What is the Cheapest Way to Ship a Pet?

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated February 23, 2024

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What's the cheapest way to ship a pet?

The thought of shipping a pet can be daunting for most pet owners. The pet transport process is complicated and even worse, can be very expensive. Making it even more difficult is a lack of information about the cheapest way to transport a pet so you’re probably wondering how much does it cost? The cheapest way to ship a pet isn’t always the best approach, but with the right research you can save money and get great service.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take when you need to ship your pet to its destination safely and at a reasonable cost. One of the biggest keys is planning ahead — we’ll show you what pet shipping options are available, how to choose the right shipping method and other considerations to take before hiring a pet transport service.

Types of Pet Shipping

When it comes to pet transport, there are two main options available. You can use two types of pet shippers — a ground shipping approach or air transportation. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages; at the end of the day it’s most important to choose the approach that’s best suited for you and your pet’s needs.

Ground Shipping

For shipping pets short distances, using a pet shipping service is usually the cheapest way. Pet transport is usually priced per-mile. While long-distance transport will have a higher overall price, the pet shipping cost per mile will be lower than short jaunts.

Other benefits include:

  • Ground shipping services typically provide door-to-door service.
  • Most ground transport services move pets in climate-controlled vehicles.

The biggest downside in choosing a pet transportation company  is it usually takes longer than air travel. However, air travel is extremely unpredictable, making a ground transportation service a more reliable option.

Air Shipping

As mentioned above, air shipping is usually the faster choice to ship a pet. A plane can get your pet across the country in a matter of hours — it’ll take at least a week for most cross-country ground transports.

Despite the speediness of air travel, there are some downsides:

  • Your furry friend won’t be able to leave its carrier in the terminals and during the flight.
  • Large pets must fly in the cargo hold, and many airlines have put a moratorium on this practice.
  • Snub-nosed breeds cannot fly in the cargo hold for health reasons.
  • It’s not a great option for pets that are easily stressed or don’t behave well around strangers.

Beyond these negatives, air shipping can be more expensive than ground transport. The cost to ship a pet will be a little over $100 for a “pet ticket,” plus you’ll need to buy your own plane ticket. If you hire an air nanny, you’ll have to buy the pet’s ticket (for a cat or dog) plus a round-trip ticket for the animal’s chaperone.

Ground Transportation Is More Reliable

At the end of the day, ground transportation is much more reliable than air travel. There are several reasons why it’s a better option than flying.

  1. Most airlines have a prohibition on pets other than cats and dogs.
  2. Your pet may be stressed when flying, especially if they are in a kennel in the cargo hold.
  3. Most airlines prohibit pets in the cargo hold, with the notable exception of Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines.
  4. With the recent flight cancellations over the holidays, flying can be unreliable because of weather and other factors.
  5. Ground travel logistics are easier and can offer door-to-door delivery, which is impossible with air travel.
  6. If the weather is too hot or too cold, airlines won’t allow pets in the cargo area and will cancel your pet’s ticket.

Considerations for the Shipping Method That Fits Your Budget

When selecting the right shipping method for your pet, there are several factors to consider.


The distance between your pet’s origination and destination is a key factor in determining the best shipping method. For shorter distances, ground shipping is almost always the best choice. For longer distances or tight delivery windows, air shipping has the benefit of speed.

Size and Weight of Pet

The size and weight of your pet can also impact the type of transport you choose. Airlines have a strict weight limit for pets — check with the carrier before booking. Large pets aren’t allowed by most airlines.

Ground transportation can accommodate any size dog. However, you may pay more for a large dog because they leave less space for additional riders.


Finally, you should consider the timeframe for your pet’s shipment. Ground shipping can take several days, while air shipping can take only a few hours. If you need your pet to arrive quickly, air shipping is the better option.

Timing is also a factor when it comes to finding the cheapest way to ship a pet. The summer months tend to be busier for pet transporters, so the high demand drives up costs. The opposite is true in the winter. Inclement weather leads to fewer transporters on the road and the lack of supply can leave you paying more.

Finding Reliable Pet Shipping Companies

Once you’ve determined the best shipping method for your pet, the next step is to find reliable pet shipping companies. You need to make sure your pet is in the best of hands with a mode that is pet-friendly. The best way to do this is to research different pet transport companies and read customer reviews.

  • You can also ask friends and family for recommendations.
  • Join Facebook or other social media groups to find the best pet shipping companies out there that will ensure the safety and well-being of your pet.
  • Consider using a pet transport marketplace like CitizenShipper to find qualified, caring transporters.

CitizenShipper is the number one pet transport marketplace in the country and has delivered tens of thousands of pets over the years. Post a pet shipping listing on the marketplace and you’ll receive quotes within minutes. The best part is that it’s free to look at quotes, read reviews and browse driver profiles before choosing the right transporter.

Because transporters compete for your business, CitizenShipper can often be the cheapest way to ship a pet. Create a pet shipping listing today and find out how much you can save!