Car Shipping Broker vs. Carrier - Benefits & Drawbacks

What are the pros and cons of both auto transport brokers and car carriers? Each offer specific services when it comes to moving vehicles from a to b. Each has their own set of benefits and drawbacks. When deciding on an auto transport company, it's very important  to consider factors like safety, speed, customer service, reliability, and the total cost. 

We don’t just mean monetarily! There are costs associated with making the wrong decision that can cost more than money. 

Understanding Auto Transport Brokers

Auto transport brokers act as professionals that coordinate auto shipments between customers and carriers. Brokers are licensed to manage the coordination of car shipments, handling all the ins and outs for their clients. Brokers are particularly visible online, stacking the search results over carriers who usually have little or no interest in being found directly by customers.

Brokers don’t own trucks, however will have access to a vast network of carriers, making brokers very effective in finding the right shipping options for all kinds of vehicles and difficult timelines.

Understanding a Car Carrier

Car carriers own the trucks and handle the physical act of shipping of vehicles. These companies  range from small, single-owner operations to larger companies with a few trucks. They are directly involved in the pickup and delivery of vehicles, offering a more direct line of communication for customers. As we’ve mentioned before it’s hard to find a carrier directly because the majority choose to deal business to business with brokers which removes their need to advertise or promote themselves. 

Deciding Between Brokers and Carriers

Choosing between a broker and a carrier depends on specific wants and needs. Brokers offer great flexibility and time savings by handling the logistics and vetting of carriers, which is very beneficial  if you're shipping a tough to ship vehicle or dealing with tight timelines. 

Brokers have access to thousands of carriers through what is called the "dispatch board"m a marketplace where licensed carriers and brokers coordinate shipments. Carriers simply log on and pick the cars they want to take based on size, weight, route, and proposed fee.

Though I’ve seen the reverse mentioned (usually by carriers or hybrid companies themselves), carriers are usually not less expensive because they know what the average broker charges. Therefore they will add that back to the cost so it’s up to par with the fair market price.

Carriers may not charge a deposit as deposits are usually done by brokers to secure their fee for reserving a carrier, which means you don't pay until the truck is at your door.

In some cases, carriers may capitalize on the customer’s strong desire for a direct carrier and may charge altogether. So it’s always good to compare pricing from everyone. 

Pros and Cons of Auto Transport Brokers:

Pros:

  • Time Savings as they eliminate the need for customers to find and vet carriers themselves.
  • Brokers manage the entire shipping process, maintaining communication from start to finish.
  • Flexibility as Brokers can service any vehicle, route, and timeline thanks to their wide network.

Cons:

  • Lack of communication from less diligent companies. Carrier wants to deal with the broker, not their customer, so the broker must be well versed in coordinating the passage of information between customer and carrier.
  • Must choose wisely as some brokers are bad actors. Check reviews, especially if the brokers finds you and you did not find them directly yourself through researching companies.

Pros and Cons of Car Carriers

Pros:

  • Customers often deal directly with the driver or dispatcher.
  • Pay full fee at delivery without a deposit.

Cons:

  • Carriers can be difficult to find and may not service all routes or vehicle types.
  • Smaller carriers might not have the flexibility needed for less common routes or larger shipments.
  • Direct carriers may not prioritize customer service as highly as brokers because they run their business on the road.

Other Company Models

Broker/Carrier Hybrid / Dual License - An Other Type of Company

Some businesses operate as both brokers and carriers. These hybrids have both the brokerage license and carrier license.. Hybrid companies prioritize using their trucks for the most revenue  but will broker out shipments to other carriers on routes they don’t service or cars they cannot take. 

Despite the different services they offer, neither can guarantee exact pickup and delivery times due to variables like weather and traffic conditions. 

Lead Provider

Lead providers or lead farming sites only collect information about shippers and sell them to brokers. They appear as though they are car shipping companies, but exist only to sell leads. They are not required to be licensed because they have no part in the shipping process.

Although lead farming sites appear to be a transportation company, lead companies do not partake in any part of the shipping process and can be a major nuisance for customers. The outcome is normally being bombarded with calls, emails and text messages for many days.  

Final Thoughts

Both brokers and carriers provide valuable services in auto transport. NX is the live example of our successful brokerage model, offering the best comprehensive service. 

When choosing an auto shipping company,  consider your specific needs, the nature of the shipment, and personal preferences. Try to avoid lead providers. Although it is difficult to find a carrier as many don’t advertise, there are diamonds in the rough you can find if that is what you want to find. 

Carl has a decade of experience in the car shipping industry. He has worked in nearly every aspect of the transport business since 2014, taking charge of various roles in the company such as dispatching, sales, and customer service.

During those years, Carl amassed an invaluable amount of experience which has contributed to his writing of every article and and guide on NX since taking over content in 2015.