What Documents Do I Need to Ship a Car?

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
Read More
March 04, 2022
3 min read

At a glance

The paperwork required for your auto shipment can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. When it comes to shipping your vehicle, there are a lot of documents you might have to deal with, but only two—your bill of lading and your insurance terms and conditions—are always necessary. We’ll walk you through the documents needed to ship a car and explain when you need them.

Car shipping paperwork types

Paperwork type
When needed

Bill of lading


Insurance terms and conditions


Lienholder authorization

Shipment from Hawaii

Absent owner authorization

Shipment from Hawaii

Title and registration

Rarely (company preference)

Proof of insurance

Rarely (company preference)

Photo ID

Rarely (company preference)

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Bill of lading

No single piece of paperwork is more important than the auto transport bill of lading (sometimes referred to as a BOL).

The auto transport bill of lading serves as proof of delivery and documents your vehicle’s condition at pickup and delivery.

If you don’t make a note of the damage on the bill of lading, insurance companies won’t pay for your repairs because they don’t have proof of a problem.

Badge Definition
Bill of...what?

Lading is a word that has been around since before the 12th century and means “to load.” In the case of a bill of lading, it refers to a bill—or receipt—for what’s loaded onto car transporters (e.g., your car).

Insurance terms and conditions

You don’t typically need insurance (as the customer) to ship your vehicle, but your auto transport carrier does.

Coverage amounts vary, so you want to be sure the transporters you’re considering are adequately insured.

Always check the terms and conditions of your insurance coverage info before signing on the dotted line.

Lienholder authorization

If you’re still paying off your vehicle loan, the lienholder (e.g., your financial institution) will sometimes require you to get formal authorization before shipping a car.

We say sometimes because you need a lienholder authorization only if your car shipper is going to be using a sea port. Hawaii is the only state this really applies to, but you can always contact your financial institution if you want to be sure.

One quote is never enough

Car shipping prices vary widely from one company to another. Be sure to get several quotes before deciding to ship your car. Check out How to Get an Auto Transport Quote to learn more.

Absent owner authorization

The absent owner authorization is another document you need only if your car shipper is going through a port. You use this paperwork if you want to authorize someone else to pick up your car at the destination port.

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Title and registration

Your vehicle title signifies ownership of your car, while the registration means your car has all the legally required documentation in your home state (it’s how the police know who you are when they run your motor vehicle license plate).

Most companies don’t ask for these documents, but it never hurts to ask your carrier if it requires a title and registration to ship your car.

Proof of insurance

The customer’s proof of insurance isn’t usually required when shipping a vehicle. Most companies never ask for it and will even transport junk cars without insurance information.

Photo ID

A photo ID is rarely required to ship a vehicle. This boils down to whether transport companies want the information for their internal databases. When a photo ID is requested, a driver’s license is usually all you need.

Recap: Car shipping paperwork

There are two documents you will always deal with when shipping your car: (1) the bill of lading and (2) the insurance terms and conditions.

Other documents like lienholder and absent owner authorizations are for when your car goes through a port (e.g., on a boat instead of a truck).

In some instances, companies will ask for information such as your title and registration, proof of insurance, and photo ID—but these documents aren’t legally required for shipping your car.

How do I find the bet car shipping company?
Use a reputable shipping company that keeps your vehicle safe and doesn’t charge an arm and a leg. Check out Move.org’s Best Car Shipping Companies.

Car shipping paperwork FAQs

What is a bill of lading?

A bill of lading is a receipt or invoice for a car shipment. The document serves as proof of delivery and the condition of your vehicle at pickup and delivery. You can think of it as an inspection report that you use to identify damage incurred during transit.

What does lading mean?

Lading is an Old English word that means “to load.” A bill of lading is an invoice or receipt for cargo that is loaded onto a truck or boat.

Do I need a bill of lading?

Yes. Car shipping companies will provide you with a bill of lading to verify delivery and allow you to document any damage your vehicle suffered during transit.

Does the U.S. Department of Transportation require me to have insurance?

No. The car shipper is required to have insurance, but you do not need personal insurance to ship your car. However, some insurance companies offer car transport insurance as supplemental coverage.

Can I pay to ship my car with a debit card?

Yes. Most car shipping companies accept payment in the form of a debit card, credit card, cashier’s check, or personal check. To learn more about prices, check out How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Car?

What documents do I need to ship my car to Hawaii?

You don't need any special documentation to ship your car to Hawaii. Items such as a lienholder authorization and proof of ownership are only required  if shipping your vehicle from Hawaii to the mainland.

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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.