Shipping an RV in the United States and Internationally

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated May 31, 2023
Shipping an RV with a red truck.

Flatbed Transportman named Cary who bought an RV. He purchased it in Sweden and proceeded to traverse six European countries en route to Portugal. Talk about an immense road trip of a lifetime! Of course, Cary is retired with adult children living on their own — making it the perfect opportunity to experience life on the road. While this road trip was an unforgettable experience for Cary, most RV owners don’t have the time or experience to travel across six countries to get their RV home.

You may be shipping an RV because you’re planning a road trip along the West Coast but live in Delaware. You don’t want to drive the RV all the way across the country — you’re not planning a Midwest road trip after all! Or perhaps you are in the same boat as Cary, purchasing an RV from an international dealer but want to ship your RV into the United States from Europe

Regardless of the reason, you need to ship your RV to a far-off destination — either domestically or internationally. There are two methods to transporting an RV: you can take the do-it-yourself approach or hire an RV shipping company. If you do it yourself, expect the process to take a long, long time as you fill out mountains of paperwork and deal with the hassles of shipping such a large vehicle. Hiring a professional may cost more — though it may not — but the costs are well worth the expertise from pro RV shipping companies.

RV Shipping Options

There are several ways to ship an RV. To determine which approach is best for you, you first need to know your RV’s size and weight. Not all shipping companies have the equipment needed to transport every type of RV.

There are many types of RVs:

  • Lightweight Trailer
  • Travel Trailer
  • Fifth Wheel
  • Toy Hauler
  • Expandable Trailer
  • Class A Motorhome
  • Class B Camper Van
  • Class C Motorhome

Based on the type of travel trailer you have, you’ll need to haul it using one of several methods.

Self-Transportation

Self-transportation, or drive-away transport, is basically just what it sounds like. You can take the RV and drive it yourself to another location. Usually this method is more for short distance moves, as opposed to cross country moves or international moves.

Enclosed Transport

Enclosed transport is when your RV is shipped in a closed transport vehicle. It’s ideal if you don’t want to get the RV damaged in any way. Enclosed RV transport is also a safer option in terms of theft, as it is the best way to protect your beloved RV. The downside to this option is that enclosed transport services will be more expensive.

Open-Air Transport

Open- air transport is the opposite of enclosed transport. With this option, the transporter loads your RV onto an open carrier. While it’s more affordable than enclosed transport, there is the chance of damage from dust and road debris. It’s also more exposed to weather elements.

Flatbed Transport

This type of open-air transport involves a truck with a flatbed. The RV goes on the flatbed and sometimes there can be multiple RVs that the truck is hauling (which can make your RV shipping costs decrease). This method is also usually used for more long distance moves, whereas other types of transport can be more short distance oriented. With this method, it might take longer for the delivery to arrive.

Towable Transport

Towable transport, also called tow-away transport, is just what it sounds like. A truck with specialized equipment will tow your RV to its new location. This type of transport method is more safe than the others. Because of this, it’s also quite pricier than the other methods. The cost of transporting will also depend on the RV’s size, weight, dimensions and other factors.

Cost of Shipping Factors

There are various factors that affect the cost of shipping your beloved RV to another location. Let’s take a look at what they are.

Cost of shipping factors include:

  • Distance
  • Location-specific variables
  • Method of shipment
  • Size, model, weight and dimensions of RV
  • The vehicle’s condition
  • Season or time of year
  • Cost of gas
  • Requests for expedited shipping
  • Additional services

The Process of Shipping an RV Within Your State

The process for shipping an RV within the same state is fairly easy. You start by researching companies that can offer what you need. Once you’ve chosen one that has fair prices, you should prepare your RV for shipping.

The cost of shipping will depend on the factors listed above. When it comes to mileage, you will see estimates of about $3 dollars per mile for short distances. Longer transports tend to have a lower price per mile..

A few things to remember: the shipping company should be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Typically, the company’s number may be displayed on their website and you can check to see if it’s valid as every RV shipping company must have it.

Shipping an RV Cross Country

The process for shipping an RV across the country is similar to shipping within the state. The cost of shipping will depend on the factors listed. When it comes to mileage, you will see estimates of about 1-3 dollars per mile, with usually $1 per mile if you are shipping over 1,000 miles.

The shipping company must be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The paperwork, registration documents and anything needed for government agencies should be made available to the driver.

Shipping your RV Into or Out of the United States

Shipping an RV internationally gets a little more complicated. The shipping methods still hold true — except for the fact that the RV needs to be on a shipping boat to go overseas. International RV shipping, though, is still quite easy to do. The logistics of international RV shipping will be harder, so it’s best to hire an international RV shipping company. They’ll be better equipped to handle the logistics for you.

You’ll need to fill out registration papers, customs clearance documents, insurance coverage information and the shipping company’s contract documents in order to clear customs at your international destination. You may also need to register your RV with the country where you arrive.

Tips for Shipping Your RV for the First Time

There’s always a first time for everything. Because it’s your first time transporting an RV, you probably don’t know the ins and outs of successful RV shipping. Here’s a few tips to help with your first RV shipping experience so it’s safe and stress-free.

  1. Shut off all electric appliances and store them in a safe place.
  2. Make sure the battery is in working condition.
  3. Disconnect the power supply, as well as all water and gas lines.
  4. Ensure the hitch and tow bar are in working condition prior to the transport.
  5. Fix any leaks and check that fluid levels are at the appropriate ranges.
  6. Check the condition of the indicator lights, turn signals, parking lights and brake system.
  7. Set the tire pressure to the level recommended by your shipping company.
  8. Store or take out loose belongings.
  9. Take down any items hanging on the RV walls and ceiling.
  10. Close and secure (or lock) the latches on cabinets, windows and doors.

What if My RV Gets Damaged During the Shipping Process? Tips for Preparation and Prevention

If your RV is damaged during the shipping process, it’s likely an insurance company will get involved. While the shipping company is insured, you should consider purchasing private insurance for the RV. You can customize the policy to cover up to $750,000 for almost anything that could go wrong during transport. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Prior to shipping, take pictures of the RV. Store them somewhere safe so you can compare the RV when it arrives after shipping. The photos are proof to the insurance company.

Hiring a Company to Transport your RV and Getting Shipping Quotes

There are many RV shipping companies out there with competitive rates. The best thing to do to ensure you get a reputable one is to do your research.

Finding the Best RV Shipping Company

To find the best RV shipping company in your area, you’ll have to do some research. Start online and make a list of as many companies as possible. Read each one and take notes to determine which are the best fit for your budget, needs and timeline.

Some qualities to look for:

  • Can they take any type of RV?
  • Do they adhere to all rules and regulations required by federal and state governments?
  • Does the transporter have a reputation for providing regular updates and good communication?

Licenses, Insurance, and Permits

A reputable RV shipping company needs the appropriate licenses and permits. They should be registered with the appropriate government agencies as well. Look for licensing and registration on the company’s website. This is a good way to weed out fake RV delivery companies.

A good RV shipping company should also have a strong insurance policy. Accidents are rare, but having your RV appropriately insured gives you peace of mind that you’ll be compensated in a worse-case scenario.

Getting a Quote for RV Shipping

Once you’ve properly researched, it’s time to request quotes. Prepare your RV’s vital information and the details of your transport and plug it into the website. Start by requesting free shipping estimates or quotes from your favorite companies. Avoid any company that charges for a quote or won’t provide a quote without signing a contract. It usually takes a few hours to receive a shipping quote, though some smaller companies may take over a day.

Alternative Solutions

If you find yourself in a pickle because the traditional RV movers are too expensive, don’t fret! There is an alternative solution to your problem. One where there won’t be hidden fees, where the quotes will be more affordable, and where everything will be safe and reliable.

Consider using an RV transport marketplace like CitizenShipper. Because multiple transporters compete for your business, you may be able to find rates that aren’t offered by traditional RV haulers. All you have to do is post a listing and you’ll receive quotes within minutes.

We pride ourselves in having excellent customer service and making RV delivery run safe, seamless and stress-free. Every driver on CitizenShipper has passed a stringent background check. That beautiful RV of yours will be in good hands with our qualified transporters, who can provide frequent updates through our internal messaging system.

Navigate to the RV transport page, plug in your RV’s info and get quotes faster than being stuck in the mud during a thunderstorm!