Your Complete Guide to Car Shipping: Navigating From Start to Finish

Car shipping, often referred to as auto transport or vehicle transport, involves transporting a vehicle from one location to another through a professional service. This service becomes invaluable in scenarios where driving the vehicle yourself is not feasible, such as when buying or selling a car online, relocating across the country, or needing to move a vehicle internationally. With the assistance of car shipping companies all over the world, vehicle owners can ensure their cars are moved safely and efficiently, offering a seamless solution to transportation challenges without the vehicle accruing unnecessary mileage or wear and tear.

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Types Of Auto Transport Services

Navigating through the types of auto transport services available can be similar to selecting the right mode of transportation for a trip. Options range from terminal-to-terminal, where vehicles are dropped off and picked up at specific locations, to door-to-door services offering the convenience of handling the vehicle directly from and to the customer’s doorstep. Additionally, choices between having your car driven by a professional or transported on a trailer (open or enclosed) allow for flexibility based on budget, vehicle type, and personal preferences. Each method caters to different needs, from cost-efficiency and speed, to enhanced security for high-value vehicles.

How Much Does It Cost To Ship A Car?

The cost to ship a car varies widely based on factors such as distance, vehicle size, transport method, and time of year. Prices can range significantly, from an industry average of around $3 per mile for shorter distances, to significantly lower per-mile costs for journeys exceeding 1,000 miles. Understanding the variables that affect pricing, including the choice between open or enclosed transport, urban versus rural pickup and delivery locations, and additional services like expedited shipping, is crucial. For accurate pricing, obtaining quotes from multiple car shipping companies is always recommended, allowing for a comparison of services and costs to find the very best deal.

Preparing For Your Car To Be Shipped

Preparing your car for shipping involves several important steps to ensure its safe and efficient transport. This includes gathering necessary documents, thoroughly cleaning the vehicle to accurately assess its condition, and removing personal items to avoid loss or damage. Ensuring the car is in running condition, if applicable, and documenting its state through photographs serves as an important record for comparison upon delivery. These preparations not only safeguard the vehicle but also assist in the smooth handling and transportation process by the shipping company.

During the Transport

During the transport phase of car shipping, your vehicle is securely loaded onto the chosen transport method—be it an open-air trailer, an enclosed trailer, or driven by a professional in the case of driveaway services. The car is then moved along the predetermined route to its destination. Throughout this journey, safety and security are paramount, with measures in place to protect your vehicle from damage. Many shipping companies offer tracking services, allowing you to monitor your vehicle’s progress and have peace of mind. It’s a period of waiting and anticipation, as the transport company handles the logistics and navigates through the best routes to ensure timely and safe delivery.

After the Car Arrives

Once your car arrives at its destination, a thorough inspection is crucial. This step is to ensure that the vehicle is in the same condition as it was before shipping, with no new damages incurred during transport. Compare the car’s state upon arrival with the documented condition before shipping, paying close attention to any discrepancies. If any damage is noticed, it should be reported to the transport company immediately to address the issue promptly. This post-arrival inspection ensures that any problems are quickly identified and resolved, maintaining accountability and satisfaction with the shipping process.

Understanding Transport Methods

Selecting the right auto transport company and the optimal transport method are pivotal for a smooth car shipping process tailored to your specific needs and budget. Begin by identifying a company with a robust reputation, underscored by favorable customer feedback and a consistent record of dependability. It’s crucial that the company provides the precise services you require, such as door-to-door delivery, and whether you prefer open or enclosed transport, alongside a transparent insurance policy for your vehicle’s protection during the journey. Ensure the company is registered with the Department of Transport and offers superior customer service, as these are hallmark traits of a trustworthy provider.

Open transport represents the most popular and cost-effective choice, exposing your car to the elements, yet remaining safe for standard models.

Enclosed transport offers enhanced protection against weather and road debris. This is typically the case for vehicles requiring extra care, such as luxury or vintage cars.

Driveaway services present a personalized option with a professional driver conveying your car directly, which may increase mileage but can be more economical. Each transport method balances cost, protection, and convenience differently, so assessing your vehicle’s needs and your preferences is key to making an informed decision.

Choosing Driveaway Services

Choosing the driveaway method for shipping your car involves hiring a professional to drive your vehicle to its destination, offering a personalized touch and a tremendous time savings. Driveaway services can be more cost-effective and faster, as they don’t involve loading and unloading onto carriers and offer a direct route from point A to point B. However, it’s crucial to select a reputable service with thoroughly vetted drivers to ensure your vehicle is in safe hands throughout its journey.

Additional Considerations

When shipping your car, several additional considerations should be kept in mind to ensure a smooth process. These include understanding the insurance coverage provided by the shipping company and whether additional insurance is necessary for your peace of mind. There’s no need to purchase supplementary insurance for transporting your vehicle, as the Department of Transportation obligates every car shipping company to have liability insurance in place.

It’s also important to be clear about the pickup and delivery locations, as some areas may be difficult for large transporters to access. Seasonal fluctuations can affect shipping times and costs, so planning accordingly can save you inconvenience and expense. Summer is always the busiest time of the year. And lastly, always read customer reviews and feedback to gauge the reliability and quality of service of the transport company you choose.

Frequently Asked Questions about Car Shipping

  1. How much to ship a car? The cost of shipping a car can vary significantly depending on various factors, including the distance, vehicle size, transport type, and the time of year. On average, within the US, it costs around $3 per mile for distances less than 250 miles, $1.25 per mile for distances between 250 and 500 miles, and $1 per mile for distances over 1,000 miles.
  2. What is the cheapest way to ship a car? The cheapest way to ship a car is typically via open transport, which involves transporting your vehicle on an open-air carrier. Another economical option, depending on circumstances, could be a driveaway service, where a professional driver drives your vehicle to its destination. It is typically the most convenient of all the choices.
  3. How do I pay for my auto transport? Payment methods can vary by auto transport company. It’s important to discuss and agree upon the payment method before confirming the delivery. Most companies offer flexible payment options, but ensure you clarify this aspect upfront.
  4. Can I track my car transport online? Many car shipping companies offer the ability to track your vehicle shipment online, providing updates or personal updates on the progress. Confirm with your chosen company if they provide tracking capabilities and how you can access them.
  5. Does someone have to be present for pickup and delivery? Yes, in most cases, someone must be present both at the pickup and delivery points to sign release forms and hand over the car keys to the transport service provider.
  6. Can I keep items in my vehicle during my car shipment? While many transport companies allow you to keep personal items in your vehicle, there are considerations to keep in mind. The weight of the items may affect the price, and items left in the vehicle are typically not covered by the transport insurance.
  7. How long does it take to ship a car? For short distances, such as within the same state or to adjacent states, the delivery time ranges from 3 to 7 days. Driveaway service can significantly expedite the process, often completing it in under 2-3 days or even on the same day. When transporting over medium distances, which might span several states or regions, the expected delivery period is between 1 to 2 weeks. For long distances, such as coast-to-coast or nationwide shipments, the timeframe extends from 1 to 3 weeks. Please note that these timeframes for shipping a car are approximate and subject to variation due to factors like the availability of carriers, weather conditions, and unexpected delays. Additionally, shipping vehicles internationally usually requires additional time because of customs clearance and other logistical processes.
  8. How much gas should I have in my vehicle during transit? It’s generally recommended to have about a quarter tank of gas in your vehicle during transport. This is enough to load and unload the vehicle without adding unnecessary weight. For driveaway services the fuel is paid for by the client.
  9. Can I ship my vehicle if it isn’t running? Yes, you can ship a vehicle that isn’t running via traditional car shipping methods, but be aware that it may cost more due to the need for special equipment to load and unload the vehicle safely.
  10. Can I ship a modified vehicle? Yes, modified vehicles can usually be shipped. However, inform the transport company of any modifications to ensure they can accommodate your vehicle’s needs and provide an accurate quote.


Car shipping is a versatile service designed to meet a wide range of transportation needs, offering solutions from personal driving to various trailer options. The choice between different shipping methods, including driveaway services, depends on individual preferences, the vehicle’s value, and specific requirements. By preparing your vehicle for transport, understanding the process, and choosing a reputable company, you can ensure a smooth and secure shipping experience. Whether you’re relocating, buying a new car, or sending a vehicle to a distant location, car shipping services provide a convenient and efficient way to move your vehicle safely.

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