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Vehicle Shipping in The USA

Are you moving to a new state, vacation home, or moving a luxury or multiple cars? Well, regardless of the reason, sometimes it’s not possible to drive your car for long distances. As a result, you might be forced to use the services of an auto shipping company. To help you understand how this process works in the US, here is a comprehensive overview of the auto transport.

 

Once you have researched and found the right company, then you can go ahead and plan how to ship your car. There is definitely paperwork that’s required for the auto shipment. Generally, you mainly need two documents: auto transport carrier insurance (which will be provided by the transportation company) and keys for the car. However, the company may request additional documents depending on the state or pickup location. They may include:

 

  • Vin number
  • Lot number and buyer number (for auction pickup)
  • Title and Registration
  • Lienholder authorization
  • Absent owner authorization

 

It should be noted that the bill of lading is also known as BOL. It’s normally used as proof of delivery and it documents the condition of your vehicle from the pickup point and delivery location. In case you fail to make note of the damage on your bill of lading, then the insurance company won’t reimburse you for repairs in case your vehicle is damaged during transportation.

 

While it’s not mandatory for you to have an insurance policy (as the customer), the shipment company needs it. Generally, the coverage amount usually varies from company to company. So, ensure that you pick a shipment company that has adequate coverage.

 

Next, you should consider choosing the type of carrier. Do you want an open or an enclosed auto transport carrier? Each one of them has its own pros and cons and so what you will choose depends on your needs.

Open vs Enclosed Trailers

So, you have already selected a vehicle shipping company, but what type of shipping are you going to use? Well, both of them are normally used to transport cargo including vehicles. Besides that, both of them come in a broad range of styles and sizes.

 

Benefits of Enclosed Trailers

  • Vehicle exposure: this is the biggest benefit of using an enclosed cargo trailer. Whether you are shipping near or far, this type of trailer ensures that your vehicle is effectively protected from the elements of weather. Your precious cargo will be protected from sudden rainstorms, dust, and dirt, etc.
  • Security: a locked cargo is more secure because it fully protects what’s inside.

Open Trailers Benefits

  • Lightweight: they are usually lightweight in nature and this makes them ideal to maneuver across different terrains with your vehicle in tow. It’s ideal if you want our vehicle to be shipped quickly. Due to the reduced weight, open trailers often use less fuel hence they are efficient.
  • Height restriction: this is something that you would definitely have to consider if you are working with an enclosed trailer. However, height is not a problem when it comes to an open trailer. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about the ceiling clearance.

Open Trailer

Enclosed Trailer

Insurance

Up to $100K

Up to $250K

Capacity

3-10 vehicles

1-6 vehicles

Cost

Low-medium

High (open*1.7)

Security

Medium

High

Consider the Type of Pick and Delivery

Do you want a door to door services or terminal to terminal services? Well, the type of pickup and delivery you choose depends on your budget, free time, as well as other needs.

 

  • Terminal to terminal delivery: it means that you have to take and pick your vehicle at one of the company’s regional facilities. But you need to ensure that you have free time because some terminals are quite far and you may need hours to pick your automobile.
  • Door to door delivery: the company is responsible for picking and dropping off your vehicle at your doorstep. This is a quite flexible mode of delivery since you don’t need to be physically present for delivery. You can simply appoint someone else to confirm the delivery for you.

 

Regardless of what you choose, prepare yourself to wait. Auto-shipping whether domestic usually takes time and in some instances, it can take up to 4 weeks from the time your vehicle is picked to delivery at its destination.

Vehicle Shipping: Carriers vs Brokers

When choosing a vehicle shipping company, you need to realize that not all shipping companies are the same. Therefore, it’s important to know which type of service to go for.

 

You can check whether company has a broker entity or carrier entity over here: https://safer.fmcsa.dot.gov/CompanySnapshot.aspx

 

Working with a Carrier

Generally, these are service providers who will directly handle any shipment during transportation. If you opt for a carrier, it means that you are choosing to eliminate the middle man. Carrier companies usually range from large fleets to small owners operators.

Many people opt to work with carriers because they usually work within the stipulated time frames. Additionally, they usually take full responsibility for damaged or lost items. If you are shipping your vehicle using such a service provider, you can keep in direct contact to determine the status updated of your vehicle.

 

Working with a Broker

It means that you are choosing to work with a middleman. The main task of a broker is to arrange the transportation of your shipment. However, they don’t have their own trucks or drivers. This means that the broker has to work with a carrier company in order to ship your vehicle.

 

It should be noted that you will not have direct contact with the carrier. All information related to your shipment can only be found from the broker. Overall, the shipment process usually takes longer because the broker has to go ahead and search for a carrier.

 

However, we can’t outrightly determine which one is the best for you. It all depends on your individual shipping needs. For instance, brokers usually offer convenience because they outsource all their services. Besides that, their service delivery is usually diversified since they can use different carriers.

 

The downside of brokers is that some of them engage in fraudulent and shady businesses. Furthermore, it’s common for some products to inexpertly hike the prices. If you are going to choose one, make sure that you do a comprehensive analysis.

 

On the other hand, the main downside of carriers is that they are usually pricey compared to brokers. Well, this usually happens the competition isn’t extremely high. So, they don’t need to lower their prices to attract more customers.

Broker

Carrier

Registration Required?

Yes, FMCSA registration

Yes, FMCSA registration

Have trucks?

No

Yes

Insurance Required?

No

Yes

Have drivers?

No

Yes

Working with requests?

Yes

No (only with completed orders)

Payments Accepted

Credit Card, PayPal

Cash on delivery, certified funds

Paperwork needed

Contract, Dispatch List

Bill of Lading

Vehicle Shipping Quotes and Rates

There are no fixed costs when it comes to shipping a vehicle. Even when you use an online calculator, the vehicle shipping quotes are usually based on estimates based on what different vehicle shipping companies had previously charged. That’s why you might find that even though you and the next client might have the same vehicle, the vehicle shipping cost may still be different. Factors that affect these charges include:

 

The size of the vehicle

The bigger the vehicle, the expensive the shipping costs. This is because large vehicles weigh more and occupy more space. For instance, a dually might cost almost three times more than a basic SUV.

 

The Condition of the Vehicle

Well, this depends on if your vehicle is operating or not. For instance, if it isn’t in running condition, then you will need to pay more because the insurance company has to employ premium shipping services. For instance, you might be charged a little more for faulty steers and brakes. In case the vehicle needs to winched or forklifted into the trailer, then you will pay more hundreds of dollars.

 

The type of trailer used

If you opt to use enclosed vehicle shipping rather than open trailer shipping, then on average, you will pay 80%. Well, people choose enclosed shipping if the car is still new, expensive, or you are transporting a customized sports car. Generally, the idea of enclosed shipping is to protect the vehicle from the elements of the weather.

 

Expedited Delivery and Other Special Requests

In case the time-frame for pickup and delivery is quite short, then the charges will be high. Well, you will incur extra charges because the carrier has to schedule new delivery services last-minute and this usually comes with increased risk. Special requests such as top-loading will lead to more costs.

 

Location

Your vehicle shipping quote depends on your location. Generally, charges usually vary from state to state. This is because different states have unquiet regulations on how businesses operate. Besides that, the distance also matters.

 

For example, if the shipment is between two major cities that are close, then the costs will be cheaper than two big cities that are far apart. The more the carrier moves across the country, the more you will pay.

 

The Season

It’s less costly to transport your vehicle in winter because fewer people are looking for such services. However, winter may also interfere with the delivery timeline. Some roads might end being closed hence the carrier may have to look for alternative routes.

Did you know?

In most cases you don't need to have vehicle registration to ship your vehicle within the USA. The driver will simply need to have your keys and you signature o the Bill of Lading to pick up the car.

Pro Tip

You will need to provide the last 6 digits of the VIN, buyer and lot number for vehicle going from IAAI and Copart. Driver will need a Gate Pass to pick up your car from Manheim.

Best Vehicle Shipping Companies in the US

If you want to ship your car in the US, here are some of the best companies that you can consider using:

 

1. AmeriFreight

It’s rated as the top vehicle shipping company in the US. AmeriFreight easily stands from the rest of its competitor’s thanks to its quality services. Besides that, its vehicle shipping quotes and rates are highly competitive. And if you are a student, member of the military, or a senior, then you are guaranteed discounts.

 

There are multiple shipping options and in case you are worried about damages, then this brand usually offers its customers additional insurance. This is definitely a company that you can rely on and its services are available in all 50 states.

 

2. Sherpa Auto Transport

It’s renowned for its great upfront prices. There are many companies that offer great deals during consultations but once you are ready to ship your vehicle, they suddenly raise their rates. However, Sherpa guarantees you of its prices. It’s a company that consistently works to ensure that you get to know beforehand what you need to pay.

 

Even though its shipping charges may be higher than average, there are no chances of paying for you extra costs. For reliability, this company usually delivers its vehicle shipping quote that’s backed by a Price Lock Promise. Well, this simply means that the price quote you get is the estimated price you are expected to pay.

 

3. EasyAutoShip

It’s popular for its cheaper prices. This shipping company doesn’t make you choose between fast delivery and cheap prices. Customer reviews indicate that it has some of the best prices in the industry, in fact, less than the current industry average. Additionally, it has an excellent turnaround time while its customer services are great.

 

4. Montway

It’s known to provide faster shipping services. Auto transport data indicates that Montway usually transports more than 5 times as many vehicles as other companies. Did you know that Montway also goes to Hawaii and Alaska?

 

While you are guaranteed the widespread availability of services, this shipping company also offers its customers specific pick up days. While the shipping costs usually vary from season to season, they are generally affordable.

 

5. Bargain Auto Transport

This is another affordable car shipping company. Bargain Auto Transport allows you to work with a broker till you can find one that meets your budget. As a result, you don’t have to work with any payment rates from the company.

Things to ask the shipping company:

To get a better idea a about the company you are about to start working with ask them the following questions things: their MC and USDOT number, how long have they been in business, what is their deposit (and do you pay it upfront), ask for the copy of the contract, once the carrier is assigned to the order ask for the dispatch list and carriers insurance.

PRO TIP

As a rule of thumb - never consider lowest quotes. Most probably companies are trying to lure you into scam low-ball practice. Eventually they might ruin your plans and overcharge you. Always!!! check Yelp and BBB reviews.

Car Shipping Pros and Cons

Are you wondering if shipping your vehicle is worth it? Well, hiring a professional to handle the transportation of your vehicle usually comes with its advantages. Some of the pros of using a vehicle shipping company include:

 

Convenience

The burden of moving out is usually extensive and the last thing you’d want to deal with is how to transport your car. However, hiring professionals to do this for you can help ease your stress levels significantly. Once you book and pay for these services, it’s upon the vehicle shipping company to handle everything related to the transportation of the vehicle.

Reduced Wear and Tear

Driving for a long-distance, whether you are driving the vehicle yourself or not, the level of wear and tear is usually high. Besides that, this would significantly increase your car’s total mileage. Understand that if your car is older, it probably has a lot of mileage and it would be unwise to increase this. Shipping is the only way that would prevent wear and tear as well as overall mileage. Consequentially, this would help to preserve the value of your car.

 

Improved Safety

Using an auto transporter company is definitely the safest way to move your vehicle. Generally, a lot of people usually prefer to use shipping companies because it helps to reduce the risk of getting into accidents and experiencing breakdowns. The natural state of roads can be harsh in some instances and this can have a direct impact on your vehicle.

 

Efficiency

Generally, using an auto transport company provides a better way of saving time rather than driving the vehicle yourself to the new destination. Besides that, driving for long hours usually leads to fatigue and this may blur your judgments and lead to accidents. With a shipping company, once your vehicle has been picked, you only have to worry about when it will get delivered.

 

Lower Chargers

A lot of people tend to think that the cost of shipping vehicles is usually higher than the cost of driving the vehicle to the new destination. Well, this isn’t true. If you decide to do the calculations, you will find that the total costs involving, gas, lodging, and other refreshments during driving will certainly surpass the amount of money you will pay a professional company.

 

Overall, these companies usually offer lower charges because they don’t transport one vehicle alone. The costs are usually spread out across different clients for the same distance hence the charges are usually lower.

 

Insurance Protection

It’s a requirement that all auto transport companies have insurance policy coverage. That’s why every reputable company in the US usually offers auto transport insurance that covers every vehicle transported by them.

 

In case your car gets damaged while on transit, it’s the responsibility of the shipping company to pay for the incurred losses. This will definitely give you the guarantee that your vehicle is safe and you will have peace of mind.

 

While auto shipping provides a convenient way of transporting your vehicle, it still comes with some cons. some of the potential pitfalls that you are likely to come across include:

 

Scam

The potential of you falling victim to a scam is quite high when using a broker. Initially, some of them will easily entice you with their cheap shipping quotes, well, you might end up thinking that you have landed a great deal. However, after you make the booking, new unknown charges will start to mushroom. For instance, the broker could claim that the carrier has decided to increase the shipping rates hence you have to do so as well.

 

That’s why it’s very important for you to do comprehensive researcher before you employ the services of a broker. There are always warning signs of fraudulent activities. For instance, extremely low prices are red flags. Also, don’t forget to check customer reviews.

 

Vehicle Damage

While your car is being transported by a professional company, the risk of damage can’t be 100% eliminated. Mishaps happen and they even affect the most product drivers. It could be their mistake or simply something beyond their control. Some of the damages that your car might experience while in transit are related to:

 

  • Loss of gas, oil, and other fluids
  • Harsh roads condition including ice, rocks, unpaved roads, and potholes among others
  • Tire punctures, worn out rotors and brakes
  • Additional strain on the engine as well as transmission

 

Note: to avoid these potential damages, ensure that you choose an auto transport with good insurance coverage.

Late Delivery

This is an issue that frequently happens. Generally, carriers have lots of logistics to consider before they even begin the transportation process. This is because it’s not your vehicle that’s being shipped only. Besides that, the needs of other clients have to be considered as well.

 

Understand that in this case, it’s upon the company to decide the delivery date. You have to work with their schedule and the waiting time usually takes weeks. Overall, most companies usually provide a one or two-week delivery window. However, you won’t get notified about the exact delivery date.

How to Prepare a Car for Shipment

You need to prepare beforehand if you are considering vehicle shipping. Necessary preparation is important to ensure that you safely and successfully transport the vehicle. Before the shipping day, here are some of the most important things you need to do:

Remove any Personal Belongings

There are definitely some of the things that you normally leave in the car. They may include small accessories such as chargers, earphones, makeup, documents, and other electronic devices. Make sure that you remove them.

 

This is because any item that you leave in the car might get lost or damaged during the shipping process. However, if you insist on leaving your personal items, then make sure that they are out of sight and not placed where they can be hit by direct sunlight.

 

Clean your vehicle

Although this may seem like a counter-intuitive process right before shipping, it’s actually essential. You need to clean your car in order to remove pre-existing dust, dirt, and other materials. Cleaning can also help you to easily detect any new damage that may happen during the transportation process.

 

Work on the interior as well by wiping down the surfaces and removing all types of clutter. For effectiveness, it’s important that you analyze the cleaning process yourself. Don’t forget that it’s also important to clean it once it has been shipped.

 

Record any type of damage

The shipment process can be quite tricky and anything is possible. Your car might get damaged due to accidents. However, you need to document pre-existing damage so that if anything new happens, you can confidently hold the shipping company accountable.

 

Generally, you need to take a walkabout and record the pre-existing damage. Especially what may involve the exterior parts? This may include some paint chips, scratches, dents, and discolorations. The documentation process should also involve pictures. Take a picture of the whole vehicle as well as close-ups of different parts. In case of any damage after arrival, you can quickly file for claims with your evidence.

Empty the Gas Tank

This is a mandatory thing to do because your car isn’t been driven but shipped. Understand that having gas in your tank leads to extra weight for the carrier and if that is the case, then you will end up paying a little more when it comes to the vehicle shipping cost.

 

Note: in case you still insist on leaving gas in the tank, then ensure that at maximum it’s just a quarter full. Well, this is enough level of fuel that you can use for quick transportation when the vehicle reaches its destination.

Conduct Maintenance

Even though when you are shipping a vehicle nothing is being operated, it’s vital that you conduct maintenance. You need to verify which parts of the car are working and what areas need maintenance before shipping. Some of the most common things you need to check out include:

 

  • Tire pressure: check your vehicle to ensure that it’s properly inflated. It shouldn’t be under- or over-inflated because this will damage the car during shipment.
  • Check for leaks and top off fluids: they include the washer, oil, coolant, brake, and power steering fluids.
  • Battery charge: make sure that the battery is full
  • Mileage: check your car’s mileage before and after delivery

 

Remove Outside Accessories

In case your car has extra accessories on the exterior, make sure that you remove them. They can easily be damaged during shipping and some of these accessories are quite expensive. If you can’t remove them, at least make sure that they are secured. They normally include:

 

  • Custom spoilers
  • Retractable antennas
  • Removable bike racks and ski racks
  • Luggage racks
  • Rooftop boxes

 

Get a Moving Insurance Policy

Some incidents that are out of control may happen during shipping. Well, this is a possibility that we can’t completely eliminate, especially if the shipment trip is quite long. Getting an insurance policy will give you the peace of mind that if anything happens, then your finances are covered.

 

Remain with Extra Car Keys

Lock up your vehicle and transport it to the autotransporter for loading. The auto-transport driver will definitely need their set of keys in case the vehicle needs to be driven off or moved. However, it’s still important that you remain with a spare set of keys. Well, if you don’t have one, then it’s important that you get one.

Vehicle Shipping Rates

Car shipping rates are very different and subject to change due to many factors. You can transport your car for $600 in April, but the cost will be 2 times higher in December due to the market change. Taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic it nearly impossible to predict what to expect. Prices skyrocket when they shouldn’t be high and go down when they should go up. We are living in a very interesting period of time!

 

Here is a brief example of what can you expect to pay for car shipping state-to-state:

Route

Sedan

SUV

Pickup Truck

CA-CO

$650

$725

$950

TN-FL

$750

$900

$1025

TX-CA

$575

$650

$775

CA-IL

$850

$950

$1100

WA-IN

$875

$975

$1100

NY-OH

$250

$325

$450

NJ-AZ

$1175

$1250

$1350

Vehicle Auto Transport FAQs

Q: Is It Possible for Me to Ship Personal Items in My Car?

A: You can’t do this and you should consider hiding or intentionally leaving some things in your car. It should be noted that the responsibility of auto transport companies is to ship vehicles only. That’s why when you are preparing your vehicle for shipping, one of the things you need to do is to remove all your personal belongings from the vehicle. In case you decide to transport personal belongings while your vehicle is being shipped, you can land it law problems with the responsible authorities.

 

Q: How Much Will Auto Shipping Cost Me?

A: Well, there is no specific answer to this. This is because there are so many factors that determine the total auto shipping costs. Generally, auto shipping companies charge their customers based on a case-to-case basis. The main factors that influence general charges include:

 

  • The type of vehicle
  • Weight
  • Size
  • Its condition
  • The time of the year/week
  • The total distance of the trip
  • The type of carrier you would be using

 

Generally, the best way to know how much auto shipping will cost you is by contacting multiple companies and get a breakdown of their quotes.

Q: How Can I Track My Vehicle while it’s Being Transported?

A: You can call the auto transporter company if you wish. However, the best shipping companies usually allow for GPS tracking. With the invention of GPS systems and satellite tracking, you can conveniently find the location of your vehicle from the comfort of your home. Just make sure that before you decide to use any carrier, you have verified that they offer tracking services. This is because tracking via GPS and satellite is also quite expensive.

 

Q: Can I Ship My Vehicle Even If It’s Not Running?

A: Absolutely! It’s possible to ship a vehicle that doesn’t run. However, you need to prepare yourself for a small extra fee that you might be charged. Besides that, you need to ensure that you choose an auto shipping company that’s ideal for transporting non-operational vehicles.

 

The extra charges usually come up as a result of the extra services offered. For instance, instead of your vehicle being driven into or off the shipping container, it has to be winched in and secured. This is a process that takes time and requires extra resources.

 

Q: Will My Vehicle Remain on the Same Truck While It’s Being Transported?

A: Of course! This has always been the case. Once you book auto shipping services, it’s the responsibility of the insurance company to let you know the name of the driver that will be responsible for picking up your car. Well, it’s the same driver who will be taking your car to the new destination hence they will likely use one truck.

 

However, this doesn’t eliminate the fact the sometimes a second truck may be required even though it rarely happens. If that is the case, then you will be notified by the company of the new changes.

Q: Do I Need to be there for Pick Up and Delivery of the Vehicle?

A: It’s not mandatory but it’s good to be there. In case you are unable to be present, then you can simply get a trustworthy person to handle this for you. However, you will be required to update the auto transporters regarding this.