Car Shipping Scams: How To Spot One and What To Do

Are you in the market for car shipping services? While there are plenty of reputable providers in the car shipping industry, unfortunately, there are also some fraudsters out there who are eager to make off with your money — or even your car.

To avoid them, stick to working with these best car shippers:

moveBuddha logo iconrating starstarstarstarstar 4.9 / 5
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moveBuddha logo iconrating starstarstarstarstar 4.75 / 5
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  • No deposit
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moveBuddha logo iconrating starstarstarstarstar 4.55 / 5
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  • 13 yrs experience
  • Ship boat, RV, ATV
Check prices (224) 206-5633

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moveBuddha logo iconrating starstarstarstarstar 4.5 / 5
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  • Price lock promise
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Check prices (833) 775-1461

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moveBuddha logo iconrating starstarstarstarstar 4.35 / 5
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  • Rental car option
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Just because there are scams doesn’t mean you should swear off car shipping altogether. You just need to know how to spot red flags so you have the best auto-shipping experience possible.

Check out this guide for expert information on the most common auto transport scams, how to avoid them, and steps to take if you’ve fallen for a car shipping scam.

What is a car shipping scam?

A car shipping scam is when fraudsters pose as legitimate auto transport services to dupe unsuspecting customers. These scammers will usually have a legitimate-looking name or pretend to be a car shipping broker.

And they’re good at it. They generate fake car shipping quotes or even demand upfront payments for services they never intend to deliver. The most common scams cheat you out of thousands of dollars, but other scams are targeted at taking your car.

Knowledge is the best defense against this scourge of the auto transport industry. We’ll cover the different types of car shipping scams so you’ll know how to spot a scheme a mile away.

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Avoid car shipping scams by working with these top car shipping companies that are backed by reviews and have good reputations in the moving industry

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Types of car shipping scams

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are the most common types of car shipping scams.

Upfront deposit scam

This happens when scammers masquerade as a reputable auto transport company and demand an upfront payment to ship your car. They usually ask you to pay the entire balance, but sometimes they’ll ask for 50%.

Sure, some legitimate car shipping service providers will ask for a deposit, but usually not until they match you with a shipper.

It’s also a dead giveaway if the “car shipper” asks you to pay them through less traceable means like MoneyGram, Western Union, gift cards, or even cryptocurrency.

Once you give them the deposit, they vanish without a trace.

Bait-and-switch scam

A bait-and-switch scam happens when the fraudster gives you a suspiciously low quote for car shipping.

Everything seems fine until they pick up your car and they suddenly inflate the costs. They might try to tack on additional fees — like shipping costs — or try to change your shipping contract. They essentially hold your car for ransom until you pay their made-up fees.

This is a tough one to spot because they might actually fulfill the service. But even then, they’re scamming you out of money by adding ridiculous, unfounded fees.

Ghost tracking scam

In this scam, the fraudulent car shipping company gives you a legit-looking tracking number. They might even update its status and everything.

But in reality, the scammer isn’t transporting your vehicle at all — they’re just buying themselves time to make off with your car.

Sometimes the scammers will even tell you the car is at a terminal for pickup. But when you go to the terminal, you’ll either realize the terminal doesn’t exist or your car isn’t there.

Double broker scam

Some fraudsters act as car shipping brokers who charge a fee for connecting you with a car carrier to do the actual shipping.

The issue? They have no intention of actually connecting you with a car carrier.

Once they receive the broker fee, they’ll either disappear or hand you off to yet another broker who will ask for another fee.

Warning signs of car shipping scams

Shipping a car for the first time can seem overwhelming, and the potential for scams can make it even more daunting.

But don’t worry: moveBuddha compiled these tips to help you spot potential red flags so you only work with reputable providers.

1. Suspiciously cheap quotes

Look, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. If a car transport company’s quote is significantly lower than the market rate, there’s a reason.

Scammers use tantalizingly low prices as bait. Estimate how much it costs to ship a car so you know the average price of shipping your car.

2. No online presence (or a sketchy one)

Look up both your broker and car shipping company online.

Check the company’s website for contact information, like a phone number and physical address. Reputable companies will also have some kind of social media presence.

Run for the hills if you can’t find any information, the information is inconsistent, or their presence looks spammy and untrustworthy.

3. Insistence on untraceable payments

Why would a legitimate company ask you to pay them in Bitcoin or Western Union payments?

A real auto shipping company will accept checks and card payments because they’re legitimate. Fraudsters don’t like these types of payments because it’s easy to identify the scammer, so they insist on untraceable payments to protect themselves.

4. No FMCSA certification or USDOT number

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires car shippers to have a US Department of Transportation ID number. If you can’t find your shipper in the FMCSA’s SAFER database, they probably aren’t legitimate.

Ways to avoid a car shipping scam

Car transport scams happen, but the good news is that these tips will ensure you only work with a company that’s on the up and up. Here are some great car shippers you can use if you want to transport your vehicle.

moveBuddha logo iconrating starstarstarstarstar 4.75 / 5
Licensedcheckmark
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Price dollar sign dollar sign dollar sign dollar sign
  • No deposit
  • Quick pickup
Check prices (888) 259-6046

% of users select this mover

moveBuddha logo iconrating starstarstarstarstar 4.55 / 5
Licensedcheckmark
Insuredcheckmark
Price dollar sign dollar sign dollar sign dollar sign
  • 13 yrs experience
  • Ship boat, RV, ATV
Check prices (224) 206-5633

% of users select this mover

moveBuddha logo iconrating starstarstarstarstar 3.9 / 5
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Price dollar sign dollar sign dollar sign dollar sign
  • Instant pricing
  • Compare shippers
Check prices Visit Website

% of users select this mover

moveBuddha logo iconrating starstarstarstarstar 4.5 / 5
Licensedcheckmark
Insuredcheckmark
Price dollar sign dollar sign dollar sign dollar sign
  • Price lock promise
  • Free car wash
Check prices (833) 775-1461

% of users select this mover

moveBuddha logo iconrating starstarstarstarstar 4.35 / 5
Licensedcheckmark
Insuredcheckmark
Price dollar sign dollar sign dollar sign dollar sign
  • Rental car option
  • Ship inoperable
Check prices (866) 563-0804

% of users select this mover

Now that you know some of the best car shipping companies, let’s take a look at other ways you can avoid car shipping scams/

Educate yourself on the car shipping process

People tend to fall for car shipping scams because they’re new to vehicle shipping. After all, how often do you hire someone to ship your car across the country?

Familiarize yourself with the cross-country car shipping process before hiring a shipper. This way, you’ll have a better idea of what is and isn’t normal.

Do your due diligence

The best way to avoid a scammer is to look for proof of their legitimacy. You can do that by:

  • Reading customer reviews. Real companies have transport reviews on multiple sites like Yelp and Google. If there are only a handful of online reviews and they’re super short or don’t make sense, those are fake reviews.
  • Checking the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Not every business will have a BBB profile, but if they do, that’s a sign of a reputable company.
  • Looking up their FMCSA listing: The FMCSA database lists all certified car shipping companies in the United States. If they aren’t in there, don’t work with them

You can also find reputable providers by checking moveBuddha’s vetted list of the best car shipping companies.

Only pay via traceable methods

You don’t pay your electricity bill with Visa gift cards, right? No reputable company will ask you for weird payment methods.

If everything is going fine with a shipper and then they suddenly demand unconventional payment, walk away.

They might try to strong-arm you into paying, or even threaten you. There are other shippers out there, so don’t let them bully you into handing over your hard-earned money.

What to do if you’ve fallen for a car shipping scam

Nobody wants to feel taken advantage of, and realizing you’re a victim of a scam is an awful feeling.

But don’t panic — there are a few things you can do once you discover the scam:

  • Stay calm. We know that’s hard right now, but folks tend to make bad decisions when they’re stressed. Take a minute to calm down before you take action so you can think clearly.
  • Gather all information. Make a record of all emails, phone calls, texts, contracts, receipts, and communications with this company. It’s easier to share this information with law enforcement when you have it in a neat little folder.
  • Report it. The first people you should call are the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and local law enforcement. Depending on the scam, you may need to file a police report. There’s no guarantee you’ll get your money or car back, but it’s good to have the documentation for filing insurance claims.
  • Tell your bank. If you paid via credit card, debit card, or wire transfer, tell your bank about it ASAP. You may need to get a new card number. In some cases, the bank might be able to get your money back or refund you for the stolen funds.
  • File a lawsuit. This isn’t an option for everyone, but if you have the resources (and can actually find someone to sue), this is an option. It’s more common for substantial losses, like if the scammers stole your priceless vintage car.
  • Leave a review. Tell other people about the scam! It could be a drop in the bucket for professional scammers, but leaving a review could save someone else from falling victim to this scam.

FAQs about car shipping scams

How can I avoid a car shipping scam?

You can avoid car shipping scams by:

  • Checking for a US DOT motor carrier number
  • Finding their BBB rating
  • Looking for negative reviews
  • Only paying via traceable methods
  • Booking shippers through verified platforms like moveBuddha

What are some signs that a car shipping company isn’t legit?

A vehicle transport company probably isn’t legit if:

  • They demand full payment or a huge upfront deposit
  • The quote is suspiciously low
  • They don’t have an online presence or genuine reviews
  • They ask for payment via gift cards, cryptocurrency, or cashier’s check

What is the best way to ship a car?

Choose a reputable company that has verified credentials, positive reviews, and clear processes. If possible, go with direct carriers who offer door-to-door service.

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