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A practical guide

From finding the right courier to the documents you’ll need for customs clearance, here are some useful tips for anybody who wants to take their own bike across the pond.

Travelling across the States by motorcycle is an experience that every bike-loving traveller should try at least once in their lives. The sense of freedom and adventure, the majestic landscapes, and the iconic locations that this land has to offer are sure to make you feel like the star of your very own movie. But before the rubber can meet the road, there are a variety of practical matters to attend to, starting with deciding on your vehicle.
Usually, those who decide to tackle this kind of journey opt to hire one locally, but this may not always be the most cost-effective option. In fact, with prices rising exponentially, hiring a motorcycle in the USA now costs an average of around $200 per day.
If you’re planning to travel for a month or more, one alternative worth considering could be having your own motorcycle shipped directly from home. After all, what better travelling companion could you have than a tried and trusted friend?
However, this procedure isn’t all plain sailing: it involves numerous steps and documents, as well as significant costs, which can vary depending on the type, size and weight of the motorcycle.
So, here are a few useful tips for shipping your motorcycle to the USA...


After double-checking that your passport is valid and obtaining an ESTA, you’ll need to decide when to ship your motorcycle. This will depend on the means of transport you intend to use for the vehicle: if it’s going by air, you’ll only need to send it a few days before your own flight, while shipping it by sea will take longer.
Next, you’ll need to find a courier capable of handling the entire shipping process, on both the Italian and American ends, through its agents/representatives.
There are a variety of specialist agencies that can be found online, as well as individuals who handle these procedures. If this is how you decide to proceed, we always recommend placing your trust in highly experienced professionals, such as travel experts Overland, who can understand and anticipate the needs of motorcycle travellers.


One of the tasks the courier will take care of is packaging the motorcycle. The size of the crate will depend on the type of vehicle.
Sometimes, though not always, it might be necessary to remove a wheel or disconnect the battery in order to make the best use of the space inside the shipping crate.
Moreover, there are certain rules which must be respected, such as the quantity of fuel that can be left in the tank. This must be reduced to the absolute minimum (around 5/6 litres) needed for the motorcycle to move once through customs, without adding excessively to the overall weight.


In order to tackle a motorcycle journey through the USA, there are a number of essential documents you must obtain. First of all, non-US citizens must have a passport that remains valid for the entire duration of their stay, until they return home.
It’s also mandatory to obtain an international driving permit, which can be requested ahead of time from your local department of motor vehicles. For example, in Italy, the total cost is approximately €80.00.
In order to ship your motorcycle and get it through customs, you’ll need to request and fill out another few documents. The EPA approval letter allows non-residents to import a motor vehicle belonging to them on a temporary basis (a maximum of 1 year), and must be requested from and approved by the US agency. You’ll also need a signed POA (Power Of Attorney) in order to authorise the customs declarant in America to clear the imported merchandise. In other words, this document allows you to nominate an agent to handle operations or make decisions in your name.
Finally, you’ll need to show proof of insurance. You cannot obtain this from Italy, but must go through a broker in the USA who can take out a policy with a US address, or through, which offers insurance for non-residents coming from overseas.


In addition to the “standard” costs for this type of journey — i.e. your own return flight, insurance, accommodation, fuel and other sundry expenses as you go — you’ll also need to take into account the cost of shipping the vehicle (which can vary depending on the characteristics of the bike itself and your chosen shipping company), customs clearance, and the parking lot where the motorcycle will await release from customs.
The price of sending a motorcycle by air, one way, is around €5,000 including taxes, packaging and transport.
To save money, you might be able to share your container with another traveller, though this option is not always available.