Is Your Car Safe During Auto Transport?

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on September 21, 2021
5 min read

At a glance

The last thing you want when you ship your car is to have it arrive damaged or missing personal items—or not arrive at all. Move.org walks you through the dangers of shipping a vehicle and provides simple tips to reduce safety risks during car transport.

7 ways to keep your car safe during transport


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Is it safe to ship a car?

Car shipping is generally safe. Theft and crashes can and do happen, but you can also help minimize the risks of these incidents and other damage by carefully considering the type of transport you need.

Type of transport

When it comes to the safety of your vehicle, the type of transport you choose matters. You can ship your vehicle using open or enclosed auto transport.

While open transport is less expensive, enclosed transport offers better protection in the form of nylon straps or wheel nets (instead of metal chains), higher lift gate clearance, and four walls that act as a barrier against the weather during transit.

Theft

There are two types of theft to be aware of:

  1. Theft of your car
  2. Theft of your personal belongings

Dishonest companies (rather than common thieves) are the biggest risk when it comes to potentially having your car stolen in transit. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provides several recommendations to keep your vehicle safe:

The layout of car transport trucks isn’t friendly for thieves. To steal your belongings, the bad guys have to climb onto a truck that is often in open view, break your window, hope for something worth taking, and make a getaway without being seen or tripping on one of the loaded vehicles.

It’s easier to make the cut on American Ninja Warrior than it is to steal stuff directly from the transporter.

But it’s still possible. That’s why we recommend you minimize the risk by not packing personal items inside your vehicle. Get that stuff to your new home using one of our best rental truck companies or best moving container companies.

Crashes

Car crashes also pose a potential risk to your vehicle during transit. Each year there are between 100,000 and 200,000 crashes involving large trucks like those that transport vehicles.

Crash statistics for large trucks1

Safety info
2019
2020

Crashes

164,696

146,160

Vehicles involved

176,375

156,577

Injuries

81,257

68,237

Data as of 8/27/21.


Tips to keep your car safe during auto transport

Move.org has put together a list of seven simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of safety hazards and avoid fraudulent companies, sketchy quotes, and pesky thieves.

1. Read the reviews

Do your homework before hiring a car transport service. We recommend you take 10 minutes per company to read online reviews. If you see any red flags like complaints about car damage, missing personal items, or driver no-shows, that’s probably a good indication you should check out another company.

2. Watch out for fraudsters

The car transport industry is sometimes referred to as the “Wild West” because it isn’t well regulated. For a few hundred bucks, just about anyone can start their own car transport service—and the results aren’t always pretty.

The FMCSA assigns each car shipper a motor carrier (MC) number, which allows you to verify that the transport service is properly licensed and insured. The number also lets you look up the company’s accident and customer complaint record.

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3. Get lots of car shipping quotes

Safety isn’t always about the condition of your vehicle. Sometimes it’s about keeping your bank account protected from unnecessary charges.

Be sure to get several quotes before committing to a company. Not only does that help you negotiate a better price, but it also helps you identify early red flags. If a company wants to charge you two or three times as much as another vehicle shipper for the same service, it’s not a big stretch to think there could be other scammy behavior down the road.

4. Beware of prices that seem too good to be true

Would you raise an eyebrow if a $500,000 house suddenly became available for less than $100,000? You should be just as skeptical of car shipping quotes that are significantly lower than the rest of the competition.

If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Money
Discounts!

Low car shipping quotes aren’t your only way to pinch pennies when transporting a vehicle. You can also save money on car shipping by comparing quotes, asking for discounts, and more.

5. Make sure your vehicle is ready

There’s more to car shipping than just driving your car onto a truck and waving goodbye. From removing personal items and getting a tune-up to folding in the side mirrors and deactivating electronic toll devices, there are several things you can do to prepare your car for transport.

6. Get to know your driver

It’s not too important to know the name and phone number of your pizza delivery guy, but car shipping is different. If something goes wrong, the potential damages go far beyond $20 for a thin-crust Hawaiian.

Ask your broker for the name and contact info of your driver. If there is a delay in delivery, you have a way to make contact.

We've also heard about brokers trying to charge last-minute booking fees on reservations made weeks in advance—so if you have the driver's contact info up front, you can prove that you were assigned to them way ahead of your shipment.

7. Pay attention during inspections

Have you ever zoned out while a customer service rep rattles off terms and conditions over the phone? We’ve all been there.

But you shouldn’t make that mistake when it comes to your car inspection.

Your car will be inspected before it is loaded onto the transporter and after it is unloaded. In both cases, you’ll sign a document called a bill of lading that describes the condition of your car. If the vehicle is damaged in transit, but you don’t acknowledge it on the paperwork, you could be out of luck if you need to file a claim.


Safe car shipping FAQ

What is the safest car shipping method?

The safest car shipping method is enclosed transport. The shipping option protects your vehicle from damaging weather and road debris by keeping it inside an enclosed truck. However, you pay the price for the extra protection. Enclosed shipping costs about 40% more than open auto transport.

Which auto transporter has the lowest enclosed shipping rates?

Ship a Car Direct has the lowest enclosed shipping rates. Its average closed carrier cost of $1,210 is about 20% below the auto transportation industry average.

What are the dangers of open car transport?

The dangers of open car transport include weather exposure and road debris. However, accidents are rare, and about 9 out of 10 customers use open car shipping because of its affordability.

How much does open carrier shipping cost?

Open carrier shipping costs an average of $1,080, according to Move.org’s analysis of nearly 700 quotes. Vehicle shipping costs vary according to car size and distance. So, you can often find even lower rates if you’re transporting a small car only a few hundred miles on a transport truck.

Is a moving truck safer than a car shipping service?

No, a moving truck isn’t safer than a car shipping service. It’s so dangerous to ship a car this way that the best truck rental companies prohibit the practice.

How can I find a safe auto transport company?

You can find a safe auto transport company by doing some basic research. Move.org recommends reading reviews for each potential shipping company and looking for references to car safety. For example, it’s a red flag if customers repeatedly mention damaged vehicles.

Where can I find a car shipping company with excellent reviews?

You can find a car shipping company with excellent reviews on Move.org’s list of the best auto transport companies. American Auto Shipping gets some of the highest auto shipping ratings. Customers award the car transport company 4.8 out of 5 stars and often comment on its friendly customer service reps.

Kurt Manwaring
Written by
Kurt Manwaring
Kurt Manwaring brings nearly a decade’s worth of research experience as a business consultant to the Move.org team. He specializes in taking complicated issues (like moving) and presenting them in a way that everyone can understand. His writing has been featured in hundreds of publications, including USA Today, Martha Stewart Living, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He brings a BS in sociology and an MPA (masters of public administration) to the Move team. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.