How to Ship a Car You Just Bought

At a glance

If you’ve recently bought a car online from a dealership or a private seller out of state, then you need a way to get it safely to your house. While you could fly (or drive) out to pick it up, this can be time-consuming, and it’ll add unnecessary mileage to your new investment. It’s always faster and better for your car to ship it than to drive it long-distance.

That’s why we recommend hiring a professional auto transport company to bring your car to you. Some car dealerships can also arrange a transport service for you, but it might cost a little more than booking it yourself.

Keep reading to learn how you can ship a car you just purchased even if you won’t be there to hand it off to the delivery driver.

How to ship a car you recently purchased

1. Pick an auto transport company

First, you need to find an auto transport company that can safely deliver your car without charging you too much money. We recommend you start your search by checking out our guide to the best car shipping companies. We’ve researched and vetted every company on that list to guarantee each one is trustworthy and reliable.

They aren’t all exactly the same, though. Some of them offer unique services, like Ship a Car Direct’s damage-free guarantee and Montway’s price-matching policy. These unique offerings might make one of them better for your unique situation or your budget, which is why you should check them all out and get several car shipping quotes.

Compare car shipping prices

We’ll be honest with you. Car shipping isn’t cheap. It’s nowhere near as expensive as moving, but you’ll still probably need to set aside several hundred dollars (at least) to get your car shipped.

Auto transport rates vary depending on a lot of different factors. The most obvious factors are the size of your vehicle and how far you’re shipping it, but rates can also fluctuate based on seasonality, shipment method (which we’ll get into below), and which routes the delivery driver takes.

Because of this, it’s impossible to accurately predict how expensive your auto transport service will be. That said, we gathered some estimates from uShip to give you an idea of what shipping your car can cost.

Auto transport rates from uShip
Car make/modelDistance (miles)RouteAverage price
2014 Ford Focus2,982Los Angeles, CA, to Boston, MA$1,420
2014 Ford Focus1,057Cheyenne, WY, to Little Rock, AR$1,125
2014 Ford Focus252Buffalo, NY, to Detroit, MI$451
Car make/model
2014 Ford Focus
2014 Ford Focus
2014 Ford Focus
Distance (miles) Route Average price
2,982 Los Angeles, CA, to Boston, MA $1,420
1,057 Cheyenne, WY, to Little Rock, AR $1,125
252 Buffalo, NY, to Detroit, MI $451

Data as of 2/27/2020. Prices are subject to change.

You can learn more by reading our guide about auto transport prices, but there’s really no substitute for getting your own quotes.

Pro tip: rates are usually lower the farther in advance you book your service, so you should start contacting companies as soon as you can.

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What about motorcycles?

What about motorcycles?

As you might expect, shipping a motorcycle is much cheaper than shipping a car. The average price for a short-distance shipment is $200–$300, and a long-distance shipment can cost up to $600 or more. To get the full picture, read our guide to motorcycle shipping prices.

2. Pick a shipment method

For domestic auto shipping, auto transport companies usually offer two methods: enclosed transport and open transport.

Enclosed transport

If money is no object and you want to ensure your car is as safe as possible en route, then enclosed auto transport was made for you. With this method, your car rides in the enclosed trailer of a semi-truck with a handful of other cars.

While this method protects your car from rain, snow, hail, and road debris, it is far more expensive than open transport. Because of this, we usually recommend enclosed transport for deluxe and exotic vehicles only.

Open transport

Open auto transport trailers usually have two open metal shelves where eight or nine cars can be neatly arranged and secured. If you’ve driven on the freeway, you’ve probably seen one.

Since open transport trailers don’t have walls or roofs, they’re not as safe as enclosed carriers, and your car will be exposed to the elements. However, these carriers are much cheaper, making them a good option for shipping an old beater car or a new commuter vehicle.

If you want some help making this decision, go read our guide to decide whether you really need enclosed shipping

3. Coordinate with the seller or dealership

Now that you’ve gathered shipping quotes, chosen a car transport company, and selected a shipping method, you need to coordinate with the person or dealership that sold you the vehicle.

In order to deliver your car, there are some things your delivery driver might need from you:

  • The car keys
  • A copy of your driver’s license
  • The car’s registration and title
  • Proof of car insurance

Since you won’t be there to hand your car off to the delivery driver, it’s important to make sure that the car dealer is there to give them these things. Let the dealer know ahead of time when the delivery driver plans to come get the car so they can schedule accordingly

Check your bill of lading

When the driver shows up, they’ll ask the car dealer to sign a bill of lading. This is a legal contract that details where your car is being shipped to and what condition your car was in at pickup. Instruct the seller not to hand over the car keys until the driver gives them the bill of lading.

Without a bill of lading, you won’t have legal protection if something goes wrong with your delivery. If a driver doesn’t ask the person handing off the vehicle to sign a bill of lading, the “auto transport company” they work for is probably a scam.

To ensure everything on the bill is in order, ask the seller to call you before signing.

If everything on the bill of lading is correct, give the dealer the go-ahead to sign it and hand the car over to the delivery driver. The driver will then load the car onto their truck and head out.

You should also ask the dealer to fax you a copy or send you a picture of the bill of lading for your records.

After that, your new car will be on its way to your garage.

Why you should ship your car instead of driving it

There are a lot of reasons that you might want to fly or drive out to get your car yourself. For one thing, it might be cheaper. For another, you might want to give your new car a test drive before you purchase it.

However, we recommend getting your car shipped for three important reasons:

  • It’s safer for you and your car.
  • It’s less time-consuming.
  • It doesn’t add mileage to your new car.

Also, we’ve found that the price difference between shipping and driving a car actually isn’t that big. When you factor in the cost of hotels, food, and gas for a road trip, the cost of driving is usually within a couple hundred dollars of the cost of shipping the same distance.

And if you fly out to pick up the car in question, you also need to pay for a plane ticket. If you drive out with a friend to pick up the car instead, you’ll pay for gas for three car trips: for one car on the road trip out, and for both cars on the road trip back.

All in all, paying for a one-way auto shipment can actually end up being cheaper than going to get the car yourself. If you want to read a more thorough cost/benefit analysis, go check out our guide to shipping vs. driving a car.

Recommended resources

Now that you know how to get your car delivered, check out these guides to guarantee you’re ready to ship your car:

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About Joe Roberts

Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts is a professional writer with a degree in writing studies and over three years of copywriting experience. He previously worked at Overstock.com, where he wrote about furniture, home decor, and moving. Joe has moved all over Utah, so he knows his way around a moving truck—and he spends his time (and money) expanding his personal library so it will be even heavier next time he moves.