Brokers vs. Carriers in Car Shipping: Pros and Cons

If you’ve decided vehicle shipping makes sense for your long-distance move, chances are your car, motorcycle, or truck is among your most prized and valuable possessions. So, of course, you want to pick one of the best car shipping companies for the job.

But how do you know what you’re getting before you begin the shipping process?

A quick Google search for a car shipping company will return infinite results, and you’ll come across a lot of jargon — most notably, you’ll see some companies refer to themselves as auto transport brokers while others may advertise as auto transport carriers.

What’s the difference?

Carriers tend to cost less than brokers, but you may not get the same level of professional or customer service. Brokers may have more insurance options, while carriers may carry a more basic level of cargo insurance.

Keep reading to dig into the pros and cons of brokers and carriers so you can choose the best car transport solution for your needs.

Car shipping brokers: pros and cons

Car shipping brokers are larger car shipping companies that partner with different carriers across the country. They typically have a wide service area and they’re not limited to specific routes. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of working with car shipping brokers.

  • Flexibility: Car shipping brokers have a wide network of carriers they can tap into, which means they’re not limited to providing shipping services along specific routes or between terminals.
  • Quicker time frame: You can get off the ground sooner with an auto shipping broker because you don’t have to request multiple quotes or wait for a truck driver to pick up your vehicle on their schedule.
  • More robust customer service: Brokers often have more technology capabilities, including GPS tracking and customer service portals where you can view documents, pay invoices, or live chat.
  • Larger fleet of trucks: Because brokers work with different carriers, they can accommodate a broader range of needs, including enclosed and open carrier transport services.
  • Door-to-door service: Brokers can coordinate door-to-door service, so you don’t have to meet a truck driver at a terminal out of your way.
  • Better insurance coverage: Brokers are generally larger companies with more resources to provide additional coverage options through developed partnerships with insurance companies.
  • Higher price tag: Because brokerages have to make money, they often mark up their quotes to earn a commission on their bookings.
  • Lot of hands in the pot: Car shipping companies outsource the actual services to carriers during the transportation process, so issues can occur if the company doesn’t prioritize

Car shipping carriers: pros and cons

Carriers are independent companies that use their own trucks to transport vehicles. They don’t have the same reach as brokers, which means they can be more focused in certain areas and more personalized in their approach.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of car shipping carriers, so you can choose the best carrier — or broker — for your needs.

  • Sometimes you’ll pay less: It’s not a hard and fast rule, but sometimes you’ll save money if you can book directly with a carrier.
  • May be easier to get an instant quote: Because carriers don’t have to accept bids from their network of carriers, you may be able to get a quicker and more accurate quote.
  • Direct point-of-contact: Carriers don’t outsource their services, so you can talk directly to your coordinator or truck driver and they’re likely the same person you previously spoke to.
  • Relevant customer reviews: Auto transport companies that work with independent contractors may not have consistent customer reviews. When you work with a carrier, you know that every customer has worked with the same group of people.
  • Standardized training and screening: Keeping transport services in-house allows companies to train, background check, and drug test all drivers to ensure their standards are upheld on the road.
  • Can be slower: Carriers may have limitations based on their number of drivers and overall capacity. You may also need to wait until a truck plans to drive the specific route to your destination.
  • Broker-carriers can be confusing: Some car shipping companies operate as brokers and carriers, making it confusing when you book because you may not know who’s actually transporting your vehicle.
  • May be limited to terminals: Some car shipping carriers only operate out of designated terminals.

Cost of car shipping brokers vs. carriers

Car shipping costs depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • The type of vehicle you’re shipping
  • The vehicle’s operability
  • The time of year
  • Your desired mode of transport
  • The distance between your origin and destination locations
  • Any add-on services you select

You can request an instant quote from our best car shipping companies or visit our car shipping calculator page to better understand the typical price tag for your required services.

How to choose the right car shipping option

Putting yourself in other people’s shoes can help you make the best decision for your situation. Consider the following scenarios if you’re stuck trying to choose the right car shipping option.

Use a car shipping broker if:

  • You have a priceless vehicle and need substantial additional insurance coverage options to protect your investment
  • You’re moving overseas and want door-to-door service
  • You’re relocating long-distance and want to book your auto transport with your moving services

Use a car shipping carrier if:

  • You’re knowledgeable of the auto transport industry and have your own connections with a network of carriers
  • You don’t mind more bare-bones features and a slower shipping timeline
  • You find a carrier that specializes in the type of vehicle you intend to ship

Regardless of which way you’re leaning, we always recommend you do your due diligence. Compare car shipping quotes from multiple providers and research the auto transport industry before making any decisions. We have a lot of resources detailing car shipping cost and tips to prepare your car for a safe shipment.

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FAQs about car shipping options

What is the difference between a carrier and a freight broker?

A carrier is an auto transport company that picks up, ships, and drops off the vehicle directly, usually with its own employees and fleet of trucks. Carrier auto shipping companies are typically run by owner-operators, whereas a freight broker acts as a middleman between its network of carriers and customers.

What are the benefits of a carrier vs. a broker?

Carriers can provide a more personalized experience due to their direct contact with shippers and their vehicles. Brokers may be able to get you a lower price, but you risk a less-than-satisfactory auto transport experience because you don’t have the same opportunity to vet or vibe-check your selected carrier company. Reputable brokers do however save you the legwork of needing to hunt down companies and request quotes yourself.

How do car shipping brokers make money?

Car shipping brokers make money by adding a convenience fee to whatever prices their network of carriers provides. In some cases, car shipping brokers may charge carriers a commission. It depends on how that relationship is structured.

What is the best car carrier service?

SGT Auto Transport is the best car carrier service overall, in our expert opinion. It services 49 states (all except Alaska), only works with fully insured truckers, ships every type of vehicle, and has a strong reputation for providing an excellent customer experience. We’re also big fans of Montway Auto Transport and Sherpa Auto Transport.

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