Common Car Shipping Questions

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
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Published on February 15, 2021
5 min read

1. How does car shipping work?

Car shipping companies transport your car from one location to another. In most cases, the transporter loads the car at your home and then delivers the vehicle to your new address.

There are also two kinds of companies you work with: carriers (the ones who transport your vehicle on their trucks) and brokers (the ones who help you find carriers to work with). Learn more in Brokers vs. Carriers in Car Shipping.

There are five basic car shipping steps:

  1. Research. Compare prices and delivery time estimates. To get started, read How to Get a Car Shipping Quote.
  2. Verify. Make sure the company is licensed and insured. We walk through what you need to know in Auto Transport Insurance: How Your Vehicle Is Covered in Transit.
  3. Load. Hand your keys over to the driver, who will put your car on a moving truck. Make sure your car is ready for transport by following the steps in How to Prepare Your Car for Shipping.
  4. Transport. Sit back and relax while your car is en route. See if your auto transport broker keeps an open line of communication like some of our best car shipping companies.
  5. Unload. Check for damage and thank the driver when your car is delivered. Make sure you understand what a bill of lading is before signing the document by reading What Documents Do I Need to Ship a Car?
Visual description of Move.org's 5-step process for shipping a car. Step titles are research, verify, load, transport, and unload.

2. How do you ship a car across the country?

The auto transport process works pretty much the same way whether you need to transport the car across county lines—or across the country.

The differences boil down mostly to how much it costs and how long it takes: cross-country transports cost more and take longer.

Learn more in How Do I Transport My Car Cross Country?


3. How long does it take to ship your car?

The estimated delivery time to ship a car is anywhere from about six days to four weeks. If that sounds like a huge window, it is.

Car shipping timelines vary based on everything from bad traffic to how many vehicles are on a transport truck to how many hours a truck driver is allowed behind the wheel each day. Plus, some transport companies are simply faster than others.

Since it’s so hard to predict accurate timelines, companies typically give estimates with big buffers to account for delays.

Our research suggests most vehicles arrive in about 6–12 days.

Estimated auto transport delivery timeline 1

Miles
Average time from booking to pickup
Estimated transit time
Estimated total delivery time

0–200

4 days

2 days

6 days

200–600

4 days

3 days

7 days

600–1,000

4 days

4 days

8 days

1,000–1,500

4 days

5 days

9 days

1,500–2,000

4 days

6 days

10 days

2,000–2,400

4 days

7 days

11 days

2,400+

4 days

8 days

12 days


4. What is the difference between open and enclosed transport?

Open transport means your car is on the back of a truck exposed to the elements. Enclosed transport means your vehicle is inside of a totally enclosed container (basically a box on wheels).

Imagine you’re the car. You can ride on a motorcycle where your face gets chapped by wind and rain (open transport)—or you can ride inside a car with the windows rolled up and enjoy protection from the weather (enclosed transport).

Each option has its benefits and drawbacks. To learn more, read Do I Really Need an Enclosed Car Carrier?


5. Can you ship a car by plane?

Yep. But it’s expensive. In most cases, the cost of shipping via air freight is several times more than the value of the vehicle.

So who uses air freight? Folks who just won the lottery and want a new experience—and people with extremely valuable cars.

Think a 1955 Jaguar, a 1964 Ferrari, or your great-great-grandfather’s Model A Ford.


6. How do you pay to ship a car?

You’ll likely make two separate payments for your vehicle shipment: (1) an initial payment to the broker when you make a reservation, and (2) a payment to the driver at the time of delivery.

Every car shipping company accepts different forms of payment. In general, you need a credit card or debit card for your initial payment and cash or a check at the time of delivery.

Initial paymentDelivery payment
Cash
Sometimes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Cashier's check
Sometimes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Check
Sometimes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Debit card
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon No  DarkNo
Credit card
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon No  DarkNo
Money order
Sometimes
Icon No  DarkNo

7. How much do you tip a car transport driver?

The amount you tip a transport driver is up to you. We’ve seen reports of tips ranging from $5 to $300.

Here are some things we think are worth tipping for:

  • The driver delivers your car ahead of schedule.
  • The driver communicates with you before delivery.
  • The driver is polite and professional.
  • The driver delivers your car as clean as it was when it was loaded onto the car carrier.

You can also check out How Much Should You Tip Movers?


8. Is there car shipping insurance?

Yes. Auto transport carriers are required to have insurance that covers damage (due to company negligence) to your vehicle during transit. We break down what’s involved in Auto Transport Insurance: How Your Vehicle Is Covered in Transit.


9. What are the best auto transport companies?


10. Can I ship moving boxes while my car is being shipped?

You can ship your moving boxes at the same time your car is being shipped—but you’ll need to work with a separate moving company. We recommend professional moving services like International Van Lines, American Van Lines, and Allied Van Lines.


11. Does the size of vehicle change the price?

Auto transport is more expensive for heavier and bigger vehicles. The heavier a car is, the harder it is on the carrier’s gas mileage. The bigger a car is, the fewer vehicles a carrier can put on a single truck.


12. Can I ship more than one vehicle at the same time?

Yes. You can ship more than one vehicle at a time. Most auto transport companies offer discounts if you book two or more vehicles for the same trip.


13. Is shipping a car safe?

Car shipping in general is safe, but you should carefully vet the auto transport companies you’re considering. Take some time to read online reviews and make sure you’re not handing the keys over to a company that has a history of damaging vehicles. Learn more in Is Your Car Safe During Transport?


14. What documents do I need to ship a car overseas?

The documents you need depend on where you’re shipping to/from, so you’ll want to check with your car shipper to see exactly what you need. We demystify some of the terms you’ll run across in What Documents Do I Need to Ship a Car?


15. Can you put stuff in a car when shipping it?

Some auto transport companies allow you to transport a limited amount of personal belongings, but many prohibit it—and we don’t recommend it.

Your carrier’s insurance typically won’t cover damages caused by (or to) your belongings during transit, and they can be a temptation for thieves or sketchy car shipping companies.


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.