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How to Ship a Car

Knowing how the car shipping process works can simplify your decisions quite a bit. Here are the specifics of the process, the costs associated with shipping a vehicle, and some useful tips and information which will help you know how to ship a car. From picking a company, to getting quotes, and even how to get it ready for transport. 

As of 2023, the most common way for how ship a car is hiring an auto transport company.

How Car Shipping Works

Methods Used

Car shipping is the process of transporting or otherwise relocating a vehicle from one place to another by a third party. The need one to find out how to ship a car can be because of many circumstances. Buying a car from a distant place, relocating for work permanently and temporarily, or sending a car to a vacation home are all common reasons people need car shipping.


Car shipping can be local, to another state, or all the way across country. There round trip auto transport such as those used by snowbirds.

You will hear the terms open transport and enclosed transport used very frequently when it comes to how to ship a car. This because these are the two common services auto shipping providers use. Open transport is the most common shipping method used by 90% of individuals hiring car shipping companies.

Open auto Transport

What is open car transport? Open car transport is he most common way to ship a car. It is the cheapest way to ship a car. Most typically open transport refers to the two level trailers on the road, hauling a number of vehicles that are traveling from one place to another.

Auto transport companies also have smaller configurations that can be pulled by a diesel truck that hold just 2-3 vehicles. A flatbed that takes one or two cars is still considered open transport.

It is suitable for all kinds of cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, and more. Unless your vehicle is a show car or does not ever see rain and snow, then open trailer is the safest most cost effective shipping method used by nearly every shipping company

Enclosed Car shipping Services

For those looking to have a car shipped with the best protection possible, then enclosed car transport is the best choice. Enclosed carrier transport is the safest way to ship a car.

Your car will be loaded in an enclosed trailer which is basically a rolling shipping container that has a roof and all four walls. These carriers also have additional coverage for high value cars.

You will not have to worry about your car getting scratched or dented if the shipping truck happens to encounter, rocks, road debris in the air. Then enclosed may be your best choice.

Also, enclosed is the safest way to protect a car from bad weather like snow, rain, hail, and (for some delicate vehicles) sun's damaging UV rays. For this reason enclosed is the choice for classic cars, exotics, and high end luxury vehicles.

In these cases, enclosed transport with a quality car shipping company might be a worthwhile investment if the car you are shipping has a high value or is a high end vehicle, or new car. That value can be monetary or just sentimental. 

If you you would like to avoid any risk of slightest damage because of road debris or any other external damage, enclosed carriers are the choice for you. As a bonus, since enclosed auto transport takes fewer cars, in some cases your car arrives faster.

Most companies serious about enclosed transport will use hard side enclosed trucks whenever possible to ship valuable cars.

Regardless if  Open Or Enclosed - Door to Door Shipping is the Most Common Service

The most common service is the door to door shipping method. Although it sounds clear as to how it works, it does have restrictions depending on the pickup and delivery locations. For example, if narrow roads or low trees impede the carrier form entering, they will have to meet at the nearest safe location.

Additionally, there is what is known as "drive-away", where you hire someone to drive your car, usually a professional. This can be a dedicated service or provided by an auto transport company but also by a dedicated company that only provides that service. They can drive your car across the country or to another state. Although the vehicle is not "shipped" in the sense of it being done on a carrier, the service will have it driven for you to the destination.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car?

Basically, the farther the vehicle has to travel, the more it will cost. However, the cost of shipping a vehicle can vary greatly, influenced by several factors that come together on the cost to ship a car.

Key Factors Influencing Cost

The cost of shipping a vehicle can vary greatly, influenced by several determining factors. Thee factors will be all tied in when you begin to receive quotes and start to see what car shipping costs are like.

Distance and the Locations

As mentioned, the primary factor weighted in to determine the cost is the distance between the pickup and delivery locations. Naturally, longer distances incur higher costs. However, location when it comes to car shipping quotes matters too. If you're shipping to or from remote or hard-to-reach areas, expect higher costs due to the added time and fuel consumption for the driver to go out of their normal route.

Vehicle Type

The vehicle size and weight of your car will have an impact on your car shipping quote. For example oversized truck shipping will greatly increase the price due to the space and fuel needed. The price as larger, heavier vehicles occupy more space on the carrier and add to the fuel cost.


Similarly, if your vehicle is inoperable, it may require special equipment for loading and unloading, adding to the expense.

Transport Method

As mentioned earlier, there are two main methods used by the car shipping industry: open and enclosed transport. Open transport is the cheaper option, while enclosed transport, offering more protection, comes at a premium for the extra layer of protection. If you choose enclosed transport, these costs can be up to 60% higher. Bear in mind that these are rough estimates and actual costs can vary depending on the specific variables involved in your shipment.


The time of year can affect the cost. For instance, shipping costs with just about any car transport company often increase in summer due to higher demand nationwide.

If you are a snowbird, the winter rate is high going south to warm states while cheaper going north to the cold ones. It then reverses in the spring.

Speed of Delivery Dates - Expedited Shipping method

If you need expedited shipping, it will likely increase the cost due to the special arrangements necessary by the car shipping company to make sure you have a faster pickup.

The Average Price Range

Given the variability of the factors above, it's challenging to pin down a precise cost for shipping a car without specific details.

However, as a general range, you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1,350 for open transport across several states with a car shipping company. For cross-country shipping, the cost can range from $1,750 to $2100. This is done by taking the average cost to ship a car per mile.

How to Get Shipping Quotes from Reliable Companies

Research Reputable Auto Shipping Companies

Once you have a clear idea of your needs, the next step is to research and identify reputable auto shipping companies. Look for companies that are licensed, bonded, and insured. Online reviews, customer testimonials, and ratings from organizations like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) can help you gauge a company's reputation.

Request Quotes

Once you've identified potential companies, you can request quotes. This can usually be done online through the company's website, by phone, or by email. Provide as much detail as possible about your needs to get the most accurate car shipping prices.

Remember, quotes can fluctuate based on various factors, including fuel prices, seasonality, and the current demand for car shipping services. Therefore, a quote is often time-sensitive and might change if not confirmed within a specified period.

Understand and Compare Quotes

When you've gathered a few quotes, it's time to analyze and compare each auto shipper. Keep in mind shipping vehicles with the cheapest quote is not always the best. Look at what each quote includes and excludes with each transport service. For instance, some companies might offer door-to-door delivery within their standard quote, while others may charge extra for this service.

Understand the Contract

Also, look at the terms and conditions tied to each quote. If you plan to carry personal belongings, make sure you are aware of those policies. Some companies might require a deposit, while others may offer a 'pay upon delivery' service.

Understand Cargo Insurance

Be sure you understand what happens if the delivery is delayed or if your vehicle incurs damage during shipping. Will the vehicle shipping company cover repair costs? Do they offer a guarantee?

Finalize Your Decision

Once you've compared your quotes, and you're satisfied with the balance of cost, services, and terms, it's time to make your choice for which reputable company you want to go with. However, before you confirm, ensure you've asked any lingering questions about your auto shipment that you might have and that you fully understand what you're agreeing to.

How to Save Money When Shipping a Car

How to ship a car on the cheap is a big deal for nearly everyone. Nobody wants to overpay!

Plan Ahead

It's advisable to schedule your car shipment as early as possible. The more notice you can provide, the greater your chances of securing an advantageous rate. Ideally, try to book your vehicle shipment at least a fortnight prior to your intended move date.

Flexibility is Key to Saving Money

Being flexible with your pickup and delivery dates can potentially lower your shipping costs. Most transport carriers prioritize jobs that seamlessly integrate into their existing schedules. If you're able to be flexible with your shipping dates, the carrier can accommodate you more easily. While expedited shipping is an option, it usually comes with a higher price tag.

Go for Open Carrier Shipping

Open car carrier shipping is the most economical method of transporting your vehicle. These trucks typically accommodate between eight to ten cars, meaning shipping routes incorporate multiple stops for loading and unloading.

However, if you own a classic car or one with low clearance, you might want to consider enclosed auto carrier shipping. Although more expensive, this method provides better protection from road debris and inclement weather for your classic car, exotic, or other high value vehicle.

Ship More Than One Vehicle

If you are looking to ship more one or two cars, then you can save money as the driver only has to go to once to both the pickup and delivery locations. Less stops means saving time and fuel.

Terminal-to-Terminal Shipping?

If feasible considering your location and shipping provider, to opt for terminal to terminal transport. This involves having your car transported to and from a designated shipping terminal or yard, a choice that can result in substantial savings over other auto shippers that do no do this. However, as of 2023 it has been harder to find due to lack of popularity since most prefer to door to door shipping with auto carriers as they go to and from each delivery location.

How to Ship a Car Step by Step

Now that you understand what to look for in Auto transport companies You can begin the car shipping process and take steps to booking transport. It's only takes 3 steps to get your vehicle picked up, and 2 more to receive. The whole process in five easy steps!

Step 1 - Instant Car Shipping Cost Quote

You will begin a recent and accurate quote to ship your car. Most legitimate car shipping companies will not require personal information.

Most established auto shipping companies will have automated shipping quotes. This makes it easy if you want to get multiple quotes to see what type of transport you want to use.

Step 2 - Secure Vehicle Shipment

Secure your vehicle transportation by phone or online selecting a the first available day they we can come get the vehicle. .

At this point, the shipper will need some more information about you and your vehicle(s). This will include the pickup and drop-off information, as well as billing information.


You will need all this set up for when we set up the carrier to come get you.Remember, the great thing about working with  a company that does not have upfront charges is that you never get charged a penny until we they a carrier scheduled to come get you.

Step 3 - Car Pick Up

Then comes the part you’ve been waiting for! When we schedule your pickup. Once your vehicle is assigned a carrier, we’ll send you a dispatch notice.

This is an email with important information such as the date of pickup, expected delivery, and the driver’s contact information.

The driver will then reach out to you to confirm dates and times. When they show up they will perform a pick up inspection with the bill of lading

Most auto shipping is organized on to large car transport carriers like the one pictured above. Usually for local and shorter distance (especially those traveling under 500 miles) a smaller carrier is used to transport your vehicle, as also pictured above.

There are many configurations, makes, and models for both the larger and smaller carriers, however the examples above are representative of what is most typical.

All transporters are required by the FMCSA to be licensed, bonded, and insured. The average insurance for our carriers is a million dollars. Carriers are required to maintain licensing and insurance or could face civil, even criminal penalties.

Step 4 - Vehicle in Transit

The vehicle is in transit on its way to your destination. While the carrier travels you can always call and check status confirm travel time.

In your dispatch notice, you received the estimated date of arrival. As the driver nears your destination, they will call to update you if they are meeting their projected time. 

Step 5 - Delivery!

Then comes the best part. The arrival of your vehicle, safely and expediently to the destination.  As the driver nears, they will each out to you to confirm you are ready to meet them.

When they show up they will perform a delivery inspection with a copy of the pickup bill of lading. 

Make sure you compare the two in order to absolutely make sure not a single mark or scratch is on your vehicle.

If your order is COD (collect at delivery) , you will pay the carrier the remaining balance of your shipping with them directly

Preparing for Pick Up

  1. Be ready when shipping a car. As a courtesy, keep less than a quarter in the gas tank of your vehicle.

  2. If shipping pickup trucks, be sure to remove any loose items in the truck bed.

  3. Remove or wrap toll transponders in foil or you may get charged for tolls if you leave it in the car.

  4. Do not have more than 100 lbs of personal items in the vehicle.

  5. Be ready to inspect the vehicle with the Bill Of Lading

How Long Does it Take?

Shipping a car does not happen overnight. The average car transport carrier can cover around 300-500 miles a day on a full load and if the route is planned efficiently. This can fluctuate based on road conditions, road closures, and more. Read about all this in detail over at how long it takes.

Some east coast to west coast (and vice-versa) auto transports occur very quickly because there are no pickups or drop-offs in areas between both locations. The same goes for transport up and down the east coast.

A great example would be shipping a car on a route going from Los Angeles to Miami or West Palm Beach to New York City. There are safety rules that each carrier must abide to when shipping a car across the country.

An auto transport driver can only drive a total of 11 consecutive hours if they have rested 10 before that run. He or she may not be on duty more than 14 hours.

These hours can include driving or other tasks having to do with the transport. Again they must have rested 10 hours to work the maximum of 14.

The driver of the carrier must stop driving after 8 hours since the last sleeper berth break of at least 30 minutes. (Berth means on a bed or bunk that can be on in the transporter’s cabin.) Most driving is limited by the 60/70-hour limit.

Driving time is to be no more than 60 hours within seven back to back days, or can drive up to 70 hours if working 8 days nonstop. See for more details on hours.


We have covered what car shipping is. Hopefully, you have decided if it's right for you. If it is, give us a call at 800-284-7177 or get an instant quote. Our car shipping advisors are ready to help you!