The best car shipping companies seriously streamline the entire car shipping process. After all, hiring someone to transport a car for you is way better than driving cross-country yourself.
Problem is, plenty of auto transport companies are vying for your business but not all of them are a great deal. If you’re considering vehicle transport, you’ll get better value for the money if you understand the factors that influence car shipping costs and how to do apples-to-apples comparisons with a quote calculator.
In this guide, we’ll help you navigate the ins and outs of the car shipping industry and give you the tools to make an informed decision — and avoid unnecessary costs.
If you’re in a hurry to compare car shipping quotes, check out the moveBuddha car shipping calculator for instant car shipping quotes.
What is car shipping?
When you buy auto transport services, you pay a company to move your vehicle from one location to another. The upside is you don’t have to drive it yourself, so you can focus on the other aspects of your move without worrying about a cross-country road trip.
Car shipping is a popular option for long-distance moves, like from Los Angeles to New York City, where driving yourself would be a real pain in the neck. It’s especially helpful for international or overseas moves, too, since the car transport service handles the transport and paperwork for you.
Every carrier is different, but here’s generally what you need to know about how to ship a car:
- Research car carriers. Look up auto transport companies with a good reputation and check plenty of transport reviews.
- Choose service. Use a car shipping calculator to compare auto transport quotes to find the best car shipping companies for the money.
- Book the shipment. Reserve your spot with your carrier and confirm a pickup date. You’ll usually pay a small deposit to secure your spot.
- Prepare your vehicle. Clean your car, remove personal items, and do a quick maintenance check before the big voyage.
- Let the carrier transport your car. This process depends on what you paid for. If you paid for terminal-to-terminal service, you’ll drive your car to a drop-off terminal. If you paid for door-to-door, the moving company will arrive at your address to pick up the car.
- Track your shipment. The auto transport provider should offer updates or tracking information while your car is en route.
- Prepare for delivery. When your vehicle arrives, the shipper will tell you it’s ready for pickup. Again, this depends on what you paid for. You’ll either pick up your car at a terminal or the shipper will deliver it to your new home. Be sure to inspect the vehicle for damage before you sign the receipt!
- Finalize payment. Most car shippers charge you for the remaining amount after you confirm the delivery.
How does a car shipping calculator work?
Car shipping quotes can vary a lot, which is why so many people use car shipping calculators. These free online tools give you a ballpark estimate of car shipping costs, which can help you budget and find the best prices. They account for average pricing for your vehicle type, trip distance, and add-ons like door-to-door service.
Of course, car shipping calculators are just a guesstimate. These auto transport quotes usually don’t represent the final transport price because that will vary based on fuel prices, weather conditions, and time of year. Unless you get a binding estimate from a car shipper, the estimate you get from an online calculator or car shipping company will likely change.
How car shipping companies calculate quotes
If your car shipping quote is higher than what your friend paid for their car shipment last year, there’s a good reason for that. Several factors will influence your car shipping quote.
Distance and location
Longer distances generally increase vehicle shipping costs, although most shippers decrease the cost per mile for longer trips.
You’ll also pay more if you’re moving to a tricky delivery location, like a rural area, because it isn’t as easily accessible for the shipper.
Type of vehicle
The size and weight of your vehicle will have an impact on your car shipping quote. It costs auto transport carriers more to move larger, heavier vehicles, so you’ll pay more to move an SUV than you will to move a compact sedan.
By the way, vehicle condition also matters. If your car isn’t running, the car shipping service has to use special equipment for the move, which drives up your transport rates.
Time of year
Seasonal demand influences pricing. For instance, auto transport costs tend to peak in summer when there’s higher demand.
Adverse weather conditions in the winter will also affect pricing and availability, so maybe rethink an upstate New York relocation in January if you can help it.
Open carrier transport
Open carrier transport is the most popular vehicle shipping option — and it’s also the cheapest. This is perfect if you have a standard car model and you’re moving a longer distance, like a cross-country move.
Open transport exposes your vehicle to weather conditions and debris on the road, so we don’t recommend it for luxury vehicles. But if you have decent insurance and are okay with a little added risk, you’ll score cheap car shipping rates if you go for an open carrier.
Enclosed auto transport
Enclosed car shipping gives maximum protection to your vehicle, so it’s ideal for high-value or classic car transport. The enclosed trailer shields your car from the elements — and would-be thieves — but you’ll pay a premium for it.
This transport type drives up car shipping prices and isn’t as available as open car transport, but it’s a smart option for anyone with an expensive vehicle.
Auto transport services offer some nice add-ons, which are available at a premium. They aren’t the most budget-friendly option, but some folks like the added peace of mind and hassle-free experience.
- Additional insurance coverage, including cargo insurance
- Door-to-door delivery
- Expedited shipping
- Guaranteed car delivery dates
Regardless of what you choose, it’s good to know that many auto shippers consider these services “extras,” which will ultimately increase your car transport quote.
How to tell if a car shipping quote is from a reputable car transport company
It’s unfortunate, but there are some bad apples in the auto transport industry involved in car shipping scams. Avoid fly-by-night auto shippers and only work with reputable companies with a proven track record.
Follow these tips to make sure you’re dealing with a credible auto transport provider:
- Make sure they’re reachable. Any real business will have a website with a valid email address, physical address, and phone number for you to contact them.
- Look for transport reviews and ratings on platforms like the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Make sure the ratings are from real people and include plenty of detail.
- Ensure the shipper carries an insurance policy to protect your vehicle during transit. Ask to see a copy of their insurance policy to verify coverage — a reputable company won’t hesitate to provide this.
- Look for transparent pricing. Nobody wants hidden fees. Ask if the auto shipping quote is all-inclusive or if there are additional charges. When in doubt, ask for a contract and read the fine print very carefully to look for “gotcha” fees. Avoid any company that requires a hefty upfront deposit. Reputable shippers usually don’t require full payment upfront.
- Do a gut check. How do you feel about chatting with this company? Do they seem on the up and up? The best auto transport companies will offer guidance throughout the car shipping process, including helping you with paperwork and answering questions.
Benefits of car shipping
Look, we know car shipping can seem overwhelming, especially if you haven’t shipped a car before. But millions of people ship their cars every year, and for good reason.
Car shipping has so many benefits, including:
- Reduced risk: Sure, an open carrier exposes your car to the elements, but it’s still way safer than if you drove it 2,000 miles yourself. There’s less wear and tear on your car, which is always a good thing.
- Convenience: Unless you’re really into road trips, hiring an auto transport company is the most hassle-free way to get your car to your new home. They handle the entire shipping process, saving you the stress of planning a long-distance drive.
- Savings: It sounds weird, but paying a car shipping company could actually be cheaper than driving your car yourself. The cost of gas, hotels, and food adds up, not to mention the time you spend cooped up in the car.
FAQs about car shipping quotes
What is the cheapest way to ship a car?
The cheapest way to ship a car is terminal-to-terminal with open transport. This requires picking up and dropping off your car at a terminal. The shipper will transport your car on the back of an open-air hauler with other vehicles.
What is the most effective way to ship a car?
Hiring a car shipping company is the most effective way to ship a car. They help you through the auto shipping process and manage everything, giving you one less thing to worry about.
What are the disadvantages of shipping a car?
Car shipping has some challenges, including:
- Potential delays
- Car shipping scams
- Damage during transport
What is the best way to ship a car overseas?
This depends on your goals. If you want to save money, the cheapest way to ship a car overseas is via ocean freight. But if you’re in a hurry, the fastest way to ship a car overseas is via plane. The downside is that air shipping is incredibly expensive.
How much does it cost to ship a car cross-country?
It costs $0.50 to $1.70 per mile on average to ship a car. A 1,000-mile journey could cost anywhere from $500 to $1,700, depending on various factors.
How do I calculate the cost of shipping a car?
The best way to calculate the cost of shipping a car is to use the moveBuddha car shipping cost calculator. This will give you a ballpark estimate of fair pricing for your vehicle shipment. From there, you should request at least three quotes from auto shipping companies and compare them.
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