You’re starting over in a new area of the country. You’ve found a new home and maybe even a new job, but there’s one problem: moving your car to a new city.
Some folks simply drive their cars to cut down on moving costs. That’s not a bad idea, but vehicle shipping is also a smart option that could save you a lot of time.
So, should you drive or ship your car?
The answer depends on your situation. Fortunately, at MoveBuddha, we consider ourselves experts, and we’ve done the legwork for you.
Check out this guide to understand your car shipping options and the pros and cons of driving versus shipping your car.
Your options for moving a car cross-country
There are a few ways to move your car from point A to point B. The best option depends on how much time, money, and energy you spend.
Option 1: Go on a road trip
There’s nothing more American than an old-fashioned cross-country trip. If you’re moving from Florida to Los Angeles, DIYing your move is the best way to save on car shipping costs.
Sure, it’s going to take you some time to get there, but if you’re moving on a relatively loose timeframe, driving yourself could save a lot of money.
Option 2: Car shipping companies
If you need to ship your car, go with specialized auto transport services. It might cost more than doing the long drive, but a car transport service can help you save time and hassle.
To move your car with a shipping company, look for the best car shipping companies online, request car shipping quotes, and send them your delivery location. Go for a door-to-door service provider, like United Routes, which means they do pick-up and drop-off at your residence instead of at a warehouse or distribution center.
When working with an auto shipping company, you’ll need to choose between an open carrier or enclosed auto transport:
- Open carrier: Open transport moves your car on the back of a trailer for the cross-country move. It’s a faster and cheaper shipping option, but it does put your car at risk of damage. This option probably won’t be a good fit if you have a fancy classic car.
- Enclosed carrier: Enclosed carriers completely shield your car from the elements, offering more security during shipping. The downside? It’s not the cheapest way to move your car. Enclosed carriers cost double what you would pay for an open carrier.
Car shipping services are more expensive than a DIY move, but they’re popular with folks who need to save time and hassle during a big, hectic move.
Option 3: Moving companies
Driving yourself and hiring an auto shipper are the two most common ways to move your car cross-country, but there’s a not-so-secret third option: moving your car with your stuff.
If you’re moving with one of the best long-distance movers, they may be able to put your car inside the van with your household goods.
It sounds unbelievable, but they do it all the time.
It’s safe and convenient, and if you’re using the same company for your car and personal items, they may offer special deals and discounts.
If you’re moving across the country, be sure to check out our guide on the best long distance movers.
When does it make sense to drive versus ship your car?
Deciding whether to drive or ship your car when you move comes down to the following:
- Cost: If you’re worried about cost, driving your car will save you the most money.
- Safety: Enclosed shipping is the safest option, although open transport is still safer than driving yourself.
- Distance: It often makes more sense to hire a shipper for super long drives versus a shorter drive you’re comfortable doing yourself.
- Convenience: If you hate the thought of driving 1,500 miles cross-country, shipping your car is more convenient.
The pros and cons of driving a car when moving
There are pros and cons of driving your car when you move. Dive into these positives and negatives below.
Explore the country
Sometimes there’s nothing better than a leisurely cross-country drive.
When you’ve got the time, the weather’s good, and your route will take you through previously unexplored areas, it can be relaxing, educational, and even therapeutic.
Driving is definitely faster. Truck drivers are subject to federal regulations that limit their daily working and driving time.
They’ll also need to make additional pick-ups and deliveries en route, so your delivery window could stretch into weeks, depending on the trip’s length.
Save a lot of money
Though shipping your car may be convenient, driving is almost always more cost-effective.
We calculated the figures below using:
- A national average gasoline cost of $3.57 per gallon on July 10, 2023
- 25 miles per gallon per vehicle
- $35 per person per day for food, with two people making the trip
- An average hotel cost of $212 per night
The below shipping rates come from various auto transport companies, so you can get a good idea of what to expect.
|Mileage||Estimated cost to drive||Average cost to ship|
|150 to 500 miles||$354||$604|
|500 to 1,000 miles||$707||$984|
|1,000 to 1,500 miles||$779||$1,127|
|Over 2,000 miles||$1,128||$1,332|
The numbers speak for themselves. The cost to ship a car is usually much higher than it is to drive.
Although price isn’t everything, driving yourself is almost always the most cost-conscious choice. We’ll explore these extra costs later in the article.
Driving is dangerous
Accidents and breakdowns are bound to happen, especially if you drive your car long distances. Follow these tips to stay safe:
- Take breaks and be patient: Most vehicular mishaps result from speeding and fatigue. Following the speed limit (yes, really) and making frequent stops will break up the day and keep you alert.
- Consider the weather: The Rocky Mountains may be beautiful in December, but they’re dangerous for those without winter driving experience. Likewise, breaking down in a remote stretch of Arizona desert in June can become a nightmare, especially when it’s 115 degrees, you’re 20 miles from the nearest service station, and there’s no cellphone reception.
- Protect yourself: Though our nation’s highways are generally safe, women, the elderly, and the very young are statistically more likely to be victims of crime. Travel with a buddy if possible.
Wear and tear on your vehicle
Long-distance trips are hard on cars.
The average American puts 13,500 miles on their car yearly, or 1,000 miles a month. That’s more than the distance between New York and Atlanta.
In other words, a two-day trip could subject your car to over a month’s worth of abuse.
Though most go off without a hitch, an errant rock from a passing dump truck could spell the end of a perfectly good windshield.
Blowouts and shattered windshields are dangerous. Your insurance coverage might not address these things, either, which could triple the cost of your trip.
Before driving yourself, be sure to:
- Clean out your car
- Get an oil change
- Take your car to a mechanic for a checkup
- Air up your tires
- Stock up on road safety supplies, like tire patches, gloves, and hazard signs
What Are the Costs of Driving Your Car When You Move?
Let’s assume that your family sedan gets 27 miles per gallon. For SUVs, we’ll use 18 miles per gallon.
To determine how much gas you’ll use on your trip, divide the mileage by the fuel efficiency figure for your vehicle type, then multiply that number by $3.57, which is the national average gasoline price on June 10, 2023.
Based on these numbers, the estimated costs are:
|Mileage||Cost for sedan/SUV|
Gas prices can change quickly and vary significantly from state to state. Fuel mileage is subject to a number of factors including vehicle age, driving habits, terrain, and season, so use the above numbers for reference only.
Hotels are, by far, the priciest part of a cross-country road trip. The average price for a hotel room is nearly $150 a night.
Most drivers can easily crank out 500 miles a day with good weather, so one room for every 500 miles of trip length is a safe rule of thumb.
If you factor in bathroom, gas, and food breaks, 300 or 400 miles can take the better part of your day. Consider the weather, your departure times, and the terrain to estimate how many hotel stays you need.
It can’t hurt to budget for an extra night or two in your budget, just in case.
Meals, drinks, and snacks add up quickly, especially when you’re bored, hungry, and tired of being stuck behind the wheel.
Though an egg sandwich and a mug of instant coffee might suffice for breakfast at home, we’re more likely to splurge on eggs benedict and a high-dollar mocha latte from Starbucks when we travel.
$35 per person per day for food is a good number, but it assumes that you’re willing to dine at reasonably-priced establishments like roadside diners and truck stops.
If your tastes are more extravagant or you’ve got an exceptionally big appetite, the cost could be higher.
The pros and cons of shipping a car when moving
Like driving, shipping a car when you move has advantages and disadvantages.
Greater peace of mind
Driving is almost always less expensive than using an auto transport company, but it isn’t always a cut-and-dry decision.
If you’re stressed out about starting a new job and don’t relish the idea of driving for days on end with your spouse and kids, hiring an auto transport company is probably the best option.
Plus, these companies specialize in transporting cars. You can rest assured that the professionals are taking good care of your vehicle.
Look, driving is dangerous.
While mishaps can certainly happen when a transport company moves your car, it’s still safer for you, your family, and your vehicle if you opt for shipping. You don’t have to worry about wrecks, blowouts, or insurance claims.
Shipping prevents wear and tear on your car, too, so you’ll get much more use out of your vehicle at your new home.
Shipping is expensive
Shipping is incredibly convenient, but it’s more expensive than driving yourself.
The costs of shipping a car depend on:
- Vehicle type (size and weight)
- Time of year
- Whether you need open or enclosed transport
- Whether your car is operable or inoperable
Cost Comparison by Mileage and Transport Type
|Type||150 to 500 miles||501 to 1,000 miles||1,001 to 1,500 miles||More than 1,500 miles|
Based on our research, the average cost to ship a car is just over $700.
However, that figure includes shipments of nearly every distance and vehicle type across multiple lanes at different times of the year.
The auto transport market is subject to drastic price swings based on the season, fuel prices, supply and demand, and the overall economy, so it’s always best to get multiple quotes for your particular move.
Shipping is safer than driving your car, but if you opt for open transport, your car is still exposed to the elements. There’s always the potential for cracks on your windshield, dings from a long move, or even theft.
We aren’t saying this always happens, but it’s important to recognize that shipping comes with some risks. When in doubt, pay a little more for additional insurance coverage so you’re protected at all times.
Should you ship the car or sell it and buy a new one at the destination?
It may seem like a good idea to sell your car and just buy a new one when you arrive. In some circumstances, this idea makes sense. However, for most cross-country moves, it makes more sense to ship your car.
Pros of Selling Your Car & Buying Another
- Opportunity to Upgrade – If you were already planning on getting a new vehicle soon, it could be a good idea to sell your current vehicle. You’ll have the opportunity to upgrade once you reach your new home.
- No Need to Pay for Car Shipping – If you sell your car with plans to buy a new one, you won’t need to foot the bill for car shipping.
- No Need to Drive Cross Country – Maybe you don’t like the idea of driving cross-country. If you sell your car, you won’t have to worry about it.
- Cash in Your Pocket – The proceeds from selling your car can help you if your finances are tight when moving. If you own your car outright, you can sell it and use the money to help you move. Just make sure you leave some of it aside for a down payment on a new car.
Cons of Selling Your Car & Buying Another
While there are a few benefits to selling your car and buying another, for most, it makes more sense to ship your car. The cons are usually deal-breakers for most people when they move.
- You’ll Need to Shop for a Car – Who wants to go car shopping right after moving? Not only do you have to figure out how to get to the dealerships, but you also have to find a new vehicle to fit your specific needs.
- Very Inconvenient – Without a vehicle, you’ll have to arrange transportation in your new home until you find a suitable vehicle. Unless you already have a vehicle lined up, this can be a huge headache.
- Expensive – Selling your current vehicle and buying another will likely cost you far more than shipping your car.
- You have to Find a Buyer – Sometimes, selling a vehicle takes time. You have to go through the process of listing your car and finding a buyer. Then, you have to negotiate a deal you’re happy with. If you start to run out of time, you could get desperate and sell for less than you should.
- You Could End Up With a Worse Vehicle – If you sell your current vehicle and buy a used vehicle in your new home, you could end up with a car that has issues. Even with an inspection, you could have car problems sooner than you would have if you ship your current vehicle.
Before you choose between shipping your car and selling it, make sure you understand what you’ll be dealing with financially. The cost of shipping a vehicle from Omaha, NE to Buffalo, NY, will range from about $900 to $1,400, depending on the vehicle. This might seem like quite a bit of money, but selling your vehicle to buy another will likely cost you more.
When you look up your vehicle’s value, consider what you can get for your vehicle and what another vehicle in your new location will cost. If you plan to buy a new vehicle, you’ll likely have to start over with payments and financing.
Along with the actual cost of buying a vehicle, there will be hidden costs you need to consider, including:
- Sales Tax – The cost of sales tax for your vehicle could be more than the cost to ship your current vehicle cross-country
- Financing Charges – If you finance a vehicle, you’ll have to pay interest and other financing charges.
- Registration and Title Fees – You’ll have to pay registration regardless, but with a vehicle purchase, you’ll also have to pay a title fee.
- Dealer Fees – If you buy a vehicle from a dealer, you might have to pay a dealer fee.
- Higher Insurance Costs – Depending on the vehicle you own now and the one you buy, you could end up paying a higher insurance premium.
Before you decide to ship your car or sell it with plans to buy another, make sure you consider all the costs. It will likely cost less to ship your car than buying another once you arrive in your new home.
Is it safer to ship your car or drive it?
Generally, it’s safer for you and your car to have it shipped professionally.
Is it cheaper to drive or ship your car?
Though shipping your car may be convenient, driving is almost always more cost-effective.
If you do ship it, however, you can opt for either open or enclosed transport.
What about towing my car behind a moving truck?
Though it’s possible to rent dollies that will allow you to tow your car behind another vehicle like a rented moving van, it’s not a great idea if you don’t have experience pulling a trailer.
Towed vehicles can be hard to control in tight spaces, inclement weather, and mountainous terrain, so proceed with caution.
How will I get to my new home if I ship my car?
If shipping your car seems like the best bet, you can:
- Catch a bus
- Snag a cheap flight
- Have a friend or family member drive you to your new home
Driving or shipping your car: The verdict
In short, deciding whether to drive your car yourself or ship it with a professional auto transport company is a matter of personal preference.
If price and speediness are your biggest concerns, driving is the clear winner.
However, if you want convenience, peace of mind, and better safety, shipping may be the way to go for those who don’t mind spending a few extra bucks.
If you’re still trying to get your head around your moving budget, moveBuddha’s got you covered. Check out our Moving Cost Calculator for a free cross-country move quote.
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