(Article on shipping scams by contributor Matt Osborn*)
The effect of scams on the auto transport industry
Although they are not very common, motorcycle shipping scams are, a small yet unfortunate part of the industry. It makes all auto transport companies look bad when these scams occur, even the reputable ones.
Legitimate motorcycle shipping companies, like RoadRunner are vigilant about helping you avoid these awful scams and situations. Taking your time and looking into any company you are considering is well worth the effort because it could be the difference between getting your motorcycle shipped safely or being scammed.
Typical motorcycle shipping scams
There are a few types of motorcycle transport scams to be aware of. These can all be easily avoided so long as you know what to look for.
- Bait and switch pricing – Some so-called “companies” will offer you a price way lower than any competitor. Then, once your shipment is booked, they will call you while you while your motorcycle is supposed to be in transit already. It is then they will inform you that there’s some sort of problem and in order for the transport to continue they will need to charge you double or even triple what they had originally quoted you. Otherwise, they will need to “hold” your bike AKA they won’t give your motorcycle back until you pay. This is essentially the same scam some automotive repair shops pull saying they can’t “release” the bike for safety reasons unless you pay some exorbitant price for some extraneous, seemingly made-up, repair. Now, this isn’t necessarily legal but once you end up going through the legal process, you’ll end up paying a high price anyway in legal fees plus you’ll be without your bike for an additional several weeks. It is better to just avoid any outlier super low pricing when you are comparing prices from different motorcycle shipping companies. Be sure to read online reviews from sites like Google as well.
- Lead provider sites – This is essentially any site that promises quotes from multiple companies rather than providing one quote of their own. What’s really going on when you get a quote to ship your motorcycle from one of these sites is that they are taking your information and selling it to other companies. These companies will take your info and will spam you with calls and e-mails until it drives you to the point of having to change your number and/or e-mail.
- Carriers without an online presence – These companies generally tend to be “mom and pop” type businesses with just a handful of auto haulers and drivers. The fact that they don’t have a website or online reviews is a major red flag. They might be nice, honest, down-to-earth folks but there’s no way of knowing you can trust them for sure. Avoid these types of companies at all costs.
How to spot a scam
There are a few sure-fire ways to spot a moto transport scam:
- Too good to be true pricing – As we stated earlier in this post, carriers or brokers that undercut the competition by a wide margin will inevitably add on very large hidden fees after transport has already started. If you refuse this payment, they might possibly threaten to withhold your bike.
- The company asks for a wire transfer of money instead of a credit card or check – just run in the other direction, this sort of thing is the biggest red flag you’re going to get.
- The company asks for the FULL payment up front – most companies will likely ask for the slight majority of the payment up-front or at least some sort of considerable deposit. However, no reputable company will require a full 100% payment before your bike has been shipped. Would you pay a moving company in full before you even moved? Of course not, you want the security of knowing that they need to perform their service and do so properly in order to receive the rest of their payment.
- Your final price is WAY off from the initial quote you received – this could get a little confusing but your final price that you actually pay should be close to the quote you initially received online or over the phone. If the final price that you pay is nowhere near the price that you were initially quoted, then it is likely a scam. Now, keep in mind that if your original quote was for open air transport of your motorcycle and somewhere after that point you decided you wanted enclosed motorcycle shipping instead. Your final price will likely be at least $400 more than the original quote. The point is that if all things are equal (shipping method, distance etc.), the price should not fluctuate greatly between the quote and final price.
Ship your bike safely
Whether you choose to ship your motorcycle with a carrier or broker, make sure you select a trustworthy business. Get all the info you can about your potential motorcycle transporter – name, address, phone numbers, MC number and as much info as possible about their insurance policy. Contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and check to see if the auto transport company’s license is currently active. Use Google to verify they are a real business. Google takes verifying businesses information very seriously, if the company has a verified address on Google Maps, that is another good sign.
Be sure once you have gathered all of this information that it all checks out. For example, if their site lists a phone number and you try to call, and the number isn’t working, or no one picks up during normal business hours (depending on what time zone they’re located in) then there is a decent chance that it is some sort of scam.
If everything else checks out and you are able to contact them over the phone be sure you ask questions. Don’t be afraid to be thorough either. In fact, see if you can get some customer references so you can verify that they’ve done good business in the recent past.
Also, be sure that once you are ready to book your shipment that you go over the terms of service with a representative. Once you have the agreement, look over the agreement and scrutinize it. It is crucial to acquaint yourself with every detail. Pay close attention to the points which are written in fine print. This is a good measure to take even though you likely got a confirmation e-mail explaining everything. Once your driver arrives, make sure you ask him any questions you might have regarding the bill of lading as well.
No matter what, you want to make sure that you will be able to trust whichever company you choose to ship your motorcycle. You will want to make sure that you do not end up involved in some sort of a scam. It is important for you to do whatever you can to protect yourself and your vehicle.
Don’t get ripped off or have your bike taken hostage. In summary, the following will help you figure out whether an auto transport company is legitimate:
- The quality of their website
- Their overall web presence – including reviews
- Preferred method of payment
- Their MC number
- Phone number
- Their terms of service and Bill of Lading
About the author
Matt Osborn is the lead writer for the RoadRunner Auto Transport blog. He has a keen interest in cars and motorcycles so when you don’t find him in the blogging about cars and motorcycles in the office, you can find him speeding down the highway in his truck or on his bike.