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.
Is Your Car Safe During Auto Transport?
At a glance
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.
Learn more in Do I Really Need an Enclosed Carrier?
There are two types of theft to be aware of:
- Theft of your car
- 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:
- Understand the difference between brokers and carriers.
- Verify company registration info.
- Monitor your financial transactions (it’s not just your car you want to keep 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.
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
2019 (through 9/30/19)
To reduce the risk of a potential accident, make sure to check for accident statistics when researching car transport services.
Not sure where to start? Check out Move.org’s Best Car Shipping Companies list.
Tips to keep your car safe during auto transport
As we’ve said, shipping your car is typically pretty safe. 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.
We go into more detail in Brokers vs. Carriers in Car Shipping.
From Sons of Anarchy to Mayans M.C., TV is filled with shows about violent motorcycle clubs. But even if you’re not in a biker gang, you may still need motorcycle shipping services. Check out your options on our Best Motorcycle Shipping Companies list.
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 (see Auto Transport Deals and Discounts), 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.
We show you how to get a legitimate low price in How to Get a Car Shipping Quote.
Low car shipping quotes aren’t your only way to pinch pennies when transporting a vehicle. Check out Auto Transport Deals and Discounts to see how you can save even more money on shipping services.
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.
Check out our Ultimate Car Shipping Checklist for more details.
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.
Learn more in What to Know about Auto Transport Insurance.
People also asked . . .
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Crash Statistics”