How To Safely Ship a Car at an Affordable Rate

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated April 24, 2023
Guide to safely transporting a vehicle via truck.

It’s a common thing to move in today’s world. With high rents in some states and many jobs going remote, people are flocking to more affordable locales. People have the opportunity to finally live in a state they’ve always wanted to live in. Maybe you’re in the military and received orders to move — known as permanent change of station orders. There are military bases all across the country; if you’re serving, sometimes you have to ship your belongings — including your car — to where you’ve been stationed. 

It’s also common to sell your car and with online listings, it’s become easier to sell to an out of state buyer. But the question you ask yourself is, “How do I ship a car?” Followed by, “How do I ship it safely and affordably?”

Is Shipping a Car a Good Idea?

The simple answer here is yes. The reason? If you have to move or sell your car, then shipping your car is the best way to get it where it needs to be. The car can’t magically transport itself to another location and if you are selling your car, it’s always a good idea to ship the car to its new owner rather than have them go pick it up themselves.

Should I Ship a Car or Drive it Myself?

This is something you should really think about. Driving the car yourself is easy if you have the time. Planning the logistics and multiple variables can be overwhelming. You also have to look at the costs associated with driving your vehicle. The costs aren’t just gas; you have to factor in the accommodation and food.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to ensure proper vehicle registration and license plates from the particular state you are going to be living in (if you are not selling your car).

In regards to hiring a car shipping company, it means you barely have to lift a finger. The car shipping company handles most of the details — all you have to do is make sure the car is ready for transport and arrange for someone to be pick it up at the destination.

What Type of Cars Can You Ship?

You can ship any type of car — from exotic cars, luxury vehicles to SUVs, trucks and regular Fords or Hondas. The devil is in the details. Certain processes need to be completed and the processes depend on the type of car you’re having transported.

For shipping everyday vehicles, you can choose between enclosed or open transport.

  • Enclosed transport involves transporting a vehicle in an enclosed trailer. The advantage of this approach is that the car is protected from dirt, debris, moisture and any other element you might experience on the road.
  • Open transport involves hauling the boat on a flatbed. The trailer is open — meaning it doesn’t have walls or a roof.

When it comes to rare, vintage or antique cars, it’s recommended that you use enclosed transport. This will prevent the vehicle from experiencing anything that could potentially cause damage.

How to Ship a Car from Coast to Coast

Most auto transport companies, if not all, offer coast-to-coast shipping services. If you’re moving from the west coast to the east coast, it’s very possible to transport your vehicle. When hiring a car shipping company, do your research to find the best option.

  • Once that happens, you’ll decide if you want covered or uncovered car shipping.
  • Then you can choose between door-to-door transport or terminal-to-terminal transport. Some companies only offer terminal-based transportation.

Do Auto Shipping Companies Charge Per Mile?

Auto shipping companies charge per mile, but the way it’s estimated might be a bit different than you might think. There are many variables that go with car shipping — including location, distance and car type. Usually car shipping companies will use a car shipping cost calculator, or you can use one to find out a rough estimate of the transport.

The two main factors are:

  • Distance: Location is a main factor. The farther the distance, the cheaper the transport will be per mile. The average cost of shipping a car under 200 miles is about $2.92 per mile. However, the cost drops drastically to about $0.78 per mile if the trip is more than 1,000 miles.
  • Car Type: There are various car types that will fluctuate the cost of the shipment. If the car weighs less, it will be cheaper to transport. Vehicles of lower value will also cost less because they’re easier to insure. However, if you have a rare or expensive car (or one that weighs more), those costs will definitely increase. 

Vehicle Shipping Time Estimate to Delivery

The estimated delivery time for vehicles depends on the location to and from which you’re delivering the vehicle, the distance and other factors like method of delivery and shipping company.

The estimated vehicle shipment delivery time can range from one to two weeks. When it comes to a cross country vehicle shipment, it will be from 10-14 days. If you’re only doing a vehicle shipment of 1,000 miles (for example, San Diego, CA to Portland, OR), expect the delivery time to be 7-10 days.

Vehicle shipment estimates can take a long time due to the conditions of the road. If you’re shipping a vehicle in the winter, the weather conditions can affect turnaround time. Likewise, the transporter’s route runs through a major city, then there could be traffic congestion that affects the time to delivery.

How to Know Which Auto Transport Companies to Avoid

So you’ve decided on using an auto transport company. Luckily for you, the auto transport industry is far and wide, which means you’ll have no problem finding companies that meet your needs. The first step to complete is to go online and research reputable companies that transport vehicles. 

Here are some qualities of car shipping companies to consider:

  • Getting several quotes from a variety of companies is always a good idea. If you shop around, you’ll end up with the best deal out there.
  • The best car shipping service is one where they can take any car: both lightweight and heavyweight vehicles, as well as low-cost and higher-cost cars.
  • It’s important that all car shipping services adhere to the rules and regulations required by the federal and state governments and if one does not, steer clear of them even if their price is lower.
  • Communication is essential for your peace of mind. If the car shipping company provides regular updates, that’s a good sign.
  • Excellent customer service means that the car shipping company will take care of your car as if it were their own.

Red Flags

  • Make sure they don’t add surprise hidden fees. Have them give you a final quote before you begin the process.
  • Know the scams these fake car shipping companies like to practice: the lowest price scams, the price switch scams and the hidden free scams.
  • These fake shipping companies look trustworth. Do your research to ensure it’s a legitimate company.

Make sure you receive a bill of lading from the car shipping company. This bill of lading is the contract between you and the shipping company and it outlines all the terms and conditions of the contract, including a part about potential damage. It would be safe to hold on to this, just in case anything goes wrong. And one huge word of advice that you should consider: get vehicle insurance. Car damage doesn’t happen often, but if it does, it’s smart to be covered.

The Convenient and Safe Way to Ship a Car

There are various ways of making auto shipping convenient and safe. The best car shipping companies have excellent customer service at all times. Make sure they send you auto shipping quotes that aren’t riddled with a ton of fees you don’t know about.

After looking at all the options above, if you’re still not convinced or you aren’t satisfied with the car transport quotes you’ve received, consider using a car transport marketplace like CitizenShipper. Our platform offers many advantages over traditional car transporters.

  • Once you post a listing on our site, a fleet of screened and background-checked transporters within our marketplace will send you car transport quotes within minutes. 
  • You can compare bids and chat with several transporters across our network — making it easy to shop around. 
  • Once you choose the transporter you like best with the auto shipping quote you like most, you’re ready to book your trip! 
  • We charge a modest fee that varies per mileage, that accounts for our stringent vetting and verification process.

CitizenShipper Makes it Easy to Ship a Car

That’s how it works — it’s that easy! We pride ourselves in having excellent customer service and making car shipping run safe, seamless and stress-free. Those hot wheels of yours will be in good hands with our qualified transporters, who can provide frequent updates through our internal messaging system.

Because transporters compete for your business, you can save up to 60-70% on car transport compared to traditional shipping companies! So, why not zoom into the car transport page, plug in your car’s info and get quotes in rush!