Step-By-Step Guide to Shipping a Car Across the Country

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated: June 20, 2023 / Published: December 19, 2022
A red truck shipping cars across country.

It’s fairly common to move to another state nowadays. With jobs going remote or companies moving to other states to get tax breaks, people are finding themselves going to a cheaper place to live or moving to a state they’ve always wanted to live in.

It’s also fairly common to sell things, especially a car. Sometimes you can’t find that potential buyer in your home state but you do find someone across the country. But the question you ask yourself is, “How do I ship my car?” 

The United States is the home of the brave, and our military makes sacrifices daily to ensure we live in a land of prosperity and freedom. But something fairly common within our military members is orders to move — commonly known as permanent change of station orders. There are military bases all across the country, and if you’re in the military, sometimes you have to ship your belongings — including your car — to where you have been stationed.

Shipping furniture is quite straightforward. Transporting pets is also pretty easy. When dealing with shipping vehicles however, there’s a few tips you should follow.

Ways of Shipping a Car Across Country

Just like shipping furniture or transporting pets, there are also various ways of shipping your car across the country. We’ll take a look at those options, so you can better decide which one is for you.

Driving the Car Yourself

This method is obviously the  easiest. You can do it on your own time and stop at regular intervals while on your journey. However, planning the logistics and multiple variables may be overwhelming. You also have to look at the costs associated with driving your vehicle across the country yourself. The costs aren’t just gas; you have to factor in the accommodation and food for the five to six day journey.

The table below shows you a breakdown of costs if you choose to drive your car yourself.

The costs involved fluctuate depending on your final destination, but the table roughly outlines the different variables associated with driving your car yourself. There aren’t many travel restrictions in driving across the country, but keep in mind that when you get to the final destination, there may be parking zone rules you need to follow. 

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).

Traditional Car Shipping Company

Of course, you may not have the time to drive the car yourself. You may not even want to, anyway. Another reason for hiring a traditional car shipping company is that you want to sell your car and ensure it gets to its destination in the right condition, especially if it’s a valuable or rare model.

So let’s take a look at using a traditional car shipping company as an option to ship a car across the country. The first step to complete is to go online and research reputable companies that transport vehicles. There are a few things that you should look for when considering car shipping companies.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Communication is essential for your peace of mind. If the car shipping company provides regular updates, that’s a good sign.
  5. Excellent customer service means that the car shipping company will take care of your car as if it were their own. Pay attention to the small details and how they go about their customer service duties. And always look at reviews on Google and other social media sites.

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 Cost to Ship A Car Across the Country

According to, the cost variables depend on two main factors that you should consider:

  • Distance: Usually, 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 shipping your vehicle 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. However, if you have a rare or expensive car (or one that weighs more), those costs will definitely increase.

One Important Note

It is important that if you’re not selling your vehicle and hiring a car shipping company to ship your car to your new home, you should ensure that you go to your new state’s motor vehicle department to register your car and put the proper license plates. You can go here to see every state’s driver license departments.

Covered vs. Uncovered Car Shipping

You may be wondering what is covered or uncovered car shipping, also known as open or enclosed transport. The terms come from whether you want your car shipped covered (or enclosed) or uncovered (open). It’s fairly simple, really. And the ultimate decision rests in your hands. Let’s take a closer look at both options.

Covered Car Shipping

As you guess from the term, covered car shipping is when your car is being shipped in an enclosed transport. Covered car shipping is ideal if you don’t want to get the car damaged in any way. Covered car shipping is also a safer option in terms of auto theft. Owners of expensive cars, rare, vintage or exotic cars should choose this option, as it is the best way to protect your car.

The only downside to this option is that it’s more expensive, thus if you are looking for a cheaper option, this definitely isn’t it.

Uncovered Car Shipping

Uncovered car shipping is the total opposite of covered car shipping. The car shipping company basically transports your car in an open trailer, which can be the most risky option in terms of damage from dust and debris on the road. Because of this, it’s also the most affordable option. Sometimes, an even more economical option exists, if the company is shipping multiple cars at once, they often will use a multi-car tractor trailer or a double-level tractor trailer. This hauls many vehicles in one journey, which can lower the price for you.

The downside to this option is, as stated above, there could be damage done to the vehicle based on inclement weather or any outside variables. In this case, getting insurance is the smartest thing you can do. There may also be a higher risk of theft, however that almost never happens and uncovered car shipping is pretty safe.

How to Prepare for the Car Shipping

Preparation goes a long way, especially when it comes to car shipping. Here is a handy checklist to have on you so that you are perfectly prepared when the car shipping company comes to pick up your vehicle.

The Car Shipping Preparation Checklist!

  1. Make sure your car is driveable: check the tires, check the engine, check everything in your car so that it will move.
  2. Disable your car alarms so that the transport company doesn’t have to deal with the alarm if it goes off at a random time.
  3. Take off any attachments your car may have. Those include bike racks or antennas.
  4. As stated above, shipping your car will cost more if it weighs more, so make sure you have less than a quarter of a tank of gas in your car.
  5. Wash your car so it’s easier to spot any vehicle damage and you should take any valuables from inside the car, as well.
  6. Very important: ensure that your emergency brake works. Car shipping companies will refuse to ship your vehicle if it doesn’t work.
  7. Get vehicle insurance: it’s better to be safe than sorry.

After receiving your vehicle, inspect every nook and cranny to make sure there is no car damage. If everything is A-OK, then thank the driver!

Finally, as it has been stated before, if you’re not selling your car, you need to have proper car registration and license plates once your car arrives at your new home. Doing so will incur fines and traffic violations. You can visit each driver license department from every state here.

Using CitizenShipper

After looking at all the options above, consider using a car transport marketplace like CitizenShipper. Our platform offers many advantages over traditional pet transporters.

  • Once you post a listing on our site, a fleet of screened and background-checked transporters will send you 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 deal you like most, you’re ready to book your trip! 
  • Payment is received either before or after delivery, which is usually decided by the transporter.
  • We charge a modest fee that varies per mileage, that accounts for our stringent vetting process. 

That’s how it works — it’s that easy! We pride ourselves in 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!

Wrapping it Up!

There are various methods to ship your car across the country, from driving the car yourself to putting it onto a trailer attached to the truck and hauling it yourself to hiring a traditional car shipping company. Whatever method you use, there are several things you need to follow for shipping and once your car gets to its final destination. But one thing’s for sure, things can get hectic and overwhelming.

The alternative is booking a driver through CitizenShipper. Our drivers understand that your car is a valuable belonging and will ensure proper care during their journey to its final destination. 

By trusting drivers on CitizenShipper to transport your vehicle, you will have peace of mind and comfort knowing your set of wheels is in the best of hands. Shipping your car across the country doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming. 

Our drivers will care about your vehicle as much as you do because they’ve transported thousands of cars. Create a listing with your vehicle’s information and get free transportation quotes in just minutes.