Shipping a Motorcycle
from the USA to Europe

H. Marc Lewis — September, 1993
(last updated 11-Jan-2008 , newest info is at the end)

I have been asked about shipping a motorcycle from the USA to Europe, and how to obtain insurance for a USA motorcycle for riding in Europe. Here's what I know. Obtaining this information cost me about half a day on the phone and about $75 in long distance charges. I started with the American Automobile Association (AAA), but as of summer 1993 they no longer offer motorcycle insurance for overseas travel. You should definitely try the AAA first, however, because if they have found another foreign insurance carrier by now, it will definitely be much easier and probably cheaper than using the German company I describe below. [Note: read the commentary below by other people who have more recent experience — and if you can add any information of your own, please send me email so I can update this page — Thanks!]

See also my M/C Yellow Pages SHIPPING section...

2008 Update: The sharp decline in the value of the U.S. Dollar in world markets since the turn of the millenium has made shipping a bike to Europe via air, the way I did it back in 1993, very, very expensive. Possibly too expensive to make it worthwhile. Your call. Read on, particularly the last entry...

Shipping Company (1993)

I scanned many back issues of many motorcycle magazines and ended up with the following outfit (mainly 'cause everyone else stopped doing it):

WARREN MOTORCYCLE TRANSPORT
7106 NW 108th Avenue
Tamarac, FL 33321
USA
(800) 443-7519
(305) 726-0494
(305) 726-7336 Fax

I had so-so luck with this guy, who appears to be a former travel agent type who is now living semi-retired in Florida (this is mostly speculation). Anyway, he isn't too good at giving you all the details you need on the phone (for example, he didn't tell me that I had to deliver the bike 24 hours before my flight until after I'd already purchased my tickets) so drag the information out of him if necessary.

[Note: I have received email from recent (1997) travelers who report that Warren M/C Transport is much better than I remember them being.]

I used Lufthansa, as they will fly the bike and pretty much guarantee that it will be waiting for you at the airport when your plane lands. To this end, they require you to drop off the bike 24 hours in advance (on both ends). You should have 1/4 tank or less of gasoline (I was asked, but they didn't check). You can leave your saddlebags attached (mine weren't even inspected, either direction). You just ride into the Lufthansa Cargo building and onto a large aluminum pallet, and they strap it down right there. It is a good idea to take along a half dozen of the little straps dirt bikers use to wrap around the bars or frame so the cargo hook won't mar the bike's finish (my bike didn't get a single scratch!).

Mr. Warren will give you pretty comprehensive instructions on what to do, where and when to go, and what papers and documents you need. I departed out of Vancouver, BC (but could have used San Francisco, CA) and it cost me about $750 to ship it over, and 1255DM (about $850) to ship it back.

You need to do all this arranging stuff at least 3-4 weeks before departing, otherwise you will be strung out waiting for overnight Fed Ex deliveries and hovering over the fax machine at work.


DRIVERS LICENSE

IMHO you should go to a AAA office anyway just to get an International Drivers License. This document isn't really a separate license per se, but a translation of your existing license. It has a box for checking to indicate that you are endorsed for riding a motorcycle -- make sure they stamp it correctly! I suspect they rarely get motorcyclists and thus don't remember how important that little detail is. It only costs $10, as I recall. To use it in Europe, you will also need your *REAL* drivers license from whatever State in which you're licensed -- don't leave it at home! (It also wouldn't hurt to carry your USA insurance policy with you, just in case).


INSURANCE

I got insurance for my '93 Yamaha GTS1000A for 2 months (the minimum time) for 300DM from:

Tour-Insure
Carl Petersen Str. 4
20535 Hamburg
Germany
(040) 25.17.21.50 voice
(040) 25.17.21.21 Fax
I called (they are 9 hours ahead of us) and spoke to a woman named Heidemarie Jost who was quite helpful. They sent me an application form, which I filled out and faxed back to them. They gave me their bank number and I wire-transfered the money to them. I had them send the paperwork (called a 'green card', although it's really yellow) to the Lufthansa Information counter in Hall 'A' of the Frankfurt airport, where it was waiting for me when I arrived.

Note: they only offered me third party liability, and not collision, fire, or (most important) theft. This may be because I told them I would be staying in Italy -- I really think that if I'd said Germany, I could have gotten full coverage and probably for the same price.

If you do any faxing to Europe, use a large and fairly bold font if possible. My experience has been that overseas faxes can be hard to read if they use normal typewriter-sized fonts.


Postscript

I was only stopped twice in my travels, including over 20 border crossings. Once at the Austrian border (they aren't part of the ECC) where they did want to see my green card, and once in a radar speed-trap in Switzerland, where they didn't care if I had a green card or not but did care if I had any Swiss Francs for them. :-)

Reports that you must have a (USA) sticker on your bike seem to be false. Although I'm sure that was true once, now with the EEC changes, even lots of cars don't have the country indicator on them. I didn't put one on my bike, although I carried one under the seat to put on if necessary, and I had no problems in that regard.

[in Feb'97 Rob Beach wrote: By the way, it was mentioned that there was probably no need for a USA decal on a bike sporting America plates. I would strongly urge one, as we got a ticket [$40 worth!] in Austria last year on a BMW factory bike with Munich plates!]


In December of '95 Stephen Holman in Grants Pass, Oregon wrote:

"I had much the same experience with Warren Goodman several years ago. I discovered it is easy to make direct arrangements with Lufthansa Cargo, itself. Much better results. Very helpful personnel. We shipped from San Francisco to Munich and return. The bike was transferred at Frankfurt. We did not have to be on the same plane, it was waiting for us at the Munich cargo terminal. They did charge a small fee for holding the bike a day extra. Well worth it, because we were able to negociate our own tickets, totally independently of the shipping.

The BMWOA magazine has regular, and very complete information about such things all the time. Even if you aren't a BMW owner, it would be worth the bother to locate some copies and peruse them. Whitehorse press has a book which covers much of this information, too. There is a guy in New York State who arranges insurance and, if you want, shipping. He seems to be a reasonable person to work with, too. I got my insurance from Werner Wachter, who owns/operates Edelweiss Bike Travel. Got absolutely exactly what I wanted, coverage, places I planned to visit [necessary for green card], and time."

In February of '96 David L. Smith wrote me:

I contacted a "Joan" who works for "Thyssen-Haniel Logistics" in Boston, Phone: 1-617-569-5830, office fax 1-617-569-026. I talked with her in '95 and she told me that they have shipped cycles for several folks in N.H. and appeared to me, to know what she was talking about.

I contacted her again (Feb-1996) and she confirmed with me the price of $400 for air fare, via US AIR from Boston to Frankfurt. Bike must be crated or on a pallet.

In March of '96 Richard Zahm of the California Motorcycle Company (voice/fax 408.659.1012) wrote:

Shipping a bike from Europe to the US costs about $US 600. Two-four weeks, depending on which coast you you want, sea freight. We export bikes to Europe and Asia and use Allied Transportation Services, Randy Bond, tel. 408.937.0590 fax 408.259.4579. They put together the crates and handle all paperwork.

In May of '96 Lee "VIPER" Freedman wrote:

The M. Mandell Agency (now called Motorcycle Services) at +1 (800) 245-8726 does insure motorcycles for overseas use. They offer two packages,one with just liability and one with liability/comprehensive/collision coverage. They also handle shipping of motrorcycles to overseas destinations.

In August of '96 Andy Cotterell wrote:

Insurance

Whatever motoring insurance you take out within an EC country will apply equally in all other EC countries (the exception being the UK where, whatever insurance you have translates to liability only in other member states unless you buy a special extension). The cheapest and easiest places to buy the insurance are Italy and The UK. For convenience, you may want to look into German Tourist Plates - normally valid for the duration of your trip (within certain limits and never longer than 2 months).

"USA" Plates

You were fortunate in not being forced to have a "USA" plate on your bike; it is a legal requirement and you could get into a lot of (expensive) trouble. Getting stopped at borders. Austria is now, to all intents and purposes, a member of the EC but you will probably still get stopped. There are still border controls between most EC countries; the exception being the "Schengen" (as in Schengen Agreement) countries who have remodelled their borders with limited success.

Speeding Fines

The german traffic police are very casual about speeding on motorways; I suspect because people who drive too fast on the Autobahns are a self correcting group - the accident rate is very high. [Editorial comment: I don't belive that is true, Andy!] Most other European traffic police (and, in fact, the Germans when not on the Autobahns) are very serious about their responsibilities. The French impose very heavy on-the-spot-fines as do the spanish. If you can't pay they will probably lock up you and your bike. In holland if you drive at a certain percentage above the speed limit the police have the right to confiscate your bike and sell it at auction (they keep the proceeds, not you).

The UK and Italy are, in my opinion, the most fun places for biking; the UK for roundabouts (traffic circles in the US?) and Italy for the overall speed.

In Sept of '96 Eric Blume wrote:

I shipped a Moto Guzzi LeMans back in '94 from Malmo, Sweden to Seattle, US and I had no problem except the Customs Inspector held me up for a couple of hours on the US side. Shipping by boat is the lowest cost shipping method, and it will takes about a 4-6 weeks to get there (US->Europe).
  1. Break the bike down to its smallest possible form using only the tools that you will have with you on the trip. e.g., front wheel removed, handle bars removed, etc. Measure the rectangular dimensions of the bike in this form. --->Shipping (by boat) is charged on size not weight.<---
  2. You must build a stout crate for the machine. You can find building materials at Cycle Dealers. The crate must have room under it for fork lifts to pick it up without damaging the crate. Crate consist of pallet, walls and top. Get the bike onto the pallet, get the front wheel off and use Tie-down straps to compress the suspension to hold the machine tightly on the pallet. Secure other bits so they don't bounce around in the box. Attach the walls of the box and then the top. Leave the contraband out of the box and at home where it belongs.
  3. Contact a shipping agent to arrange shipping and time estimates. I used G&L Beijers (Malmo) and Maust Terminals (Seattle). Insure the Bike!! The shipping company offers Insurance.
  4. Buy your plane tickets to correspond with shipping dates. Note: You may have to wait around a couple days on the other side for the boat to come in barring any dock workers strikes or bad weather.
  5. Have the shipper on the other side deliver the crate to a local cycle dealer or friends place or de-crate it there in the parking lot. The only problem here would be storage of the crate material.
  6. Reassemble the bike. The hardest part of this is getting the front end lifted by yourself. I had a bottle jack and scrap wood to slowly lift and place wood under the oil pan until the front end was high enough to get the front wheel in place. Hopefully you will not have to do this yourself.
  7. Have a dealer or friend on the other side to store the crate materials during your trip. You will need it for the return.
  8. Go for a ride. (after getting moto-Insurance).
In February of 1997 Beth Dixon wrote:

Check out the following URL, they do bike shipping and have lots of links and information about the subject: http://www.shippingdigest.com/

In April of 1997 Michel Vuille wrote:

I'm French and I brought back three bikes from a one year assignment in the USA. The Shipper was:

EH Harms USA
1201 Corbin street
Elizabeth NJ 07201-2943
+1 (908) 353-1600
+1 (800) 647-3619
+1 (908) 353-8865 Fax

Cost was $580 per bike plus insurance if wanted. It's sea freight, about three weeks for delivery. You ride your bike to and from the pier. They put them on a pallet. I didn't had big problems, but they don't really care about the bikes.

In October of 1997 David J. Morrow wrote:

I just checked with Lufthansa in Richmond, B.C. on Monday and things have changed. It will now cost about $2,000 ! I mentioned the rates you experienced a few years ago and they said that at that time there was an excess of space and lack of demand so the price was much lower. I didn't get into too much detail with them but they did mention that I would have to crate it myself. They also recommended using a freight forwarding company as they would likely quote a bit better rate.

Ocean shipping has its own drawbacks. First of all the fees and tarriffs at each end can really add up apparently. Additionally, you could eat up a lot of hotel & meals costs waiting for your bike to arrive.

In October of 1997 Sal Castaneda wrote:

Last year I was going to take my Ducati E900 (oh, and my girlfriend) for a spin around Europe. While researching I found out that you can ship your bike from Baltimore, MD to several countries with large ports. The one's that pop to mind are Barcelona, Spain, Firenze, Italy, and Hamburg, Germany. It's kind of cool cause you can shop around for the cheapest airfare then meet with your bike later via a train ride or even a car rental ride to that city. I think Germany had the less expensive one way travel. You can also ship back to the states from different countries, but of course your airfare (if you leave from a different country) will go up.

Some of their requirements are that you need to have the title in hand, or if you have a lien, you have to have 3 or 4 notarized letters from your bank stating that they are allowing you to take the bike overseas (a precautionary just so you won't bail on the $$ owed). You only need to show proof of the insurance that you will have in Europe, otherwise you can't collect your bike and Pass GO at the other end. You're bike needn't be crated. I guess it's a little less protection, but you don't have to worry about the materials for the trip back. Prices vary substantially from carrier to carrier. If I recall the best price I found was about $300-400 to Hamburg. Shop around, there are some good deals in Baltimore ports. If anybody needs help, my buddy and I (Oh, and my girlfriend) are planning for the trip once again, and we will soon be swimming in a sea of info..... Don't hesitate to ask. Happy trails.

PS I also lived in Spain (Cadiz\Sevilla) and Italy (Naples) for 18 years so if anyone wants info on the countries, let me know.

In December of 1998 Robert Watson wrote:

I got to your page from a reference from some Vincent Owners Club members planning on goint to a BIG rally there next year so thought I should pass on my experience

I had several Vincent Owners ship their bikes into Vancouver last summer on Air Transat in the containers described earlier. 1/4 Tank of gas, disconnect the battery, make sure it's clean! Dead simple. Picked up by their owners or myself (consigned to me) and out of the airport in as little as 45 mins once we figured the system out. A current quote from them for a 1000 cc bike (that is how they quote) is Can$ 755.00 one way to either Gatwick or Manchester. I understand it is a little more for the return trip. I also talked with some Germans who had three bikes shipped over on Lufthansa in the fall last year so they are still doing it but as I wasn't interested in anything but the UK I didn't ask the cost.

Contact is Rebecca Dravis
4840 Miller Road
Richmond BC Canada V7B 1K7
Phone 604 273 3474 ( hard to get sometimes)
Fax 604 273 3406 (better)

In September of 1999 Adam Glass wrote:

These are all testimonials from others posted to Jeff's "race" list over the last couple of years. The only shipping method I've ever used was the one that works for the AMA. Allied Van Lines or something like that? I dunno. Don't use them. It was about $500 to ship Baby Fizzer (FZR400) to California last year, and that was only because it was a 400cc bike -- they go on cc's rather than weight, so a 600cc bike might be more like $700. Don't even bother asking about literbikes. On the other hand, you don't have to crate the thing up. I think the places mentioned below require crated bikes (call and find out), but you can get crates for free (disassembled) from bike places -- they get new bikes in 'em, remove and assemble the bikes, and leave the crates out for the trash guy. Assembly is easy if you have all the parts.

So. The testimonials:

"Team Air Express's number is: 800-643-6474 and ask for operations. I have no association with them, but the rates are pretty damn good--I sent a bike to Atlanta from San Francisco for $208, with a couple thousand $ of insurance."

And another guy:

"Four day shipping from Hartford Airport to Los Angeles Airport for a crated motorcycle, 430lbs in a crate measuring six feet by four feet by four feet. $170. Forward Air Express. 860-654-1733."

And another guy:

"Use Forward Air, Inc. I paid $125.80 to ship a GSX-R 750 from Buffalo, New York to Portland, Oregon. The bike must be crated and delivered and picked up at a Forward freight drop. I insured the bike using my own vehicle insurance, just comprehensive is pretty reasonable. Must be enclosed crate, no pallets. I used a metal crate without the cardboard and although they bitched, it wasn't a problem. Their customer service number is 800.726.6654."

Also in September of 1999 Alan Murdock wrote:

I've spent what seems like hours during the past few days on hold with airlines. The rates vary quite a bit from carrier to carrier and airport to airport. For example, Lufthanza JFK say they'll put the bike on a pallet and fly it to Frankfurt for about $945. But Lufthanza Toronto requires a crate and imposes a 500kg minimum. (At that point I told the guy I didn't want to waste his time and never got the per-kg rate. But rates I was quoted by other carriers varied from $1.71 to $6.41 per kg.) Northwest and KLM have been cooperating for years, but quoted me very different rates (KLM 800kg minimum at $1.71 per kg, NW $717, both JFK-Amsterdam). These rates are so wildly diverse that I have no confidence that when I show up at the airport I won't be hit by a big surprise. Lowest quote was from American at $699.60 into Brussels. A big issue here is that a used bike is considered "dangerous goods" and special rules apply.

Maybe my search technique is flawed or doesn't work well with the cargo folks. I would start by saying that I want to fly a bike from northeastern North America to continental Europe, for the cheapest rate possible. That seemed to baffle most of the airline folks -- "Where do you want to depart from?" "I don't care -- maybe Toronto, New York, Philly, DC." "Er, yes, and where do you want to arrive?" "On the continent -- Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt, whatever." "Ohh..."

But it didn't baffle the two companies that advertise in the MOA news -- Warren and Motorcycle Express/Michael Mandell -- and they quoted pretty similar rates. I like Warren and that's who I'm going with. He seems to have a good reputation with the two BMW dealers I queried, and he picked up the phone and talked to me when I called on a Saturday afternoon. He's pretty straightforward and seems to know his stuff, and seems unwilling to spin a lot of mumbo-jumbo bullshit. The main attraction is that he thinks he can get my bike and I on the same plane, while a shipper I found through an ad in the AMA magazine told me I should ship it out a week before I fly (and quoted a rate 50% higher than Warren's -- and that was a special discount I "might" get). Here's another reason to pat ourselves on the back for chosing to be part of the BMW community. Motorcycle Express/Michael Mandell was also very helpful and quite competitive.

Warren wants $725 for the cargo plus $185 for the paperwork. I'm not sure if this reflects the 10% discount he gives MOA or AMA members. Luftanza gave me a one-month closed RT fare of $525 from Newark to Munich. Hope that thoughts of what a cheap fare that is keep me warm when I'm camping amid the giant hoarfrost icicles of northern Europe!

Regarding insurance, I haven't done enough investigating yet. Must have proof of liability insurance to ride away from the airport -- typically called "green card" insurance and seems to be written mostly if not entirely by Euro companies though various agents in the USA sell it. Comprehensive generally not available for my '81 and that's fine with me, not interested though I would like to have theft insurance based on my cost of bike, improvements and accessories.

One agent referred to me by the AMA quoted $575 for a six-month policy that would cover me in western Europe plus (for example) Morocco and Turkey with no surcharge for a passenger, about a million USD coverage -- $200 for the first month and $75 per month from there. Didn't but will ask about extending or reducing the period.

Another source quoted me $100 for the first month (I didn't ask about coverage, probably legal minimum) and said I could buy locally for $50 per month or less when in Europe. Not sure what to do here as it can be troublesome to place lots of long distance calls and play phone-menu in various languages you don't understand. Or maybe I just walk into any agent and purchase immediately. Dave said "While I was able to purchase up to 30 days of green card insurance at customs when I shipped to Valencia, Spain. I had a very difficult time insuring my US registered vehicle for anything longer." So this makes me a bit nervous.

In Febuary of 2000 Raymond Luce wrote:

Here is my experience on bringing a bike to Europe. Last summer two friends and I progressed from barroom talk to actually going on a month long tour of Europe. Our plan was to ship our Harleys to London, see England, travel to Belgium on a ferry, and then see the rest of Europe. The plan also called for selling the bikes in Germany right before we left because all the so called "experts" said they were worth "twice" what they are here. In case that failed we would ship the bikes back home from Frankfurt.

I called Michael Mandell to arrange the shipping as he seemed to know the most about it. The cheapest deal he found was $800 from Newark, NJ to London on Virgin Atlantic and $1200 return on Lufthansa from Frankfurt to JFK in New York.

I went to my local AAA office and got an International Drivers Permit for $10, but they could not help with "Green Card" insurance, which is needed in Europe. Again Mandell had a couple of options for liability or full coverage. The full covereage was very expensive so I went with the basic liability. I figured if my bike got stolen or totalled on the trip, I would just report it stolen when I got home. You see, your insurance here is void in Europe!

My advice is to not use Virgin as they dropped my bike in the warehouse right in front of me, added 100 lbs. of sand bags on my pallett, and screwed us out of an extra $100 each at Heathrow for a mysterious handling charge that even Mandell was unaware of. In fact skip England all together because they are all out to scam you and are not friendly.

Bring your bike to the warehouse with less than a gallon of gas in the tank, the battery disconnected, 3 notorized copies of your title (both sides), the original title just in case customs wants to see it, and the key to your saddlebags and gas fill.

When you claim your bike in Europe you must first go to the Customs office and get your bike "released". Realise that this office could be miles from the warehouse and even though Virgin may have 5 cars sitting outside the office, don't expect a ride. Take a cab to customs first.

Dealing with Lufthansa in Germany was 100% better. Just make sure your bike has less than one gallon and has to be spotlessly clean. Trust me.

Upon claiming your bike back home in the good old USA,clear it at Customs and arrange with USDA to inspect your bike at the airlines warehouse.They look for dead bugs on your bike and dirt in the tire treads. Failing to do so could mean a day's delay or paying the USDA agent 4 hours overtime, $130. Money order only, cash not accepted. Trust me.

I know this was a long letter, but I hope you can benefit from what we learned the hard way. Touring Europe was the greatest experience of my life and I count the days til I return. When you ride your own bike with USA plates, people go out of their way to be nice to you. I think this is because you are not the typical Bus trip tourist and more of an Adventurer.

Aufwiedersehen,
Ray Luce
Manchester, CT

In August of 2001 Quinn Fatherley wrote:

I shipped a 1982 Honda GL500 Sliverwing to Europe in May of 2000. I arranged shipping on Wallenius Wilhemsen Lines (out of Hamburg) through a shipping agent in New York. The shipping cost was $490 including marine insurance. I delivered the bike to the port terminal in Port Elizabeth, New Jersey. After delivery I had to take the title and go over to the Customs Office and get it stamped "for export". this was a "roll on/roll off" type ferry service so the bike did not require fluids to be drained or battery disconnected. I left the key in the ignition, once they directed me to the gated parking area. I put a cloth cover over the bike, and was happy to find it in the saddle bag when it arrived in Germany.

The bike arrived at the WW terminal in Bremerhaven, a bit dirty, with one small dent in the side of the tank. The bike was not a trophy winner, so I did not sweat it. The spare parts I had in the saddle bags did arrive OK, but I had taken the tools along in my luggage for security. The bike did start up right away, which is why I decided to ship a 10 year old bike in the first place. It had only 9500 miles on it before its overseas adventures. Upon exiting the ferry terminal, I had to fill out an import document, but since it was a motorcycle, the clerk was rather unconcerned.

I had really no problems traveling all over Europe. Not once in six months and 5000 miles did anyone ever stop me or check my papers. At the Swiss border it was necessary to purchase a vignette for 40 francs (have them ready, folks!) which entitled me to unlimited travels on the Swiss autobahns for the rest of the year. Beware of Swiss radar traps. They are even posted. Most Europeans don't find out until they see a flash in their rearview mirror, and then a bill in the mail when they get home. None have found me yet.

The gas is expensive, about $5 per gallon, but of better quality than here in the US. Oil is also about $5 a liter, and generally synthetic. Best prices for oil are in Holland and Germany. I purchased liability insurance from Michael Mandell in Syosset, NY, about $500 for 6 months. Their rates have changed so check them out on line.

I worked as a student for a gas turbine manufacturer in Baden, Switzerland. Although it rained a lot, the Swiss countryside cannot be beat for its majesty. Check out my website at http://www.unm.edu/~malibu/ for pictures of my mountain pass adventures.

I left the bike with some relatives in Germany, and returned in May 2001 for two weeks of travel. I drove across Germany, through Luxemburg and Belgium, briefly through France and ended up back in Switzerland. The French countryside between Luxemburg and Strasbourg is not so mountainous, but extraordinarily green and lush. I visited some old friends, and left the bike in Switzerland at a friend's farm. I will be back next summer for more adventures. This year, Mandell's (aka Motorcycle Services) has changed their rate schedule, and I paid $150 for one month of coverage. I renewed my registration in New Mexico, and just brought the new sticker and card with me on the trip.

I'd like to add another dimension to your cycling adventures: the german railway has an autotrain with very reasonable fares for you and your bike. You must make an advanced reservation, but then you simply arrive at the appointed time with your bike, load it onto the railcar (there are special fixtures to hold the bike firmly) and board the train. You can get a seat or bed, and arrive the next day in Bordeaux, Rimini or Westerland, near Denmark. You can cross Germany without getting run over my a Mercedes. Click here for some more info: http://www.autozug.de/programm/e_framedef.exe?content=/programm/az/e/s/

So, I shall report back after my next adventure. Stay tuned.

Quinn Fatherley

In August of 2001 Sal Diliberto wrote:

In 1999, I shipped a motorcycle on a Lufthansa flight and obtained motorcycle insurance through Warren Goodman of Warren Motorcycle Transport in Florida. It costs me $900 to ship the bike from Newark, New Jersey, to Frankfurt, Germany, and the liability insurance was $150 for the first month and $50 for each additional month. Unfortunately, Warren has taken a year off (2001) and I suspect he may not return next year to offer his shipping/insurance services any longer.

For my trip this summer, 2001, here's what I discovered:

Michael Mandell, Inc., of Syosset, NY, (info@mandellinc.com) wants $150 for one month of liability insurance only. His Full Package price depends on the size of the bike, with a price of $425 for bikes under 1200cc, and a price of $544 for bikes over 1200cc; both prices are or one month. There are also $75 for various charges, which basically are absolutely NOT necessary if you continue reading. There is another company in Phoenix that wanted approximately the same for similar coverage.

Great news!!! ADAC, which is the German equivalent of AAA in the US, charged me $20 for one month of liability coverage!!! And the Autobahn sticker that's necessary to travel the Autobahns in Germany was only $25!!! If you get caught without one, the fines are steep. I was not carrying my US AAA card with me at the time, and it turns out the rates would have been even cheaper if I had due to a discount they give to members!!!

My friend in Bremen took me to an ADAC office there and I was in and out in less than 5 minutes. The bottom line: DO NOT buy motorcycle insurance here in the US if you are starting your trip in Germany!!! You can get liability insurance there much, much cheaper!!! All you need to do is show your original passport, your original registration, and prove you have an address in the US. They DO NOT accept photocopies of these documents!!! I do not know if you need to be a member of AAA here in the US to buy insurance tin Germany since I went to ADAC with my German friend and he is a member of ADAC. I assume you would have to show a US AAA card; they did not ask for mine. The insurance card was valid throughout the entire continent, but I do not know if you can obtain the same deal if you start your trip in any other country other than Germany. The American companies are a rip-off!!! DON't BUY INSURANCE HERE!!!

I have not been stopped at any border crossing, except for once in Switzerland. I have also read articles that suggest keeping your US registration and license plates while on a bike in Europe is not a good thing to do. My own experience in 5 months of traveling through 7 countries in Europe, and getting pulled over for speeding a few times, is that keeping my US plates has not been a problem at all, and on top of this, I have not been fined for anything, just warned. The Italian and German police that pulled me over checked Interpol for warrants, and looked at my passport and insurance card, but did NOT ask for registration, although they did look at the US license plate on the back of the bike. It started a conversation both times, and they let me go!!! As a matter of fact, keeping my US license plate on my bike is a definite attention getter for Europeans elsewhere, especially in the Alps, since it sparks conversations out of curiously. I know it would cost over $1,000 to convert the registration in Germany, so what's the point if there are no problems? I plan on returning again next summer, and will update this information as necessary.

In December of 2001 Michael Moore wrote:

I shipped my motorcycle from Canada to Europe and back this past summer, here's a brief report of my experience.

I used Michael Mandel to handle both the shipping and the insurance. My contact there was Gail Goodman, who is the shipping manager. I was very satisfied with the service I received, and also with the price of the shipping.

I shipped out of Toronto, Canada, partly because I live in Toronto, and partly because at the time I shopped for the quote (summer 2001), Gail told me that Air Transat was offering the best prices from North America to Europe. Gail gave me a choice of destinations in Europe, and I chose Paris because it was fairly central. The complete shipping cost, round trip, for my 350kg Honda ST1100 was US$1,840. This included full insurance for the shipping and warehousing in both directions, but not 'road' insurance.

The drop-off in Toronto was trouble free, the handling agent for Air Transit in Toronto had quite a bit of experience looking after motorcycles that had been booked through Gail, so there were no paperwork problems. I just dropped the bike off, disconnected the battery, showed the staff that the fuel tank had less than a gallon in it, and signed a few papers. Gail had arranged a special pallet to put the motorcycle on, and the staff were very careful when strapping the bike to the pallet and loading it into the container. I was pleasantly surprised that I had a whole LD6 container assigned to me, just for my motorcycle. Although Gail told me that the bike would be shipped on a 'space available' basis and could take several days to arrive, it actually left on the next day's flight, 22 hours later.

The pickup in Paris was equally trouble free. I arrived 4 days after the motorcycle did, so I had to pay about US$40 in storage fees. The warehouse staff delivered the complete, unopened container to me, and allowed me to untie and remove the motorcycle myself, which is how I wanted to do it. They were very courteous, and offered me use of their staff shower when all the work was done. I walked over to the French customs office to do the importation. The gendarmes did not want to look at the motorcycle, but they did ask to see the ownership papers and the European insurance 'green card'. Customs clearance took about 5 minutes, total.

Two months later, I rode back to Paris to drop the bike off for the return trip. My scheduled drop-off date - September 12, 2001 - was the day after the terrorist attacks in New York City. Not only were no flights of any kind operating at all to or from North America, but every airline in the world had placed an embargo on all incoming airfreight. I had visions of a huge problem - although I knew the airline I was travelling on as a passenger would honour my ticket once things started up again, I didn't relish the idea of leaving my motorcycle sitting in the airport parking lot for a month or so until things got back to normal.

Gail really pulled out all the stops to help me. There was nothing she could do to help ship the motorcycle, but she was able to obtain a favour from a company that handles paperwork (only) for Motorcycle Express in Paris, and have that company store my motorcycle inside their own warehouse until it could be shipped. I spent the evening of September 12th strapping the motorcycle down on the special pallet that Gail had waiting in Paris (again, it was my request to be allowed to do my own tie-down), and then I left for my hotel.

I was able to get a flight home September 14th. The motorcycle eventually showed up in Toronto 10 days later. Considering the circumstances, and the huge backlog of air freight following the 3 day worldwide air shutdown, and all the new security procedures that were put in place, I think that was amazing service. I was not charged for the 10 days of warehousing in Paris while the bike waited for the airline to have space available. That was a nice surprise.

All in all, I was very pleased with the service that Gail and Motorcycle Express provided. All the paperwork was done in a first class manner, there were no surprises. The cargo agents at each end were carefully chosen and took good care of my bike - which was only 2 months old when I shipped it. It arrived at each end without even a fingerprint on it, let alone a scratch. I plan to ship the bike to Europe again this coming summer (budget permitting), and I will certainly use Motorcycle Express again.

My only criticism is that the cost of the 'road' insurance I purchased from Motorcycle Express for liability and comprehensive (fire, theft, etc.) was quite high - US$650 for two months. For this price, I was given full coverage, with US$750,000 -- liability, although the deductible for theft was 20% of the bike's value. I would appreciate hearing from anyone else who has found an insurance company in Europe willing to provide full coverage (liability, theft, collision) to visitors. I am sure the cost could be lowered if the correct insurance company could be found.

Regards,
Michael Moore

Various picture(s) attached...

In January of 2004 Mike Badorf wrote:

I am an International Freight Forwarder (Shipping Agent) located in Miami, Florida. In 1986, I moved from Cologne, Germany to Long Beach, California and opened up a Forwarding Agency located in Long Beach, CA, New York, NY and Miami, FL.

As a young fellow (1975) I started riding Motorcycles in Germany and became a Partner of a HONDA Motorcycle Dealership. Since I moved over here and shipped professionally hundreds of Bike's around the World, I believe in riding my 2002 Harley-Davidson Road-King and be a member of the National Harley Owners Group and HOG Member in the Ft. Lauderdale Chapter #0662.

If you like to ship i.e. Motorcycles or any other Cargo, please contact me at MikeBadorf@aol.com or (954) 632-4753 and I am more than happy to arrange all your shipping needs. I am also able to offer you excellent Insurance Services.

In May of 2004 Lukas wrote:

RE: "Green Card" motorcycle insurance

I can confirm that obtaining motorcycle insurance in Europe for US plates takes 5 minutes in Germany and costs $22 for most western European countries. I don't understand why US outlets charge much, much more.

Just go to any major German ADAC office (they are all over the country and most of them know about and sell this type of insurance). Ask for "Grenzversicherung" and bring your registration papers. That's all.

In November of 2004 Grey Chase wrote:

RE: Shipping within Canada

Allied has been recommended by several people and I did have a pleasant chat with a helpful guy named Dave McEachnie (?) there. If you deliver the bike to their distribution centre, and pick up at the other end at same, you save $65 on each end, rather than have it delivered door to door. That brought the price down to just under $600.00 plus GST. Atlas Moving Co. was about $100.00 more.

But next time you have to ship a bike in Canada check this out! Consolidated Fast Freight at (905) 893-2600, 9701 Highway 50, Woodbridge (NW suburb of Toronto). You need to have it crated, gas emptied, but their price for my 450cc bike, from Toronto, sent in a container by rail to Vancouver, then wheels set under it and driven to Vancouver Island (Victoria area) is only $220.00 plus GST. Also note that you have to arrange separate insurance (which is usually included in the Moving Co. price). If I picked it up at their distribution centre in Vancouver (Coquitlam) it would only be $184.00 plus GST. The Victoria contact for Consolidated Fast Freight is a really good guy named Ron Caton (250 652-0202). Estimated delivery time from Toronto to Vancouver Island is 8 days.

This is by far the best deal I've been able to find. Didn't check out your idea of "Federal" (airport to airport) but everyone else referred me to Air Canada Cargo which charged around $1,300.00 for that service.

In January of 2008 Z. Rozbicki wrote:

Thanks for posting this page. I was initially encouraged by the prospect of being able to ship a bike to Europe for maybe $750-$1000, ride for a few months, and then sell it. As you'll see from the information I gathered however, that's no longer possible as far as I can tell.

I just went through the motions of trying to arrange transport for a 1100 cc touring bike to Germany from NY one way in May of 2008. Requested quotes from most of the companies you have listed, and still waiting to hear back from many. Warren came in at $975 + .95 per kilo surcharge which adds about $215 for a 500 lb bike. Said there might be some additional charges as he wasn't completely sure of 2008 rates yet. Either way, minimum is now at least $1200. He also mentioned that arranging a flight, it would be cheaper for me to just book online instead of trying to arrive with the bike on the same flight like many people seem to have done in the past. Other quotes so far have been in the $1,400 (Motorcycle Services/Michael Mandell) -$2,000+(forgot who generated that one since I clicked out of there so fast I think it failed to even register in my history!).

OK, so next step was to see if I could ship through Lufthansa myself. Tough to even find contact numbers for them online. Finally came up with 1 (800) LH Cargo who referred me to a freight forwarder in NY since I was a private shipper. Freight forwarder ended up being Barklay (516) 872-3335 shipmybike.com Guy there told me I'd need to deliver it to him at Valley Stream outside of JFK. Quoted me a price of $1,795 airport to airport (JFK to Munich) Explained that would actually be cheaper than ocean freight which would go into Bremmen, require a $300-$400 crating charge, $1100+ shipping, plus another couple hundred to clear on the other end.

His $1795 quote was based on flying bike to Paris and then shipping by truck to Munich. Natural next question was how much I could save by just picking up bike in Paris? Answer: $100 US....so new quote was $1,695 one way... high, but still possible I was thinking.

Here's where it got fun. Asked me if I was moving there, or just on vacation. Told him vacation, whereupon he explained to me that I'd have to ship it back at the end of the trip. (can't just sell it once there like people did 10 years ago) Reason; no import duty, taxes etc paid for EU. Permit given on import would only be for a year therefore, after a year, they'd start e-mailing me to inquire if bike had been exported yet, and to provide proof of said export. If it hadn't, I have to pay to do it, plus pay a fine. If I blew it off, couple years down the road I'd end up on the Interpol "watch list" and start getting harassed even more than we all already do at airports. Eventually they'd try to garnish my wages etc. (sorry I'm sketchy on who exactly the "they" is, but evidently some arm of the EU "import police").

So next obvious question. How much to ship bike back? Answer... probably $2,000-$3,000US !!! Reason? Value of US dollar so poor....

So I did not take the next step to make inquiries re: what it would take to officially import the bike so it could be sold after the trip. This might be worth doing, but I'm not even sure where to start and it's starting to sound like a losing venture all around. No matter how you look at it, ONE WAY shipping fare is now as much as, or even more than, ROUND TRIP was just a few short years ago!

Bottom line, for me, $3,500+rt in shipping is a deal breaker. I can't afford it, and it doesn't make sense anymore to ship my own bike to Europe. Obviously makes more sense to simply buy a bike while there, and then look into selling it before leaving. Unfortunately best rates I could find for renting a bike while there, (for 6-8 weeks) were all in the $5,000-$6,000+ US range for anything decent, so at this point, it seems like buying one for a two month trip makes more sense. Even if a guy had to take a $2,000 loss when selling it off at the end, would make more sense than renting for the full purchase price of a decent used bike. Worst case scenario... give the bike away at the end. Probably you make a great friend who might be open to you taking it out for another European spin someday. Either way, you'd still be out no more than the same amount it would have cost you just to rent a bike for your trip!

OK, so very disappointed, but hopefully my day of research will be of use to some other riders out there. Also glad I got it all done before sealing the deal on the bike I had planned to buy for this trip. It's unfortunate that the upsides in ease of travel throughout the new EU would be offset by the fact that, for many of us, it's evidently no longer cost effective to bring a bike to Europe for a big trip. (at least I don't see $3,500-$4,700 rt just for shipping to be reasonable). Only way I can see it being worthwhile now, to ship a bike to Europe, is if it is going to be a 6 -12 month trip that might find the bike shipped back from some exotic destination at the tail end of a much grander adventure. Instead of a 6 week Eastern Europe trip, might have to figure how to eventually plan for a 6+ month trek through Europe, North Africa and Russia/China etc.

If anyone comes up with information that's contrary to what I learned, please contact me with it. Still have a few months to plan my trip, and I find this dream dying hard despite the apparent reality!

A Clever Idea

In October of 2007 I discovered a site (uShip.com) offering a unique resource to motorcyclists. It's an online shipping marketplace where there is no charge for listing a shipment you desire to have made. Visitors receive bids from feedback-rated motorcycle transporters, and because they help transporters fill empty space in their trucks, the shipper typically saves up to 80% over traditional quotes. They also have how-to guides for visitors looking for motorcycle shipping, discussing how to choose a transporter, what to expect from a carrier, insurance issues and other important topics. Looks quite useful!


Cheap Motorcycle Transport


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