How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Bike?

Learn how the shape of a bike impacts the cost to ship it and why you'll likely incur significant surcharges on top of your postage costs
how much does it cost to ship a bike
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The cost of shipping a bike can be higher than one might expect, due to their large shape and oversized packaging they require. It’s hard to determine exactly how much it will cost you to ship one, since rates depend on a variety of variables such as weight, the dimensions of your box, and the distance it needs to travel. We can tell you that bikes are pretty costly items to send…but fortunately, there are ways you can save money on your shipping costs. So, let’s strap in and get pedaling!

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Shipping a Bike is Expensive Due to Their Large Sizes

When you account for a bike’s total dimensions (as in the height, width, and length), they are large objects that any shipping carrier will consider oversized. In fact, since they’re so big, you can’t even ship most bikes with USPS! USPS has strict maximum dimensions that they allow for their shipments, since they focus solely on transporting mail and smaller parcels. Even when you break down a bike into separate parts that you fit inside a singular box, the dimensions often end up being larger than USPS allows for.

Since this is the case, you’ll need to choose another carrier other than USPS to ship a bike…and in our experience, you’ll get the best rates with UPS.

If you’re wondering why UPS is the best choice over other carriers like FedEx, it all comes down to cost. Generally speaking, UPS is the premier carrier for shipping heavy items and larger, oversized boxes. They offer similar services as FedEx (such as overnight and ground service), yet their prices are typically lower. Much lower.

All Bikes Should Be Packaged in a Large Box

Before you even think about walking your bike into your local UPS Store, let’s talk about packaging. Though you technically can ship a bike without any packaging, we don’t suggest this. If you don’t use any packaging, UPS will still measure the “air” dimensions around the bike as though it were in a box, in the first place (like we just talked about in the last section with dimensional weight). Therefore, you should just spring for a box from the get-go. This will protect your bike from taking any damage or getting scratched during transit, and it will be much easier for delivery drivers to handle. ULINE has large cardboard bike boxes that you can use to package a bicycle inside of, if you don’t already have one. These types of packages come in all sizes, but the most common ones are 54 x 28 x 8″.

The Cost of Shipping a Bike Depends on the Weight (or the Size)

Even though UPS specializes in heavier shipments, most bikes weigh between 15-80 pounds depending on the style, and considering UPS accepts shipments up to 150 pounds, bikes aren’t all that heavy. However, UPS often prices large packages based on their dimensional weight, and not their actual weight (they charge based on whichever is the greater number). Dimensional weight, or “DIM,” refers to how much space your box takes up on a truck, based on the total volume of your package. Carriers like UPS have a special formula to calculate DIM, which you can check out in our article on our Dimensional Weight.

The fact that packages containing bikes have relatively high dimensional weights makes them expensive to ship, since you’ll often pay rates based on the size of your box, and not the actual weight of it.

UPS and Other Carriers Consider Bikes as Irregular Packages

On top of factoring in their dimensional weight, carriers consider packages containing bikes as “irregular packages” due to their odd shape. An “irregular package” is basically shipping speak for a long or oversized box outside of regular handheld shipments. The biggest pain about irregular packages is that you’ll often incur surcharges from UPS (and other carriers) for shipping them, which UPS tacks onto the cost of your postage.

Carriers impose surcharges because these boxes take up more space on their trucks than is economical. It makes sense if you think about it; space on a delivery truck is limited, so when one package takes up the space where one or two other packages could be, UPS and other carriers need to make up for the money they could be making on transporting those.

This said, surcharges like “Additional Handling – Length” that you’ll see when shipping a bike are one of the biggest contributing factors to what makes it so expensive.

So How Much Does it Cost?

The cost of sending a bike with UPS varies, but we’ll provide an example. Let’s say you’re shipping a bike inside of a box with the dimensions 54 x 28 x 8″, the total weight of the package is 30 pounds, and it’s traveling from New York to Los Angeles. If you ship it at the UPS Store, that particular package will cost over $150 to send! Generally speaking, it’s reasonable to assume you’ll be spending anywhere around $150 to ship a bike across the country, and a little over $100 to ship it locally. So, if you expect to pay between $100 and $150 depending on how far your bike needs to travel, your guess will probably be right on.

Save Money With Online Shipping Software

Even though shipping a bike is quite costly, there’s still a way you can keep some money in your pocket, and that’s to use online shipping software to buy postage at discounts.

When you use shipping software, you get access to special levels of discounts that carriers like UPS typically only give to huge commercial shippers, who send over 50,000 packages per year. For UPS, that “secret” pricing tier is known as the Digital Access Program…and getting those discounts can save you some serious coin, especially when sending costly packages like boxes with bikes inside of them.

For instance, shipping the same bike as we listed in the example earlier on in the article will run you over $150 at your local UPS Store. However, with discounts from the UPS Digital Access Program, that package will only cost you $90.70. That’s a savings of 42%, or about $60! When the cost of shipping is automatically high due to the size of the box you’re sending, every dollar that you can save goes a long way.

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