Should You Ship Your Car or Drive It When You Move?

At a glance

While driving your car is almost always cheaper than shipping it, especially for shorter moves, auto transport is a lot more convenient and worth the price if you’re moving over 500 miles. It’s also safer and healthier for your car to travel on the back of an open trailer or in an enclosed auto transport truck instead of driving all those miles on its own tires.

So, if you’re moving long distance and hiring professional movers to transport your household goods, we recommend getting a car shipping company to deliver your car for you (if your budget allows).

See how driving your car compares to shipping it in these four categories:

  1. Cost
  2. Wear and tear
  3. Safety
  4. Time

Is it cheaper to ship your car or drive it?

It’s cheaper to drive your car than to ship it. On average, it costs about $180 less to drive yourself ($530) than to hire a professional auto transport company ($710).

Car shipping price comparison by transport type and distance

Estimated cost to driveCost to ship
150 miles$200$470
550 miles$240$740
1,000 miles$470$1,150
2,750 miles$1,220$1,270
150 miles
550 miles
1,000 miles
2,750 miles
Estimated cost to drive Cost to ship
$200 $470
$240 $740
$470 $1,150
$1,220 $1,270

Data as of 5/13/2020. Average cost calculated by comparing costs for three car sizes across five distances. Offers and availability may vary and are subject to change. Driving costs include food, lodging, and fuel for one person.

Like we said earlier, the cost to ship a car is almost always higher than the cost of driving that car the same distance. Even when you factor in additional costs like hotels, gas, and food, driving is still cheaper.

Winner: Driving

How much does it cost to ship a car?

The average cost to ship a car is approximately $710. Costs range from around $350 to ship your car a short distance on an open carrier to more than $1,500 to go across the country on an enclosed carrier.

Car shipping cost comparison

150 miles500 miles1,000 miles2,750 miles
Open transport$360$570$910$1,010
Enclosed transport$580$920$1,390$1,530
Open transport
Enclosed transport
150 miles 500 miles 1,000 miles 2,750 miles
$360 $570 $910 $1,010
$580 $920 $1,390 $1,530

Data as of 5/13/2020. Average cost calculated by comparing costs for three car sizes across five distances. Offers and availability may vary and are subject to change.

Move.org asked 10 car shipping companies to give us 300 quotes. We looked at three car sizes across five distances on both open and enclosed transport to identify industry averages.

Keep in mind that these prices aren’t perfect predictions of what shipping your car might cost. Car transport rates depend on the exact make of your car, the services you pay for, and the distance you’re moving. They can also fluctuate based on seasonality (time of year), routes (roads between your old and new homes), and even gas prices.

This means your auto transport quote will probably deviate slightly from the ones we’ve listed, but these estimates illustrate how much car shipping can cost.

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Are car transport services worth the price?

Are car transport services worth the price?

Car shipping isn’t cheap, but for a lot of customers, the convenience and safety is well worth the cost. But don’t just take our word for it. If you want to learn how real customers feel about auto transportation services and prices, check out What to Expect When You Ship a Car with Montway.

What are the costs of driving your car when you move?

Gas

The average gas costs to drive your car instead of shipping it is approximately $90. Costs range from about $10 to drive your car 150 miles to more than $200 to go across the country.

When we wrote this article, the national average gas price was $2.18 per gallon,1 which isn’t too far from recent yearly averages.2

Let’s say you decided to drive your car to your new home when gas prices are around this average. Let’s also assume that your car gets 26 miles per gallon (which is pretty good). Here’s a rough estimate of how much gas would cost you for the three example moves we outlined earlier.

Gas prices by trip distance
Cost
150 miles$10
550 miles$50
1,000 miles$80
2,750 miles$230
150 miles
550 miles
1,000 miles
2,750 miles
Cost
$10
$50
$80
$230

Data as of 9/16/2020. Fuel costs assume an average gas price of $2.182 per gallon and a vehicle that gets an average of 26 miles per gallon. 

Of course, gas prices change daily and vary from state to state, so it’s impossible to predict how much gas will cost for every hypothetical journey. Also, different cars have different miles per gallon (mpg) ratings, so we can’t anticipate exactly how much gas money you’ll need.

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Want to see how much gas costs today?

Want to see how much gas costs today?

Gas prices have probably changed at least a little since we wrote this article. Luckily, AAA offers a handy gas price tracker that you can use to see how much gas currently costs in each state.

Hotels

Lodging is by far the biggest daily expense when you’re driving across the country. The average hotel room in the US costs $150 per night,3 so if you’re out on the road for several days in a row, the cost of safe and comfortable places to sleep can add up quickly.

According to The Road Trip Expert, you should drive only about 500 miles (or nine hours) per day.4 If you’re driving with someone else, you can save on hotel expenses by taking turns at the wheel without stopping along the way, but sleeping in a car is never adequately restful. If you drive through the night too many times in a row, fatigue will get to both of you and make driving unsafe.

For this reason, expect to pay for at least one hotel per every 500 miles you drive (after the first 500). We also want to point out that this nine-hour estimate is for trips with ideal driving conditions. If you need to take several breaks, or you hit heavy traffic, you might need to get an additional hotel or two en route.

Food

Meals and snacks are the last big road trip expense. If you pack on-the-road meals and drinks beforehand, you can probably drive several hundred miles without stopping. But if you’re taking a long trip, plan to spend between $20 and $40 per day on snacks and meals per person you’re driving with.

Other factors

Is it easier on your car to ship it or drive it?

Winner: Shipping

Each part of your car, from the tires to the engine, has a limited number of miles it can drive before it becomes unreliable and should be replaced. Also, if your car has a lot of miles logged on its odometer when you try to sell it or trade it in, it won’t be worth as much.

These factors make the mileage you put on your car when you drive it across the country an important detail to consider.

The average American puts 1,000 miles on their car every month,5 so if you drive 1,000 miles in just a couple of days when you move to a new state, you’re lowering your car’s resale value and effectively taking one month off its life expectancy.

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Is your car a classic?

Is your car a classic?

If the vehicle in question is an exotic or classic car, then we highly recommend you protect your investment by paying for a classic car transport service instead of driving it yourself.

Is it safer to ship your car or drive it?

Winner: Shipping

The statistical likelihood of getting in a car crash is relatively small, but it’s there, and it goes up with every mile you drive.6

This isn’t the most important factor to consider since it’s clearly very unlikely you’ll get in an accident—even if you drive thousands of miles. But if safety (for you and your car) is your number one concern, then we recommend getting your car professionally shipped.

Heads up exclamation

What if I’m driving a moving truck?

What if I’m driving a moving truck?

If you’re driving across the country in a moving truck, ask a friend or family member to drive your car as a backup vehicle in case your truck breaks down on a lonely highway.

Is it faster to ship your car or drive it?

Winner: Shipping

Driving long distance takes a lot of time. Like we said earlier, you shouldn’t plan to drive more than 500 miles every day. If you’re only traveling to a neighboring state, you might be able to knock out your road trip in a single weekend. But if you’re moving from coast to coast, the trip could take a week or longer.

If you can’t afford to take that time off of work, if you have a lot going on in your personal life, or if driving for an entire week just sounds mind-numbingly boring, paying for a car transport service is your best option.

Our recommendation

We’re not going to lie. Shipping your car isn’t cheap, and you can almost always save money driving it to your new home yourself. Even if you consider the cost of gas, hotels, food, and mileage for a long road trip, auto transportation usually still costs more.

However, for long journeys, professional auto transportation services will always be the most convenient, safe, and time-saving option.

That’s why we recommend at least getting a quote from one of our favorite auto transport companies to see if you can fit car shipping into your budget.

Recommended resources

Now that we’ve broken down the costs and benefits of auto transportation, we recommend reading the following guides to prepare yourself for shipping your car:

People also asked . . .

Sources

  1. AAA, “Gas Prices,” September 16, 2020. Accessed September 16, 2020.
  2. US Inflation Calculator, “Gasoline Prices Adjusted for Inflation,” 2020. Accessed February 10, 2020.
  3. Sterling Price, ValuePenguin, “Average Cost of a Vacation,” September 10, 2020. Accessed September 16, 2020.
  4. Ian, The Road Trip Expert, “How Far Can You Drive Safely in a Day?,” August 2, 2019. Accessed February 10, 2020.
  5. Tyron Jones, Cheap Auto Insurance, “Average Miles Driven Per Year or Month Per Person for Each State,” July 2020. Accessed September 16, 2020.
  6. Brian Tefft, AAA Foundation, “Rates of Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries and Deaths in Relation to Driver Age, United States, 2014–2015,” June 2017. Accessed February 10, 2020.

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.