What’s the Cheapest Way to Ship My Car?

At a glance

Car shipping costs vary widely based on when, where, and what kind of vehicle you’re moving. But there are some tried-and-true methods to save:

  • Get multiple quotes to guarantee the best rate.
  • Choose open shipping over enclosed shipping.
  • Ship to a major city or terminal rather than door-to-door.
  • Move your car in the off-season.
  • Be your own broker—use a shipping marketplace.
    Make sure your car is operational.

The whole picture

Whether you purchased a car from out of state on Craigslist or are moving across the country, there are tons of ways to ship your vehicle from one place to another. But the cheapest option for you will depend on many factors, from the time of year (busy seasons are more expensive) to where you are shipping to and from (rural areas cost more).

When you start looking for cheap car transport, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you mind your ride being exposed to the elements on an open car carrier, or do you prefer to ship it in an enclosed container?
  • Do you need your car the day you arrive, or is a week of lag time OK?
  • Do you have time to request quotes from individual car shipping companies, or would you prefer to get multiple quotes at once?

If budget is your biggest concern, there may be a simple answer: An open carrier booked through a marketplace is often the easiest and cheapest car shipping option.

Read on to see frequently asked questions about cheap car shipping and ways to save big on auto transport costs.

Which car shipper offers the cheapest rates?

In researching the cheapest ways to ship a car, we found the best rates from uShip—an online marketplace that connects shippers with shippees. Unlike many individual transporters, uShip provides instant estimates from multiple companies.

Here’s how it works: You create a shipping listing, and companies submit quotes to bid for your business. Then you get to play banker and broker, picking the best rate and company for you.

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Pro Tip

Pro Tip

Don’t just pick the cheapest company—look for one that is easy to work with. Before you book, reach out to transporters and see how quickly and efficiently they respond to questions.

While uShip itself isn’t an auto transporter, we ranked it as our best car shipping company because its marketplace format and rankings, ratings, and reviews make car shipping easy and affordable. Beyond reasonable rates, uShip also offers top-notch features like a redesigned tracking app that lets you see exactly when your car will arrive at its destination.

Is open or enclosed transport the cheapest way to ship a car?

The short answer: Open shipping is the most common method—and it’s almost always the cheapest.

In addition to the distance your car is traveling, the carrier type (open vs. enclosed) has the biggest impact on your auto transport costs—and you’ll want to decide which method you prefer before creating a shipment listing. So what’s the difference?

Open transport

With open transport, your car will enjoy the cool breeze and the open road on a truck shared with other vehicles. There are more open carriers available, meaning you can get your car shipped more quickly and more affordably with this option. Open transport is the most common and (usually) the cheapest way to ship a car.

Enclosed transport

Enclosed transport offers the highest level of protection—and the highest price—of all car shipping methods. While enclosed carriers do protect your car from adverse weather conditions and road debris, they are less common than open carriers and can cost up to 80% more.1 If you’re shipping a classic Camaro or Alfa Romeo, enclosed carriers are the way to go—but if you’re just moving your everyday ride, open carrier protection is plenty.

DIY transport

Looking for the absolute cheapest auto transport rate? Consider renting a car dolly or trailer. You’ll need access to a vehicle that can tow, like a moving truck, and you must be willing to drive the whole distance yourself. (Don’t forget to factor in roadside fast food and lodging costs along the way.)

Get money

Bonus Savings

Bonus Savings

Ship your car with just a quarter-tank of gas. Costs depend in part on how much your vehicle weighs, and this trick keeps you from paying extra for weight that’s not needed.

Which is cheaper: Door-to-door or terminal car shipping?

It turns out that where you live matters. Shipping direct from your old home to your new one is the easiest option, but if you are moving to and from rural areas, this method will likely cost more. Do your homework to see if terminal-to-terminal car shipping is worth the savings (and the hassle).

Door-to-door shipping

Many auto transporters, including uShip, focus on door-to-door service, making it easier to obtain a quote for this method. If you live in or near a major city, door-to-door transporters—companies who pick up and drop off your vehicle at your home—ship your car fast at a reasonable price.

Terminal-to-terminal shipping

If you live outside of a major city, shipping your car directly to your home can cost far more. Why? Because transporters stick to major interstates, and venturing into the boonies to drop off your car costs time and money. Fewer, shorter trips with more vehicles—to and from accessible urban areas—mean lower costs.

Before you pay an arm and a leg for door-to-door shipping, get an estimate for a nearby city terminal to see if costs are lower than delivering to your small town. But unless the savings are significant, we don’t recommend terminal-to-terminal transport as it is slower and less convenient—you’ll have to travel to the terminal to retrieve your vehicle.

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Travel Light

Travel Light

Planning to fill your car with belongings to save on moving costs? Not so fast. The US Department of Transportation doesn’t allow personal belongings on auto carriers, meaning you’ll need to empty out your car before you ship it.

How much can I expect to pay for car shipping?

Among our top-ranked car shipping companies, we found uShip’s marketplace to be the cheapest option: Rates range from $2.92 per mile to move a car less than 200 miles to $0.78 per mile to ship a car over 1,000 miles.2 Decide for yourself with uShip’s shipping cost estimator, which uses past car shipment data from similar shipments to provide a ballpark estimate.

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Keep In Mind

Keep In Mind

If you’re moving cross-country, expect up to two weeks for your car to arrive. You can get it quicker, but you’ll pay a bundle.

We compared rates on uShip’s marketplace for transporting a crossover SUV—a 2015 Mazda CX-5—from Denver to Philadelphia (just over 1,700 miles). For this trip, we received estimates from five auto transport companies ranging from $934 to $1,719.

uShip rates: Out-of-state shipping

CompanyEstimate
Freedom Auto Transport$934 + uShip fee
Autos On The Go$1,011 + uShip fee
Montway Auto Transport$1,129 + uShip fee
uShip Logistics$1,282 + uShip fee
Metrogistics$1,719 + uShip fee
Company
Freedom Auto Transport
Autos On The Go
Montway Auto Transport
uShip Logistics
Metrogistics
Estimate
$934 + uShip fee
$1,011 + uShip fee
$1,129 + uShip fee
$1,282 + uShip fee
$1,719 + uShip fee

We also requested in-state estimates for the same car between Denver and Grand Junction (243 miles).

uShip rates: In-state shipping

CompanyEstimate
uShip Logistics$300 + uShip fee
Montway Auto Transport$409 + uShip fee
Freedom Auto Transport$425 + uShip fee
Door to Door Transport$527 + uShip fee
Autos On The Go$1,035 + uShip fee
Company
uShip Logistics
Montway Auto Transport
Freedom Auto Transport
Door to Door Transport
Autos On The Go
Estimate
$300 + uShip fee
$409 + uShip fee
$425 + uShip fee
$527 + uShip fee
$1,035 + uShip fee

Note that uShip estimates come with a “uShip fee.” While it won’t be listed on your initial estimates, you will see it before you finalize your booking. Fees range from $25 to $150.

Every company listing on uShip’s marketplace includes ratings, reviews, and a timeline for pickup, so you know what you’re in for with each vendor. uShip can save you time (and money!) by allowing you to pick from trusted companies instead of scouring the internet for less-vetted options.

Sources

  1. AmeriFreight, “Auto Transport Calculator
  2. uShip, “How to Ship a Car

About Jenny Willden

Jenny Willden
Jenny’s been writing stories since she first picked up a pencil and is lucky to call it her profession. She’s lived in five U.S. states (and counting) and uses her mishaps to help you master your next move.