Shipping a bicycle can be expensive, but it is cheaper than buying new from a bike store and more reliable than buying from a local individual. There are many factors to consider when preparing a bike for shipping, including different ways to lower the cost.
Pricing by Location
Prices vary on a weekly basis, but most of the time you can depend on $65 to $85 for anywhere in the lower 48 states. Tack on another $75 for Alaska or Hawaii, and add $200 to get a bike across the Atlantic or to South America. Always contact the shipping company directly for a quote; online quotes can be inaccurate. Most bike shipping boxes will be 60" by 45" by 8" and weigh as much as your bike plus about 8 pounds.
You will need a bike box, available at most bike shops for free. Try to get packing materials like bubble wrap too. If you don't have quick release skewers holding the wheel to the frame and fork, you'll need a wrench, usually 15 mm. To take off the handlebars you will need a 4 mm, 5 mm, and/or 6 mm hex key. These keys are available at all bike shops and hardware stores.
Dismantling and Packing
Wrap bubble wrap on all sharp points and corners that might puncture the shipping box. Use the 5-mm hex key to take off the rear derailleur; otherwise, it may get bent in shipping. Take off the front wheel and place it on the left side of the bike (the side without the gears) inside the shipping box. Use the 4, 5, and or 6mm hex key to remove the stem, you may need to remove the handlebars in order to make it all fit. Once everything is neatly in the box, use bubble wrap to pad less durable parts like shifters and brakes. Go heavy on the tape when preparing the box.
Unless you have very exact shipping needs or are working in a tight time frame, it is worth checking out whether your local bike shop can ship the bike for you. Bike shops have the materials and know-how to ship a bike correctly. Also, because shops get special business rates from shipping companies, you may save money overall, especially if you're sending a bike from one shop to another.
Always get shipping insurance for the full worth of the bike. Bikes are fragile and it is almost a guarantee that something will get bent or at least go out of adjustment and a serious brake is not uncommon.