International motorcycle transport is a necessity in many situations. Enthusiastic riders are always looking for foreign landscapes to explore. Racers travel the world to compete, and must ensure their bikes arrive safely at each destination.
If you’re relocating, you might want to take your motorcycle with you, especially if it has high market or sentimental value.
For whatever reason, shipping a motorcycle overseas is common practice. But it’s not the easiest, and a lot can go wrong if you don’t approach it correctly.
Factors That Affect the Shipment Cost
International motorcycle shipping rates vary greatly depending on the carrier and other factors. Typically, it’s common to see international motorcycle transport quotes fluctuate more wildly than domestic shipment quotes.
Why is that?
For one, the motorcycle’s size and type can influence the type of container needed to transport the bike and any special strapping or framing requirements.
Secondly, the method of transport greatly influences the cost. Some international motorcycle transport can be done via trailers, especially if you live close to the border. But the process is trickier if you’re not shipping a bike from Texas to Mexico and instead you want to send it to another continent.
Motorcycle air shipping may become a necessity, in which case, the cost is significantly higher.
Of course, international motorcycle shipping can also be done via freight ships. This is slower, but cheaper than air freight.
Another factor to consider is the distance. For example, shipping motorcycle to Japan from U.S. services can be more expensive than shipping to Canada using the same transport method. Every carrier may have its own flat distance rates depending on which continent or country you select as the final destination.
While other small factors can affect the quote, one of the bigger ones to consider is the value-added tax (VAT) and import duties for motorcycle shipping. Europe has very different import duties than North America, South America, or Asia. And that doesn’t mean that all countries exercise the same fees just because they share a continent.
So, international motorcycle shipping companies usually calculate custom quotes for each order due to how much they can differ in specifics.
International Motorcycle Shipping Paperwork
It may interest you to know that shipping motorcycle overseas services involve significantly more paperwork than shipping domestically. You need specific documents ready to clear your bike at U.S. customs and then more documents to clear customs in the destination country.
In general, these are the only documents you need to clear U.S. customs.
- Photo ID
- Certificate of release, if applicable
- Proof of ownership
- Proof of insurance
- Employer Identification Number, if applicable
On a case-by-case basis, other papers might be required due to special circumstances, specific motorcycle designs, year of manufacture, etc.
If you have ever wondered what you can do to prepare for international motorcycle transport, know that you can’t do much without consulting with an experienced shipper first.
The good news is that carriers specializing in shipping motorcycle overseas services will inform you of all documents you need to prepare.
It’s also worth noting that stamped import documents should be stored in a safe place. It can save you a lot of hassle when shipping your bike back to the U.S. and sending it overseas again.
Considerations for After the Bike Arrives
Sometimes it isn’t enough to know how to ship. Motorcycle overseas transportation requires research on what happens afterward.
For example, say you’re going to Europe on an extended vacation. If you don’t plan on relocating to Europe, you might not need to register your motorcycle there.
However, even a temporary import must be insured. This is something experienced carriers might help you with. Having access to a vast network of international shipping brokers will allow certain carriers to direct you toward an affordable insurance provider.
But what if you want to move to a new country and bring your bike with you?
This is a major decision. You will likely be obligated to register your bike on the other side. Furthermore, you may need to convert and customize your bike before being able to drive it legally there permanently.
These customizations often involve changing the odometer, ensuring the bike conforms to new emissions standards, or lighting and exhaust regulations.
Before you talk to a carrier, make sure you’re certain it’s worth shipping your bike when relocating to a new country. Your duration of stay can affect your overall experience and may add more costly tasks to your to-do list.
International shipping carriers may not have all the information about what happens after you pick up your bike, so it’s best to do your own research.
Shipping Motorcycle Overseas – Air vs. Sea Freight
Although most bike owners would prefer using sea freight for international motorcycle transport, it might not always be the best option.
It’s true that air freight is generally more expensive, and speed isn’t often the most sought-after benefit.
But this is where the complexity of international shipping logistics can pose challenges. Many international motorcycle shipping companies will tell you that sea freight is the safest and arguably the best choice.
Sea freight shipping can have delays, unlike air freight, which is very reliable. Those delays aren’t hours or days either—they can be over one week!
Imagine planning your trip, shipping the bike in advance, but it’s not there when you land. It’s not a fun way to start a vacation.
Carriers don’t always tell you that some countries won’t let the bike clear customs unless you’re there to pick up the bike in person. That’s regardless of the paperwork you provide.
This is what makes sea freight less appealing at times.
Imagine your bike arrives at its destination on schedule, but you can’t get there for weeks to pick it up. You’ll have to pay storage fees, which aren’t cheap, especially when compounded over long periods. In addition, sometimes cargo handling charges can be very expensive for sea freight.
So, while it’s technically cheaper, sea freight is a situational transport method for international motorcycle shipping. It’s not ideal for everyone.
This is yet another reason to not only get quotes from carriers, but actually research other relevant information about shipping motorcycle overseas services and processes as well.
Understanding Crating and Packaging Regulations
Because bikes are smaller than cars, many owners attempt to pack or crate them at home before the carrier picks them up for international transport. While you can definitely prepare your bike for transport without specialized tools and equipment, you shouldn’t do it unless instructed by the carrier.
There are many reasons for this.
Some countries only accept wooden crates using a specific type of wood. If you fail to use the right kind, the carrier may be forced to re-crate your bike at an added cost. Or consider the possibility of the carrier not noticing you used the incorrect wood. You could be forced to pay some hefty fines in the country of destination.
Another reason to not crate your bike without clear instructions from a carrier is to avoid messing up. Carriers know exactly how a bike should be shielded and strapped to not incur any damage during its trip and put minimal strain on the suspension.
Then you have the matter of batteries.
Are you a proud owner of a Harley-Davidson LiveWire? That’s great. The international shipping process is more or less the same as for any other bike, with one massive exception.
Lithium-ion batteries are considered hazardous because they can catch fire and explode. Without the proper crating and packaging, you won’t even be able to clear customs.
The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has very strict rules regarding transporting lithium-ion batteries with more than 100wh capacity. Electric motorcycles have batteries that easily go over the threshold.
Some carriers may even charge extra for shipping these batteries.
Another problem you can encounter is with air freight. Even stricter rules exist for crating lithium-ion batteries before shipping them with a cargo plane. In some cases, you may even have to disassemble your bike and crate the battery separately.
The same rules apply to fuel and oil. Air freight generally requires you to leave no more than a quarter of the gas tank full. In some cases, you’ll have to drain all fuel and oil.
Sea freight operators might not care as much about how much fuel is in the tank but will require you to disconnect the battery.
Another issue you may encounter is with shipping multiple bikes in the same crate. Not all countries will let you clear customs unless each bike is crated separately. More bikes in the same crate can cost even more because sea and air freight account for volume. Despite popular belief, crowding multiple bikes in the same crate isn’t a money-saving tactic.
You’ll need to talk to a carrier about the destination country in question to learn more. And again, the exact packaging, preparation, and crating rules will differ on a case-by-case basis.
That’s why it’s all the more important to avoid crating your bike yourself, even if it’s not an electrical one. The majority of international motorcycle shipping companies can and will do it for you.
If you think about international motorcycle shipping as a hotel stay, it’s more of an all-inclusive service, whereas domestic shipping can sometimes be akin to a breakfast buffet.
What you can do is remove fragile accessories that aren’t required to handle the bike to protect them. You may also double-wrap various elements for added protection.
You should definitely document the condition of your bike at the moment of pickup. Note and photograph every scrape, dent, and worn-out part. Should something happen, this will help you make an insurance claim.
How to Find the Best International Shipping Companies for Your Needs
Doing your due diligence is even more important for international motorcycle transport. While many carriers can handle domestic routes, not all of them have the network, resources, equipment, and expertise to deal with international logistics.
Many countries have very different customs regulations, expectations, and interpretations of documents, the purpose for import, and crating methods.
You’ll need a carrier that specializes in shipping motorcycle overseas services and has completed orders successfully in your destination country.
When asking for a quote, make sure to ask the carrier for some additional information on how they handle shipping. Ask about the methods of transport they can make available for you and what each one means in terms of money and logistics.
You should also ask for proof of insurance, credentials, and proof of previously executed shipments.
Port-to-Port vs. Door-to-Door International Shipping
A port-to-port service will arguably be the cheapest option if you want to manage international shipping costs. This is because the carrier only handles your bike from the moment you leave it in the port until it arrives on the other side.
Door-to-door international shipping is available as a service too. It’s the most convenient service, and probably guarantees more personal care for your bike from the carrier. However, door-to-door creates logistics and customs issues when you’re shipping to a country that requires you to clear the bike personally through customs.
Sometimes, door-to-port transportation offers the best of both worlds.
If you live far from an airport or a port, door-to-port transportation is almost mandatory if you don’t have time to deliver the bike personally to the carrier.
Don’t Ship Your Bike Without Knowing All the Facts
It doesn’t matter if you want to ship a bike from the U.S. to Canada, the Philippines, New Zealand, or Spain. International motorcycle transport is a process that takes preparation, research, and an understanding of timelines, international regulations, and costs.
The good news is that you can enjoy exploring new places anywhere in the world while riding your favorite bike in the world. You don’t have to deprive yourself of your personal motorcycle just because thousands of miles separate your starting point and destination.
Choose the best international shipper to streamline the process, clear customs with ease, and get your bike safely on foreign soil. Whether you’re interested in motorcycle air shipping, sea freight, or a concierge-like service, don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more about how to move your bike around the world with as little stress involved as possible.
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