What Has a Lower Pet Shipping Cost: Air Transport or Ground Transport?

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated January 16, 2024

Ensure Your Furry Friend's Comfort!

  • Fast and easy
  • Only pay when you book

Moving or going from one place to another can be slightly stressful, or maybe even very stressful. When you add a pet to the moving mix, it can completely overwhelm you. Research can take up lots of time from your day. You’ve researched the various options available for pet shipping. You have researched the pet shipping cost for each method. But now you’re mulling the two possibilities that seem the most attractive to you.

It’s a stressful task, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming for you. You can avoid having 19 tabs open on your browser. You can avoid making lists and Venn diagrams. We’ll outline the various options for pet transport and tee up air travel and ground transport costs so that you can make an informed decision.

Considering Pet Shipping Cost

There are many options to choose from for pet transportation. From air travel to driving your pet yourself, here are the many options.

Pet Shipping with CitizenShipper

Air Travel

Air travel is usually the fastest way to transport a pet. Still, airlines have many requirements, which can be logistically challenging.

  • Airlines won’t take other pets besides cats and dogs.
  • If your pet is small, it can fly in the cabin in a carrier placed under the seat in front of you.
  • Airline policy allows only one pet per passenger and two pets per flight.
  • If you have a bigger pet, it will have to fly in the cargo hold in a larger carrier that can accommodate a litter box.

Train Travel

Amtrak allows pet transportation (only cats and dogs), but there are several requirements and costs. Although the cost of having your pet on board totals $25, total costs for train travel will vary depending on the distance. 

One important thing to note is that only small dogs and cats are allowed because they have to fit in a carrier underneath the seat in front of you.

Ground Transport

There are many ground transport pet companies. You can easily find them online; they each provide different types of pet travel services. Make sure you look out for fake shipping companies, because they are everywhere and will go after your money like a hawk. It’s smart to look at the warning signs when doing your diligent research.

Ensure all pet transport services adhere to the USDA’s rules and regulations in pet handling. Go to IPATA for informative articles about recommended pet transporters, fake scamming companies and more.

Driving Yourself

Driving your pet yourself is a possibility, as well. It’s the easiest method because there are no requirements outside your control. You’ll have to have the documentation ready upon arrival. This option has several cost variables, including accommodation, food expenses, car wear and tear and gas costs. You have to deal with all the potty breaks and logistics, which can be stressful and overwhelming.

Using a Marketplace

Going the two-way marketplace (like CitizenShipper) route is a smart option if you want trusted, reputable drivers and save money. You can get free quotes after posting your pet’s transport information on the website.

Ground Pet Shipping Cost Factors

The total cost of transporting your pet will vary based on various factors. Let’s take a look at them.

Moving Distance

Distance plays a major factor in the price of pet ground transport. If your final destination is a few hundred miles away, it’s safe to assume that the costs will not be as high. It’s less time the driver is on the clock, less vehicle usage and fewer fuel charges. But suppose the move is thousands of miles away (like across the country). You’ll have to pay more for the driver’s long hours, the vehicle’s wear and tear, the fuel costs and the other expenses associated with the journey.

Pet Size

Ground transportation companies have different rules regarding pets. If they’re smaller, they’re going to be placed in a carrier and transported easily. But if you have a larger pet, that will definitely increase the price, which isn’t surprising. Some companies will also take pets other than cats or dogs, but they may not take certain exotic pets like snakes or ferrets (since ferrets and hedgehogs are illegal in many states). A good thing to consider is that if you have multiple pets, there may be a package deal you can take advantage of.

Health Documentation

The destination state will have specific rules and regulations regarding pets. Check online to see what requirements are needed. Most states and pet transportation companies (and airlines) will require your pet’s vaccination documents and a health certificate filled out by a veterinarian, which can cost from $50 to $300. A pet health certificate is a form that documents that your pet is up-to-date on their vaccines and is in good health condition to travel.


The pet transport service will require a carrier or crate for traveling, especially if they are traveling with other pets. Crates for small pets can range from $50-$100, but larger crates can cost up to $200.

Air Pet Shipping Cost Factors

Airlines will only take dogs and cats. Smaller pets are easier to transport by air. If they’re under a specific weight limit and their carrier fits under the seat, they can travel with your or a hired air nanny in the cabin. These tickets are far more affordable than tickets for the cargo hold. 

Transporting a dog in the plane’s cabin is estimated to be around $125 one way.

Larger pets must go in the cargo hold. They’ll need a special crate that meets all airline requirements. Airlines will also charge significantly higher prices for cargo hold tickets, which can range from $500 and $1,000.

Ground Transportation Is More Reliable

The bottom line is that ground transportation is more reliable than air travel. There are several reasons why it’s a better option than flying.

  1. There is a prohibition on pets other than cats and dogs.
  2. Flying can stress your pet, especially if they are in the cargo hold.
  3. With the recent flight cancellations over the holidays, flying can be unreliable because of weather and other factors.
  4. Ground travel logistics are easier and can offer door-to-door delivery, which is impossible with air travel.

Product Recommendations for Pet Shipping

Whatever option you choose, pet travel needs to be planned out, including equipment for the journey. So what products are good to buy for transporting a pet? 

Let’s take a look at some essential must-haves that can come in handy.

For Dogs and Cats

Airline-Approved Pet Travel Bag

  • It’s durable and safe, as well as water repellent.
  • It’s multi-functional with lots of storage, which is essential for travel.
  • It can conveniently carry food, water, leashes, and other essential items for your pets.

kathson Crate Dog Bowl, Removable Stainless Steel Hanging Pet Cage Bowl Food & Water Feeder

  • Made from stainless steel and safe to drink from.
  • Easy to clean and small enough to take them anywhere, which is great for traveling.
  • Leak proof and sturdy.

petisfam Portable Cat Travel Litter Box

  • Easy to clean litter box.
  • Odor free and also leak proof, which is essential for travel.
  • Lightweight and easily transportable.

ARCA Pet Cat and Dog First Aid Kit

  • This is an essential first aid kit that can be used in emergency situations.
  • There are 100 pieces to this kit, all directed for your pet’s safety.
  • This kit also contains an emergency pet thermometer, emergency collar, tick remover and a 4×6 mini pouch.

For Other Pets

Transport Container for Reptiles

  • The container can be used for all types of reptiles or amphibians.
  • Because there is a double-opening design, it is easily ventilated and safe for your pets.
  • The container is durable, easy to clean and travel-friendly.

Aqueon Betta Bowl Kit

  • Filling up to half a gallon of water, the bowl is easy to clean.
  • There is an easy feeding door allowing for fish to access food with no problems.
  • The aquarium plant, gravel and food samples are included in the purchase.

Texsens Bird Carrier Backpack

  • The backpack is breathable and allows good room for your bird to have a relaxed time during travel.
  • There is a shade cover so your bird doesn’t have direct sunlight at all times.
  • Easy to assemble and sturdy, which can last a lifetime.

How CitizenShipper Helps You Get a Lower Pet Shipping Cost

At the end of the day, there are a lot of balls to juggle that you shouldn’t be juggling in the first place. Transporting a dog to another destination is just plain tough. There can be hidden fees right when you turn the corner. It’s just not something you want to deal with. The alternative is using a two-way marketplace like CitizenShipper.

You can find an independent pet transporter in a matter of minutes. You can save money on transportation costs because drivers bid for your business, most often saving up to 60%-70% compared to a traditional pet transportation company.

Using CitizenShipper is Easy, Peasy, Lemon Squeezy!

  • Post a free listing on our marketplace, and in a matter of minutes, a fleet of background-checked, vetted and screened drivers will send you quotes. 
  • CitizenShipper helps streamline the USDA approval process for drivers, giving you more confidence in their abilities.
  • You’ll be able to select a quote that fits your budget, and once you do that, you’re ready to book your trip.
  • We charge a modest fee that varies per mileage, which accounts for our stringent vetting process, as well as improving the customer experience.

Booking a driver solely on price is not something we recommend because the best transporters usually charge a little more. You should read reviews, communicate with the driver through the instant-messaging system and look at past experience before making your decision.

The bottom line is your cherished pet will be in good hands with the qualified drivers on CitizenShipper’s network. They will treat your pet as if they were their own.

Because we’re the #1 pet transportation platform in the United States, we work hard to ensure your peace of mind throughout the entire process. CitizenShipper provides added benefits — up to $1,000 Pet Protection, a Booking Assurance Guarantee, a messaging system where you can communicate directly with the driver and 24/7 TeleVet access through our partner FirstVet.

The Bottom Line

Although there are many options for pet transportation, there are really two main ways to travel with a pet — either air travel or ground transport. Those are the easiest with the most abundant of possibilities. The deciding factor to consider in choosing which pet shipping service is right for you can be the cost. It’s tricky; the pet shipping cost can either make you or break you.

There are big differences between choosing one option or the other. Air travel may be easier, but it’s logistically challenging and more stressful on your pet. If you have a pet other than a dog or cat, air travel is a no-go. There are just so many things that can come into play.

Trusted by over 100,000+ pet lovers, the best option is booking a driver through CitizenShipper’s marketplace. It is safe and secure, and drivers on CitizenShipper know your pet means everything to you. They will ensure proper, loving care during the journey to that final destination without stress and chaos.

When you trust drivers on our CitizenShipper network, you won’t need to pull your hair out from the stress. The drivers on our network can really save the day! Your pet will be in the best of hands. 

Get a driver that will save your day. Post your pet’s transport now, and get free quotes faster than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

This post contains affiliate links. Read more here.