Are you preparing for a big move cross-country? Maybe even another country? Have you been trying to weigh the pros and cons of taking your vehicle with you?
Maybe you’ve purchased a specialty vehicle from elsewhere in the country and want to save time with door-to-door delivery. Whatever your reason for shipping a car, it pays to do your research so you can get the best price for the services you need.
We’ve made it easy for you to find the best car shipping companies, and now we’ve gone a step further by breaking down each step of the process, so you know exactly how to ship a car and if it’s the right choice for your circumstances.
The car shipping process
These are the steps you can expect as you navigate the car shipping process.
1. Request quotes and compare companies
You can begin the car shipping process by reaching out to various car transport companies and asking for a quote. Free quotes don’t come with any obligation to proceed, and you’ll develop a better idea of how much you’ll need to spend.
At this time, you can decide on your desired type of transport — open or enclosed — and compare those costs.
2. Pay the deposit
Once you’ve zeroed in on the mode of transport and best price, you can book your reservation and pay your initial deposit. You may also need to upload personal documents, such as insurance policy information or other proof of ownership.
3. Pick your delivery location
You can drop your vehicle off at a terminal or have it picked up at your home or job. Terminal-to-terminal delivery can be more affordable, but it can require you to arrange additional transportation to and from that location. Door-to-door delivery is often the more convenient option but it typically comes at an extra cost.
4. Schedule your pickup and shipping dates
You can finalize your booking by scheduling pickup and shipping dates. In many cases, these dates are ranges unless you pay for expedited or guaranteed delivery, so be prepared to be flexible.
5. Hand it off and sign the bill of lading
When your pickup date arrives, your auto shipper will complete a pre-delivery inspection and note any signs of existing damage. These details will be noted on the bill of lading, which you’ll need to sign to confirm you recognize the car’s current condition and other important information about your car’s transport.
6. Inspect your vehicle upon arrival
Once the vehicle arrives in its new location, you will inspect it again and note any new signs of damage.
If there are signs of damage, you can proceed with filing a claim through the carrier’s insurance. Otherwise, the car is yours again.
Car shipping methods
Auto transport companies ship cars in two main ways: open carrier and enclosed trailer.
Open car transport is an economical way to ship your vehicle because multiple cars can fit on the trailer. Car manufacturers often use this method to ship their cars to dealers. Be aware, however, that damage due to road debris or weather is possible because your car is exposed to the elements during transit.
Enclosed car shipping shields your vehicle from all the elements by placing it in an enclosed trailer. It offers more safety from debris, so it’s a good option for rare, vintage, or high-end vehicles. But that extra protection costs more because the trailer can’t carry as many vehicles this way.
Car shipping costs
The average cost to ship a car ranges anywhere from $0.50–$1.70 per mile. The cost of shipping a vehicle isn’t hard and fast, however, and it can change based on seasonal demand, inflation, and various other factors.
Factors affecting car shipping costs
Car shipping costs can range tremendously depending on a variety of factors.
Let’s take a look:
- Time of year: Car shipping costs are the highest during peak moving season and the beginning of the year. If you want to save money, consider holding off until the off-season.
- Distance: Cross-country and international transport costs more than regional or intrastate transport.
- Drivability: Inoperable vehicles can still be shipped, but they’ll require more legwork to move, which will add to your total costs.
- Economy: When fuel and other costs are high, it costs more to ship a car.
- Selected services: Enclosed carriers that deliver door-to-door will cost more than an open carrier that delivers terminal-to-terminal.
- Vehicle size: Larger vehicles, such as SUVs, RVs, and trucks, cost more to ship than a compact car.
Choosing the best car shipping company
There are a lot of car shipping companies, but they’re not all created equally.
Keep these tips in mind before trusting just any auto transport company with one of your more valuable assets.
Verify your selected car transport company’s credentials
You can vet any car transport company by confirming their registration with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA has minimum insurance and other compliance requirements to ensure they’re using above-board business practices.
See if your moving company brokers car transport services
If you’re shipping a car because you’re moving cross-country, ask your moving company if they offer car shipping services. It can be easier to coordinate all the logistics of a long-distance move when you use the same company for your personal belongings and vehicle.
Consider all types of transport
Auto transport isn’t one-size-fits-all, and there are several options for you to consider. Open carrier transport is going to be the cheapest way to ship your vehicle, but it may not be the safest if you have an antique, collectible, or classic car. Enclosed carriers generally provide peace of mind in these situations.
If you’re moving abroad, cargo transport is the most common option, but you may be able to opt for air transport to certain locations. However, air transport is far and wide the most expensive form of auto transport.
Read customer reviews
One of the best ways to vet auto transport companies is by reading customer reviews. Turn to reputable review sites, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), TrustPilot, Yelp, and Google Reviews to get a better idea of how real people received your desired car shipping services.
Compare shipping prices
Don’t get price gouged. Use our moving cost calculator to get a baseline for what to expect to pay for your car shipping needs. We recommend requesting free quotes from at least three companies so you have an idea of the best value for your buck.
Ask all your questions
Don’t hesitate to ask any and all questions you may have about the car transport process.
Here are some examples:
- Do you offer door-to-door or terminal-to-terminal services? What are the benefits of each?
- Are there any hidden fees?
- What is the basic insurance coverage? What doesn’t it cover?
- Can I increase my insurance coverage?
- How do I pay?
- Can you provide references?
- Do I have to be available in person for pickup and drop off?
- Do you offer enclosed auto transport?
Car shipping tips
Here are a few tips that can help you streamline the vehicle transport process. Also, don’t forget to check out our guide on preparing your car for shipping!
Clean your car
Get a car wash, hire a couple trustworthy teenagers, or DIY. It’s easier to spot damage, dents, scratches, and nicks on a clean car. Declutter all personal belongings to reduce loss, theft, or damage to your vehicle en transit.
Inspect vehicle and note existing damage
Thoroughly inspect your vehicle, taking pictures and videos as you go. The more documentation you have before you ship your vehicle the easier it will be to make a claim if there are any damages down the line.
Organize your important documents
Your auto shipper will request proof of ownership before you hand over the vehicle, so it’s a good idea to gather your personal identification, proof of insurance, title, and registration.
Align on payment and insurance coverage
Some auto shipping companies require an upfront deposit while others wait until the vehicle arrives at its new location. Make sure you clearly understand your obligations and when you’ll have to pay them.
Ask the car shipping company if your estimate is binding or if it is subject to change. You’ll also want to confirm your quote is inclusive of insurance coverage and upgrade it if necessary.
Confirm pickup and delivery timeline
Auto transport companies may give you a range of dates to expect pickup, or you may be able to drop it off at a terminal. Either way, make sure you know when they’re planning to come and exchange contact information so the driver can give you a heads up when they’re close.
Before handing over your vehicle, make sure you have a clear delivery date or date range at your desired location. You can request proof in writing so you have something to refer to if there’s any confusion down the line.
Some vehicle shipping companies have 24/7 tracking capabilities that automatically adjust the delivery timeline as the car gets closer to its drop-off location.
Lock the doors
Before handing over the keys, lock your vehicle. Car shippers won’t need to get into your car unless there’s an emergency.
Double check the contract and review the bill of lading
Read through the contract to ensure all the information on it is accurate. Double-check that the pickup and delivery locations are correct, review your vehicle condition report, and note any special issues about the car. Sign it and request a copy for your records.
FAQs about how to ship a car
Why should I ship a car instead of driving?
You should ship a car instead of driving if driving would take more time than you have to spare, you have a high mileage vehicle, or it would cost more to drive than ship it. You may also consider shipping a car instead of driving if you’re driving a moving truck rental for a long-distance move.
Is shipping a car worth it?
Shipping a car can be worth it if you’re moving more than 500 miles away from your current home. Otherwise, it may make more sense to drive. Shipping a car is a great option if you’re worried about wear and tear on your existing vehicle, but it’s not the cheapest option overall.
How do you get a quote for car shipping?
You can get a quote for car shipping by calling auto shippers or visiting their website. Car shipping quotes are free and without obligation, so you should always compare your shipping options. Make sure you’re transparent about any specialty needs, such as expedited shipping, door-to-door service, and desired transport method.
What is the cheapest way to ship a car?
Open transport is the cheapest way to ship a car. Enclosed transport may be tempting if you have a classic car or you’re worried about damage from road debris, but it’s significantly more expensive than open carriers.
Request an instant quote from several car shipping companies to find the best price for your desired auto transport services.
Can I ship a car with stuff inside it?
It depends. Some car shipping companies have policies forbidding personal items inside the vehicles they ship, while others say to do so at your own risk. Either way, you should ask your auto transport company before making any assumptions.
It’s important to note that car transport insurance doesn’t cover damage to your personal items or damage to your vehicle due to your personal items.
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