✓ TIP FOR SAVINGS: Learn if your motorcycle insurance is too expensive!
Comparing quotes can help you save money.
Enter your zip to get started.
You own a motorcycle, but you have to transport it. Maybe you’re unable to ride it because you don’t have a license, it’s not running, or it’s too long of a distance to ride. If you don’t have a truck or SUV, you may be caught in a pickle, wondering if you can tow your motorcycle with the car that you do have.
Well don’t fret, because surprisingly enough, you are most likely able to transport your motorcycle with the car you do have without having to borrow or rent a truck or heavy duty SUV. If your car is known for having weak frames or transmissions, you should be capable of towing a trailer behind most anything.
I’ve found myself in this situation many times, so I’ve done a lot of research to figure out how this it is even possible to transport a motorcycle with a car. Here’s what I’ve found to work the best for transporting your motorcycle with a car:
- Figure Out Your Car’s Towing Capacity
- Install the Best Hitch
- Find the right trailer
- Safety Precautions and Laws
Now that you know it’s possible to transport your motorcycle with a car, there are further items you’ll need to understand before you actually do it. Though it is possible to do such a thing, you’ll need to be extra careful, more careful than you would with a truck or SUV because the capacity of your car is different from any of those other vehicles.
Figure Out Your Car’s Towing Capacity
In your owner’s manual, you should be able to look up the towing capacity of your vehicle. On average, the standard sedan can tow about 1,000 – 1,500 pounds.
You may also be able to look at the vehicle’s towing capacity on a sticker inside the driver’s side door frame. You should consider how many people and cargo the vehicle can tow. All of this is part of the vehicle’s weight.
It’s a good rule of thumb to tow a maximum of 80% of what your vehicle states it’s capacity is. For example, if your vehicle owner’s manual states that it has a maximum towing capacity of 1,200 pounds, do not plan on towing more than 960 pounds altogether. This will stop many potential problems such as an overheated transmission or worn brakes.
That may not seem like a lot of wiggle room, but luckily motorcycles don’t weight that much and neither do smaller recreational vehicle trailers which weight an average of 250 pounds.
To figure out how much you will be towing, you’ll need to first know how much the trailer weighs that you’ll be using. I recommend the smallest trailer possible for a sedan; the smaller the trailer the less stress it’ll be on the engine and transmission.
Once you have the trailer’s weight, calculate the motorcycle’s weight. It is possible to do some research online to find out this information. However, if your bike has many bells and whistles, the weight that you find online might not be accurate.
If you’re unable to find the weight of your motorcycle online, you can take it to a recycling plant for a landfill; they usually have large scales big enough to weigh your motorcycle. Another option is to use a weigh station located on the side or freeway. If you decide to use either of these methods, they’ll usually charge about $5-$10.
Install A Hitch
If you plan to tow anything on your car, you will next need to install a hitch if you don’t have one already. If you have a specific type of trailer in mind that you’ll be using to haul your motorcycle, make sure the hitch is compatible with it. Most hitches are compatible with standard types of towing, but this is just something to think about in case somewhere down the road they don’t fit.
Cost: If you need to install a hitch, know ahead of time that purchasing a hitch will cost around $100 – $300 depending on your vehicles model. Please note that you can’t just buy or use any hitch you see, they are vehicle specific and will not work right if you don’t get the correct one.
You can easily find the hitch that’s compatible with your car online. Amazon and Ebay are excellent places to start your search. Amazon has an easy-to-use interface that will help you find the right hitch specifically for your vehicle.
You can expect to spend several hundred dollars if you take your car to the shop to get the hitch fitted. I recommend doing it yourself if you’re handy in any sorts to save you the money. I’ve installed a trailer hitch before and it wasn’t too bad. Though it’s a bit time consuming, it’s totally worth saving the money. If you’re not comfortable with doing that though, go ahead and have a shop do it.
Installation: Once you get your hitch, you may notice some chips in the paint or scratches on it from shipping (if you ordered it online) because they usually don’t come in a package. Use this time now to repaint it if you’d like.
Since you’re installing a hitch on a car, you’ll need to raise the back of your car up and place it on jack stands as it may be too low for you to get under it initially. Make sure your car is in park, that you have the e-brake on, and that there are chocks on both sides of both front tires to avoid the car from rolling while you’re under it.
Some cars may require drilling holes in the frame. Others may have the holes already in place. You’ll easily be able to tell where the hitch needs to be connected once you get underneath the car.
Most hitches come with the necessary hardware and instructions for how to install it. YouTube is a great place to start if you are having trouble understanding the process. There are many videos and demonstrations available.
Find the right trailer
Now it’s time to find the trailer you’ll be using to tow your motorcycle. There are many options for this; you can borrow a trailer from a friend or family member, rent one from your local U-Haul or Home Depot, or simply purchase one yourself if your know you’ll need it enough and have the storage for it.
You’ll want to make sure that you use the smallest possible trailer to haul your motorcycle is you are using a sedan to tow it, not a truck. Try to find a trailer that weighs no more than 250 pounds – 300 pounds. Remember, the weight of your trailer should be added in when calculating how much your car is towing.
If you don’t have access to a trailer or simply don’t want to deal with one, I highly recommend using a motorcycle dolly. It is actually easier to use these than a trailer.
If you don’t know what a motorcycle tow dolly is, it’s a contraption that connects to your hitch and buckles on to the front tire of your motorcycle. The tow dolly will lift your motorcycle’s front end off the ground, but it will also leave your back tire on the road. This will cause you to roll along the road when you drive. Because of this, you’ll need to make sure to put your motorcycle in neutral to avoid any mechanical issues with your motorcycle.
For a link on how to locate the motorcycle tow doll, click here
Here’s a video that demonstrates how the tow-dolly works. It can be attached to a truck or a scooter, but it can also be attached to a regular sedan and used with a motorcycle. The biggest reason I love the idea of a motorcycle tow dolly is it’s weight. It doesn’t weigh more than 35 pounds. That’s way better than adding an extra 250-300 pounds for a whole towing trailer.
A motorcycle averages around 400 pounds. It all depends on your motorcycle’s make and model and any extra accessories you have. You might want to reduce the number of items on your motorcycle and make it easier for your car.
Keep in mind, however, that just because your motorcycle is connected to half of the tow vehicle, this does not mean that you can only weigh half of the motorcycle being tow. The motorcycle is still being towable by your car so make sure you include the weight of the entire bike in your calculations.
To summarize, if you use the bike tow dolly method, your total towing weight should not exceed 435 pounds. This seems lower than most sedans’ towing limits, even if you only tow 80% of the recommended capacity.
Still, if you use a towing trailer, you’re still only at around 850 pounds of towing, so using a small towing trailer is still an excellent option.
Safety Precautions and Laws
There are a few things you should remember when towing your motorcycle.
It is important to remember that you should not exceed your towing capacity. Towing loads that exceed your trailer’s towing capacity can cause transmission problems and also make your trailer move. “fish tale” It can pose a danger to other drivers.
Working brakes: You will now need to check that your brakes are operating properly. You don’t want to discover that your brakes have stopped working or that your pads are worn. Whenever you are hauling or towing anything, you’ll need to plan on doubling the amount of time to brake compared to how you normally would. You’ve got a lot of weight behind you that’s pushing your forward.
Trailer Safety: If you’re using a trailer, make sure it is registered, especially if you’re borrowing from a friend or family member. You’ll also need to make sure all the electrical components work. If you don’t have one already, you’ll need to get an electrical trailer connector. The trailer you’ll be using should come with a plug that needs to be connected to your vehicles electrical connector. That way the trailer’s brake lights and blinkers are in sync with your car, and drivers around you will know where you’re going.
Electrical trailer connectors are not expensive, usually running from $10 – $20. Again, you’ll need to get one that fits your car specifically.
Tow Dolly Safety If you plan to use a motorcycle tow dolly, you don’t need to worry about any electrical connectors. The size of your motorcycle isn’t big enough to obstruct other driver’s views of the car’s brake lights and blinkers. You don’t need to register a motorcycle tow dolly. It’s probably a good idea to put a bright orange flag on the back of your motorcycle to create more awareness to other driver’s about your load.
Road Safety If you’re towing anything, weather with your car or with a truck, you should never go over the speed limit. You and other drivers will be safer if you travel 5 to 10 MPH slower that the speed limit. Be patient. There’s no reason to go fast with such an amount of cargo; your life could count on that.
Not-for-Sale Emergency Equipment It’s a good idea to have extra containers of water and antifreeze during any time you are towing with your car. It’s not a guarantee, but you do have a higher chance of overheating your engine when you’re towing with a car. Water and antifreeze can be very useful. Check your temperature gauge, if any, every few minutes. If your temperature gauge is getting too high, stop and let it rest for a while.
Is it possible to pull a trailer with my motorcycle? Your motorcycle can be used to tow small cargo loads and trailers. Your motorcycle’s towing capacity depends on the make and model. However, motorcycles should only tow a minimal amount of cargo.
Why are motorcycles equipped with different sizes of wheels? Most motorcycles have larger front wheels, meaning they’re bigger in diameter and skinnier, to help with movement and steering. Because the engine is located at the back of the bike, the wheels are smaller and more pliable. For more information, click here.