How Do I Transport My Car Cross Country?

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on September 20, 2021
6 min read

At a glance

There’s a lot to consider if you need to ship your car cross country. You already know you want an affordable car shipping company, but you should also pay attention to things like timing, transparency, and insurance.

We’ve put together five steps to take the stress out of shipping your car:

  1. Consider your options
  2. Compare car shipping quotes
  3. Choose a company
  4. Prepare your car for pickup
  5. Check for damage

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5 steps to transport your car cross country

1. Consider your options

There are several ways to get your car from one side of the country to the other. Before you commit to an auto transport company, make sure you don’t overlook your other options.

Drive your car

Many people ship their cars because they don’t want to drive them—but that’s still an option you can consider. Just be aware that you need to account for fuel. If you’re traveling more than one day, you also need to factor in money for food and hotels. Those costs add up fast enough that you can sometimes ship your car for less than it costs to drive it.

Info Box
How long will it take to drive my car?

An easy rule of thumb to calculate your travel time is to divide your total distance by 500 miles (the most you should travel in one day). So, a trip of 2,000 miles would take 4 days (2,000 / 4).

Tow your car behind a rental truck

You’ve probably seen a U-Haul truck on the freeway towing a car behind it. Most vehicles can be transported on either a car trailer or tow dolly (a mini-trailer with only two wheels). Car trailers usually aren’t affordable for trips of more than 500 miles. On the other hand, tow dollies can generally save you money, even for cross-country trips.

Tow dolly vs. car shipping costs
Transport type
500 miles
1,500 miles
2,000 miles
Car shipping company $610 $1,100$1,290
Car trailer$460$1,170 $1,530
Tow dolly$280$650 $830

Auto transport company data as of 5/24/21 based on open transport quotes for three vehicle sizes. Car trailer and tow dolly data as of 9/20/21 based on U-Haul quotes and fuel costs. Prices and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Towing your car cross country is cheaper than using a car shipping company, but it’s not nearly as convenient—and there are safety issues to consider (it’s tricky towing a car).

Sell your car

You can sell your car if you don’t have the time or money to drive or tow it. There isn’t much work involved in selling your car these days (thanks, internet), and you can put the cash toward moving expenses—or a replacement vehicle.

Selling your car is a drastic step, so we recommend it mainly if you don’t have the money to transport it, or if you’re already thinking about getting a new car.

2. Compare car shipping quotes

Car transport prices tend to fluctuate; they change from day to day based on things like distance, geography, car condition, and vehicle transport type. The difference between the least and most expensive car shipping companies for a cross-country trip is more than $500, so it’s a good idea to get multiple quotes.

What’s the difference between open transport and enclosed transport?

You can ship your vehicle across the country on open transport or enclosed transport. Though an open carrier is cheaper, it means that your car will be squeezed alongside up to 10 other vehicles and exposed to the weather. An enclosed carrier has four walls and carries fewer cars, which is why it costs about 40% more than an open carrier.

Open carriers make up almost all cross-country transports. Consider an enclosed carrier if you have a classic car or luxury vehicle.

Price Tag
Does your transport quote seem too high?

Ask for an open carrier. An enclosed carrier costs about 40% more (it’s mainly for luxury vehicles), so it’s important to make sure you’re not accidentally paying for a premium service.

How much does it cost to ship a car cross country?

It costs about $1,290 to ship a car cross country (2,000 miles). The shipping cost goes down if you use open transport instead of enclosed transport. Prices are also lower if you’re not hitching a ride across all of Route 66.

Cross-country car shipping costs
Distance
Open transport
Enclosed transport
500 miles$610$880
1,000 miles$1,030$1,400
1,500 miles$1,100$1,600
2,000 miles$1,290$1,780

Data as of 5/24/21. Average cost calculated by comparing costs for three vehicle sizes. Prices and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

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Time matters

Plan ahead. The price goes down if you give the shipping company a couple of weeks of notice to deliver your car.

3. Choose a company

You can often save hundreds of dollars shipping your vehicle using one of our best auto transport companies. There are several things we recommend you look for in your car shipping company:

  • Low prices. Get auto transport quotes from three or four companies to find the most affordable rates. Our analysis of nearly 700 estimates shows that Ship a Car Direct is often about 20% below the industry average.
  • Excellent customer service. We’ve done the math on more than 100,000 reviews and found that customers give car shipping companies an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. Consider a company like Sherpa Auto Transport that scores well above average.
  • Long history. The car shipping industry is infamous for companies that quickly go out of business. We recommend finding a company that’s at least 10 years old. You can even find auto transporters like American Auto Shipping that have been around for more than two decades.
  • Extra insurance. Vehicle damage is rare, but it never hurts to be safe. Look for a car shipping company that gives you additional coverage. For example, AmeriFreight offers gap coverage that pays $2,000 toward your deductible.
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Looking for a multiple vehicle discount?

You can get discounts from our best car shipping companies if you’re shipping multiple cars across the country.

4. Prepare your car for pickup

The auto transport service will pick up your car when it’s ready for shipment. The driver will load your car onto the truck and then hit the road. Before you wave goodbye, knock out some important items on your car shipping checklist:

  • Ensure your car is driveable. Your car needs to be driveable. Be sure to check your tires and battery. And top off your oil and fluids.
  • Test your emergency brake. Car shipping companies won’t take your car if it doesn’t work.
  • Make sure your gas tank is less than one quarter full. The more gas your car has, the more it weighs (the more it costs to transport it).
  • Remove attachments. Get rid of bike racks, antennas, and anything else that could fall off or break during shipment.
  • Wash your car. It’s easier to identify damage if your car is clean, which is why this is a critical step in getting your car ready to ship.
  • Disable your alarm. It can annoy your driver if it goes off.
  • Deactivate your electronic toll pass. You still get charged for tolls if your device is on.

5. Check for damage upon delivery

Your car isn’t likely to get damaged—but you need to look and make sure. There’s a document called a bill of lading that describes any potential damage. The car shipping companies want you to sign the document at pickup so you can’t claim preexisting damage as their fault.

But your signature on the bill of lading is important at the time of delivery too. If you don’t document the damage (take pictures and write a description), then the car shipping company can say it’s not their fault. And that makes it nearly impossible to file an insurance claim.

We’ve put together an auto transport insurance guide to walk you through the process—and break down the big words insurance companies use.


Cross-country car shipping FAQ

How much does cross-country car shipping cost?

Cross-country car shipping costs approximately $1,600, according to Move.org. Costs vary depending on the auto transporter, shipping method, and vehicle size.

What is the cheapest cross-country car shipping company?

The cheapest cross-country car shipping company is Ship a Car Direct, according to Move.org. Its average long-distance car shipping cost of $1,300 is approximately $300 lower than the industry average.

Is it cheaper to use an open trailer than an enclosed trailer?

Yes, it’s cheaper to use an open trailer than an enclosed carrier. About 90% of customers use open car transport. The shipping method is about 30% less expensive than using a closed carrier.

What is the best auto shipping company?

The best auto shipping company is Montway Auto Transport, according to Move.org. The car shipping service offers cross-country vehicle shipping and gets excellent customer reviews.

How much does it cost to rent a moving truck?

It costs approximately $1,550 to rent a moving truck, according to Move.org. Prices vary widely depending on your home size and total distance. The cost to rent a truck for a small rental move is just over $100, while a cross-country rental for a large home often costs more than $3,000.


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.