A motorcycle is usually well-equipped to create its own locomotion. However, there are times when it is necessary to have it towed. You may frequently transport your motorcycle to rallies, or you may break down on the side of the road.
Regardless, if you are a motorcycle owner it is essential that you make yourself aware of the different potential towing options. You will first have to decide whether you will do the towing yourself or hire a professional.
If you choose to do-it-yourself, you can use another motorcycle to tow in some instances, but most of the time you will use a larger vehicle. You may decide to use a trailer, a tow dolly, or a motorcycle carrier, or you might place the motorcycle directly on a flatbed, box, or pickup truck.
On average, motorcycle towing cost would be about $400. You could tow a motorcycle for as little as $100 when towing it yourself or you can spend as high as $3,000 shipping it across country using a professional company.
Whichever method you use will come with different costs. On the other hand, you could choose to hire a professional to tow your motorcycle. You could pay a yearly membership fee to AAA, or you can hire a solo mechanic as necessary.
However, depending on the distance you need to travel, this last method can be costly.
DIY Motorcycle Towing
There are multiple methods you can use to tow your motorcycle by yourself. Some of these are better in some situations, others in other situations.
Using Another Motorcycle
You can tow your bike using another motorcycle by utilizing a tow rope. Since the cost of a tow rope can be around $15, this is a very inexpensive towing method. It is too dangerous, and probably illegal, to tow your motorcycle with this method by using any other type of motor vehicle.
You will need a driver for each motorcycle in this method and your communication skills must be impeccable, but if you are stranded out in the wilderness or somewhere else that a towing vehicle cannot easily get to, this may be your best option.
Beware that this is a dangerous technique and make sure you are fully trained to do it before you make the attempt. Also be aware that there are certain situations where this method of towing can seize part of the bike.
For example, if your driveshaft has failed and you try to tow your motorcycle like this, you could seize your rear wheel, effectively locking it up.
Using a Larger Vehicle
The following methods all rely on a larger vehicle to tow your motorcycle. If you use any of the methods below, you will first need to ensure that the vehicle you are using to tow your motorcycle can take the additional weight.
You also need to know what the vehicle’s towing capacity is, if relevant. Be aware that a vehicle weight capacity includes the total weigh that the vehicle is carrying, including you or any passengers.
It is also very important to familiarize yourself with the laws in your area regarding towing motorcycles. Some motorcycle towing methods may be strictly regulated or even illegal in your area.
You are responsible for knowing the law before you act.
A trailer may be the safest method of towing you motorcycle, depending on the trailer you purchase. There is a wide variety of trailers on the market, some better than others, all with varying features.
Price will increase as features are added, and enclosed trailers cost more than open ones. The good news is that many of them come with all the additional parts, such as cables, that you need to tow your bike.
You could pay from less than $1,000 to close to $10,000 for a motorcycle trailer, but most of them are priced in the $3,000 range, give or take $1,000.
This towing method is excellent for people who expect to be towing their motorcycle on a regular basis but do not have other towing needs.
These trailers are made to tow motorcycles and that’s it. If you have other towing needs as well, you may want to consider another option.
A tow dolly is a great option for motorcycle owners who have limited space. If you can’t store a trailer, this may be the way to go. When you use a tow dolly you connect the front tire to the dolly which is connected to the rear of your towing vehicle.
The rear wheel of the motorcycle rolls on the road. A tow dolly is a safe and effective method of towing a motorcycle, assuming you stay within the specs. Generally, a tow dolly can not handle more than 800 pounds.
Tow dollies can cost anywhere from $65 to upwards of $800, but most of them cost in the range of $100
Somewhere between the above options is the motorcycle carrier. It is not as big or costly as a trailer, but it is larger and more expensive than a dolly. A carrier’s maximum weight capacity is usually in the range of 500 to 600 pounds, so it can tow most motorcycles.
A motorcycle carrier is like a trailer in that both motorcycle wheels are off the ground. The difference is the way the motorcycle sits. With a trailer, the motorcycle is facing parallel to the towing vehicle, with a carrier the motorcycle is rotated 90 degrees.
This allows for a carrier’s more compact profile. Some carriers have motorized lift capabilities and others do not, and this will affect the price. Motorcycle carriers can cost as little as $150 to as much as multiple thousands of dollars, depending on the options you choose.
It will be less expensive to purchase a manual carrier for a single dirt bike. In contrast, a motorized carrier for multiple large motorcycle will cost drastically more.
Flatbed, Box Truck or Pickup Truck
You can use a flat bed, a box truck, or a pickup truck to tow a motorcycle and the cost will be the necessary accessories, assuming of course you already own one of these vehicles.
You will at least need tie down straps which can cost you from less than $10 to around $150. One good thing about utilizing this method is the ability to transport other things with the vehicle when you are not towing your motorcycle.
Further, although it would be somewhat ridiculous to purchase a whole truck to transport a motorcycle, if you already own a truck, this is likely your cheapest option.
Considering pick up trucks, you should not attempt to transport a full-sized motorcycle in its bed. A pickup is only viable for smaller motorcycles such as dirt bikes.
Hiring a Professional
If you decide to hire someone to tow your motorcycle for you, the cost will depend on the service you use and the distance you are travelling.
AAA can tow your motorcycle, but to have it included you need a premier membership. The premier membership costs around $200 every year. The yearly fee gives you other benefits as well, so the value is not just in the towing service.
You will have to decide if the peace of mind having AAA available is worth the cost to you, but if you are stranded, you may be very happy you are a member.
Tow Truck Company
Utilizing a towing company without the help of AAA can become expensive if you are travelling a long distance and you are stranded. This method is best undertaken in emergencies and for short distances.
For a short distance you will have to pay a flat fee. For longer distances, you will have to pay a flat fee plus a fee-per-mile.
If you call a general towing company for the job and you are only travelling a short distance, say 10 or less miles, you will likely have to pay a flat fee somewhere in the range of $75.
If you are traveling further than that, you generally must pay a flat fee similar to the short distance fee, plus a fee-per-mile, usually around $3 per mile.
If, for example, you need to travel 20 miles, assuming the above numbers, you would pay a flat fee of $75 plus $3 per-mile for 20 miles, or $60. In total then, to tow your motorcycle for 20 miles, it would cost you $135.
You have multiple options to choose from when you are deciding how you want to tow your motorcycle. Some methods lend themselves better to certain situations.
If you are constantly towing your motorcycle to rallies around the country, a more permanent solution like a motorcycle trailer is a good option. On the other hand, if you are motorbiking through the wilderness with a friend, you may need to use his motorcycle to tow yours.
The cost of towing your motorcycle depends on your method, but regardless of method, be sure that you understand what you are doing and that you are being safe.
In particular, make sure your motorcycle is secure and that your towing vehicle can withstand the motorcycle’s weight.