How much do car haulers charge per car? | CitizenShipper

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 16, 2024

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Tens of millions of cars are transported across the U.S. every year, so car haulers have a pretty established costing system when they offer quotes. Car haulers are always in demand since there are plenty of reasons why people choose to ship a car. A few of those reasons are:

  • Luxury or vintage vehicles to keep mileage down.
  • Cars sold out of the state
  • Vehicles that don’t work
  • Moving house

Whatever the reason, you want to know how much you are likely to be charged for car hauling work.

The cost of their quotes will depend heavily on a few factors, which are true across the board. We will dive into them a little more deeply in a second, but first, let’s look at the average price you can expect in order to ship your car.

On average, how much do car haulers charge per car?

Here’s what we can derive from CitizenShipper’s internal data on winning bids:

  • Average car shipping cost overall (in the United States): about $680
  • Average car shipping cost per mile (up to 500 miles): about 85c per mile
  • Average car shipping cost per mile (1,000+ miles): about 70c per mile

But what about the national average?

According to one source:

“The avg cost to ship a car within the continental United States is $950. The highest average price is $1,200, and the lowest average price is $700. The per-mile avg for moving a car is $0.60 per mile for trips of 1,000 miles or more.”

These stats are intended as a rough rule of thumb. While CitizenShipper is on average the most cost-effective option for car hauling within the United States, there are many other factors that will always influence the cost. The hauler’s quotes will vary depending on these factors.

So what are they? The more you know, the better you can assess whether a quote is too high, or suspiciously cheap. They also can help you get a reduced quote by avoiding certain costly factors you may not have realized would influence the cost.

What factors influence car shipping quotes?

While this is not a comprehensive list, these 7 factors are the ones most likely to make a difference to your quote.

1. Distance

This is the most predictable factor. It almost goes without saying: the farther the car has to travel, the higher the cost will be. That’s because of two further costly factors that are increased by distance:

  • Fuel costs. Traveling further requires more fuel, and the price of that fuel can vary between states. So not only does distance increase fuel costs but it can change on a state-by-state basis too. Something to be aware of!
  • Labor costs. Driving further takes time. On longer drives, there is also a greater risk of unexpected delays, road closures, adverse events i.e. earthquakes or floods, which slow down the driver. The quote may take these possible delaying factors into account when charging for distance. 

And it’s not just how far they drive, it’s where to

2. Location and route

Before you receive a quote, you’ll need to provide a pick-up point and a destination. The location of these points and the route between them will affect not just because of distance, but because of the type of road. In short: you will be charged more for transit along rural roads than on freeways. By transporting a car to Los Angeles or New York, you will receive a lower quote than a small town along the route from the interstate.

That means you can save money by booking a drop-off point closer to a major interstate and driving it to the last, rural stretch yourself. A bus ticket from a small town to the interstate may work out cheaper than booking a hauler to reach the small town. 

Professional car transporters may give door-to-door service for customers who pay extra, while customers on a budget tend to choose a method that involves picking up and dropping off from a terminal. This minimizes the time a driver spends off an interstate while usually making the distance shorter too.

3. Season

This might be the most surprising factor affecting cost on this list. Yes, the time of year does affect car shipping rates.

All industries have slow and high seasons, and car shipping is no different. The slow season is the winter months and the high season is the summer months. That’s because people are more likely to move homes or go on vacation in the summer. In fact, more than half of home relocations in the US occur during summer. And since household movers are now permitted to ship vehicles by federal law, car haulers find themselves in high demand.

Winter tends to be the slower season, so if it is possible to have your car hauled in winter, you’re likely to receive a lower quote. It may be quite a sizable deduction depending on the distance. Depending on weather and other factors, there may be exceptions to this.

If there is snow blocking the roads the car hauler needs to take to go, that will cause delays that you may be charged in expectation of. If the roads are impassable, the added cost to your quote will be even higher.

In addition, the winter months are called the “snowbird season” in some states. The name refers to retirees moving south to move to states like Texas and Florida for warmer weather and more favorable living costs at this time. This makes the freeways busy, but in one direction only. This means hauling costs from Kansas to Florida will be more expensive than Florida to Kansas during this season. So keep the ‘locality demand rate’ in mind when choosing when to book a driver to ship your car.

4. Insurance

Many car transport companies offer basic insurance. Online marketplaces that bring together drivers and customers (eg. CitizenShipper) allow drivers to pledge their own insurance cover, which may vary between drivers. In either case, it is imperative that you ask before agreeing on a quote if it is not stated clearly!

Before agreeing on a quote, you should be crystal clear on what is not covered by the insurance (limitations) and what is (deductibles). Personal effects, for example, are unlikely to be covered by a basic insurance package. That is why you are advised to remove all personal effects from the car before it is picked up by the driver.

In the end, you might feel impelled to purchase additional insurance from a third-party insurer. This may better guarantee full coverage of your car while it’s in the driver’s hands. Of course, the cost of that additional coverage will also affect your car shipping quote, so we only recommend buying it if your car is delicate, vintage, or highly expensive.

Sidenote: It is sensible to take a few pictures of your car before it is hauled. That way, in the unlikely event that you do need to make a claim, you will have the right evidence for your insurer to pay up.

5. Experience

Drivers with expertise in transporting cars, who’ve been doing it for years and know the pitfalls to avoid and the tips to make the hauling go smoothly, are in more demand than drivers who have yet to complete one job. Naturally, this experience comes with a price tag, since customers who care about their cars are usually willing to pay a little extra to shipping service if the driver themselves is an old pro. 

The best ways to be certain of a driver’s experience are:

  1. Testimonials. Many drivers who receive good feedback from satisfied customers will not hide it! Their driver profile will tend to display it proudly. If those testimonials refer to the kind of car hauling you are interested in buying, so much the better. A person with zero testimonials implies they have either not yet done a job, which may mean they will be cheaper, or they have transported cars before but not to the customer’s satisfaction. A third option is they simply forgot to solicit feedback – but who wants a careless driver?
  2. Online third-party reviews. Some shipping services will have reviews on Facebook or Yelp. It’s always a good idea to check what people are saying about a service before committing to pay them. It’s also a good way to compare shipping services or individual drivers. However, do be cautious of the same user complaining repeatedly and constantly about slow deliveries, damage, or issues with customer service. It potentially could be a member of a rival service seeking to undermine its competitor. Yes, it happens!
  3. Ask them! A service like CitizenShipper will put you in contact with the driver themselves, and you can find out from the horse’s mouth (so to speak) what experience they have with this kind of shipment and what equipment they use. This is a fairer indication of the driver’s level of experience than speaking to a customer service representative, and you can make the driver aware of any quirks your car has before they come to ship it.

6. Vehicle

When you post a shipment to receive quotes, you will need to list the make and model of your car as well as the distance, dates, pick-up point, and destination. You should also include the condition of your vehicle and whether it has been modified in any way.

As you might expect, modified cars, vintage cars, and cars with modifications require special care and attention from the driver.  Not only that, cars that are wider, longer, or taller than avg. will also require special treatment, even special trailers or trucks. The average height of sedans, for example, is 57 inches, whereas SUVs are from 63 to 73 inches tall, making SUVs more expensive to transport than sedans.

Even simple modifications like roof racks, which alter the car’s size, will be reflected in your quote. What’s more, if your car is in an ‘inoperable’ condition, i.e. broken down and fragile, that too will incur higher costs due to the extra care and types of equipment they need to travel.

To spare yourself unexpected costs and surprises, be as detailed in your description of the car as you can when you post the shipment. That way you’re more likely to get a fairer quote and a driver with the right pieces of equipment to guarantee safe transit for your vehicle.

If it’s a motorcycle you wish to transport, find out more in our dedicated motorcycle shipping area. As a very broad rule, shipping a motorcycle in the US costs around $500, give or take. You can find out exactly how much by posting a shipment for free on our marketplace.

7. Open or enclosed transport

You have a choice to make when you lodge your shipment request: open auto transport vs. enclosed auto transport? These are the two basic types you might have heard of and their names tell the story.

The cheaper option is open auto transport. Your car will be transported in a carrier (or larger piece of equipment) with as many as seven other cars. You’ve probably seen vehicles like huge trucks on freeways before, but they tend to be used by large auto haulers in the industry such as Montway. Smaller auto haulers like sole traders will tend to transport cars one at a time, so your car receives more personalized care. But in both cases, the car is exposed to the elements. Owners of vintage jags may think twice about booking open auto transport and its 95% success rate of bringing cars to their destination in the same condition that they left.

Enclosed auto transport can be more expensive but it is also more secure. Closed auto transport also protects your car from dirt, dust, road debris, grime, and mud. While it comes at a higher price, it is recommended in two circumstances:

  1. If your car is a classic or vintage car, not very durable, or expensive for other reasons.
  2. If the haul will happen in a northern state during wintertime when the weather is likely to be angrier than at any other time and place in America.

Under these conditions, it is wise to request the more expensive enclosed auto transport.

Beware of ultra-cheap quotes

The industry of car hauling business does attract its share of scam artists and fraudsters. They offer a quote that’s too good to be true, demand payment upfront and when the pick-up date comes around, they’re nowhere to be found. 

Avoid becoming a victim by

a) not paying until after delivery, and

b) comparing against other quotes to see if it is highly and inexplicably unusual.

Not all ultra-cheap quotes are scams, however. But it is still important to be cautious. Some companies are able to offer ‘super affordable rates’ by sacrificing consumer protection, for example by hiring drivers with zero experience and no insurance. Since the cost is so attractive, you may be tempted to take the risk. But be warned that the damage that may result will be a lot more expensive than an avg. car shipping cost.

How much does it cost per car on different routes?

Here are the winning bids for some popular routes:

  • Coast to Coast: about $1,000
  • North to South: about $680
  • Midwest to West: about $860
  • Midwest to East: about $650

For trucks, SUVs, and other larger vehicles, just add 10% to 15% to the figures listed above.

Although CitizenShipper is based in the US, we have done some research on the costs of car shipping between the US and other countries. If you were curious, a shipment going to the United Kingdom will cost up to $1,300. To ship to Australia can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000.

We hope this answers your question at least to some degree. Again, we must emphasize that these estimates are rough, derived from our internal bidding statistics. 

To get a more precise quote, list your shipment for free on CitizenShipper today. Based on the specifics you include, independent haulers will let you know exactly how much they’d charge. 

For more information on car shipping costs, check out this article. If you have any other questions or comments, feel free to contact us directly.

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