What Is The Cheapest Way to Transport a Dog Across the Country?

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated April 13, 2024

Ensure Your Furry Friend's Comfort!

  • Fast and easy
  • Only pay when you book
cheapest, transport, dog, country.

Transporting a dog across the country is hard work. There are a lot of logistics to take care of during the process. From choosing a method that is right for you to buying equipment that is best for your dog, things can get overwhelming.

One method you’ve most likely thought of is air travel. However, with the summer months approaching, many airlines have a heat embargo that restricts you from shipping your pet in cargo. If the ground temperature is more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit or less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you won’t be able to transport a large pet in cargo.

This poses quite a problem. By choosing ground transportation, you can avoid those problems. Plus, it’s safer and more humane to transport your pet on the ground than via a plane in the cargo hold. It’s also more reliable because you won’t be dependent on weather conditions to transport your pet.

Of course, you’re not alone in this pet transport process, in a survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), they found that 37% of animal owners travel with their pets each year. With so much demand for pet transportation, there are thousands of pet transporters offering services at a wide range of price points. Using a pet transportation marketplace is the best way to get a variety of quotes with minimal time and effort expended on your part.

  1. Simply create a listing on the marketplace with details about the trip.
  2. Within minutes, several transporters will reach out with bids.
  3. Before you book, you can chat with transporters, read reviews from previous customers and browse their profile.
  4. Once you book a transporter you can communicate via phone, text or email.

Because there’s such a wide selection of drivers on CitizenShipper’s marketplace, you can find a transporter that fits your budget. If you don’t mind paying more for a solo ride or more specialized offerings, that’s available for you. If you need to carefully budget your pet’s transport, you can find great transporters that charge less. There’s simply no better place to find a high-quality transporter at a price you can afford.

How Much To Expect to Pay for Cross-Country Dog Transport

Each method of pet transport has its own cost factors to consider — not only is cost a consideration, but so is the safety and well-being of your pet. Let’s take a look at each option for dog transportation to help you decide what is the right approach for your pooch.

A young couple with a dog in their backyard.

Options for Transporting a Small Dog Cross-Country

Air Travel

  • Air travel is the fastest way to transport a dog across the country.
  • Smaller pets (generally under about 25 pounds including the carrier) have the advantage because they can ride in the cabin under the seat in front of you.
  • Your dog’s carrier, which costs about $50, must be small enough to fit inside and underneath the seat in front of you.
  • There can only be one or two dogs per flight in the cabin, so make sure you call in advance to book your dog.
  • The total one-way amount for airlines like United, Delta, and American costs $125.

Train Travel

  • Amtrak allows pet transportation for cats and dogs only.
  • Restrictions limit transport to small dogs because they have to fit in a carrier underneath your seat. Besides the carrier, the total cost of having your small dog riding with you is $25 plus your ticket.

Pet Ground Transport

  • A traditional transport service is an easy option to consider.
  • Several factors determine the cost: distance, pet size/breeds, health documentation and equipment needs.

Taking the Do-It-Yourself Approach to Pet Transport

If you feel comfortable on the road with your pet for long stretches of time, you can consider simply driving the dog yourself. While it may seem like the least expensive option, there are some cost factors to consider. Depending on these factors, it might actually be less expensive to hire a transporter!

Purchase the Necessary Safety Equipment for Dog Transportation

When you’re driving a dog across the country, you can’t just load them up into the backseat and take off down the road. Your pet’s safety is paramount; that’s why you need to purchase the appropriate travel carrier or backseat harnesses. Of course, accidents are of top concern, but even braking hard and suddenly could result in injury to your dog.

If you don’t already own these materials, you’ll have to purchase them. Most crash-tested harnesses on Amazon run between $20 and $125 — obviously the quality and durability varies widely between these price points. For a truly heavy-duty carrier, you’re looking at spending up to $500. Of course, there are less expensive options available, but if you aren’t getting a hard-sided carrier you might as well just spend the money on a high-quality back seat dog harness.

Of course, you can use the safety equipment every time you drive in the car with your dog. But on trips around town, most dog owners just let their pet sit in the backseat without a harness or carrier. That means you may end up spending between $100 and $250 on equipment you’ll only use once.

Pack a First Aid Kit for Yourself and the Dog

You never know when an emergency can happen on the road. Even if it’s just a small cut while taking a potty break, you need a first aid kit for humans and canines! Some suggested items for the kit include:

  • Non-stick bandages
  • Adhesive tape
  • Gauze pads
  • Cotton balls
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Antibiotic ointment or spray
  • Magnifying glass

Another factor to consider is that your dog may have an accident on the road. Bring cleaning supplies like paper towels, antibacterial wipes and carpet cleaner so you can clean up the mess right away.

And of course, make sure you bring all vet records, vaccinations, vet contact information and other health-related documents when you travel. One benefit of using a pet transportation company like CitizenShipper is its Pet Protection Policy and drivers’ 24/7 access to a televet. If something happens on the road, your pet is covered for up to $1000 — not something you’ll get when you do DIY pet transportation.

Plan Out Your Stops Before You Start Driving

If you’re traveling cross country, you’re going to need to stop for the night along the way. Professional drivers can handle about 12 hours a day on the road; be realistic with how much driving you’re capable of when you plan your route.

  • In addition to your daily driving limit, remember that you’ll need to stop every 3-4 hours for a bathroom and exercise break.
  • Each stop should take about 30 minutes or so.
  • Try to plan places to make stops — a rest stop or park is much better than just pulling off the freeway.
  • You have to eat too! Plan to stop at pet-friendly spaces with outdoor seating. Never leave a dog alone in the car.
  • If your trip will take multiple days, book pet-friendly hotels along the route before you hit the road.
  • Another option for overnight trips is camping, which saves money.
  • The downside of camping is that you’ll have to pack extra equipment which will take up space in your vehicle.
  • Having an additional driver increases the amount of time you spend on the road per day.

When you add together the costs of buying new equipment, paying for food, lodging and gas during the drive and the time you’ll have to take off of work in order to complete the transport, you might actually end up paying more to drive the dog yourself. Carefully weigh these factors before making a decision about transporting your own dog.

A young couple and their dog on the front porch of their home.

Options for Transporting a Large Dog Cross-Country

Air Travel

  • Larger dogs are disadvantaged over smaller dogs because they must go in the cargo hold.
  • They should be in special crates, which cost about $100-$200.
  • The cost of transporting your dog in the cargo hold ranges from $500-$1000, but the exact charges are determined at the time of booking.

Train Travel

Unfortunately, Amtrak prohibits large dogs because they have to fit in a carrier underneath your seat.

Pet Ground Transport

  • Since the factors that determine the cost include pet size and breed, the costs for this option will be higher than for a smaller dog.
  • When doing your research in choosing a pet ground transport company, beware of fake shipping companies.
  • You check IPATA for informative articles and trustworthy pet shipping companies.

Driving Yourself

  • Driving a large dog across the country is more challenging than doing it with a small dog.
  • The same variables apply — accommodation, food expenses, car wear and tear, and gas costs.
  • However, because your dog is larger, you will need to stop more often for potty breaks, walks and ensure your dog isn’t as stressed of being in a confined space for a long time.

What’s the Most Affordable Way to Transport a Dog Across the Country?

The most affordable way to transport a dog across the country is using a two-way marketplace like CitizenShipper. This route is smart because drivers compete for your business. The drivers are background-checked, so they are reputable and trustworthy. You can get free quotes after posting your pet’s transport information on the website.

A dog and a cat promoting free driver quotes.

Why CitizenShipper Is the Best Place to Find Affordable Pet Transportation

CitizenShipper is the best place to ensure affordable pet transportation because drivers compete for your business. We have thousands of reviews on TrustPilot, with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5.

Our platform offers many advantages over traditional pet transporters:

  • Drivers are background-checked and USDA-registered drivers who will send you quotes within minutes when you post your pet’s transport.
  • Compare bids and chat with drivers across our network before you book your trip.
  • You can discuss your transport details directly with the driver using our instant messaging system. The driver will also give you updates while on their journey.

 You can save up to 60-70% compared to traditional shipping services by using CitizenShipper. Don’t just pick the cheapest bid because sometimes the better, more trusted drivers charge a little more. You should always read reviews and the driver profiles.

Other Benefits of Using CitizenShipper

Being the #1 pet transporter, CitizenShipper provides some amazing added benefits. This includes a $1,000 Pet Protection Guarantee, Booking Assurance Guarantee, direct communication with the driver who provides updates and 24/7 TeleVet access through our partner FirstVet.

Bottom Line

If you want a hassle-free, transparent process, booking a driver through CitizenShipper is for you. It’s affordable, and there are no hidden fees. Most importantly, your driver will make sure your pup is properly taken care of. Don’t hesitate to post your pup’s transport now and get free quotes in a jiffy!