How to File a Car Shipping Insurance Claim

Kurt Manwaring
Jan 21, 2022
Icon Time To Read9 min read

At a glance

You file a car shipping insurance claim by contacting the companies involved in your auto shipment. That includes the brokerage which placed your reservation and the carrier that delivered your vehicle. Your best bet is often to go through mediation with one of the best car shipping companies. But you also have other options that range from using your personal car insurance to suing the driver.

How to file an auto transport insurance claim

7 steps to file a car shipping insurance claim

1. Know who you’re working with

You’ll likely work with two different companies when you file an auto transport claim. So, you should know who is who. We’ve put together a detailed breakdown of the differences, but here’s the skinny when it comes to transport insurance:

  • Think of them like go-betweens. Brokers connect you with drivers (called carriers) and often help mediate if there are disagreements about a damage claim. Some of them, like AmeriFreight and Ship a Car Direct, even offer extra insurance.
  • These are the truck driving companies. Your carrier (or driver) will also be your first point of contact if you need to file a claim. If the two of you can’t sort things out, you’ll typically ask the broker for help.

Car shipping insurance claims: Brokers vs. carriers

Has insurance
Icon No  DarkNo
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Transports your vehicle
Icon No  DarkNo
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Settles insurance claims
Icon No  DarkNo
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Mediates insurance disputes
Icon No  DarkNo
The stigma of being a broker

Some brokers tell you that they’re also your carrier when they aren’t. Look for a company like AmeriFreight that doesn’t pretend to be a carrier. They’ll usually stick around to help you file a claim.

2. Document vehicle damage

You must document damage to your vehicle when filing an auto transport insurance claim. It’s nearly impossible to get a payout from the carrier’s insurance policy if you can’t prove when the damage occurred. That’s where your bill of lading comes in.

The importance of your bill of lading

The car shipping company will provide you with a bill of lading when it picks up your vehicle. The bill of lading is a document that you use to describe your car’s condition. Both you and the driver want to make sure it’s correct.

Here’s why.

Let’s say your little sibling backed into your car last Christmas and left a massive dent in the driver’s side door. The damage has nothing to do with car shipping. But if the driver misses the pre-existing damage, a dishonest customer could claim that the dent happened during transport. That’s a raw deal for the driver.

The other side is important too. You don’t want to pay for windshield chips or scratched paint if they weren’t there when the driver picked up your car. Your odds of filing a successful claim go up if you can prove that your vehicle was scratch-free on day one. The bill of lading is where you document that proof.

4 things to know about your bill of lading

  1. You fill it out twice. You need to inspect your vehicle before and after delivery. Sometimes, the carrier will provide you with two separate bills of lading. Other times, you’ll use the same one. Either way, you should fill it out twice.
  2. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t need to obsess about details. Something as simple as “there’s a scratch on the driver’s side door” is often enough to get your claim in motion—especially if you have pictures.
  3. It’s not your only option. You can add extra ammunition to your transport insurance claim if you take pictures and videos of your car before and after transport. It’s one thing for drivers to disagree with your bill of lading. It’s a whole other story for them to dispute time-stamped video evidence.
  4. It’s going to get better. Car shipping brokers increasingly use digital bills of lading. If they continue to adopt the practice, one day soon, taking a picture of your vehicle may be all you need to do.
Heads Up
How to take videos of your car for an insurance claim

Walk slowly around your vehicle with your camera on. Stop and get closer when you see any damage. If possible, try to include the driver and transport truck in some shots (it makes it harder for the driver to avoid taking responsibility).

3. Talk to your driver

You need to talk to your driver if you discover vehicle damage at the time of delivery. We realize that it can be a stressful situation—especially if you struggle with conflict. But there are ways to make it easier:

  1. Your conversation with the driver isn’t the end of the line. Just because the two of you can’t agree (and you usually won’t) doesn’t mean you have to fight it out. Just be sure that the bill of lading accurately reflects your side of the story, and then move on to Step 4.
  2. Expect the driver to push back. Carriers (as opposed to brokers) are often so small that a single insurance claim can put the company out of business. The stakes are high for you—but they might be even higher for the carrier. Knowing that up front can help you keep perspective if the driver comes out (figuratively) swinging.
  3. Don’t try to force an agreement. Chances are you’re going to be scared and upset if your vehicle’s condition leaves something to be desired. It’s understandable. But drivers don’t have to admit fault for you to file a successful claim. Your job is to prove damage, not to get the driver to agree with you.
  4. Pay the driver for delivery. Seriously. We know it bites. But things will go a lot smoother if you hand over the cash. Otherwise, you might find yourself getting sued. And since court cases often result in extra costs like attorney’s fees, your best bet is to pay the driver what you owe and then move on to the damage claim.
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Hang on to that credit card

Car shipping drivers typically don’t accept credit cards. While you can use plastic to place your reservation, you’ll usually need cash or a check to pay your carrier at the time of delivery

4. Call your broker

Carriers usually can’t file car shipping insurance claims for you. These companies are often so small that they lack the necessary expertise—which is why they contract with brokers. More often than not, the best auto transport companies will help you through this part of the process. Some of them will even mediate disagreements between you and the driver.

And top-notch brokers aren’t easily fooled. They know all the telltale signs of driver fault. If the damage occurred in transit, they’re often your best shot at a solution. 

Info Box
Going the extra mile

Brokers aren’t responsible for helping you file a claim. Technically, they can wash their hands of you once the driver arrives. But the best transport companies go above and beyond to give you the best possible experience—even if you need to file a claim.

5. Follow instructions

It’s important to follow your broker’s instructions to the letter. The last thing you want is to let the insurance company off the hook because of a technicality. Instructions vary based on the broker, the carrier, the insurance company, and the specifics of your situation.

The broker might ask you to do things such as:

  • Submit your bills of lading
  • Provide approximate dates and times of interactions with the driver
  • Provide a copy of your terms and conditions
  • Provide photographic evidence
  • Provide relevant email correspondence
  • Verify that you paid the driver
  • Explain what happened when you notified the driver of damage
Info Box
Mediation vs. formal insurance process

Brokers can often get faster and better results via mediation. However, your broker can provide instructions to file a claim if you’d prefer to handle things independently.

6. Contact your insurance provider

You have the option of filing a claim with your personal insurance company. This is a rarely-used option because it’s complicated and time-consuming. But it’s often on the table if you want it.

Here’s some background.

Your truck driver should have liability insurance. That means the carrier will treat your car like freight (albeit very expensive freight). There’s a whole system unique to the shipping industry when it comes to filing a freight claim. But it’s actually pretty easy to navigate if you keep open lines of communication with the carrier and broker.

However, you can often initiate a damage claim via your own insurance through a process called subrogation. That’s lawyer-speak for “we’ll pay for your repairs and then go after the truck driver on our own.”

Here are a few things to consider if you want to use your personal insurance coverage:

  • It might not be an option. Not all policies offer subrogation. Plus, subrogation doesn’t apply to every situation. So, your car shipping dispute may or may not qualify (helpful, right?).
  • Don’t expect quick results. Could your insurance company look at your claim and cut you a check 24 hours later? Sure. But it’s not likely. Subrogation means you’re adding a fourth party to your claim (you, the carrier, the broker, and your insurance company). And we don’t often hear customers say, “Gee, adding another lawyer to my complicated insurance claim sure made things go faster.”
  • You could lose your broker’s support. Remember, brokers aren’t responsible for your claim. Excellent companies help you out because that’s what sets them apart from the competition. But throw in the red tape associated with another insurance company, and the broker may decide to let you handle things on your own.
  • There are no guarantees. We haven’t seen any data indicating that subrogation is more effective than approaching the carrier or working with your broker. At the same time, your odds may be worse because you’re adding another company to a complicated insurance version of the kid’s game, telephone. Your story may not be as clear-cut once it cycles through half of a dozen people associated with three different companies.
Need help filing a claim?

Some companies can help with that. Montway Auto Transport has a fully-staffed claims department at your service. The company conducts mediation disputes, helps you fill out claims, and even tracks down dissatisfied customers to learn what it can do better. There’s a reason Montway is our favorite shipper.

7. Consider last-ditch options

You still have options if the driver’s liability insurance denies your claim. They aren’t fun. And your odds of success get into Hunger Games territory. But you’re not entirely out of luck if things don’t initially go your way. For example, you can talk to your broker, lodge a government complaint, or even take your driver to court.

Ask your broker if there are any other options

Even if the broker rules against you in mediation, it still wants your business. That means the broker is still going to bend over backward to assist you. If the car shipping company doesn’t help you troubleshoot what comes next, ask them yourself. We recommend being kind, direct, and concise (this isn’t the time for a three-page email).

Example email: “Thanks for your help with my claim. Things didn’t turn out as we hoped, but I appreciate your efforts. Since I disagree with the outcome, are there any next steps that you would recommend?”

Contact the government

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) handles complaints against auto transport carriers and brokers. It can’t usually reverse your claim’s outcome. Still, it can investigate and punish the transport company if it finds evidence of wrongdoing. Just be aware we’ve heard whispers that FMCSA is understaffed, so you may not get fast results.

You’ll need the following information to file an FMCSA complaint:

  • Incident date
  • Incident location
  • Incident description

Go to court

Suing the auto transport company is an option if all else fails. There’s a reason it’s a last-ditch effort, though. Court cases cause stress, cost money, and take time. But if the vehicle damage is bad enough, you can hire a lawyer to go after the car shipping company.


Damage is avoidable

Most damage occurs when a low-quality carrier transports your vehicle. That’s why it’s so important to use an established broker that vets its drivers and helps with claims. Our top picks include Montway, AmeriFreight, and American Auto Shipping.


The best car shipping companies often go the extra mile to help you file an insurance claim. These brokers don’t carry insurance. However, they can often mediate disputes between you and your driver. It’s typically the fastest and easiest way to settle an insurance claim. Other options include suing your driver, using your insurance, and filing an FMCSA report.

Automobile transport insurance FAQ

Do I have to pay a fee for car shipping insurance mediation?

No, you typically don’t need to pay a fee for car shipping insurance mediation. This is a service offered at no cost by some of the best auto transport companies.

Where do I purchase car transport insurance?

You don’t need to purchase car transport insurance since your carrier is required to have cargo insurance and liability insurance. However, sometimes you can use your own insurance policy for vehicle transport damage. Contact your vehicle insurance agent for more information.

Do I need collision coverage to ship my car?

You need collision coverage to ship your car only when the transport company doesn’t have adequate insurance. In these cases, your insurance provider can sometimes use your collision coverage to pay for damages.

Do brokers have auto transport insurance?

No, brokers don’t have auto transport insurance. While carriers must possess liability coverage, brokers never transport your motor vehicle. However, the best car shipping companies often have insurance coverage perks like extra cash toward your auto insurance deductible.

What is an MC number?

MC number stands for motor carrier number. The FMCSA tracks safety and compliance issues for every car shipping company using its MC number.

What is an inconvenience claim?

An inconvenience claim is used by military personnel to request financial support if a moving company (like an auto transport carrier) misses its deadline. Civilians don’t qualify for inconvenience claims. And most auto transport companies don’t provide specific delivery dates because of how long car shipping takes.

How much are freight charges to ship a car?

The average freight charge to ship a car is approximately $1,080. However, prices vary according to vehicle size, transport distance, and shipping season.

Who is the consignee on a bill of lading?

The consignee on a bill of lading is the person shipping a vehicle (the customer). You’ll typically list someone other than yourself as a consignee only if another person plans to take possession of your car at the time of delivery.

Kurt Manwaring
Written by
Kurt Manwaring
Kurt Manwaring brings nearly a decade’s worth of research experience as a business consultant to the 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