What Is Auto Transport / How It Works


When you are getting started with shipping a car, it’s important to know all the details of how this industry works. Shipping takes place from one location to another on a car carrier. There are plenty of reasons to ship a car instead of driving it. Moving/relocating is usually at the top of the list, followed by seasonal shippers (snowbirds). And finally those buying a vehicle, usually online. You’ll want to start by finding out how much it costs.

what is auto transport

How Our Service Works

Regardless if it’s to a new town or a new state, nothing beats the safety and convenience of having a vehicle shipped. You might choose to fly and have your car hauled to its destination, for example. 

Step One

man on computer looking at National Express' auto transport website

First, you’ll need an instant and accurate quote to ship your car anywhere with our calculator. No phone number required. You get your rate in moments thanks to our instant car shipping calculator. Since we don’t require personal information, it takes seconds. We are one of the few companies that understand you want to make your choice, not have one pushed on you. We never bombard you with phone calls or emails. We do not sell your information.

Step Two

After receiving your quote, you can book your transport. At this point, we’ll need some more information about you and your vehicle(s). This will include the pickup and drop-off information, as well as billing information for when we set up the carrier to come get you. Remember, the great thing about working with National Express is that you never get charged a penny until we have a carrier scheduled to come get you. 

picking the best car shipping company
picking the best car shipping company

After receiving your quote, you can book your transport. At this point, we’ll need some more information about you and your vehicle(s). This will include the pickup and drop-off information, as well as billing information for when we set up the carrier to come get you. Remember, the great thing about working with National Express is that you never get charged a penny until we have a carrier scheduled to come get you. 

Step Three

auto transport carrier driver

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.

 a Just like manufacturers ship cars to dealerships, you can have your vehicle ride in these large carriers. As you would expect, auto dealers employ the services of auto shipping companies, although much more frequently  than private individuals would.

When you’re referring to the shipping of cars, it can also be referred to it as car shipping, car hauling, car transport, long distance towing, or auto hauling, for example. But it’s all the same.


Types of Auto Transport Companies


These days, when you’re shipping your car, you not only have to worry about choosing the right company to do the actual loading and transporting of your car, but you also have to think about which companies you want to trust with helping you arrange the details of the shipping.

There are three major types of companies that you might  deal with when shipping your car: lead aggregators, auto transport brokers, and, auto transport carriers.


Lead Aggregators /Lead Provider – You May Want to Stay Away from Them


Lead aggregators are just companies that exist completely online. They are not licensed brokers or carriers. What they do is simply collect information about your car and your shipping requirements to sell that information auto shippers. In a perfect world they would simply connect you to brokers or carriers. But unfortunately, anyone can buy these leads so using them comes with some risks. You do not know who you are dealing with. The companies and individuals they sell your informaiton to will call over and over until they reach you. They are not reccomended.

When you do your Google search and end up on a lead aggregating site, it’s almost impossible to tell if the website as they spend a lot of money to appear like the actual auto shipping company. They have even tricked search engiens in to putting them on top of actual auto transporters.

Auto Transport Broker

Auto transport brokers are like a concerige or travel agent. They make the connection for you between you and your car carrier. They deal with handling all the details involving the auto shipping. They will be responsible for not only making sure the carrier you use is reputable and has up-to-date insurance requirements, but they will also handle claims for you should any mishap happen during the shipping.

Few of us can confidently say that we know exactly what to look for when searching for a shipping carrier. That’s why it’s advisable to use companies like brokers. Reputable auto transport brokers are usually experts in the shipping industry and they’re more likely to know which carriers are trustworthy, safe, and affordable. In addition, reputable auto shipping brokers will be able to connect you to your best carrier much easier than you would on your own because they have access to many resources and trucking companies. They can also use load boards. These are places where auto carriers go to find new loads and contracts that they can carry out. All that a broker has to do is create a lead for your car, to which carriers can reply with their own quotes and bids. That way, the broker will be able to compare the offers available to you at that particular time, filter out the suspicious looking ones, and give you the best deal you could have. If you want the shipping of your car to be as stress-free as possible for you, then you probably want to use a broker.


Carrier / Owner-Operator

You might be thinking of bypassing the broker option, in which case you would have to go directly to the auto transport carrier. Auto carriers are the companies that would do the actual shipping for you. They are the ones that will be responsible for loading, transporting, and delivering your truck to your chosen destination. You might think that since this option will allow you save money on a broker and to have the most accurate information regarding your shipping, it must be the best option. But that’s not necessarily the case. If you go directly to a carrier, you will have to take on all the responsibility for the shipping all the way from contracting the most suitable carrier, to making sure they have the right insurance, and noting any damages or mistakes in the delivery on the bill of lading. You will also have to make sure you have enough time in your schedule to take on all this responsibility, and that it will not cost you in lost productivity. Unless you are someone affiliated with the shipping industry, or you happen to have studied a lot about car shipping, chances are you will miss some details in the shipping that might cause you a great deal of annoyance in the future.

Keeping in mind that a broker’s sole job is brokering so they would be particularly skilled in it, it’s quite unlikely that you will be able to do a better job doing it for yourself. Your shipping experience might end up being unnecessarily time-consuming, stressful, and expensive.


How Much It Costs to Ship A Car


The cost of shipping your car will depend on some of the factors listed above. As mentioned, our car shipping calculator will be your best option in order to get your rate. It takes in all the factors that can affect your price to give you the most accurate price possible.

But for those that want more detail, we are glad to give you a basic breakdown.


How Pricing Works


The type of auto shipping companies you choose to work with, the type of shipping trailer you specify, and the type of shipping service you find most suitable will factor into the cost. Fortunately, we account for all those factors in your cost to ship.

Some companies will be more expensive than others, brokers can be influential in reducing the costs, but enclosed trailers and inoperable transport will cost more. So you can understand the host of other factors that can affect how much you end up pulling out of your wallet for your car’s shipping,  Here are some of these additional factors:




Naturally, the further away you wish to ship your car, the more the shipping will cost. Your shipping company will have to spend more on fuel, and the truck driver will have to spend more time on the road if you’re taking your car a little further away. You as the customer will have to carry some of those costs. The cost of shipping doesn’t increase linearly with the distance though. Usually, you pay a higher per-mile cost for the first 500 miles or so than you would for 1000 miles and over. Our online quotes range from $0.75-1.54 for the first 300 miles and $0.30-0.46 for anything above the 1000 mile mark. The per-mile costs may be higher or lower depending on the auto shipping company you and your broker choose.




Where you ship your car from and where you wish to ship it to will also determine the cost. For example, in metro areas, the population is higher so the demand for shipping companies is much higher. Also, most shipping companies usually base their routes around metropolitan areas where the roads are more suitable for the driving the large hauling trucks. The combination of higher demand and high competitive supply means that most companies will keep their costs fairly low when you’re shipping between metro areas. On the other hand, in rural areas, not only is access limited, but there are also fewer people looking to ship their cars. So because it’s outside the customary routes for shipping companies, and they won’t get many customers there, shipping companies will drive up the prices to make it worthwhile for them to go venture out to the countryside.


Time of the Year


The shipping industry is like any other industry. It has a high season where higher demand drives up the prices, and a low season where you might be able to ship your car at a fraction of the high season costs. Summer to early fall is the high season for auto transport companies. With many people wishing to take advantage of the warmer work-free months for travel, the number of