[Price Calculator Inside] How much does it cost to ship a car?

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated February 23, 2024

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You are moving from New York to Los Angeles, but you don’t have the time or energy to drive with your car and now you are wondering about how you could transport it otherwise? Then you are probably asking yourself what the cheapest way to ship a car might be. To ship a car seems like a big logistical challenge, but this article will help you get an overview of all factors you have to keep in mind, which are influencing the price of your car shipping.

If looking to ship a car long-distance, there’s a couple of questions about car shipping you’ll need answers to. First off, how safe is it to just load a vehicle onto a trailer and transport it? And secondly, how much does it cost to ship a car cross country?

The answer to the first of these is simple enough: it’s as safe as you make it. After all, different folks have different standards. One person moving cost-to-cost might decide to drive the car there on their own. Another might want it enclosed in a shipping container, and would be willing to pay extra for that. This brings us to the second question…

The answer to that is a little trickier. Car shipping prices are very unstable, no matter if you are working with a big or small shipping company. Several different factors affect the car shipping cost, and we’ll look into each of them in turn.

How much should car shipping cost, on average?

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a car shipping within the continental United States is $950. Obviously, that doesn’t tell us much. We don’t know the distance, the route, or the type of shipping used. But their data does include some useful information: The average is $1 cost per mile for the first 500 miles and $0.6 per mile for trips over 1,000 miles long.

As an example, let’s say that you’ve got a compact vehicle under 3,000 lbs in weight. What is the average cost to transport a vehicle 1,000 miles in that case? It should be about $570, or $0.57 per mile. But if your vehicle was a 4,500 lbs minivan, the same trip might cost $970, or $0.97 per mile.

Again, you should only rely on these averages to get a rough approximation of what you should expect to pay. There’s no way of telling how closely your specific situation will fit these abstractions. But if you’re new to the process of bargaining with haulers, it does help to have a starting point.

What is the average cost of car shipping in practice?

The shipping cost of car transport is as high as you’re willing to pay and as low as you’re able to negotiate! In practical terms, it’ll most likely run you several hundred dollars. This varies depending on the size of the car, the distance it travels, and the time of the year. We’ll look into each of these contributing factors to the average cost to ship a car in detail below.

If looking for a more precise estimate, it’s pretty easy to get a quote from an auto transport company. Just state what kind of car you’re shipping, where from, where to, and how you want it shipped. Within a couple of hours, you should start receiving car shipping quotes based on your car shipping details. Keep in mind, though, that supply and demand fluctuate on a daily basis. If you listed the same auto transport twice in two weeks, you might end up with completely different estimates!

Online price calculators are also available for anyone wondering what is the cost of shipping a car. These software-generated estimates are fairly reliable, but again, require you to enter the specifics of the shipment.

Here’s our online price calculator that comes up with price estimates based on real shipments’ data on CitizenShipper. 👇

Factors that determine auto transport costs

When trying to determine the price to ship your car across the country, the shipping may cost more or less depending on different factors, which come into play. Let’s go through some of the factors, which are influencing the effort of auto transport companies and you have to calculate while finding out the average cost to ship your car:

  • Time of the reservation: If you want to ship a car it makes sense to plan ahead in your search for an auto transportation company, get several quotes, and most importantly make an early reservation.  Different companies bidding against each other can push the price down, while the pressure of getting a carrier short-term raises the prices significantly!
  • Distance traveled: This one is simple, it is different if you move from New York to Los Angeles or to New Haven – the longer the distance, the better the price per mile. For short trips, most auto transport companies need to charge about $1 per mile to make it worth their while. But on a long-distance trip, they can afford to lower this significantly. For coast-to-coast car transport, you can get quotes as low as 40 cents/mile. Obviously, the average cost of shipping a car internationally will be higher!
  • Starting and destination point: There is a big difference between terminal-to-terminal and door-to-door transportation. Metropolitan areas usually have more car transport trucks available, which means that the shipping is typically cheaper than in a rural area. The effort to add an extra stop on a shipping lane may cost extra money. It can be useful to be flexible in the pick-up and delivery locations for your auto transport. It can spare you a lot of money if you are up for a road trip towards a terminal that is more convenient for the driver instead of making them come to you. Ask your driver for their shipping lane and see if there is a location, which is not far from your point of destination. If you want the comfort of your car getting picked up directly in front of your house, ask about the possibilities of door-to-door transportation.
  • Route: Route closures, high traffic, and direct routes can all influence the price and are very dependent on the individual circumstances of your shipping.
  • Type of vehicle: It is important to note that vehicle size matters a lot for transport companies. As mentioned above, it’s often much more complicated to transport a heavy vehicle type than a compact one. And this is reflected in the shipping quote you’ll get. Bigger vehicles cost more to ship. It could easily cost you half as much to move a Honda Civic compared to a Ford F-150, truck, or SUV. In the size of your car the length and the height matter – for example, the length of a sedan is 189 inches. Vehicles longer than this are more tricky to fit into a transport vehicle and therefore more expensive to ship. Another factor is the condition of your vehicle. It’s more expensive to ship a car, which is not in working condition.
  • Type of transport: Open transport is commonly used to transport cars, carrying 7-10 apiece. For added protection against the elements, you can choose an enclosed transport / enclosed carrier instead. However, an enclosed car transport trailer is usually smaller (3-6 vehicles) and thus more expensive than open transport trailers. So what is the average cost to ship a car in an enclosed transport, then? The auto shipping costs are roughly 50% higher than using open transport. If you don’t have an especially exotic, custom, or antique car, we recommend using open transport because it’s the cheapest way to ship while usually, an enclosed transport / enclosed car is not necessary. 
  • Time of the year: Since cars are typically hauled in bulk, it’s cheaper to organize auto transport at a time of year when there’s more demand. The prices may vary at different seasons. During the summer months, which is the peak shipping time of year, you’ll see quotes about 30% higher than you would in winter or fall. If you can plan ahead, ask the auto transport company about peak rates and off-season discounts on the shipping costs. Another factor regarding time: It is always cheaper if you have some time on your hands. If you are flexible with the pick-up and delivery times you might be able to spare some money. 
  • Other arrangements: When negotiating with a transport company, feel free to consult them on any special requirements you might have. We’ll discuss these optional arrangements below, but for now, just remember that each adds to the cost of transport. It’s your call, but we recommend spending generously to cover the basics first.

Hiring the right transporter for shipping a vehicle

Here are some of the factors we advise you to consider when choosing which vehicle hauler to hire for car shipping.

  • Experience counts. Ideally, you would only deal with experienced, reliable auto transport companies. That’s not always possible, of course, but make the attempt anyway. It shouldn’t take too much time to do some research and learn how well-established a shipping company is.
  • User feedback. It’s common practice to check out your car transport hauler’s reviews before hiring him, and with good reason. When comparing quotes, give the advantage to offers coming from reputable folks with plenty of satisfied customers. Don’t disqualify people because of one or two bad reviews, but take everything into consideration.
  • Insurance coverage. It’s standard practice for professional shipping companies to offer insurance. Don’t forget to ask each transporter about the coverage they have when they ship a vehicle, whether it’s capped or not, and what the deductibles are.
  • Personal touch. It’s usually a good sign when you’re able to talk to the hauler directly, rather than their dispatcher or superior. Human interaction is something we all instinctively value and rely on in making decisions. If you’re a good judge of character, it makes sense to hire someone who sounds like they’re serious about their job and have been at it for a while in the auto transport business.
  • Too good to be true? Then again, transport companies will occasionally quote you at an exceptionally affordable price. You shouldn’t be too suspicious of good deals, but don’t blindly jump at the opportunity either. Keep in mind to consider what they’re not telling you, and take the time to do your research as outlined above.

Final words

When all is said and done, estimating the cost to ship a vehicle is only possible on a case-by-case basis. “How much does it cost to ship a car cross country” is a question only you can answer: It depends on whether you choose open transport/open trailer or enclosed transport/enclosed trailer, which time of the year you want to ship your vehicle on how far your car has to travel. And obviously, the answer to the question is based on the shipping companies’ offers, so you get the best answer after you get some quotes in. Find out what shipping companies offer!

It’s not easy to find the cheapest way! So by all means, make sure you plan ahead and explore all your options to transport a car. For many people to ship a car can feel like a stressful and big project. But don’t get stuck in research, sweating every last detail. Just find a professional transport service that you can trust, and get all the answers you need before pulling the trigger. They are trained in finding the right and most cost-effective shipping option for your individual vehicle transport needs.

CitizenShipper is a great option to transport your car. The marketplace-based shipping company has the great advantage that you can post your individual shipping including all information about the type of car you want to ship and where you want to ship it and professional and experienced drivers will answer quotes that you can negotiate online. The competition inside the platform will keep the prices low and you can choose the perfect carrier for your car shipping based on the best price and rating from other customers. CitizenShipper drivers are working all across the country and therefore cover metropolitan as well as rural areas. 

Just post your shipping today and find out more. If you run into any sort of trouble along the way, reach out to us and we’ll help you sort it out! We wish you a good move and your car a safe journey.