Editor’s Note: This post is kindly sponsored by Clint and the team from Motorcycle Shippers. Motorcycle Shippers can ship your motorcycle door-to-door around the United States with minimal hassle. If you want to start a ride away from home or ride further without looping back, these folks can help. Perfect for long trails like the Trans American.
Motorcycle holidays are the best kind of vacation there is. Exploring a new country on a bike is an unforgettable experience: you have the unrestricted freedom of going where you want to. You can travel at a leisurely pace, stopping to rest or explore a particular spot in depth and chatting to locals, or you can do some serious daily mileage to see as much as possible. Whatever you do, you’ll have to decide between bike shipping vs buying or renting locally. All three options are great, but they all have the pros and cons. Depending on the length of your journey, your budget, and your expectations, here’s what you need to consider.
Shipping Your Own Motorcycle
Shipping your own bike to your desired destination is ideal if you want to have complete freedom on your trip. You will have the comfort of your own bike set up just the way you like it, and it’s always better to explore new roads or trails on a motorcycle you’re comfortable and confident with. Taking your own motorcycle across a new country or continent is a true adventure of the most exciting kind.
You can easily arrange to ship your bike back after your road trip. For example, if you want to travel along the Trans America Trail but can’t make it a loop or don’t have the time to ride back, you can simply send your bike home with a shipping company. Or, you can ship your bike ahead, fly in, and ride home.
Shipping internationally is a little more involved, however. It’s absolutely doable, and it’s a great way to start a long overland journey, but there are several things to consider. Unless your shipping agent offers to take care of everything for you, you will have to deal with customs paperwork and some kind of temporary bike import permit, which in some countries may be a little complex. If you’re shipping the bike across an ocean via sea freight you will be bike-less for at least a month, which is hardly ideal if you don’t have much time. Finally, the cost of international shipping ranges from $1,200 up. It’s worth it if your trip is longer than 3 months, but for anything shorter than that, it may not be the best solution. Another factor to consider is shipping delays. If you have several months, you can be flexible. However, if you have a meticulously planned three-week ride across Argentinean Patagonia, for example, even a week’s delay can significantly alter your plans.
In short, consider shiping your bike to another continent if your trip will take three months or longer. If not, consider the two following options.
Renting a Motorcycle Locally
Most motorcycle tour companies around the world offer self-guided tours or just motorcycle rental. If you book a self-guided tour, you’ll get a bike and, depending on the package, a pre-programmed GPS with their best routes as well as a list of hotels and guest houses where you can stay along the way. If you’re just renting a motorcycle, you’ll have to design the tour yourself.
Renting a bike is a perfect solution for shorter trips. It’s also a fantastic way to test a new bike you’re considering buying. Depending on the destination, some riders may not want to abuse their own bikes on rough terrain or potholed roads.
Finally, the rental company will organise insurance and help you out in case you have a breakdown. They will also take care of any issues or damage on the bike after you finish your trip. You’ll have their support and local knowledge at your fingertips.
The biggest issue with motorcycle rental is the high cost and often, the high security deposit for the bike. However, it all depends on your cash versus time budget. If you’re short on the latter, renting a bike is probably the most convenient and hassle-free way to travel abroad.
Buying a motorcycle locally is a great option if you want to save on costs, don’t want to wait for your own bike to be shipped, and hope to sell the bike either back to the dealer or to another traveler once you finish your trip. If you’re thinking of riding the Americas, a popular option is to buy a bike in, say, Chile, then ride it to Colombia and sell it there. You can sell the bike to another traveler at any point during your trip. You can also ride it back to the US, then sell it to someone riding to South America.
In Europe, the same principle applies – you can buy a bike, travel around, then sell it on. Within the EU, especially Germany and Poland, you will typically find some great bike deals. Insurance may be a problem if you do not have a local address. Outside the EU, Turkey or Morocco can be an option.
In Asia, the bike buy-back system is especially popular in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. The bikes on offer are usually small-displacement motorcycles or scooters, but dealerships are often happy to buy these bikes back without much hassle.
Buying a bike locally gives you the freedom to travel as much and as far as you want to, but you can also get some of your money back when you sell it. It’s a great option if shipping your own or renting locally do not work for you.