Do I Really Need an Enclosed Car Carrier?

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on September 15, 2021
4 min read

At a glance

The best car shipping companies offer both enclosed and open transport services. However, you usually need enclosed transport only when you ship a very expensive vehicle or have a car with low ground clearance. An enclosed carrier can keep your automobile safer than an open carrier since it isn’t exposed to the elements (or burglars) during shipping. However, at a price tag of approximately $1,500, it’s also around 40% more expensive.

Only about 10% of customers use enclosed transport. The extra cost may be worth it if you’re transporting a car with low ground clearance or one of several specialty vehicles:

  • Antique vehicles
  • Classic vehicles
  • Custom vehicles
  • Exotic vehicles
  • Luxury vehicles
Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Better protection
Pro Bullet Better security
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet More expensive
Con Bullet 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 transport
Open transport

Best for

Custom cars

Regular cars

Price

$$$

$

Delivery time

Slower

Faster

# of cars on truck

1–7

8–10

# of walls

4

0

How much does enclosed car transport cost?

Enclosed transport costs approximately $1,500, according to Move.org’s analysis of nearly 700 quotes. The average enclosed transport is about 40% more expensive than shipping your vehicle on an open carrier.

uShip

Enclosed vs. open car shipping prices

Transport type
Average cost
Enclosed transport $1,500
Open transport $1,080

Data as of May 14, 2021. Average cost calculated by comparing costs for 3 vehicle sizes across 11 distances. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.


When should I use enclosed car transport?

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.

Money
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. 

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 40% more than open transport.

The best car shipping companies specialize in open transport for a reason: it costs less. Plus, the costs to clean off dirt or repair damage are much lower with the average, everyday car—unlike specialty 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.

Info Box
Enclosed vs. open car shipping

Wondering whether you need enclosed car shipping? It’s primarily recommended for expensive vehicles or cars with low ground clearance.


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 American Auto Shipping.

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.

How much does an open car carrier cost?

An open car carrier costs about $1,080, according to Move.org. You typically pay about 30% less to use an open car trailer than enclosed auto shipping.

Is enclosed transportation safer than open shipping?

Yes, enclosed transportation is safer than open shipping. Because your car is shipped inside of a closed trailer, enclosed auto shipping better protects your vehicle against bad weather and road debris than open auto shipping.

Which auto transport company has the lowest prices for closed transport?

Ship a Car Direct has the lowest prices for closed transport. Its average cost of $1,210 is about $290 lower than the enclosed car trailer industry average, according to Move.org.


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.