Should I Ship, Rent or Buy a Motorcycle?

Trying to decide whether to ship, rent or buy a bike abroad for your next motorcycle adventure? It’s a tough question, so we pulled this packed guide together to look at the benefits of each option to help you figure out which is right for you. 

Motorcycle travel Vietnam Ha Giang Loop

Contents

Should You Ship, Rent or Buy a Motorcycle on Your Adventures? 

This is a common question all motorcycle travellers are faced with in the planning stages of their trip. And it’s not necessarily an easy question to answer because there are so many variables and factors to consider. Everyone’s trip, circumstances, what they like to ride, where they’re going, how long they’re going for, budget and so on are different.

That means there’s not one definitive answer to this question. Instead, there are pros and cons for each and factors to consider. So to help you figure out what’s right for your adventures, we’ve explained the considerations below for each option. Have a read, look at what relates to your travels and hopefully this guide will point you in the right direction.

Firstly, we’ll look at the three options, how they work and their pros and cons. We’ll then move onto a summary of the benefits of each one and some example options.

The Differences Between Shipping, Renting and Buying Motorcycles Abroad

Australia Motorcycle Travel Shipping
Shipping into Australia

Ship Your Motorcycle Abroad

Shipping motorcycles abroad has become more expensive since covid. Prices are very slowly dropping, but they’re nowhere near what they were prior to the pandemic. However, it’s still a commonly used transportation method for overland and round the world motorcycle travellers.

How motorcycle shipping works

Shipping your motorcycle can be done by air or sea freight. You can also hire a courier service to transport your motorcycle overland in a truck or even put it on a train.

How you ship your motorcycle depends on your shipping method. If for example you are shipping via sea freight, then your bike will either be crated (in which case you should disassemble it as much as possible to get the volume as low as you can and save money) or it will be wheeled into a shipping container. For air freight, it may be placed onto a pallet and strapped down or put inside a lightweight cardboard crate. It is then sent to the country you specified.

To get it out of your country and into the new country, you will need to file paperwork for temporary importation.

Motorcycle shipping pros

Your own bike

With shipping your motorcycle, you get to ride your own bike in far flung lands. You’ll be on a bike you probably know quite well, have prepared for the trip ahead, know what is likely to go wrong and how to fix it and have it set up for you personally.

Cross border travel

There’s no worries about lengthy rental costs. The paperwork will be in your name so (provided you are allowed to) crossing borders will be easier. Not all rental companies allow cross border riding and if you buy a bike and it is in someone else’s name, it may prove difficult too.

For round the world travellers and those who are on seriously big trips, there will be no other option than to ship your bike.

Indonesia Motorcycle Shipping Guide
Shipping from Indonesia

Motorcycle shipping cons

Paperwork

A lot of people are put off by shipping because of how complicated the paperwork can seem. You will have to temporarily import your foreign plated motorcycle into a new country. And that means you will need either a temporary import (TIP) or Carnet de passage. These basically state that you will take your bike out of the country after a stated period of time. If not, you would need to pay taxes in order to permanently import your bike. So, this isn’t a great idea if you’re only planning on a short trip and to one country.

Agents

There are brilliant shipping agents around the world who specialise in motorcycle shipping. These companies will deal with the paperwork and imports on your behalf and explain what is needed before you ship your bike, so don’t be put off by this.

Cost

Other than dealing with paperwork, your biggest cons with shipping are the expense of it and shipping times.

Shipping a motorcycle can prove very expensive, especially if it needs to be shipped again once your trip is over. Prices can range from £500 to £5,000 and are completely dependent on where you’re shipping from and to.

Timings

Shipping times can also prove difficult when shipping by sea freight. Via air cargo, your bike will be sent the same day, but you can still run into delays. Sea shipment is a wait and see game. You will get a rough time frame, but don’t expect it to be accurate. If your trip is time sensitive or you have visas in place etc that may expire, carefully consider if shipping is the right choice. 

Crating a motorcycle in South Korea for shipment
Shipping from South Korea

Motorcycle shipping examples

If you’re on a big trip, riding round the world or plan on crossing multiple country borders, shipping may be the way forward. Yes, it will be more expensive, but it’s worth it to have your own bike prepped for the task at hand and to have your bike registered in your own name. You can ship nearly anywhere in the world and there are agents and freight forwarders who know the business on hand to help arrange the entire process. You’ll find agents and their contact details in our recommended shipping companies linked in the more info section below. 

More info on motorcycle shipping

We have an entire Guides section on this website dedicated to shipping motorcycles internationally. You’ll find everything on there from ultimate guides to shipping companies from around the world. Also check out our Destinations section and click a country you want to travel to as there may be a specific shipping guide for that country in there. If not, have a read of the Motorcycle Travel Guide for that country as there’s always shipping info in there too. 

READ MORE:

Rent a Motorcycle Abroad

Renting a motorcycle is the easiest option on this list. There’s far less responsibility, paperwork and commitment. It does away with a lot of the stresses involved with shipping and buying, but you do have some drawbacks.

Motorcycle travel Vietnam Ha Giang Loop
Riding through Vietnam on a rental motorcycle

How motorcycle rentals work

Simply fly to your destination, walk into a motorcycle rental shop, pay a deposit and for the rental, get the keys and off you go! Renting a motorcycle is the easiest option and the least stress.

Motorcycle rental pros

Renting a motorcycle is very simple, you don’t have to deal with the mountains of paperwork included in shipping a bike or buying and selling one in a foreign country.

You’ll get the chance to test out a new bike that you might not have ridden before or a bike you’d particularly like to try.  

If the bike breaks down, provided it wasn’t your fault, you shouldn’t be liable for the repairs.

Some rental companies, dependent on where you’re travelling to, allow cross-border riding. Sometimes this is for an additional fee if more paperwork is required, but is often included.

You can shop around for a good deal and longer rentals usually mean cheaper prices.

Motorcycle rental cons

You may not be used to the bike and it might not be in great condition. This is something you need to check when receiving it. It helps to do your research on the company you’re renting from before flying and to know what to look for when collecting and inspecting the motorcycle.

Some companies include decent insurance policies with their motorcycle rentals, some require an additional premium and some offer no insurance whatsoever. This is something you will need to carefully consider. Check what your deposit amount is and if that is the maximum payable amount should a crash or theft happen. Ask if they offer an additional insurance deposit waiver and what that will cost. Make sure you’re happy with your level of cover before you take the bike. 

You may be restricted on where you can ride with a rental bike. Some companies may not want you to go off-road, some may be mileage restricted and some might not allow cross border rentals.

Renting examples

Renting is easy throughout the world. A great suggestion though, if you’re planning a ride in Central Asia, is to rent a motorcycle in Kyrgyzstan. Renting a bike from Osh allows you to cross borders to neighbouring countries with ease, the bikes are relatively inexpensive and they’re well setup adventure bikes such as Yamaha XT660s. The bikes are prepped for the type of adventure riding riders are looking to tackle in that part of the world.

Buying a bike there, or shipping your bike there would be difficult to say the least. And to ride there would take a big chunk of time out of your trip.

READ MORE: Kyrgyzstan Motorcycle Travel Guides

Motorcycle travel in Kyrgyzstan

More info on renting motorcycles abroad

You’ll find a packed directory on this site with hundreds of recommended motorcycle rental and tour companies from around the world. Simply click the country you’re interested in, see what’s on offer and get in touch with those companies directly. 

For more info on renting and joining organised tours, have a read of the below guides too.

READ MORE:

Buy and Sell a Motorcycle Abroad

Buying a motorcycle abroad is a great way to have your own bike while saving on the costs associated with shipping yours from home or a long-term rental. But, there are a lot of considerations when it comes to buying and selling abroad.

Motorcycle travel Vietnam Ha Giang Loop
Buying a motorcycle isn't as hard as it seems

How buying a motorcycle abroad works

Buying and selling a motorcycle abroad is often the trickiest of the three options. But, that completely depends on where you’re travelling to as it’s relatively straightforward in quite a few countries. You will need to search online, speak to fellow travellers and contact dealers for a motorcycle. Figure out what the paperwork requirements are for a foreigner, if you can buy one without being a resident and what the deal is with registration. Purchase your motorcycle, get insurance, ride and consider where and how you’re going to sell it after your trip. 

Buying a motorcycle pros

Buying and selling a motorcycle can be very straightforward if you pick the right country. For example, buying in Vietnam is a doddle and can be done on a street corner. You can then ride your bike into Laos and Cambodia and sell it after easily.

It’s a great way to reduce the costs of long-term rental and saves all the hassle and expenses of shipping your own motorcycle.

There’s lots of information online about buying and selling, you just need to join motorcycle travel Facebook groups in the countries you’re thinking of travelling to. You’ll often find travellers looking to sell their bike after their trip, and it’s a great way to buy your bike.

Buying a motorcycle cons

You have a lot of paperwork to consider when buying and selling a motorcycle abroad. Registration is a big factor too, as in some countries you may not be allowed to have the bike registered in your name, which means it will need to be registered to a dealer or to a friend – like in India for example.

If the bike isn’t registered in your name, this might make it difficult to cross borders. You may still be able to take it out of the country and to neighbouring countries – but there is a limit. No every country will let you in if the bike isn’t registered in your name. And this may make it difficult to sell thereafter. And in some countries, regardless of whether it’s registered in your name or not, if you buy a bike as a foreigner, you might not be allowed to take it out of the country at all (Argentina is an example of this).

Selling can be tricky too, especially if you want to buy the bike in one country and sell it in another. The main reason for this is because when you cross borders you are given a temporary import permit (TIP), meaning you are allowed in for a certain amount of time and then must exit with your bike and not sell your bike in that country. If you plan to sell in a country that requires a TIP, then you may have to permanently import it first.

However, there are companies that specialise in buying and selling motorcycles for travellers and can help with this by selling you the bike and buying it back after or by buying foreign plated bikes.

So, if you do go down the route of buying and selling, figure out what paperwork is required first to both buy and sell the bike after.  

How to Buy and Sell a Motorcycle in Southeast Asia
Buying a motorcycle in Thailand or Vietnam is a great way of seeing Southeast Asia

Buy and sell examples 

Southeast Asia is a great place to rent a bike because it’s so cheap and easy. But if you’re planning on staying a while, then so is buying and selling your own bike. If you’re only planning on travelling in Southeast Asia and not further thereafter, it’s not a great idea to ship your own bike due to the increasingly difficult entry requirements at borders for foreign plated motorcycles. You can’t take a foreign bike into Vietnam and Thailand is hit and miss with borders as you’re technically supposed to have a guide. Indonesia requires a carnet de passage and so on.

So, fly in, buy a bike and stay as long as your visa allows without worrying about long-term rental costs or shipping.

Australia is another good example of where to buy a bike. Renting a bike in Australia over a long period will be expensive, and shipping your bike all the way there when you can’t ride it across a border to another country seems pointless – especially if you’re not on a long term or round the world trip. So, just fly in and buy one instead!

There are companies around the world set up for helping motorcycle travellers buy and sell bikes, you just need to search online. Some good examples are MotoFeirme in Ireland for UK and European trips and Xfiltrate in Argentina.

READ MORE:  

More info on buying motorcycles abroad

For more info on buying a motorcycle abroad, check our Destinations page and look for the Motorcycle Travel Guide in the country you’re interested in travelling in. There will be info in there on buying and selling motorcycles in that country. 

Additionally, if you’re interested in buying and selling a motorcycle to travel around Southeast Asia, have a read of this packed guide. 

READ MORE: How to Buy and Sell a Motorcycle in Southeast Asia

Another option: ride it there

Another option is to consider riding your own bike to wherever it is you want to travel to. Sure, shipping might still be involved, but if you have covered the bulk of distance, it will greatly reduce the cost and you might only need a ferry. For this option, you will need to consider the paperwork requirements for every country you travel through to get to your destination. You could then ship your bike home after the trip.

READ MORE: Round the World Motorcycle Travel Guides

Uzbekistan Motorcycle Travel
Somewhere in Uzbekistan

Deciding Between Shipping, Renting and Buying Motorcycles Abroad

Which option is right for you?

Where you’re travelling to and for how long are two of the most important considerations when weighing up whether to ship your own motorcycle or fly in and rent or buy one. Consider those two factors as you go through this article.

When shipping is a good idea

Shipping is the best option for those who are undertaking a round the world ride, or for those who will be travelling through a number of countries and finishing somewhere far away from where they started. In this case, renting a bike would not be possible, and buying and selling would be too difficult (although not impossible). Or, perhaps it’s a hard, long or specialist off-road ride, and you need a bike specifically set-up for your requirements.

When renting is a good idea

Renting is perfect for short trips. There’s minimal fuss involved such as paperwork and time spent shipping or buying and selling your bike. You just fly in and ride. It’s also a good idea if you’re only planning on riding in one country – or a couple if your rental company allows cross border travel.

When buying is a good idea

Buying a bike is a great idea if you’re staying a while in one country, or want to travel to a bunch of neighbouring countries only. Any further and paperwork may start to become a challenge. Whether buying is a good idea also heavily depends on where you’re travelling as it’s much more difficult in some countries than others. But, if you’re travelling somewhere where it’s easy, like Vietnam for example, it can be a brilliant way of saving money, hassle and time.

Read more on motorcycle shipping, renting, buying and travel

Thanks for checking out the Should I Ship, Rent or Buy a Motorcycle Guide. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on motorcycle adventure travel that we recommend you read next. 

Try these next…

Are you trying to decide whether to rent, ship or buy a motorcycle abroad? Do you have any questions, tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below. 

Leave a comment