Prep Work for Shipping a Motorcycle Long Distance

Moving a motorcycle across a number of states or the country is a bit more complicated than just loading it onto a trailer as-is. The problem is that a motorcycle is small enough to get thrown around in a container, and it also includes fluids that can be flammable or toxic. As a result, a number of steps need to be taking to properly prepare a motorcycle for shipping. In fact, most commercial shippers require certain steps to be taken to protect their own drivers and facilities when handling a motorcycle.

Plan for the Destination

Depending where a motorcycle will go can influence how it is shipped. The pallet method is the bare minimum needed to ship a motorcycle so that it can at least be lifted by a forklift, moving it on and off of shipping trucks or trains. If the bike will be moved across the country, it’s most likely going to need to be strapped down to a pallet or put in a shipping crate. This protects the bike a bit better in terms of side impact. Crating can either be done by the owner or provided by the shipper. The choice will impact the overall shipping cost, depending who does the crating work. In either case, the crate used has to have slots below to allow for lifting.

Internal Container Protection

Just putting a motorcycle inside a container is not enough, however. To avoid the bike shifting around, padding as well as straps need to be used to keep the bike stable. Tie-downs can provide tension, keeping the bike in place strapped to the bottom of the crate. Additionally, padded blankets can provide body protection for a motorcycle, further helping avoid damage from rubbing or vibrations.

Drain the Fluids

Motorcycles carry multiple fluids that can be dangerous or flammable. All of these need to be drained before the motorcycle can be shipped. This includes draining the gas tank, oil tanks and removing the motorcycle battery completely. If left in, the fluids could leak, seeping out of the crate and onto the shipping floor. Most commercial shippers will require all fluids to be removed before they take control of a motorcycle for shipping transportation.

Don’t Forget Insurance

While most riders already have motorcycle insurance on their bikes when they ride them, parties shipping a motorcycle should always take out a policy for damage that may occur during the transportation of the vehicle. This shipping insurance provides an added safety net in case, despite all efforts, something still goes wrong and the motorcycle gets damaged. To ensure a policy is followed-through correctly, taking immediate photographs of the motorcycle before shipping helps validate any damage that needs to be claimed afterwards as well.

Moving To and From the Shipper

Most commercial shippers require motorcycle owners to at least bring the vehicle to the shipping facility. For a much higher cost, some will pick up the bike and drop it off at a specific address destination. However, the cost different is usually not worth the benefit. As long as an owner has the means to take care of the in-town movement, i.e. a pickup truck, the shipper can take care of the rest of the trip.


A number of commercial shippers provide services specific to motorcycle owners, and they are adequately experienced in handling smaller vehicles to avoid accidental damage. Professional shippers are generally the best way to go with moving a motorcycle over a long distance as amateur movers trying for the first time can make mistakes that can lead to permanent vehicle damage. Why go through the heartache? Using a professional avoids headaches and keeps a valued asset in one piece.