Car Shipping Cost and Other Factors That Determine Rates

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated February 23, 2024

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Factors determining rates for car shipping.

More and more people in this day and age are moving to more affordable places. It’s a growing trend as the cost of living increases but others have found themselves moving because of new job opportunities or simply because the location is desirable. No matter your reason for packing your bags, one of the most complicated and costly possessions to transport is your car. When you’re budgeting for a move, it’s important to know how much to set aside for the car shipping cost.

While we led with shipping a car for a long-distance move, there are many other reasons to ship a car. Perhaps you’re selling your vehicle to a buyer in another state — or you are buying one yourself! Military personnel are frequently given a permanent change of station orders.

Whatever the reason, you’re wondering how much you’ll expect to pay. It’s difficult to give an exact answer because there are so many factors. However, understanding the factors that determine the car shipping cost will help you arrive at a ballpark figure.

Car Shipping Cost Factors

As mentioned, there are several factors that determine the rates car shipping companies will quote.

The factors include:

  • Distance
  • Location-specific variables
  • Method of shipment
  • Make and model of the car
  • The vehicle’s condition
  • Seasonality
  • Cost of gas
  • Requests for expedited shipping
  • Additional services

Distance Between Pickup and Delivery Destination

Car shipping costs are determined on a price per mile basis. Usually, transporters charge less per mile the longer the trip.

  • The average cost of shipping a car under 200 miles is about $2.92.
  • If you’re transporting your vehicle more than 1,000 miles, the car shipping cost drops drastically to about $0.78 per mile.

When it comes to transporting a car across state lines, there may be regulations requiring the car shipping company to present documentation. This could cause the price to increase.

Location-Specific Issues

Location, location, location. It’s a thing and it’s always been a thing. The location of the transport is important in determining the ultimate price tag.

The United States is a big country with much land diversity — from large coastal cities to flat, rural farming areas and hard-to-reach mountainous towns. Generally speaking the easier it is to access your pick-up and drop-off location, the less you’ll be charged.

If your vehicle’s starting point or destination is in a rural or remote area, it may force the transporter to deviate from major routes significantly. This extra time could lead to a higher per-mile rate.

On the other hand, major urban areas may have toll roads that drive up the cost — traversing large, heavy traffic areas like Los Angeles or Washington DC could also increase the cost as the driver will waste precious time in gridlock.

Shipping Method to Transport Your Car

The shipping method you use to transport your car will determine whether you will have a higher or lower quote. There are two types of shipping methods — enclosed car transport and open transport.

Enclosed Car Transport

Enclosed car transport is when your car is being shipped in an enclosed transport. It’s ideal if you don’t want to get the car damaged in any way. Enclosed car transport is also a safer option in terms of auto theft. Owners of expensive cars, rare, vintage, or exotic cars should choose an enclosed transport service, as it is the best way to protect your car. The downside to this option is that enclosed transport services will be more expensive.

Uncovered Car Shipping

Open transport or uncovered car shipping is the opposite of enclosed car transport. With this option, the transporter loads your car onto an open carrier. While it’s more affordable than enclosed car transport, there is the chance of damage from dust and road debris. It’s also more exposed to weather elements and carries a higher risk of theft — though it’s very rare.

The Make and Model of Your Vehicle

Not all cars are created equal, and that’s also true of transport. The spectrum of the cost depends on the size of the vehicle. When it comes to the type of vehicle, the costs fluctuate greatly. If you have a lower cost vehicle like a Subaru, transporting it from Point A to Point B will be cheaper than if you have an exotic car like a Maserati or a vintage car like a 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom.

Furthermore, it is cheaper to transport based on vehicle size. The bigger the vehicle size (like a Hummer), the more expensive the transportation of such a vehicle will be. If the vehicle size is small, like a Mini Cooper, then it will be more affordable because the transporter can stack more vehicles onto the trailer.

Vehicle’s Condition

The vehicle’s movability, working, or conditions are big factors. Car shipping companies usually drive the car onto the trailer. If the car is non-operational, it requires more maneuvering and effort from the transporter. This will increase the car shipping rate.

Expedited Shipping Requests

It makes sense that the faster you need to transport a vehicle, the more it will cost. It could mean that your car “jumps” the queue of cars waiting to be transported, or the company uses two drivers, taking turns driving so the trailer is always traveling

Time of the Year You Decide to Ship the Vehicle

The season when you need to ship your car has a major effect on the car shipping cost. The slower months are usually in the fall or spring. This time of the year is known as the “stable months.” Why? Because the weather doesn’t change drastically and doesn’t usually experience extreme heat, cold, or precipitation.

This isn’t the case with winter and summer. With more people traveling during these times, demand increases. Plus, the possibility of extreme and unpredictable weather drives up the car shipping cost.

If you have a choice, ship your car during the slower fall and spring months.

The Price of Gas

This is a fairly easy factor — if the price of gas is more expensive than normal, then the price of shipping your car to another location will be more expensive. When gas prices are lower, the price tag will be more affordable.

Additional Services that Affect the Car Shipping Cost

There are additional services auto transport companies provide in order to accommodate you better, the customer. These add-ons greatly improve the car shipping service, but they do cost more money. Add-ons like GPS tracking or top loading (when your car is positioned at the top during an open trailer transport) will increase the quote and ultimate price tag of your car transport.

The Service Provider You Choose

The service provider you choose can make all the difference in determining the rate of shipping your car to its final destination. Some may charge more per mile than other car shipping companies. Others may have other fees attached to their quotes. Everything depends on which company you choose to get a quote from.

Reservation Fee

Some car shipping companies have what’s called a reservation fee, which is a fee to reserve the pick up and drop off of a vehicle. More and more companies have opted to take the reservation fee out, making it attractive to customers who want affordability.

Hidden Fees

This one is a doozy. There are some auto transport companies that are notorious for adding on extra fees after you’ve booked them. It’s important to go with an auto transport company that won’t tack on pesky hidden fees.

When choosing an auto transport company, it’s important to look out for these qualities:

  • They take any type of car — lightweight and heavyweight vehicles, as well as low-cost and higher-end cars.
  • They follow the rules and regulations required by federal and state governments.
  • They communicate effectively and provide regular updates throughout the process.
  • They provide excellent customer service from the beginning of the car shipping process.
  • They have good reviews on various car shipping review websites or on CitizenShipper.
  • There are no hidden fees — they adhere to their initial quote.

How to Get Affordable Car Shipping Services

There are various ways of making sure your car shipping services are affordable without sacrificing safety and security. The best car shipping companies have excellent customer service and don’t try to tack on hidden fees.

After looking at several popular options, you may not be convinced about the quotes you’ve received. If this is the case, consider using a car transport marketplace like CitizenShipper. Because multiple transporters compete for your business, you may be able to find rates that aren’t offered by traditional car haulers. Posting a listing and receiving quotes is easy:

  1. Create a listing on CitizenShipper. Simply add your contact info, the details about your car, the pick-up and drop-off locations, and your preferred transport dates. It’s free to post a listing!
  2. Your listing is visible to a network of vehicle transportation professionals. Every driver on CitizenShipper has passed a stringent background check.
  3. The drivers submit bids on your listing — usually, bids are submitted within minutes! It’s free to look over your quotes, chat with drivers and read reviews.
  4. When you choose the driver you like best, you can book your trip!

We pride ourselves in having excellent customer service and making car shipping run safe, seamless, and stress-free. That speedy roadster of yours will be in good hands with our qualified transporters, who can provide frequent updates through our internal messaging system.

Navigate to the car transport page, plug in your vehicle’s info, and get quotes faster than being stuck in traffic during rush hour!