How to Ship a Motorcycle to the USA

Welcome to the USA motorcycle shipping guide. If you’re planning on shipping a foreign registered motorcycle to the USA, have a read of this detailed guide first. 

Motorcycle Travel USA

Contents

By Kathy Wood

By Kathy Wood

Kathy is an international motorcycle shipping expert and co-founder of UK based shipping firm Moto Freight.

How to Ship a Motorcycle to the USA

Shipping a motorcycle to the USA is straightforward when you know how. And this guide’s job is to explain everything you need to know so you can easily plan your biking adventures in the USA.

Shipping your bike to the US gives you the freedom to prepare your bike at home and ride your own motorcycle – without having to deal with buying, selling or renting while you’re there. This is a brilliant option, especially if you are planning a long motorcycle trip in the US or an overland ride to Canada or Central and South America.  

If you’re planning on riding in the US, we recommend you have a read of our USA guides after this article. 

READ MORE: USA Motorcycle Travel Guides

USA motorcycle shipping: air vs sea freight

At the time of writing, we would highly recommend airfreight over seafreight. The costs are actually relatively similar at the moment as airfreight rates have become much more competitive as we leave the Covid pandemic behind us. And the arrival charges for airfreight are considerably lower than for seafreight, so the total cost is actually less. Additionally, the timings are much quicker and more reliable with airfreight, so there really is no reason to go with anything else at the moment.

USA shipping ports and airports

We are often asked if there are ports to avoid and some to go for when shipping a motorcycle to the USA. There is some price variation between airfreight to different airports in the USA, but not as much as you may think. To give you an idea, at the moment there’s around a £300 price difference between the most expensive and the cheapest airport destinations.

The cost is actually determined by how many aircraft fly in to the airport (not the physical distance from the UK, although this is a fair assumption). So, the more popular or ‘touristy’ the airport, the more competitive the airfreight rates will be. For this reason, places like Los Angeles and New York usually offer the best rates, but again, you’d be surprised by how little the difference can be. So we recommend that you start where best suits you and your trip plan with the best weather for the time of year you are looking to travel and go from there.

Additionally, more and more Customs offices at different airports are now insisting that you use a Customs broker for the clearance, so we recommend that most people shipping their motorcycles go down this route. You’ll have the added benefit of being able to truly choose the airport destination that best suits you as an agent will take care of the Customs protocols on your behalf.

The cost of shipping a motorcycle to the USA

Rates fluctuate all the time and quotes are only valid on the day they are sent, but as a ball park (based on current rates at time of writing in January 2024) airfreight of a BMW R1200GS size bike or similar from our depot near London Heathrow to arrival at a US airport by airfreight costs between GB £1,595 and GB £1,795, with a couple of the smaller airports going up to around the GB £1,895 mark.

The current cost for using our US Agent to complete the Customs formalities for you is approximately US $695 / £545 (regardless of airport of arrival).

Seafreight back to London from New York, Houston or Los Angeles currently costs GB £1,395 (including the arrival, clearance and handling charges in the UK). Please remember that prices change all the time, so do get in touch for a specific quote if you’re planning a trip, as the above rates can quickly fluctuate.

Costs in home country vs USA arrival fees

The cost for the airfreight would be payable directly to your freight agent in the UK or wherever you’re sending your bike from. And the payment for clearance and arrival charges in the US would be payable directly to the broker.

There are some US airports where it is still possible to clear the motorcycle yourself through Customs, in which case you would save the clearance charges of around US $695 but you would still pay approximately US $140 in airline handling charges directly to the airline cargo shed when you collect your bike.

We always make people aware of arrival charges before they move forward with freighting, as these can be quite high and we don’t want anyone to have a nasty surprise that they didn’t budget for.

USA port storage charges

Another reason we recommend motorcycle airfreight over seafreight to the USA is because it is easier to avoid storage charges. If you let us know which date you are looking to collect the bike in the States (please bear in mind that you cannot clear/collect over a weekend or bank holiday) we will book the bike to arrive 24 to 48 hours before you. This is to make sure that the bike is there before you, but not so early as to incur storage.

By doing this, the only way storage would be incurred is if the bike is flown early (this is extremely rare as we work hard to avoid this) or if you can’t collect the bike on the day that you planned to, for any reason. Alternatively, you could always fly to the States and then contact your agent in the UK and ask for the bike to be sent once you’ve arrived and are settled.

Essentially make sure you choose an agent who is experienced in working with private individuals and vehicles and you will set yourself up for a good experience where there shouldn’t be any unexpected extras.

Motorcycle crating

We take care of the entire crating process and physically crate your bike for you. The packing space around your bike in the crate is yours, so you can put kit in there with your bike (most people do). But, there are certain things that cannot be packed with your motorcycle (anything hazardous with a warning label, e.g. camping gas, CO2 canisters, lighter fluid etc) and we would send you a list of such items to avoid in advance of your bike prep.

Whilst we have never had anything go missing, Customs both in the UK or at destination can choose to inspect your crate, so we recommend that you don’t leave anything valuable (e.g. cameras or sat navs) or sentimental with the bike.

We send motorcycles as Dangerous Goods which means that they can have a maximum of ¼ tank fuel, and the battery can stay connected during transit.

Whilst the bike does not need to be immaculately clean, it is a good idea to wash it of any excess dirt or grease as part of your preparation.

USA Customs and Paperwork for Motorcycle Shipping

USA Temporary import

You do not receive a Temporary Import when your motorcycle arrives into the USA, but you do require something similar (please see EPA Exemption below).

Time

If your motorcycle is a temporary import into the USA, you are allowed to keep it there for up to 12 months after it arrives, or until you leave if this happens sooner.

USA EPA Exemption

This is a requirement for anyone taking their motorcycle into the USA as a temporary import, and is effectively in lieu of the Temporary Import Permit you may receive in other countries. It is free and easy to acquire (this is done by email and we can send you full instructions on how to apply for it).

You should apply for this at least 6 weeks before your bike arrives into the USA.

This is the paperwork that allows your bike to be cleared through Customs on arrival (it will not clear Customs without this) and is the document that permits your bike to be in the USA for up to 12 months after its arrival.

During this 12-month period, you can pass into both Canada and Mexico and back into the USA without issue or having to apply for a new EPA Exemption.

A valid EPA Exemption letter will be required if you intend to ship your bike out of the USA at the end of your trip.

USA motorcycle insurance

You will require motorcycle insurance to take your bike into the USA and / or Canada and you will need to have this in place before your trip (you may be asked to provide proof of insurance as part of the clearance process into the USA). We can provide details of a couple of companies that offer motorcycle insurance for foreign registered vehicles in North America. Alternatively, check the Motorcycle Travel Guide: USA for more recommendations.

Entering and exiting the US with your motorcycle

If you cross into or out of the USA over a land border, your bike won’t automatically be Customs cleared into or out of the country. You may well also not be asked to provide your EPA Exemption letter on entry to the USA but you do still need it, even if you are not asked to present it.

When entering the USA across a land border please approach a Customs office at the border and ask them to formally clear the bike if they are able to do so. This will formally activate the start of your EPA Exemption and Customs should also provide you with a completed 7501 form, which is a document that will be required if you choose to freight your bike out of the USA at the end of your trip.

If US Customs at the border will not process a Customs Import Entry you can ask any Customs Official at any Customs Office along your route to complete this paperwork for you. This is essential if you are looking to freight your bike out of the USA, but if you are exiting the USA across a land border this is not required.

When you exit the USA (either by road or freight) you will need to send proof of exit/export to the EPA Office to close down your EPA Exemption.

Get in touch with Kathy and Moto Freight

If you’re interested in shipping your motorcycle to the USA, or to the UK from the USA, we recommend getting in touch with Kathy – the author of this article. We have personally used Kathy and Moto Freight’s services to ship our own bikes home from Australia and to Canada and couldn’t be happier with their perfect service. 

Read more on motorcycle shipping and the USA

Thanks for checking out the How to Ship a Motorcycle to the USA guide. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on motorcycle shipping and travel in the USA that we recommend you read next. 

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Are you planning on shipping your motorcycle to the USA? Do you have any questions, tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below. 

2 thoughts on “How to Ship a Motorcycle to the USA”

    • Hi Katia, I believe it’s only from the UK as they’re based in London. But I would recommend getting in touch with Kathy anyway as she may be able to help. Her email is listed above in the contact section.
      Cheers,
      Andy

      Reply

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