The Complete Guide to Shipping Your Car

Semi truck driving down the highway.

There are many reasons why you may want to have a car shipped to you. The most common reason is to complete a used car transaction between private parties over the Internet. According to Bankrate.com, there are an estimated 15 million cars purchased online each year. Someone who lives in the northern United States where rust is common problem may want to purchase a used car from a southern state, where car bodies tend to stay in pristine shape. In the case of classic or rare cars, some buyers are willing to spare no expense when it comes to getting the car into their possession, and shipping a car is very common for these buyers.

There are other reasons you may want to have a car shipped. For example, if you will be flying to a destination because you are relocating or taking an extended vacation, you may want to have the car shipped separately. Or, if you purchase a used or new car while you are a long distance from home but do not want to trade in your old vehicle, you may choose to have one of the cars shipped to your home.

You Have Options When Shipping a Car

New car shipments are easy. Dealerships typically have a procedure for shipping newly purchased vehicles. If you purchase a used car, you will typically have to determine how to ship the car. Whatever your reasons for wanting to get a car from one location to another, it is in your best interest to explore your many options when it comes to shipping a car. Some options you have include the following:

  • Option 1: Ask a friend for help. If you are picking up a car, you and a friend can drive out together and then drive back separately; if you are delivering a car, you can drive out separately and drive back together. This plan may work if the destination is within a reasonable driving distance that allows you to make both trips in a single day. Otherwise, you will need to consider the cost of gas, the cost of a hotel room and, of course, the value of your (and your friend’s) time.
  • Option 2: Drive the car one way and fly the other. If you are picking up a car in one location, you can fly out, get it and then drive back; or, do the reverse if you are sending it somewhere. In this case, you must calculate the cost of airfare, taxi service between the car and the airport, and the time and hassle associated with flying.
  • Option 3: Find someone to drive the car from one location to another. This sometimes works if you can find a college student who does not own a car and who is located in or near the car’s point of origin and wants to go where the car ultimately needs to be. The student will often move the car for free and pay for the gasoline in exchange for being able to use your car for the trip. Of course, with this option, you must address insurance considerations and it may be difficult to find a stranger that you trust with your car.
  • Option 4: Hire a car shipping company. These companies specialize in long distance auto transport and are usually fully bonded and insured, so you can trust them with your vehicle. In many cases, this is the best possible option. Try to select the best company for the job, since you will be trusting them with your car.
How Much Does It Cost to Use a Car Shipping Company?

Many people never even consider using a car shipping company because they assume it will be far too expensive. However, these services come at a price that is much lower than you might expect. On average, the cost to ship a car runs about $50 for every 100 miles of travel, although costs can vary according to the type of service you use, the weight of your vehicle and the route used to transport it.

This means that you can have a car shipped from coast to coast (approximately 2,000 miles) for about $1000. This is likely much less than you would spend using your first two options when you calculate the cost of gasoline, airfare, hotel rooms, wear and tear on your car, and time.

How Do You Select the Best Company to Ship Your Car?

Several companies offer car-shipping services. Make sure you are dealing with one that is reputable, as well as one that is able to meet your demands and expectations. These companies will all have established procedures for how to ship cars between destinations, but be sure to consider the following:

  • The shipping company’s reputation: You will be trusting your vehicle to this company, so it is in your best interest to research it ahead of time. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau and read online customer reviews. A company that is established and has a long history of customer satisfaction usually makes for a reliable choice.
  • Insurance considerations: The U.S. Department of Transportation mandates that all auto transport services carry liability and cargo insurance. Most companies will insure your vehicle for up to $50,000. Be sure to ask about the insurance coverage the service provides and how much of that is specifically for your car. For example, if a multi-vehicle carrier is in a collision, will there be enough coverage available to compensate the owners of every vehicle on board? Get written proof of the insurance coverage provided by the car shipping company. You can further supplement your coverage by ensuring that your personal auto insurance includes comprehensive coverage. A Trusted Choice® independent agent can help you compare quotes before you buy.
  • Care of your vehicle: If you are shipping a very expensive or classic car, you may not want it exposed to the elements. In this case, you might want to spend the additional costs associated with hiring an enclosed auto transport service. Otherwise, you can save money by going with a company that uses open car carriers.
  • Time considerations: If time is of the essence, you may want to spend the extra money associated with a single car carrier service. Single-vehicle carriers will make a direct trip from your point of origination to your destination and are therefore the fastest option. If you do not mind waiting several days, you can save money by hiring a multi-car carrier service. This option takes longer as the driver will be stopping at many locations to drop off and pick up cars.
Steps To Take Before Shipping Your Car

Before you send your car off with a shipping service, it is a good idea to take the following steps:

  1. Wash your car and make note of all scratches and dents on it. Take photographs of the vehicle that can be used later to demonstrate any damage that may occur during transport.
  2. Disable the car alarm. If you cannot disable the alarm, make sure the driver of the transport vehicle is aware of how to turn it off.
  3. Remove all personal belongings from the car. This will limit your risk of loss or theft and eliminate any possible disputes about what was or was not in the car at the time of shipment.
  4. Try to have about a quarter tank of gas in your car. This will reduce your overall shipping weight and therefore your costs. Make sure there is enough gas in the car to enable you or your intended recipient to drive to a gas station upon delivery.
  5. Make sure that someone at the destination is aware of the arrival date. If you will not be at the destination, make sure that the person who will be picking up the car is aware of the scheduled delivery date and time. In the case of multi-car carriers, this date and time may vary somewhat, so be sure that the driver has the recipient’s contact information.
Stay Cool and Relax

Be aware that things do not always go as smoothly as planned when shipping a car. Accidents on freeways can cause traffic backups and delays, inclement weather can slow deliveries and sometimes vehicles do sustain scratches or dents along the way.

In the event of damage to your car, the carrier’s insurance company should provide you with compensation, but there may be time delays. Just be patient and allow for a bit of flexibility, particularly with transports of an especially long distance.

Have you ever shipped a car? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.