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The first question you'll want answered is "What is the total cost of shipping my car?" To get a good price, obtain quotes from several car transport companies and be prepared to provide:

  • origin/destination - include ZIP codes if possible
  • approximate departure date
  • type of vehicle(s)
  • preferred shipping options (see Tip #2)

Just remember that the cheapest price is not always the best. (See Tip #9)


To get an accurate quote and be able to compare quotes between companies, make sure you understand your shipping options and what your preferences are:

  • door-to-door vs. terminal-to-terminal - For door-to-door shipping, the car carrier picks-up your vehicle at your home or workplace and delivers your vehicle to your final destination. For terminal-to-terminal shipping, you deliver your vehicle to a vehicle storage location where the car carrier will then pick up your vehicle. It is delivered to a similar type of location near your final destination.
  • open or enclosed - Open transport is the less expensive and most common way to ship a vehicle. Enclosed transport is typically priced higher, and it protects your vehicle from dust, rain, snow and other elements. High-end vehicles are sometimes shipped enclosed.
  • operable or inoperable - Operable vehicles can be driven onto the truck. Inoperable vehicles require special equipment to pull the vehicle onto the truck. If your vehicle is inoperable you need to let the auto transport company know, so they can make sure the truck that picks up your vehicle has the proper equipment.


Personal items are typically NOT allowed in your vehicle. Most carriers are not licensed or insured to transport household items. Also, the additional weight can put carriers over their weight limit and items of value are easily stolen from an automobile's trunk.


The time that your car is in transit will be dependent on a number of factors, including the origin and destination, time of year, and the actual truck that will be shipping your car. When you get quotes from auto transport companies, you should also ask about estimated shipping time. The following are common time frames for shipping between different parts of the country.

East Coast to West Coast - typically 5 to 14 days 
Midwest to East Coast - typically 3 to 8 days 
Midwest to West Coast - typically 3 to 8 days 
South to the North - typically 3 to 8 days


While some car transport companies may not require payment in advance, most require a deposit (10-25% of the total cost) or full payment in advance. If a deposit is given, the remaining amount due is required at the time of delivery – oftentimes with a cashiers check or cash. Some auto transport companies do accept credit cards, but they may charge a 2-3% surcharge.


READ YOUR CONTRACT CAREFULLY!!! And, do not rely on any verbal promises from your car transport company.

After you sign your contract, your car transport company will ALWAYS refer you to the contract for any complaints you may have, including the cost to cancel your shipment. The main thing to look for is a clause that says there is no guaranteed pickup or delivery date. Even though most cars are delivered by car transport companies within the expected time frame, most will not guarantee a delivery date. You can ask for the following things to protect yourself against verbal promises that you would have otherwise relied upon (also see Tip #8 below):

  • Ask for a contract clause (in writing) that waives the cancellation fee if the car is not picked up by your car transport company within some number of days of the scheduled pickup date. If you cancel within the allotted window, expect to pay some fee, which may vary from $50 to $250. Although most cars are picked up on the scheduled date or within a few days of that date, a 1 or 2 week delay may occasionally happen. Your cancellation clause should allow for at least a week beyond the scheduled pickup date.
  • It is difficult for any car transport company to promise a delivery date, however, if your car transport company offers a guarantee that covers a rental car, find out the cost of the guarantee (if any) and the maximum dollars per day covered.


Your vehicle(s) should be insured against damage and theft by your car transport company. Take the following four steps to be sure of the coverage:

  1. Get a copy of Their Insurance Coverage.
  2. Determine if the carrier's insurance is Primary or Secondary to your own insurance in the event of damage during car transport.
  3. Ask if there is a damage deductible.

In addition, your own car insurance may cover your vehicle in transit – check with your car insurance company to verify. Keep in mind that many car transport companies may discourage or prohibit you from leaving personal articles in your vehicle. Any personal articles left in the car are not insured – your home policy may cover these articles, but you should check with your home insurance agent to verify. ALSO NOTE: overloading your trunk with heavy items may result in damage to your car's undercarriage. Your car transport company may not cover damage in that instance.


Ask for estimated pick-up and delivery times from your car transport company. You should be able to get a 3-day window for pick-up – during the busy summer or snow bird season the window may be larger, but the car transport company should warn you of possible delays ahead of time. BE SKEPTICAL OF EXACT PICK-UP AND DELIVERY DATES promised by auto transport companies – If you are promised exact dates, get it in writing and state the remedy if service is not performed on the promised dates ($50 discount, no fee to cancel, reimbursement for rental car, etc.). Once the pick-up is made, your car transport company should provide you with a fairly precise delivery date. If you need an exact date for pick-up, most car transport services can pick-up your car and hold it at a terminal for an additional charge.


While we do our best to exclude poor-quality car transport companies from our auto transport directory, we unfortunately cannot guarantee the quality or performance of those companies listed. BEFORE SELECTING A COMPANY, we recommend that you contact the Better Business Bureau in the city in which the car transport company is listed to inquire about the company's service history. Also, many car transport companies are referred by van line companies. Ask for several references, if possible.


Use the following tips to be ready for your car pick-up:

  1. Wash your car, so that you can properly inspect it and there are no disagreements over responsibility for any damage.
  2. Remove personal items from your vehicle (see Tip#3).
  3. Remove or secure any special effects on your car, such as spoilers, fog lights and antennas. These can easily be damaged during transport.
  4. Be sure your car battery is charged, so your car can be easily loaded and unloaded from the carrier.


As long as you are shipping within the United States, the only paperwork you will need is provided by the shipping company and is called the "Original Inspection Report". This report provides pick-up and delivery information, current mileage, and MOST IMPORTANTLY shows the condition of your car at the time of pick-up – pre-existing scratches and dents, cracked glass/mirrors, general paint condition, etc. Keep this report and use it when you receive your vehicle.


At the time of delivery, inspect your vehicle SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY and compare the condition and mileage against the "Original Inspection Report" provided by your car transport company at origination. Be sure to inspect the roof and under the front and rear bumpers. If there are inconsistencies, note them as exceptions and be sure the driver signs it. NEVER ACCEPT YOUR VEHICLE AT NIGHT IF YOU CANNOT VERIFY ITS CONDITION – without being viewed and signed by the driver, you have little recourse if damage occurred during transit.


The majority of car transport experiences are worry-free, with your damage-free vehicle arriving at the estimated time. On occasion, a vehicle may be damaged in transit. If this should happen, note all damage on your inspection report (see Tip#12), obtain the driver's signature, and contact your car transport company. The car transport company should then work with you to reimburse you for verifiable damage done to your car.


If you believe that a car transport company has not treated you fairly, first try to work it out with the company. Car transport companies are more likely to cooperate with you if they believe you are trying to work fairly with them. Be reasonable, but firm. If all else fails, you may consider filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau in the city in which the car transport company is listed. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation – – regulates car transport companies – however they will usually not get involved until after you have a court judgment against a car transport company (in small claims court, for example).


Car Shipping Costs Across the US – October

To give consumers an idea of what it would cost to ship their car, publishes the average car shipping rates each month between several regions of the United States.

Below are average prices for October 2011. The Northeast to Southeast saw the largest increases in prices, while the Southwest to Northeast saw the largest decrease.

Regions Average Price*
Midwest to Northeast $692
Northeast to Southeast $799
Southwest to Northeast $1131
Southeast to Southwest $1241
Southeast to Midwest $775

*These prices reflect the average market cost of shipping a standard car during October 2011. Prices may vary significantly depending on the vehicle being shipped as well as the zip codes of the origin and destination. To get an accurate quote to move your car, please contact a car shipping company on

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Car?

Cost of Car ShippingThe cost of shipping a car depends on the type of car, how far it is being shipped, and whether the pick-up and delivery locations are along regularly traveled shipping routes. The time of year can also be a factor, such as when larger numbers of snowbirds are shipping their vehicles. (For some example prices, please see our post for average car shipping costs between regions for September.)

To get an accurate estimate of the cost to ship your car, truck, SUV or motorcycle, you should request a quote from several car shipping companies. They will give you an accurate price based on your specific vehicle, pick-up and delivery points, and the time of years. However, to get comparable quotes from different car shipping companies, be sure you are requesting the same options. The following three options are the most common you need to choose from:

Door-to-Door vs. Terminal-to-Terminal
For door-to-door car shipping, the car carrier picks-up your car at your home or workplace and delivers it to your final destination (e.g. your new home). For terminal-to-terminal car shipping, you bring your car to a vehicle storage location where the car carrier picks it up at a future date. The car carriers delivers it to a terminal near your final destination.

Door-to-door shipping is typically more convenient in most situations. However, there are times when a terminal is preferable. For example, if you need use of your car until the day of a scheduled flight, you can drop off your car on a scheduled date even if the auto hauler will not pick it up for a day or two. (Typically, car shipping companies give you a three day pick-up window.) Also, your car can be delivered to a terminal near your final destination, even if you have not yet arrived.

Open or Enclosed
Open transport is the less expensive and most common way to ship a vehicle — on open carriers like the ones that deliver cars to car dealerships. However, this exposes your car to dust, rain, snow and other elements. That is why some owners of collectible and high-end cars choose enclosed transport. While enclosed transport is typically priced higher, your car is protected from the elements by walls and a roof.

Operable or Inoperable
An operable car can be driven onto the car carrier under its own power. A car that is inoperable or non-running requires the car carrier to have special equipment to get the car onto the trailer.

Because not all car carriers have equipment that allows them to load inoperable vehicles, it is important to let your car shipping company know that your vehicles is inoperable when getting a quote. Then, they can make sure your quote includes the use of a truck that has the proper equipment for loading an inoperable vehicle.

When you understand your options for shipping a car, you ensure you get an accurate quote that can help you compare quotes between companies.

How Do I Prepare My Car for Shipping It?

Taking some simple steps can help you prepare your car for shipping. These five simple steps will ensure the process goes more smoothly:

1. Remove personal items – While it is tempting to load up your vehicle when transporting it, this is not a good idea. It is against regulations for car carriers to transport personal items inside vehicles. In addition, items can be lost or stolen and it can put your vehicle overweight. See the post about including personal belongings during car shipping for more details.

2. Wash your car – While this may seem counter intuitive, since your vehicle will be on the back of a truck for several days or more, it allows for a more accurate inspection of your car. The driver can more accurately record any digs or dents, so there are no disputes about damage upon delivery.

3. Secure aftermarket add-ons – Protect any aftermarket add-ons or special effects on your car such as spoilers, fog lights, and antennas by removing them. Anything that extends beyond the original shape of your vehicle can be easily damaged during auto transport.

4. Run fuel tank down to below ¼ full – Having a full tank of fuel adds additional weight to your vehicle. Car carriers appreciate it when you  provide them with a tank that is only ⅛ to ¼ full.

5. Be sure battery is charged – A fully charged battery will ensure that your car can be started and driven on and off of the car carrier, even if it is sitting on the car carrier for a week or more.

In addition to these five steps, you may want to check with your car shipping company to see if they have any additional recommendations to prepare your car for shipping.


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How are Car Shipping Rates Determined?

Two primary factors contribute to the amount you pay for shipping your car: the actual cost of shpping your car and the overhead of the car shipping company. The largest proportion of the cost is the actual moving of the vehicle by the car carrier. The car carrier’s costs include:

Fuel – Since semi trucks only get 5-7 miles per gallon when hauling a trailer loaded with cars, the cost of diesel fuel has a big impact on the total cost of shipping a car. While prices did rise earlier this year due to the increasing cost of diesel fuel, they have leveled out and even dropped a bit over the past three months.

Truck Payments – A new truck and trailer can cost $150,000 or more. Car carriers must make monthly payments on the loans that most take to purchase their trucks.

Truck Maintenance – Since most trucks are driven 100,000 miles per year or more, they require regular maintenance to keep them running well. Maintenance includes tune-ups, oil changes and tire replacements.

Insurance – Car carriers pay to insure their trucks and trailers, just like you insure your vehicle. In addition, they are legally obligated to have insurance to cover the value of the vehicles they transport.

Driver Pay and Benefits – Whether drivers own their truck or are employees driving a company truck, driver’s must be paid for their time. Most drivers receive benefits (e.g. health insurance and retirement) as well.

In addition to the direct costs of transporting your vehicle, car shipping companies must also pay overhead expenses, such as customer service, marketing, rent and more. However, overhead expenses are typically only a small portion of the total cost of car shipping.