Shipping a jet ski or ATV. What do I need to know?

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Shipping a jet ski or ATV. What do I need to know?
Shipping a jet ski or ATV. What do I need to know?

Who doesn’t love a nice, sunny day on the water on a jet ski or riding up and down a mountain on an ATV? Owning a recreational vehicle can be a source of entertainment and great memories, though when it comes to shipping one many do not know where to begin. Luckily for you, the transportation process is not that intimidating and once you understand the basics, it’s pretty simple. Below is some key information to guide you through the process of shipping your personal watercraft or transporting an ATV

What Shipping Methods Are There For My Jet Ski? 

Whether you are shipping a jet ski domestically or internationally, it is important to be mindful of different ways to ship your PWC. Let’s take a look at the different options you have.


If you own a jet ski, you probably also have a trailer for it. Trailers are great for transporting watercraft domestically. What many owners do not realize is that they are also suitable for simple overseas shipments, too. A jet ski on a trailer is placed on a roll-on/roll-off (ro/ro) vessel and transported to your destination. The process is not much different from shipping your automobile or a boat on a trailer. One thing to keep in mind is the jet ski’s condition. Since the watercraft will be towed, it has to be in good shape and a prior inspection of the wheels and the tow bar needs to be conducted. 


Are you a proud owner of more than one jet ski? That’s great! Then you should consider transporting your PWCs inside a container. Depending on the number and size of your jet skis you can fit between two and six of them in one container and if you exclude trailers you can fit even more. A professional warehouse can help with secure packing and stowing. The jet skis need to be safely loaded to prevent any jostling during the trip. Choosing professional companies – warehouse and shippers – to transport your recreational vessels is undeniably important. 


If you own a fairly new jet ski you should consider shipping in a crate. This is especially advisable if you are looking for an overseas shipment. A crated vessel will be safe from any damages since it is professionally customized to fit the specifications. Reliable and experienced carriers will be able to do this and crate the vessel securely so that your brand new vehicle does not shift and scratch while on the move. 

Always remember that no matter the destination and method, always provide full and accurate dimensions of your watercraft. This includes length, width, height, and weight. Another thing to keep in mind for those planning to move internationally is that different countries have different packing and crating requirements. For example, Australia requires any wood used in packing to adhere to ISPM 15 packaging requirements, which means that all wood packaging needs to be chemically and heat-treated to stop insects and diseases from disseminating. Other places may have specific restrictions on trailer equipment such as lights and brakes. Do not worry too much about the details, however; skilled and experienced craters and carriers will make sure your shipment complies with all applicable rules.

A Quick Word About Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro/Ro)

Unless you opt for container shipment or are also transporting large personal watercrafts, your jets ski will most likely travel on a roll-on/roll-off (ro/ro). Ro/ro boat shipping is used if the trailer is secure for towing under arduous conditions. As the name suggests, jet skis are rolled in their trailers on and off the shipping vessel. If you do not own a trailer for your PWC, do not worry – you can ask to build a customized cradle. If you want to find out more about ro/ros, we encourage you to check Wikipedia for the history and this Cratex Group page for the shipping concept. 

You may have heard about other transport methods such as lift-on/lift-off (lo/lo) and flat racks boat shipping which are more suitable for large PWCs such as yachts. Feel free to discuss these options with your shipping agent to find out more details. 

Now that we have familiarized ourselves with jet ski shipping options, what’s next? What do I need to know and where do I begin? Good questions. Being in the know and properly preparing can save plenty of money, headache, and time. Below we’ve listed some basic steps and tips:


First things first, you will need proof of title and purchase, Bill of Sale, and other relevant paperwork. 

If you are including a Bill of Sale, make sure it contains the following:

  • Boat year, make, and model
  • Hull number
  • A clear statement that the vessel has been paid fully
  • Letter of Lien Release from a financial institution if you purchased the jet ski on a loan
  • Boat Shipping Info Sheet
  • Export Power of Attorney
  • Insurance Form

Be sure that the ownership transfer information is clearly stated and that any additional cargo modules (which includes anything that has been separated from the jet ski for shipment) is also mentioned on a detailed list. 

All shipping carriers must carry liability insurance. Depending on the shipping company, the total coverage amount per personal watercraft may vary. In any case, owners are recommended to purchase additional in-transit insurance for added security and peace of mind. 

If you are shipping your jet ski for the first time, the list may seem long and intimidating but, in reality, it’s quite straightforward and your hired transporter will assist you in the process. Moreover, some of the items on the list may not be required if you are shipping domestically. 

Drain and Disconnect

Drain fuel to prevent fire hazards on the vessels’ hands and empty out water tanks from jet ski’s compartments. Draining the water is especially important during winter months as it may freeze on the road. Also, disconnect the batteries and tie off cables. You can pack and stow them together. And do not forget to list them on the paperwork!

Empty Out 

Volume is a major factor in determining the transportation costs. For this reason, customers are advised to remove all items from their vehicles and watercrafts. These include and are not limited to electronics, radars, propellers, lifelines, stanchions, stern pulpits, wind indicators, lights, windshields, Plexiglas, canvas, and anchors. Any items that become loose may jostle and cause damage so it is important that all belongings are packed and stowed underneath securely.

What About the Price?

As with other kinds of shipments, the quote depends on several factors. To determine the price, you should provide the following jet ski details to your carrier:

  • The model and value for insurance purposes
  • Weight
  • Height, width, length
  • Pick up and drop off locations
  • Delivery timeframe
  • Any special requirements and preferences

In general, shipping one medium-sized jet ski on a single trailer from one state to another may cost anywhere between $500 to $1,200. Bigger and heavier watercrafts and continental shipments will cost more and we encourage you to call your transporter to calculate the cost. Bear in mind that the delivery timeframe depends on availability so it may not always fit perfectly. To avoid delays, book in advance. Last-minute arrangements are, of course, possible but may result in price increase and poor preparation.

All Clear About the Jet Ski. But What About ATVs?

As you can see, jet ski shipping is pretty straightforward. Now that we’ve covered personal watercrafts, let’s move on to All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), which is even simpler. Transporting ATVs is similar to transporting cars though it can require more time and attention to detail to ensure a safe process. First and foremost – always look for a reliable, authorized, and licensed shipping carrier. It might be tempting to opt for cheaper companies but always bear in mind that you get the service you pay for. Now, let’s look at a few things to consider when transporting your ATV.

ATV Shipping Methods

As with automobile shipping, two commonly used methods for ATVs are open-air and enclosed shipping. Open car entails that your ATV will be transported on an open trailer and travel exposed to external elements. Inclement weather and long distances may cause damage but in any other case, shipping your ATV via open car transport offers more availability and lower prices. 

The second type is the enclosed shipping service. Your ATV is securely placed in a box truck and transported across the distance with minimum risks of damage due to level protection from external elements. It’s a great option for winter months, long distances, and highly valuable vehicles. 

How Do I Calculate the Cost?

As it always does, the cost of transporting your ATV will depend on many things including the distance, timeframe, dimensions, seasons, and so on. Similarly to PWCs, on average, domestic shipment of a standard vehicle can range anywhere between $600 to $1,200. 

How Do I Prepare for the Shipment? Any Tips?

First – paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! As with any vehicle you are shipping, make sure all your paperwork is in order especially if you are shipping overseas. Traditional proof of title, Bill of Sale, and any accompanying documentation required for clearance. Your shipping agent will advise on the full list and how to acquire the papers. 

Clean and Check-Up

All transporters require customers to clean their cars prior to submitting them. Clean surfaces bring out any dents, scratches, and other types of damage which in turn helps to ensure that your ATV arrives in the same condition as you left it. Make sure no personal belongings are left in compartments to avoid loss and damage and hire a mechanic to fully inspect and fix, if needed, your automobile. Professional assessment and work will help guarantee safe arrival and minimize risks on the road. 

Should I Drain Gas?

Good question. This depends on your shipping method. If you are placing your ATV in a container or a crate, you can empty gas completely. For all other methods, leave a quarter tank so you can drive off your ATV upon retrieval. In general, up to a quarter of gas in the tank is allowed and sometimes encouraged in case the vehicle needs to be driven. 

What Else?

Battery! Remove the battery from your ATV and pack it with the automobile so they are not separated. Upon delivery, you can quickly attach it back. 

Choosing the Best Shipping Service

With an array of shippers on the market, the selection of a licensed and trusted company cannot be underrated. In addition to safety and expertise, trusted companies such as A-1 Auto Transport provide superb ATV transport features such as:

  • Air Ride Suspension – all carriers are equipped with air-ride suspension for smooth shipments across all distances.
  • Insurance Coverage – though risks are slim, accidents do occur. Professional companies include insurance coverage in every price quote. Saving on insurance will only mean that any damages will come out of your own pocket.
  • Satellite Tracking – all carriers are enabled with GPS tracking capability and provide real-time updates on their location at any time.

In the end, shipping jet skis and ATVs is quite straightforward and if you are experiencing any complications, professional transport carriers will assist you. The best you can do is carefully select a trusted and authorized company and ensure proper preparations and precautions. 

Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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