Car Shipping

A Comprehensive Guide for Shipping Your Car

A car shipping company can fulfill a number of needs for you. A new job or reassignment cross-country leaves you little time to drive to your new destination. You may have more cars than people in your household for a move. If you own a classic, having a shipping company helps you preserve its condition whether your destination is permanent or a car show.

With the benefits of car shopping comes the need for research and planning. If you’re new to shipping a car, the process does not have to overwhelm you. We provide this guide of things to consider and do as you select a shipper, arrange the shipment, and protect your car, belongings, and identity during the move.

Selecting the Shipper

Safety and Service Record

Companies that provide or arrange for interstate shipping of cars must register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This gives the shipper both a United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) Number and a Motor Carrier (MC) Number.

With the MC Number in particular, you can learn for free the company's safety, crash history, size, and results of inspections of their fleets. Other information includes consumer complaints and insurance information.

Consult reviews from the Better Business Bureau and other sites or directories of car shippers. Consider requesting from the company a list of references from past customers. These resources can tell you about customers’ experiences, how their vehicles were treated during transport, and the process for submitting property loss or damage class.

The Company’s Insurance Coverage

Under federal law, vehicle shipping companies must make their certificates of insurance available for your inspection. Take that opportunity to learn the name of the shipper’s insurance company and the limit to what the insurance company will pay. The policy limits may come into play especially if you’re shipping a classic, custom, or luxury car with numerous features.

Types of Services

Open or Closed Transport

With open transport services, the company employs a type of trailer you commonly see taking cars to a dealership. The carrier typically has two levels. On the top one, your vehicle is completely exposed. Cars left on the bottom will be mostly exposed, with some minimal cover for the hood and top.

Closed transport carriers use the enclosed trailer you often see with trucks hauling cargo. Unlike open transport, enclosed shipping protects your vehicle from wind, rain, ice, hail, and other elements. Many companies tout climate control, hydraulic lifts, and other equipment to preserve your vehicle's condition.

On average, an open transport hauler carries more vehicles than its closed counterpart. Fewer vehicles translate to a less risk of damage.

The average cost of closed transport runs around $1,800 versus $1,000 for open carriage. The premium nature of closed transport certainly contributes to the price differential. Consider that, all other things equal, it generally is more economical for a trailer to haul more than less.

Companies offer closed transport for mostly any customer, but those with classic, restored, or high-end luxury cars likely will benefit most. If you're transporting a typical passenger vehicle, the potential loss from a dent, cracked window, or even more significant body damage might not justify the premium costs of closed transport.

Shipping to a Terminal or Custom Location

Shipping companies generally take vehicles to a terminal or to a location specified by the customer.

Depending on the company, you might only have the option for terminal-to-terminal service. Deliveries to a custom or specific location may not be possible if you live in rural or remote areas, or areas where car haulers or commercial vehicles cannot access. These inaccessible places include many mountain roads or places served primarily or solely with small or narrow roads. If your company offers door-to-door shipment, you will pay a premium to have a car shipper deviate from its standard routes.

Even door-to-door shipment does not necessarily mean your specific address. More likely than not, such a destination will consist of a readily-accessible place such as a mall, shopping center, or other place with a large or open parking area. Your company will attempt to select one of these places as close to your home as possible.

Booking: Plan Ahead

The decision to order vehicle shipping does not serve procrastinators or "spur of the moment" types very well. If you are shipping domestically, expect as a rule of thumb six to twelve days.

Heavy rain, snow, dust storms, and other severe weather events delay trips. Federal laws and regulations limit how long commercial drivers can be on duty during a particular 12-hour or 24-hour period. Estimated delivery times could be longer based on a lack of drivers. Expedited delivery will cost extra.

Factors in Pricing

A number of shipping companies and brokers provide quotes or estimates of shipping costs online. Many of the pricing factors below are reflected in the information you enter for these quotes.

Miles Traveled

The cost of a vehicle shipment increases with the distance of the trip. On average, a trip less than 500 miles was priced at $780. Between 500 and 1,000 miles, the mean cost stood at $960. A shipment at 2,000 to 2,500 miles had an average cost of $1,600, while the average stood at $1,590 for trips beyond 2,500 miles.

While you can expect the total cost to be more at longer distances, the cost per mile may actually decrease at some point with longer trips. For instance, expect a trip of less than 200 miles to run in the ballpark of $2.92 per mile. Companies on average charge around 78 cents per mile to haul a vehicle 1,000 miles or beyond.

Vehicle Size and Weight

By group, trucks rank as the most expensive to ship. The average price stands at $1,450. SUVs cost on average $1,280, and cars are the least costly at $1,150. Indeed, you may pay half the price for a compact passenger car as you would for certain types of minivans.

The size and weight of your vehicle affects the number of vehicles a hauler can take at one time. Smaller cars take less space, while less weight and length allows a trailer to carry more vehicles without exceeding weight limits on highways. More vehicles on a trip means the company gets more revenue per trip and can spread the fuel, maintenance, overhead, and other expenses among more vehicles.

Transport Type: Open v. Closed

Customers of closed transport companies pay on average $1,500, while those who use open transport have a mean price of $1,080.

Closed transport shipments are regarded as premium. Such services afford your vehicle protection against the elements and damage from outside objects such as rocks. You’ll pay less for open transport because open trailers can carry more vehicles than their closed trailer counterparts.

Carrier competition

You might fetch lower transportation rates if you search in areas with more transport companies, especially in larger cities and metropolitan regions. In places with a sparse number of companies, vehicle shipping may appear more of a premium service. To find places with greater competition, you may have to take your car a few miles away from your home.

Price of fuel

Companies build fuel costs into their quotes to customers. As fuel prices rise, so will the price you pay for your shipment. When you plan a shipment, take into account hurricanes or other events that may disrupt gas production or distribution. Lower gas supplies translate to higher gas prices for the shipping companies.

You might pay more to ship during times of increased travel. Demand for gas rises due to more travelers in vehicles, airplanes, buses, or trains during times such as Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays and summer months.

Seasonal Demand

When you decide to ship the vehicle relates to fuel prices and the overall demand for car shipping. As a rule of thumb, shipping prices run higher during the summer and in January.

Vehicle operability

Vehicles with engines, tires, brakes, and drive-trains in good condition take less time to load onto trailers. If your vehicle does not start or drive, the transporter will have to tow or take other time-consuming methods to get your car on the trailer. This increased time will result in a higher quote.

Protect Your Belongings and Identity

Registration Information

In the wrong hands, your name, address, and vehicle information become tools for identity theft. With this information, fraud artists open credit card accounts or might even forge your name and address to false car title documents or obtain title loans. When the identity thief does not pay, your vehicle could at some point become repossessed. Thieves can learn where you live if you keep registration and insurance documents in the glove compartment. This becomes good intelligence for them to plan break-ins of your home or office.

You will also need to keep your vehicle registration and insurance documents if you have to file a claim on your policy for damage, theft, or other loss of the vehicle while in transport. Even a claim against the shipping company’s liability insurance requires that you have proof that you own the vehicle.

Credit Card or Bank Statements and Receipts

The theme of protecting your personal and financial information runs through removing bank statements, credit card statements, invoices, and receipts.

Your periodic statements may contain the entire account number. This affords thieves the ability to charge or withdraw funds in your name. By law, credit or debit card receipts cannot show your entire account number. You will find the receipts from your gas, grocery, clothes, and other purchases have just the last four numbers of your account.

Even with redacted or omitted numbers, you place yourself at risk of financial crime or fraud especially through a “phishing” scheme. Perpetrators call or email victims to alert them of “detected” or “possible” unauthorized or fraudulent transactions on the account. The caller asks you to verify your name, address, and full account number. Many “phishing” emails contain your financial or credit card company’s name and logo to appear legitimate.

Valuables

Personal Property

Remove your jewelry, electronics, and other valuables from the car before you move. While not common, you cannot guarantee that a vehicle transportation company has full-proof security. By keeping electronics in the vehicle, you expose them to heat or significant humidity that can damage circuits.

Get the Vehicle in Shape For Shipment

Clean the Vehicle -- Exterior and Interior

Prior to shipping a car, clean it thoroughly. Wash the exterior and, if otherwise safe for the paint job, wax it. Lest you believe the car will get dirty in the transport, a complete wash may expose dents and scratches for which you can photograph before the trip. Vacuuming, removing dirt and trash, along with the outside wash, gives the transport company less of a basis to dispute your damage claims.

Servicing

Along with a wash job, update your maintenance and service on the vehicle. Change your oil and fluids. Have a mechanic check and, if necessary, replace worn tires. Test the signal lights, tail lights, brake lights, and headlights. Make sure your engines, brakes, transmission, air conditioning or heating, navigation, and other systems on the vehicle are properly operating. Keep the maintenance, service, or diagnostic notes from the mechanic so that you have documentation of the vehicle’s condition before the shipment.

Not Much Gas in the Tank

Ideally, your vehicle’s gas tank should be a quarter full. Beyond that level, you’re unnecessarily adding weight to your own vehicle and to the weight of hauler. Doing so may cause the driver to run afoul of weight restrictions and diminish the fuel efficiency of the hauler.

The Shipment

Monitor the Trip

Stay informed with the shipping company on the delivery status. Many companies offer GPS tracking to let you see the vehicle’s location at a particular point. You can track via an app on your smartphone or tablet or through the website. This can help you adjust your own schedule especially if you see that your car’s arrival is delayed. You may periodically contact the customer service number for updates.

Inspect the Vehicle Upon Arrival

When you get your vehicle, compare what you see with the pre-trip photographs. Make notes of any new cracks, dents, and damage. Pay attention to the handling and operation when you drive it.

Should you notice damage, report it promptly to the vehicle transportation company. Delays on your part raise the suspicion or argument that the damage occurred after the shipment. If you file a claim with the company’s liability insurer, you might be limited to the value of the vehicle as reported on a service such as Kelley Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). The liability policy might not cover theft or damages to personal items.