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Car Shipping: Everything You Need to Know to Transport Your Vehicle
Do you need to have your car shipped cross-country but aren't sure about where to begin? Does the thought of vehicle shipping seem too complicated or intimidating?
If you’re worried or have confusion about car shipping, you’re not alone. Americans are increasingly making long-distance moves to retire in low-cost-of-living locations. Many others are opting to purchase a vehicle from an out-of-state dealer, saving thousands of dollars. And then there are car collecting enthusiasts who find the perfect vintage muscle car from a previous owner that lives six states over.
The good news is that the demand has resulted in thousands of auto transportation professionals across the country. Finding a suitable transporter for the job makes the process much easier, saving you time, money and stress. The question is, how do I find the best car transporters near me?
The first step is understanding the basics of car shipping. When you’re aware of the process, you'll know what to expect and make the right decisions. Then, we’ll explain the best ways to find trustworthy, experienced and affordable car haulers and what qualities to look for. We’ll explain how long it takes to have a car shipped, how much it will cost and where to get free quotes.
Table of Contents
Car Shipping 101: How the Car Shipping Process Works
If you’ve ever shipped a package, you may notice that car shipping follows a similar process — just on a much larger scale. Whether you're shipping a car, truck, SUV or any other type of vehicle, the process is quite simple. Here's an overview of how the auto transport process works:
1. Shipment Planning
Chances are you have a specific timeline and destination in mind. That's all part of shipment planning. You can enlist the help of an auto transport company. The transporter will work with you to determine the route, time frame, pick-up and delivery locations.
Another option is to handle the process yourself. You’ll select the pick-up and delivery locations, the dates of pick-up and delivery, the type of vehicle you're shipping and the type of transport you'd like.
The planning phase is one of the most critical steps in car shipping. Plan your shipment in advance and communicate those plans clearly with the transporter. If it’s done incorrectly, you could be setting yourself up for problems down the road. For example, if you don't give the transporter enough notice and they can't pick up your car on time, then you could face expensive storage fees.
2. Booking a Suitable Auto Transport Company
There are many auto transport companies out there, and they all have different services, prices, delivery radiuses and terms. When you’re looking for an auto transporter that’s suitable for your needs, make sure to research and compare vehicle haulers. Take a look at:
- Customer reviews
- Services offered
- Pricing structure
- Areas of operation
- Years of experience
- Licensing and insurance
Chances are you'll find a few companies that stand out.
At this point you’ll start requesting quotes — you’ll want to know the cost of car shipping, so you should contact the transporter directly to get an accurate quote from them. Most auto transporters provide a free quote.
When you've chosen a suitable auto transporter, read through the contract’s terms and conditions before signing.
3. Auto Pick-up and Delivery
Once you’re done with the transport planning and booking, the car shipping process begins in earnest. Your vehicle will be picked up at the agreed-upon location and the driver ensures it’s safely delivered to its destination. Typically you can select between open-air transport or an enclosed trailer.
4. Prepping Your Car for Shipping
There are a few steps you need to take before your car can be loaded up and transported across the country.
- It needs to weigh as little as possible; this improves the hauling vehicle’s gas mileage.
- Check for fluid leaks so it doesn’t drip onto cars below it on the trailer.
- Properly inflate the tires.
- The fuel tank should have no more than a quarter tank of gas — but make sure there’s enough fuel for the transporter to drive it on and off the carrier.
- Remove all aftermarket items like antennas, fog lights and spoilers.
- Securely close all windows.
- If you have a soft top convertible, secure it properly before shipping.
- Take your time to give the car a thorough cleaning and basic maintenance check.
- Inspect your car for any existing damage and take pictures of the damage. Document the car's condition before it is transported and take pictures of any pre-existing damage to avoid any disputes or misunderstandings.
How Long Does Car Transport Take?
The process of transporting a vehicle takes anywhere from several days to a few weeks. What affects the length of time to move a car?
Method of Transportation
If you choose door-to-door auto transport, the transporter will pick up and deliver your car to an agreed-upon location. If the drop-off location is remote or difficult to access, it may take longer for the hauler to arrive at your door. Terminal-to-terminal transport means that the car is delivered to a designated location like an auto yard, airport or port. You’ll be responsible for dropping off and picking up your vehicle from the designated terminals.
Time of Year
Spring and summer are the busiest times for auto transport. Haulers may have a backlog during these seasons. On the other hand, while winter isn’t as busy, the weather is unpredictable and inclement weather can cause delays.
Type of Vehicle
If you’re transporting a sedan or any other straightforward type of car, it can be transported on any carrier. However, if you’re moving a vintage, antique or exotic car, or an oversized vehicle, it may take longer to arrange the transport because it requires special equipment and handling.
For over a decade, we’ve been connecting customers with car transporters to rave reviews.
How Much Does Car Shipping Cost?
This is one of the most common questions about auto transport — and it's difficult to answer specifically. This is because the cost of auto transport varies greatly depending on a variety of factors.
The most important factor is the distance that needs to be covered. The farther you're shipping the car, the higher the cost. Most transporters charge per mile — usually between $.40 and $2.00 a mile. Long-distance car shipping usually costs less per mile — you’ll pay more overall but get better per-mile value.
What Determines the Cost of Shipping a Vehicle?
There are a lot of factors that may determine the cost of shipping a car. Below are some of those factors;
Car shipping from Los Angeles to New York — about 2,790 miles — will cost more than shipping a car from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which is only 380 miles. In many cases, your car may need to pass through several states before reaching its destination. If this is the case, the total distance traveled will be taken into account when determining the cost of auto shipping. Obviously, longer distances will result in a higher car shipping quote. However, longer-distance trips typically have a lower price per mile than short transports.
Generally, car shipping to remote areas is more expensive than shipping to urban areas. This is because it takes more time and effort to reach rural areas. Also, the transporter might need to drive further away from their main route and make special arrangements. Big cities with narrow roads and congested highways also result in higher prices. Essentially, the harder it is for a large truck to reach you, the more you’ll need to pay.
In some cases, there may also be toll fees or other additional charges that the shipper needs to pay.
Type of Vehicle
Shipping a truck or SUV may cost more than shipping a compact car because the transporter will need to use a bigger trailer. The more large vehicles a transporter carries, the fewer total vehicles they can fit on the trailer.
Similarly, some cars require more care when loading and unloading, especially luxury or classic cars. So, if you're shipping something like a vintage Corvette, the transporter may charge extra to have your car on the top level of the carrier. This is recommended for classic cars because oil or other fluids may drip onto vehicles on the lower level during the trip.
Not all cars that need to be shipped are brand new — or even in good condition. As such, the condition of your vehicle matters. Cars with serious structural issues or non-running vehicles will cost more to ship than a car in good condition.
Most transporters charge a premium for hauling a car during spring and summer, the busiest seasons. Another busy time for car transport is the holiday season. Car shipping companies charge more during peak months than they do in the off-season when it's harder for them to find work. If you're looking for a cheaper option, consider looking for low prices during the off-season.
Bad weather can put a damper on anyone’s plans; that's especially true for auto transporters. Heavy rain, ice and snow can cause delays and make it difficult for the transporter to safely deliver your car. As a result, you may need to pay more for your car shipping if you're trying to ship during bad weather periods — just another reminder to plan ahead and be aware of the weather if you're trying to ship a car.
Size of the Vehicle
As with any type of vehicle, the size will also be taken into account when determining the cost. The larger the vehicle, the more space it will take up in a trailer. Larger vehicles like SUVs or pick-up trucks will take up more space on the transporter's trailer, so they may charge extra for those.
Unfortunately, the more gas costs the more you’ll pay for car shipping. The transporter typically passes higher gas prices on to the consumer.
Shipping your car has never been easier:
How to Get a Car Shipping Quote?
Getting an accurate car shipping quote is an essential step in finding out how much it will cost to transport your vehicle. Instead of estimating the price of shipping with a car shipping cost calculator, you can get an exact quote from car shipping companies.
Most car shipping companies offer accurate quotes and guarantee these rates. You can get an instant quote just by entering your pick-up and delivery locations along with other necessary information on a marketplace like CitizenShipper. You'll start receiving free quotes from multiple transportation companies, allowing you to compare rates and services.
To find the best deal for your car shipping needs, use a car shipping marketplace like CitizenShipper. CitizenShipper makes it easy to get competitive car shipping quotes from some of the best auto transport companies in the country through our unique bidding system.
Here's how it works.
- Log in to the CitizenShipper website.
- Enter the details of your shipment.
- Input your pick-up and delivery locations.
- Once the details are submitted, professional transporters send you quotes.
- Because transporters compete for your business, you can get more affordable quotes than traditional car haulers.
- Before booking, you can compare car shipping quotes, read reviews, browse detailed profiles and even chat with the transporter through an internal messaging system.
Using CitizenShipper is a great way to get the best car shipping rates. Plus, the transport companies are all vetted and pass stringent background checks, so you can trust them to handle your shipment with all the care it needs.
How to Get the Cheapest Auto Transport
There are several ways to get a favorable price on the transport of vehicles. Finding the lowest car shipping quotes may take a little extra legwork, but in the end, getting a great price is well worth the effort.
Shop Around for Car Shipping
Don’t just accept the first quote you receive! Contacting multiple transporters for quotes will help you find the cheapest car transportation cost.
Be Flexible with Your Delivery Schedule
If you’re able to wait on transportation for your cars you can get a cheaper auto transport quote. Try to ship your car during less busy seasons like the fall and the winter while avoiding any major holidays.
Skip Door-to-Door Delivery
You'll pay extra if you live off the beaten path, far from the major routes car movers typically use. One way to shave some dollars off of car shipping quotes is to be willing to meet the transporter at a location that’s more convenient for them. You may spend an extra hour or two in the car but the difference could be hundreds of dollars in savings.
Use a Car Transport Marketplace
Instead of hiring a traditional auto transporter, consider hiring a driver through a two-way car shipping marketplace like CitizenShipper. It’s free to sign up and place a listing on the website — most customers receive quotes within minutes. Because drivers compete for your business, you’ll usually find better rates through a marketplace.
See why car owners love shipping their cars with CitizenShipper
Car Shipping Options
Selecting a shipping method is an important decision; research is required to make sure you choose the appropriate option for your vehicle. The approach you take to car transportation has a major effect on the cost and time to ship.
1. Open Vehicle Transport
Open vehicle transport is the most common way to ship your car. As the name suggests, this method involves loading the vehicle into an open-air flatbed trailer that can hold as many as 10 vehicles at once.
The more cars a transporter can load onto their trailer, the lower the cost will be to move each vehicle. If you’re on a budget and looking for an affordable way to transport your vehicle across the country, look for transporters that use an open-air flatbed trailer.
2. Enclosed Vehicle Transport
If you’re transporting a new vehicle, vintage car, exotic car or luxury car, you may want to opt for a more secure and protected form of transport. The best choice for your needs is likely enclosed vehicle transport.
When you choose enclosed car shipping, your vehicle will be placed in a secure trailer that has four walls and a roof. This keeps out unwanted elements like dirt, debris and moisture.
Enclosed trailers aren’t able to hold as many vehicles at once as open-air flatbed trailers. Because of their lower capacity, the cost per vehicle is higher than open transit. For new, rare, exotic or classic vehicles, the added protection is well worth the cost.
3. Non-Operational Car Shipping
Non-operational cars can be transported too! Whether the car is damaged from an accident or some other mechanical breakdown, moving it to a new location is possible.
The cost of transporting a non-operational car depends on the condition of the vehicle. The more severe the damage, the more expensive the transport.
Accurately and honestly disclose the degree of damage to the car so the transporter can prepare the appropriate equipment and give you an accurate quote.
4. Amtrak Car Shipping
If you're looking for an alternative way to ship your car, Amtrak car shipping service is an interesting option. This service allows you to ship your car via train, which is usually faster than traditional auto shipping.
The big drawback? Amtrak's service is only available along the route from between Northern Virginia and Central Florida.
5. Exotic Car Transport
Exotic cars like Lamborghinis, Ferraris and other high-end vehicles require special care when shipping. It may also require a higher level of insurance coverage. Use a transporter that specializes in and has experience with shipping exotic cars.
6. Classic Car Transport
Like exotic cars, classic, vintage or antique cars usually require special care and expertise when being shipped. These cars may be extremely rare, valuable and fragile, so research transporters with experience handling these vehicles.
7. Drive it Yourself
If you have the time, a limited budget and need to ship a car that’s not particularly valuable, you can always drive it yourself.
Despite being the most affordable option, taking the do-it-yourself approach leaves the car at risk of damage on the road, places additional wear and tear on the vehicle and it’s very time-consuming.
Is do-it-yourself auto transport your only option but you don’t have time to drive across the country? Another approach is to ask a friend to drive the car for you.
Car Shipping Cross Country in the United States
More people are moving across the country for work, retirement, higher education or just a change of scenery. This trend has made car shipping increasingly popular, even if it’s across the country.
Cross-country car shipping requires a transportation company that’s reputable and experienced with long hauls.
When you communicate with a transport company, inquire about the driver or drivers’ experience before booking. CitizenShipper’s internal messaging system makes it easy to learn more about a potential driver’s background.
Car Transport and Insurance Coverage
Damage isn’t common during auto transport, but sometimes accidents happen. That’s why it’s important to have your car covered by liability insurance.
Most transport companies offer liability insurance coverage but confirm before you book. The US Department of Transportation requires all auto transport companies to carry at least $750,000 in liability insurance.
Keep in mind that the insurance only covers damages while the car is in transit; it doesn’t cover any pre-existing damage. You can consider purchasing additional insurance for your car's transport to further strengthen your coverage.
Customer satisfaction rating: 4.848,624 reviews
Are Car Shipping Reviews Helpful?
When choosing a car shipping company, one of your best resources is customer reviews. These reviews help you get a better idea of the services provided by the company, the quality of its customer service and the overall experience previous customers had.
Look up reviews from multiple sources, including the company's website and third-party review sites. It never hurts to read customer reviews to understand the kind of service you can expect.
Also, don't just look at the overall rating — read each review to get the context of negative and positive reviews as well as an in-depth understanding of the company. CitizenShipper makes it simple to find reviews of transporters. Veteran car transporters using the platform usually have dozens of reviews — it’s free to read reviews of transporters that bid on your shipment.
The Best Car Shipping Company in the USA
Finding the right car shipping company can be daunting, especially if you're experiencing the auto transport industry for the first time. One way to find the best car shipping companies in the USA is by using a platform like CitizenShipper. It's a top-rated transportation marketplace, with a 4.7-star rating from TrustPilot. On the platform, you’ll find newer transporters that offer very affordable prices along with haulers that have decades of experience.
The best car shipping company is the one that best fits your needs.
Other benefits of booking a transporter through CitizenShipper include:
- A booking assurance guarantee that offers payment refunds, driver replacement and no hidden fees.
- A competitive bidding system that allows you to get the lowest prices for your car shipping service.
- A fast and convenient way to compare carriers' reviews, ratings and prices. This information helps you make an informed decision when choosing your car transport service provider.
- Trustworthy and experienced carriers who have been thoroughly vetted, so you can be sure your vehicle is in safe hands and have a delightful car shipping experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it really free to list a car shipment?
Absolutely. There are no "listing fees" involved. You don't pay a dime before negotiating the cost of car transport with the driver you choose to hire.
How much does it cost to transport a car?
The cost varies, depending mostly on the mileage. When drivers send in their quotes, it'll be up to you to choose whatever sounds reasonable. Typical rates are usually between $.40 and $2.00 a mile, but this can skew higher on shorter trips. Some shipments are more expensive than others: classic and exotic cars, for example, require more attention so they often cost extra to transport.
The easiest, safest way to ship your car.
- All car carriers are background checked for felonies and DUIs
- Carrier and shipper addresses and contact information are verified for additional protection.
- Photos of car shippers and their vehicles help confirm who and what to expect.
- Detailed car transporter reviews provide insight and transparency to the selection process.