How to Ship Your Car when You're Moving

Some things are just worth the money when you’re moving, and shipping your car might be one of them. Already driving a moving truck? Moving cross-country? Have more cars than drivers? While expensive, shipping your car might be just the solution to your logistical nightmare. We’ll break down how it works and what to consider when you’re shipping your car.

How it Works

When you ship a car, you'll typically work with an auto transport broker, which is a company that connects you with a carrier. The carrier is the one who actually loads, transports, and unloads the car. 

Collecting quotes from various brokers is a good place to start. A number of companies have online quote tools, chat functionality, and of course, phone lines to call. You can expect to pay anywhere from $500-$2,500 to ship your car. It largely depends on how far you're shipping it. 

Word to the wise, shipping companies can be a little relentless with their follow up, so if you can avoid giving them your contact information upfront, you’ll be better off because of it.

Factors to Consider before Getting a Quote

You'll have to answer the following types of questions to get your quotes and determine the service that you need. 

How far will you be shipping your car?

One of the primary drivers of your shipping cost is mileage. And of course, the more miles you cover, the more gas you’ll need, so you can also expect a fluctuation in rates based on the price of gas.

The distance of your shipment will also determine how many days it will take to ship your car. A 500-mile trip might take around 3-4 days whereas a 2,500-mile cross-country trip will likely take a week or more.

What’s your timeframe?

This is a biggie. Shipping your car isn’t like shipping a package. You don't just drop it off at the shipping center with a label and leave with a tracking number. Most carriers offer door to door service and they give you a window of service, rather than an exact pickup date (usually around five days). That means you won’t know the exact date of your car shipment until your car is assigned a carrier, which can be anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of hours before pickup.

If you have an urgent shipping need, you can ask for the carrier about their expedited shipping or guaranteed pick-up options, but expect to pay a much higher rate for this service.

What’s the size of your vehicle?

Do you have a compact vehicle or a large SUV? Trying to decide which car to ship? No surprise here—the larger your car—both in size and weight—the more you’ll pay. Carriers have to account for the spacing and weight of the car to determine their overall load and capacity.

Is your vehicle operable?

Expect a question about operability as you scout out your options. Inoperable vehicles typically cost more to ship because the carrier will need to use a forklift or another option to load and unload your vehicle.

Do you want an open or enclosed carrier?

Open carriers are the most common way to ship your car, and they're less costly than enclosed containers. Enclosed carriers offer more protection from the weather and other elements, but unless you have a rare vehicle, it's probably not necessary.

Will you have personal items?

Carriers are not allowed to ship personal items in vehicles. That said, many will allow up to 100 lbs in your trunk. Keep in mind that your insurance might not cover any damage to your personal items. 

Follow Up Questions to Ask 

Remember that the lowest cost doesn't mean the best quality. The transport industry is not highly regulated, and scams do happen. Be sure to read reviews and ask important follow-up questions to ensure you're getting the service you've been promised. 

  • What does your insurance cover?
    Look for a carrier that offers coverage for damages during transit with no deductible. 
  • Is the quote binding?
    Try to secure a binding quote that includes all taxes, tolls, fees, fuel surcharges, and insurance. Some carriers may try to tack on charges later based on variables like weather or carrier availability. 
  • Are you licensed, bonded, and insured?
    This is one way to ensure you're working with a legitimate company. 
  • Is your pickup window guaranteed?
    Most complaints happen when the car isn't picked up within the five-day window, and understandably so. Avoid getting stranded—work with a broker who can guarantee your pickup window. 
  • Do you require a deposit?
    Scammers easiest tactic is to charge you at the time of booking or before pickup, and then leave you hanging. Often times, less-than-honest broker companies will attract customers with low bids, and then struggle to actually secure a carrier at the lower rate, leaving the customer in a bind. 
  • Does the company have over 100 reviews? How is the company rated?
    Referrals and reviews are the best way to really get a sense of the company's level of service.

Good luck with your move and your search. Need other tips for moving to a new area? Check out our relocating series