Do I Really Need an Enclosed Car Carrier?

At a glance

Enclosed car shipping is ideal for customers with custom cars and big wallets. An enclosed trailer gives your car more protection but comes with a hefty price tag and slower delivery times.

We contacted five auto transport companies to see how much it would cost to ship a 2015 Toyota Camry approximately 1,100 miles. The average quote for enclosed transport was $1,117 compared to $696 for open car carriers—a difference of $421.

The extra cost may be worth it if you’re transporting a car with low ground clearance or one of several specialty vehicles you don’t want to get dirty in transit:

  • Antique vehicles
  • Classic vehicles
  • Custom vehicles
  • Exotic vehicles
  • Luxury vehicles

Pros

  • Better protection
  • Better security

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Limited availability

What is enclosed car transport?

Enclosed transport means your car rides on a truck with only a few other vehicles and is protected from the elements in a completely enclosed trailer. It’s like flying first class on an airplane (but coach exits first since your delivery time is slower).

Open transport means your car is sandwiched with upwards of 10 vehicles on an open truck—a car carrier exposed on the sides to the elements. It’s like flying coach on an airplane (but without the windows).

Compare enclosed vs. open car shipping

Enclosed transportOpen transport
Best forCustom carsRegular cars
Price$$$$
Delivery timeSlowerFaster
# of cars on truck1–78–10
# of walls40
Best for
Price
Delivery time
# of cars on truck
# of walls
Enclosed transport Open transport
Custom cars Regular cars
$$$ $
Slower Faster
1–7 8–10
4 0

How much does enclosed car transport cost?

Enclosed car transport is about 63% more expensive than open transport. We contacted five different shipping companies to see how much it would cost to ship a 2015 Toyota Camry 1,100 miles from Magna, UT, to Grandview, MO.

Enclosed transport costs $421 more on average than open transport.

Enclosed vs. open car shipping prices

Transport typeAverage cost
Enclosed transport$1,117.40
Open transport$696.40
Transport type
Enclosed transport
Open transport
Average cost
$1,117.40
$696.40

Data as of 2/21/20. Offers and availability may vary and are subject to change.

To learn more about what affects auto transport prices, check out How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Car?

When should I use enclosed car transport?

Your car is a significant investment. You want it to arrive safely at its destination, but you also don’t want to pay more than you have to.

So when should you use enclosed vs. open car shipping?

Use enclosed auto transport for luxury cars

If your car was built before 1970, can do zero to sixty miles per hour in under three seconds, or was driven by 007 in a James Bond movie, you’re going to want enclosed car shipping.

Why? Enclosed car shipping is designed to keep custom vehicles in tip-top shape.

An enclosed trailer keeps the car from being exposed to the elements and other cars. Instead of sharing an open space with 10 other cars, your vehicle bunks with only a few other automobiles and is enclosed by walls on every side.

Enclosed trailers help ensure your vehicle makes it to your new home or a car show without a scratch.

Get money

DISCOUNTS!

DISCOUNTS!

AmeriFreight is one of our top enclosed auto transport companies. In addition to keeping your car safe in transit, AmeriFreight has discounts for students, seniors, first responders, and more. Read our AmeriFreight Review to learn more.

Use enclosed auto transport service for vehicles with low ground clearance

We’ve all shared the road with lowriders—cars purposefully designed to be close to the ground. If a car would bottom out going over a decent-sized speed bump, the same thing will happen when a carrier tries to drive it onto an open transport trailer.

No one wants a damaged car, especially when the truck hasn’t even left the parking lot.

Some enclosed car carriers have special equipment that safely lifts cars with four inches or less of clearance onto the carrier. Check with your car shipper to see if it has this feature.

Enclosed trailers aren’t just the best choice for low-clearance vehicles: they’re the only option.

Our recommendation

Consider using enclosed vehicle transport if you want your specialty car (e.g., luxury cars, sports cars, antique cars) to have extra protection in transit or if your vehicle rides four inches or less away from the ground. Be aware that it costs upward of 60% more than open transport.

On the other hand, open transport is the most popular car shipping option for a reason: it costs less. Plus, the cost to clean off dirt or repair damage are much lower with the average, everyday car—unlike speciality cars that can cost as much as a house to fix if damaged in transit—so the premium for enclosed transport isn’t worth it for most shipments.

Bottom line: if you buy your car from a regular dealership (Honda, Ford, Hyundai, etc.), you probably don’t need enclosed transport.

Enclosed car shipping FAQs

How long does enclosed car transport take?

Enclosed car transport is typically slower than open transport. There is a higher demand for open transport, so there are fewer enclosed carriers. This usually means enclosed transport isn’t as fast as open transport.

Which shipping companies offer enclosed auto transport?

All auto transport brokers use carriers that provide enclosed car shipping. Our top three companies for enclosed car shipping are Montway Auto Transport, AmeriFreight, and Sherpa Auto Transport.

Do cars get dirty during transport?

Cars get dirty during transit when using open trailers, but not enclosed trailers. The totally enclosed trailer keeps your car protected from the elements during the trip.

Does road debris damage cars on open auto trailers?

This common myth is one reason people sometimes request a top load position for their cars. The thinking goes that the higher your car is from the ground, the less likely it is to be damaged by road debris like small rocks. In reality, debris hits the front of the truck instead of flying sideways into your car.

Is there a car carrier that specializes in motorcycles?

Yes. While most companies transport motorcycles, some handle your bike with extra care. Check out our list of the 5 Best Motorcycle Shipping Companies.

What are the biggest differences between open and enclosed auto transport?

Price and protection are the biggest differences between open and enclosed auto transport. Your vehicle is more protected with enclosed car carriers—but it costs more.

About Kurt Manwaring

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, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.