if they are significantly underbidding everyone, this is a red flag. You are essentially trusting your bike to some guy with a truck. 

Do Know Who You Ship With

So now we know we are going to pay for the service we want. Next, do your research on the shippers. Some companies offer motorcycle shipping as an afterthought service. For others, it is their entire business. There are pros and cons to both. Larger freight companies that provide more shipping services have more trucks and service more lanes. (Lanes are the to and from routes the trucks drive. A lane is a heavily serviced route)

So, booking with a company that ships a lot of variety can give you more geographic options and potentially faster service. (This isn’t always true; we’ll get into that later) A smaller specialized motorcycle freight shipper typically has fewer trucks and fewer standard lanes. However, they also have more experience and knowledge when it comes to motorcycle shipping best practices. If you book directly with the company, you know who they are. If you book through a 3PL, you may or may not know upfront. 

Do Ask About Insurance

Motor carriers operating on American highways are legally required to carry a certain amount of insurance and maintain a bond. Don’t assume your motorcycle carrier has it. Ask. If you really want to do your research, you can ask them to validate that the insurance and bond are in good standing.

Do Ask What Is Included

When you get a motorcycle shipping quote, ask the carrier to specifically list what is included. Some carriers include more than others. So, the lower of the two quotes may not be the better deal.

Do Ask About Extra Service Add-Ons

This one goes hand in hand with the last point. If the motorcycle carrier you want to use doesn’t automatically include all of the services you want, ask about add-ons. This also helps to compare apples to apples when getting shipment quotes. The best deal becomes apparent when you start matching services.

Don’t Forget About Your Motorcycle Insurance

motorcycle shipping

Call your motorcycle insurance company and ask them about shipping coverage. Depending on the company and what type of plan you bought, you may have insurance coverage on your motorcycle during shipping. If so, ask what is covered. Pay attention to things like vehicle accidents, theft, and “acts of god,” aka weather. If your insurance doesn’t cover the bike during shipment, ask about adding a temporary rider. You may be able to add coverage.

Don’t Try to Rush Shipping

There is no getting around it; freight shipping takes time. Depending on many factors, your motorcycle shipment could take weeks or months. I used to watch the sales team endlessly field calls from angry customers on this point. The customer would Google Map the route and find out it took X hours to drive. Then, they would assume the truck driver would do that. Unfortunately, they were very wrong.

  • First, that is assuming there are no road conditions or traffic delays. This can put a truck back hours. 
  • Weather plays a huge factor. Rain can slow the truck down. Snow and ice can stop it completely. 
  • The driver can legally only drive for so long before he is required to stop. He isn’t risking his livelihood for you. 
  • There are other shipments on the truck. They load and unload in a particular order, and you wait for them. 

All is not lost on motorcycle shipping, though. Many shippers offer expedited shipping services. However, you will have to pay extra for this service. It also won’t be as fast as overnight or the next day. Some shippers also offer a delivery guarantee service. This is when the shipper promises to deliver the bike by an agreed-upon date. You don’t get carte blanche to choose the date. You will also pay a lot more for this service. Essentially, you are forcing the shipper to prioritize your shipment over the most economical route. So, if you cost them more money, they will charge you more.

Don’t Leave Valuables or Removable Accessories

This one should be obvious. Don’t leave your valuables or expensive accessories on your bike! It would never cease to amaze me what people would leave on their bikes. Then, they would call us angry that it got damaged or stolen. Before you come for me, make sure your bike is secure. However, why tempt people? Just remove the item and avoid the risk. How hard is that? The shippers even tell you to remove valuables. Your failure to do so is simply a failure to follow directions.

Do Consider Location

You will have two locations when you ship a motorcycle. There is the origin and destination. The further apart these two points, the more expensive your shipment will be. In addition, the more remote these locations are, the more expensive your shipping will be. There are ways to mitigate the cost. If you live somewhere remote, take the bike to the nearest city and meet the truck there. That final mile segment of the shipment is the most expensive for the carrier because it is just your bike that needs to go to the middle of nowhere.

If you want to cut costs even more, you could ask if you can meet the truck at the carrier’s facility. Large freight carriers have distribution hubs all over the country. They will bring trucks here, redistribute the cargo, and send them back out. If you meet the truck at the carrier distribution center, you cut out a huge chunk of the carrier’s transport distance. This reduces the cost. It could also help you get your bike sooner.

motorcycles tagged for shipping

Do Consider Time of Year

When you ship your motorcycle will impact the price. The freight industry has a shipping season. With increased demand comes increased pricing. However, you can also use this to your advantage. The trucks heading out need to eventually come back. For carriers, bringing an empty truck back is a wasted profit opportunity and a pure cost to operations. If you can get on a truck’s return trip, you may be able to score a deal. The carrier would rather deeply discount your cost and reduce its operating costs.

Generally, the spring and summer are the busiest. Winder stalls a lot of the northern shipping because of the weather. In addition, there is increased vehicle shipping demand from the north coming south right before winter. Then, in the spring, an increased demand south going north. Thank the snowbirds for that one.

Don’t Assume a 3PL Is Better

Let’s assume you decided to use a 3PL to get you a better deal on your shipping. Unfortunately, something happened during shipping, and now your fuel tank has a massive dent in it. You call the 3PL angry. They tell you that while they feel bad for you, they didn’t ship your bike. So, they aren’t responsible.

They give you a number to the carrier that actually shipped your bike. You call the carrier. Then you find out that the carrier isn’t motivated to help you. You see, you didn’t book with them. So, while they technically should help you, they will make it really difficult for you. This is a scenario I have seen play out more times than I care to admit. The bike owners eventually gave up and filed a claim through their own insurance company. 

Do Prep Your Bike

When I shipped my motorcycle, I spent a day prepping it. I removed accessories. I detailed it. I paid attention to every nick, mark, and spot. I knew every inch of that bike. I then took a hundred pictures. I took far away, close up, and from every angle. Then, I took a video as I walked around the bike. This may sound excessive. It probably was. However, it cost me nothing, and I had a solid record of my bike’s condition pre-loading. If anything had happened to my bike, I had the documentation I would have needed to successfully fight a reimbursement claim with the carrier. 

Don’t Accept Bike Delivery Without an Inspection

You finally get your bike delivered, and you are so happy that you rush to sign the paperwork. Don’t do that. As soon as you accept delivery, you accept the bike in its current condition. You just made your life much more problematic when filing a damage claim with the carrier. The carrier will claim that you accepted the bike, so how do they know the damage didn’t happen after they left it? Instead, inspect your bike. Pull up those pre-shipment pictures if you can’t remember what it looked like. If there is damage, have the driver record it on his paperwork. Do not sign it until he does. 

Consider Motorcycle Shipping

While a lot of this may sound negative, I wholly support shipping your motorcycle when it makes sense to. For me, I worked a full-time job for a company that didn’t believe in giving people vacation time. So, I used the limited time I had earned over the course of three years to go to Sturgis. I would not have been able to go if I hadn’t shipped my bike there and back. However, like anything out there, knowing the potential pitfalls helps you avoid issues. 


How much does it cost to ship a motorcycle across the US?

The cost to ship a motorcycle across the US can vary greatly. Pricing can vary between a hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Pricing varies based on distance, type of bike, the time of year, and current shipping demands.

Is it expensive to ship a motorcycle?

Motorcycle shipping can be affordable when considering other comparable options to transport a motorcycle.

Is it worth shipping a bike?

Yes, it is worth shipping a bike. Professional motorcycle shipping can save you time, effort, and money by providing a service of convenience.

Is it safe to ship a motorcycle?

Yes, motorcycle shipping can be safe when you work with a reputable motorcycle shipping company. High-quality shipping companies ensure your motorcycle stays secured on the truck throughout the entire shipping process.

How do I ship a bike to another state?

To ship a motorcycle to another state, request quotes from motorcycle shippers. Select a shipper and book your shipment. Then arrange for the pick-up, transport, and drop-off of your motorcycle.

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