There are times when you need to ship a car from one part of the country to another. Maybe you've purchased a car online from a private party or a dealership in another state, or perhaps you're relocating for a new job. Maybe you want to ship a car to a relative. Shipping a vehicle long-distance can be costly, but if you weigh that against flying to pick up a car and the time and expense involved in driving it home, it is often worth it.
We here at Edmunds have had to ship a car and had cars shipped to us for our long-term fleet several times. Here are some questions to ask and things to keep in mind when planning to ship a car.
Be Prepared to Wait
Auto shipping isn't like shipping a package: It won't happen overnight. Deliveries in the U.S. have roughly a four-week window from when the car is picked up to when it will arrive at its destination. International deliveries will take six to eight weeks. The car shipping won't always take that long, but the auto transport companies need some leeway in case the shipment runs into any issues along the way.
Enclosed Auto Transport vs. Open Carrier
An uncovered or open carrier will typically be the less expensive method to ship a car, but your vehicle will be susceptible to the elements and any debris that may fly in the path of the truck. A covered or enclosed auto transport gives you the most protection, but the average cost is roughly 60% more. Enclosed carriers are often used to ship high-value or classic cars since they offer better protection.
Scheduled Pickup or Open Transport?
In most cases, the auto transport company will contact you when it has a truck with an open slot that's heading in the direction of your destination. If you prefer an exact pickup date, it will cost extra.
Research Prices and the Company
There are dozens of vehicle shipping companies out there, but it can be difficult to spot the good ones. For example, we've dealt with Reliable Carriers when we've bought and sold cars from our long-term fleet and have had no issues. On the other hand, the company has mixed reviews online. As you make your shipper choice, we strongly recommend you do thorough research, including reading online reviews.
uShip is a shipping-company aggregator that eBay makes available for its vehicle sales. The site makes it easy to read reviews and sort through numerous price quotes from the dozens of shipping companies on the site.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration maintains a hotline for consumers to check on a shipper's license and insurance record as well as any complaints made about the company.
Regardless of whom you call, talk to three shippers and see which one gives you the best vibe, along with a competitive price.
Other Pricing Variables
Location: A delivery between two major cities may be cheaper than shipping between smaller cities or towns. More carriers cover these routes. The distance of the drop-off location will naturally dictate the price of the auto transport. It could cost less than $1,000 to ship within the state or on the East Coast, but the shipment could easily top $2,000 if you ship a car across the country.
Vehicle Size: Bigger cars take up more space in the carrier and heavier cars add more cargo weight, making them more expensive to ship.
Season: Fewer people transport cars in winter, so rates may be lower then. But winter could also impact the timeline of when it arrives at your home. The truck could get stuck in bad weather or the roads may be closed.
Check Your Insurance Coverage
It is important to ask about the company's liability insurance coverage in case anything happens to your vehicle during transport. Most reputable carriers should have around $50,000-$100,000 in coverage. Additionally, you'll want to check with your own insurance to see what coverage you have in the event of an accident along the way.
Inspect the Vehicle for Damage
The shipping company usually does a thorough walk-around of the vehicle before it is loaded onto the truck. The shipping company is looking for any scratches or dents and will make a note of them. This will be an important piece of evidence in case something gets damaged, so make sure you inspect the car and agree with the report. Similarly, you'll want to inspect an arriving vehicle for any damage that might have occurred during transport. Taking a few pre- and post-shipment photos is a good idea, in case you need to support a damage claim.