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Can I Ship a Motorcycle from Japan to the US?

Published by Tamar Hela.

Can I Ship a Motorcycle from Japan to the US?

Importing motorcycles from Japan and shipping them to the US has become increasingly popular in recent years. Japanese bikes have a cult following overseas for their intricate engineering, distinct styling, and racing pedigree.

However, shipping a motorcycle internationally involves careful planning and consideration of key factors like cost, shipping duration, documentation requirements, and logistics.

In this blog post, we will explore all aspects of shipping a motorcycle from Japan to the US and whether or not it is worth undertaking this process.


Factors to Consider When Shipping a Motorcycle from Japan to the US

Here are some crucial factors to take into account when shipping a motorbike from Japan to the US:

Cost Considerations

One of the major factors to consider is the cost of shipping a motorcycle from Japan. On average, shipping costs can range from $1,000 to $3,000 depending on the destination port, size and weight of the motorcycle, as well as delivery location preferences.

Heavier and larger motorcycles tend to be more expensive to transport due to additional packing materials and cargo space required during container shipping.

The shipping cost is also impacted by whether the motorcycle is transported via air or sea freight. Air shipping is faster but generally twice as expensive as sea freight and container shipping options.

Other variables like fuel surcharges, insurance, custom duties and taxes must also be accounted for in the overall international shipment cost. It is recommended to get customized quotes from at least three shipping companies to find the best rate.

Timeframes for Shipping

The estimated time for international shipment depends greatly on choosing air versus sea transport. Air freight can deliver a motorcycle within 7 to 10 business days on average but at a premium cost.

Meanwhile, sea shipping takes 4 to 6 weeks on average but is significantly more affordable for budget-conscious shippers.

Regional variations also exist - international shipments originating from Eastern Japan ports like Sendai and Chiba tend to reach US West Coast destinations faster than shipments from Western Japan like Osaka and Kobe.

Proper planning is needed to factor in the time a motorcycle will spend in transit before it arrives at the destination address.

Paperwork Requirements

Paperwork is a crucial part of the import process that must not be overlooked. One of the primary forms needed is the EPA Standard Form 3520-1, which requires documentation of the motorcycle engine family, displacement, emission standards and other details.

Additional state-specific forms may also need to be filled for approval and registration upon arrival. Certificates of conformity showing the motorcycle meets EPA standards must be provided.

A bill of lading and commercial invoice are also essential shipping documents. It is advisable to contact US Customs and the DMV in the destination state well in advance to be fully compliant with paperwork regulations and import duty.

The motorcycle will also need to comply with DOT Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to ensure it is road legal, and maintains a legal status in the county.

Non-compliance can cause significant delays and financial penalties so you want to contact a customs broker to help the process go smoothly so you do not face any import restrictions.

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The Shipping Process

Once costs are determined, required documents are gathered and the appropriate shipping method is chosen, the shipping process begins.

First, contact an international motorcycle shipping company that specializes in international imports and have experience working with customs brokers. They will guide on preparation requirements like draining fluids, disconnecting batteries and properly securing the motorcycle on a carrier.

Then it is loaded onto a container or roll-on/roll-off train/truck for the journey overseas. Electronic tracking allows monitoring the shipment's progress. After customs clearance upon arrival in the US, the destination carrier coordinates delivery.

Buyers must go through final registration and title transfer at their local DMV for legal ownership.

Opting for insured, door-to-door services from international shipping companies ensures peace of mind through the various stages of importation.

Why Ship a Motorcycle

There are many motivations driving the rising popularity of shipping used or collectible motorcycles from Japan.

For motorcycle enthusiasts and collectors, Japan's vast custom culture makes it one of the top sources worldwide for exclusive, limited edition or discontinued models that may not be available in Western markets.

Rare bikes with serious collector value or personal sentimental significance may compel their owners to ship them internationally post-retirement or during relocation. The relatively affordable prices of Japanese models compared to equivalents also attract buyers overseas seeking better value.

Others use shipping as a way to move their personal rides with them after permanent relocation between countries.

With the growth of online communities, shipping also supports the booming enthusiast marketplace for specialty trucks, parts, and memorabilia internationally.

Is It Worth It?

Whether or not shipping a motorcycle from Japan is worthwhile ultimately comes down to individual circumstances and priorities.

For high-value vintage or collectors' bikes, the monetary benefit of accessibility to Japanese exclusives or the sentimental value attached may justify the time and financial investment.

However, potential import taxes, duties and the risk of unforeseen charges could wipe out cost benefits for lower value everyday motorcycles. Shippers also have to make peace with letting their pride and joy spend weeks in transit with inevitable risks of damage.

Overall costs should not exceed 30-50% of the retail price to make financial sense. Those simply seeking cheaper models are better off shopping domestically. Intangibles like nostalgia or collector status become the determining factors for niche, hard-to-find Japanese machines.

Factoring in all logistical challenges and importation expenses upfront ensures the realistic expectations that determine if the endeavor proves "worth it."



Shipping a motorcycle from Japan is a complex operation that requires navigating import regulations, coordinating multi-leg transportation, and dealing with unfamiliar infrastructure in a foreign country.

While the final rewards might be temptingly unique machines or sentimental pieces of a rider's past, prospective shippers need to carefully weigh practical considerations.

Seeking expert assistance upfront helps avoid nasty surprises down the line.

With meticulous planning and reasonable expectations set by understanding all involved costs, timing, documentation and logistics, the experience of importing a favorite Japanese motorcycle could make for a great addition to any collection or riding journey. But the most lucrative candidates usually remain collector bikes with strong projected residual values that offset inherent risks.

Are you looking for an exclusive Japanese motorcycle? At A1 Auto Transport - we can ship your bike internationally with ease.

As the top provider of international motorcycle shipping services, we'll guide you through the entire process and ensure your prized possession arrives safely and on-time.

Get a free quote.

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Tamar Hela is one of our featured writers at A-1 Auto Transport, researching everything from AI auto shipments out of China to what paperwork is required to move long distance. We can safely say she's become well versed in all things shipping and logistics while making the information easy to digest and understandable. 

Tamar has been a copywriter for over 16 years and was trained in the 7-Figure Copywriting Accelerator course through American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI). She's also an incredibly seasoned copyeditor, having previously been the Chief Editor and Publishing Director for Cosby Media Productions, based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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