What Documents are Required to Ship a Car? | CitizenShipper

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 16, 2024

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If planning to ship a car across state lines, securing the necessary documentation is usually a good first step. Your transporter needs to be able to prove that they’re legally moving the vehicle. But what documents will you need to provide, exactly? And how long does it take to procure this paperwork?

Most car haulers using CitizenShipper operate within the continental United States, so we’ll limit ourselves to describing domestic regulations. Here’s a quick rundown of what documents are required to ship a car domestically.

1. Bill of lading

Now, this is the big one. The bill of lading (BOL) is a document issued by your chosen transporter and signed by you, the shipping customer. It certifies that the transporter has received your car and the condition it’s in at pick-up. During the move, it functions as a “contract of carriage”, certifying that the transporter is legally in charge of your vehicle. Once the car is delivered, you sign the BOL again to certify that you’ve received it. 

There are other possible uses for the bill of lading. For instance, if your car has sustained damage during the move, the BOL would be amended to document this. Both you and the transporter would sign it, attesting to the damage. Without this step, insurance companies might refuse to cover the damage. Speaking of which… 

2. Insurance information

This is rarely a document that you’d have to provide yourself. Instead, the transporter’s insurance coverage typically applies. Still, you would need to have that document in hand, outlining the terms and conditions of their insurance. 

Although most vehicle shipments go off without a hitch, insurance coverage is still crucial. You shouldn’t sign a shipping contract before receiving a document that details the other party’s insurance information.

3. Proof of insurance

In contrast to what’s outlined above, on rare occasions, it’s the customer’s insurance that covers the car in transport. If that’s the type of car shipping you’ve arranged, you’ll be the one providing proof of insurance to the transporter! 

This occurs very rarely, though. Most shipping companies will agree to ship without proof of insurance. After all, if you don’t mind your car being uninsured, why would they? If and when it does happen, though, your insurance provider should be able to issue the documentation.

4. Title and registration

Another optional piece of paperwork, the title and registration usually come together. The registration legally binds the vehicle to you, its owner. The title proves your ownership of the vehicle. 

It’s fairly uncommon for a car transporter to require your title and registration. Under certain circumstances, however, this type of paperwork becomes required, so keep a copy of these documents on hand. 

If you’re still paying loans on the car and don’t have the title yet, you’re not technically its sole owner. So instead of a title, you’d provide a letter of permission from the car’s lien holder (typically a bank).

5. Photo ID

Some transporters might ask you for a photo ID before they ship your car. In most cases, this serves only the transporter’s internal database. (They want to keep a neat record of all their customers.) If this turns out to be the case, you can use your driver’s license or any other form of identification.

Other jurisdictions

The paperwork listed above should satisfy the legal requirements for car transport in the continental US. Things can get a little more complicated if you’re shipping abroad, requiring a few additional documents. Proof of sales tax, power of attorney, notarized bills of sale — things of that nature.

Don’t panic, though! Whether shipping domestically or abroad, the easiest way to get through all this is by consulting your chosen transporter. If unsure as to what paperwork you need to ship your car, just talk to them and work things out. They should be able to tell you exactly what documents are necessary, and where to get them.