Common Car Shipping Questions

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on September 29, 2021
8 min read

1. How do I get a car shipping quote?

You get a car shipping quote by providing an auto transport company with specific details about your shipment.

Here’s what car shipping companies will need to know:

  • Your car’s year
  • Your car’s make
  • Your car’s model
  • Your vehicle shipping dates

All car shipping companies can provide quotes over the phone. However, a few (like AmeriFreight and Easy Auto Ship) can save you time with instant online estimates.

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.

Auto transport payment methods

Payment type
Initial payment
Delivery 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

2. How much does it cost to ship a car?

It costs approximately $1,290 to ship a car. Move.org’s analysis of nearly 700 car shipping quotes suggests that costs range from about $600–$2,000 depending on factors such as car size and total distance.

What is the average cost to ship a car 1,000 miles?

The average cost to ship a car 1,000 miles is about $1,120, according to Move.org. Prices vary based on your transport type, vehicle size, and time of year.


3. What affects my car shipping price?

Hundreds of real-time variables like route demand, weather, and road conditions affect your car shipping price. This messy reality can result in car shipping prices that often change day by day—and even hour by hour. However, there are a few things that affect your auto transport price more than others:

  • Transport type. Your car may get dirtier on open transport than it would in an enclosed carrier, but it will save you more than $400 on average. Some companies like Sherpa Auto Transport will give you a free car wash.
  • Vehicle size. Bigger vehicles cost more than smaller ones. While the average cost to ship a car is about $1,150, it costs about $1,280 to transport an SUV—and $1,450 for a large truck.
  • Distance. It costs more the farther you ship your vehicle. You can ship a car less than 300 miles for about $600, while a cross-country trip on open transport will set you back around $1,240.
  • Timeframe. Expect to pay an arm and a leg if you need your car shipped on short notice. It’s not unlikely that you’ll pay upwards of $1,000 extra if you provide only 24 hours notice.
Info Box
How car shipping pricing works

The quote you get from auto transporters is an initial estimate. Final prices can be anywhere from 25–50% higher because drivers bid on your shipment.


4. How can I save money on car shipping?

You can save money on car shipping by following a few simple tips:

  • Reserve in advance. You can often knock a couple of hundred bucks off your price by placing your reservation about two weeks before you need your car picked up. This gives carriers time to bid against each other and drive down the cost of your car shipment.
  • Use open transport. You can save about $420 on the average shipment by using open transport. Expensive enclosed transport is typically reserved for high-priced automobiles like classic cars and luxury vehicles.
  • Don’t fall for scams. Car shipping scams are expensive—but avoidable. Save hundreds of bucks by refusing to pay deposits (most reputable companies don’t charge deposits), double-checking your broker’s credentials, and reading online reviews.

5. What are the best car shipping companies?

Move.org conducted thorough research to identify the best auto transport companies. Our analysis of hundreds of quotes and thousands of reviews reveals five car transport companies at the forefront of the industry: Montway Auto Transport, AmeriFreight, American Auto Shipping, Sherpa Auto Transport, and uShip.

Move.org’s best car shipping companies

Company
Move.org rating (out of 5)
Top features
Details
4.7Best overall
4.6Low prices
4.6Guaranteed rates
4.2Customer satisfaction
4.1Online shopping

6. What should I look for in a car shipping company?

There are several things that you should look for in a car shipping company. If you pay attention to the right details, you can often save yourself tons of money and stress:

  • Reasonable prices. Get quotes from a few companies and choose the lowest one that seems reasonable (super low prices almost always go up by the time you pay your bill). In our experience, many auto transporters set their rates based on Montway Auto Transport’s low prices.
  • Guaranteed rates. Almost no companies have binding quotes, so it’s a big deal when you find one. American Auto Shipping is the only company we’ve discovered with fully guaranteed quotes. You can also find companies like Sherpa Auto Transport that guarantee a portion of your initial estimate.
  • Positive customer reviews. Look for a car transporter that scores at least as high as the industry average (4.6 out of 5 stars) in customer reviews. Pay extra attention to companies that receive praise for low prices, friendly customer service, professional carriers, and timely delivery.
  • Long company age. The longer a company has been around, the better. It dramatically lowers your chances of working with a scam artist. Nearly all of the best vehicle transport companies have been in business for at least 10 years.
  • Extra insurance. Keep an eye on transport companies that offer additional insurance. Some of our favorites include AmeriFreight ($2,000 gap coverage) and Ship a Car Direct ($500 damage-free guarantee).

7. How does car shipping work?

Car shipping companies transport your car from one location to another. In most cases, the driver loads the vehicle at your home and then delivers it to your new address. There are two kinds of companies you work with: brokers that place your reservation and carriers that ship your vehicle.

There are five basic car shipping steps:

  1. Research. Get several transport quotes, compare prices, and read up on customer reviews.
  2. Verify. Make sure the auto shipping company has insurance.
  3. Load. Your driver puts your vehicle on the truck. Prepare your car for transport by doing things like removing personal belongings and washing your vehicle.
  4. Transport. Your driver transports your car to your new location, which typically takes around 6–12 days.
  5. Unload. Check for damage and thank the driver when your car is delivered. Document any damage on the bill of lading (a document that compares your vehicle’s condition before and after delivery)
Visual description of Move.org's 5-step process for shipping a car. Step titles are research, verify, load, transport, and unload.

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

The auto transport process works pretty much the same way whether you need to transport to a nearby state—or the other side of the country. The differences mainly boil down to how much it costs and how long it takes: cross-country transports cost more and take longer.


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

It takes anywhere from about six days to four weeks to ship your car. If that sounds like a huge window, it is. Car shipping transit times vary based on everything from bad traffic to how many vehicles are on a transport truck. Plus, some transport companies are more efficient 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 timeline1

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


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

Open transport means your car is on the back of an open carrier exposed to the elements. Enclosed auto transport means your vehicle is inside a totally enclosed trailer (basically a box on wheels).

Each option has its benefits and drawbacks. About 90% of customers use open transport because it’s (a lot) cheaper—but your motor vehicle is also more likely to get dirty or damaged. Enclosed transport protects your vehicle better but costs about 40% more.


11. Can you ship a car by plane?

Yes, you can ship a car by plane—but it’s expensive. In most cases, the cost of shipping via air freight is several times more than the vehicle’s value. Think a 1955 Jaguar, a 1964 Ferrari, or your great-great-grandfather’s Model A Ford in mint condition.


12. Can you ship a car by train?

Yes, you can ship a car by train. However, this can be a misleading question. While auto dealerships can often find brokers to ship their vehicles by rail, the sole option for regular customers is Amtrak. And it’s available in only two cities: Washington, DC, and Sanford, Florida. For everyone else, shipping a car by train isn’t an option.


13. 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 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 vehicle as clean as it was when it was loaded onto the car carrier.

14. Is there car shipping insurance?

Yes. Auto transport carriers must have liability insurance that covers damage due to negligence that occurs in transit. The best car shipping companies typically have extra insurance perks like gap coverage and damage-free guarantees.

Megaphone
48 hours to look for damage

Most car shipping companies require you to identify potential damage as soon as your vehicle arrives. We like AmeriFreight because it gives you 48 hours to examine your car for scratches and dents.


15. 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 cars for the same trip.


16. Is shipping a car safe?

Yes, car shipping is generally safe, but you should carefully vet potential auto transport. Take some time to read online reviews and make sure you’re not handing the keys over to an auto shipper with a history of damaging vehicles.


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

The documents you need to ship a car overseas depend on where you’re shipping to and from. So, you’ll want to check with your car shipper to see what documents you need.

Badge Definition
What is a bill of lading?

A bill of lading is a document you use to identify damage to your vehicle before and after delivery. It’s almost impossible to file an insurance claim if your bill of lading doesn’t have a record of when the damage occurred.


18. Can you put stuff in a car when shipping it

Some auto transport companies allow you to transport a limited amount of personal belongings in your vehicle. However, many brokers prohibit the practice—and we don’t recommend it. Your auto carrier’s insurance typically won’t cover damages to your household goods during transit. Plus, your stuff can be a temptation for thieves.


19. Can I ship a car with a full tank of gas?

No, you can’t ship a car with a full tank of gas. The heavier your vehicle is, the more your carrier must pay for fuel. Since gas is expensive, most car shipping companies require your tank to be no more than one-quarter full. You can use your car for errands until the gas tank is low enough for transport.


20. Do car shipping companies have GPS?

Some car shipping companies have GPS—but most of them don’t. It depends on whether your truck driver is willing to be tracked for the duration of your shipment. Unfortunately, most drivers aren’t willing to enable GPS tracking.

That’s what makes companies like Montway Auto Transport so special. In Montway’s case, the vehicle transportation broker formed partnerships with hundreds of GPS trucking companies to increase your odds of finding a driver willing to be tracked.


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.

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