Are you choosing between shipping your car and driving it yourself? If you choose to have it shipped, keep these tips in mind.

How to ship a car, car shipping tips

Shipping a car to another state isn’t necessarily a fun thing to coordinate, which is why so many people are reluctant to buy vehicles from different areas. Sometimes, however, the deal on the car is just that good. There are other scenarios too, like moving across the country with a classic car, where it almost always makes more sense for you to ship your car instead of drive it.

There are reliable and cheap ways to transport a car, so long as you know how to choose a reputable company. Instead of putting hundreds or thousands of extra miles and wear and tear on the vehicle in question, we’ll show you how to ship your car with ease. Here’s everything you need to know about how to ship a car. We’ve also included some auto transport tips that will help you save some money along the way.

Know Your Car Shipping Options

Not sure how to ship a car? According to ASWD auto transport services, you have two basic choices:

  • Terminal-to-terminal services – Your vehicle arrives and departs from a designated location, and it is consolidated with other vehicles to be shipped to another terminal location.
  • Door-to-door services – Someone will pick up your auto from an area you designate and drop it off as close to your desired destination as possible.

Terminal-to-terminal can be the cheaper of the two options, but this means your car may have to sit at the originating terminal waiting until the shipping service has a full load. In addition to the delays, your car will probably be sitting outside, exposed to the elements.

Also, you may have to drive some distance to reach both terminals, and you may be charged sheltering fees on either end of the trip, which will add to the costs. Figure out how far away your original and final destination is from the nearest terminals to get an accurate estimate of total cost.

Pick a Type of Carrier

Auto transport tips - types of carriers

Depending on the value of your car, you’ll have the option of either open auto shipping and enclosed auto transport. Open shipping would be those trailers you see driving down the road stacked with cars and closed using large semi trucks.

While typically cheaper, open shipping can expose your car to damage from the elements beyond the transport company’s control. Think of all the weather and highway rocks that can damage your car. If your vehicle is particularly valuable, this may be a deal breaker.

Enclosed transport, which can be hard- or soft-sided, carries only a few vehicles at a time. As a result, you can expect to pay more for shipping your car.

How Car Shipping Prices are Determined

Along with the type of transport service and transport carrier, prices are going to depend on a few variables.

Some variables include:

  • The type and weight of the vehicle you’re shipping
  • Whether or not it’s functional
  • The time of year (rates can be lower in winter)
  • How far you’re shipping it
  • Whether door-to-door will take the transport driver far from his main route

A recent look at one of the many online calculators showed that sending a functional Ford Fiesta door-to-door from San Diego, California to Miami, Florida in an open trailer would cost around $1,000. By contrast, a BMW 745 taking the same trip in an enclosed transport would cost close to $1,500.

Rates charged by auto transport services are also based on predetermined trucking routes and truck availability. Estimates can and do change from day to day. Shipping from large cities instead of small towns can save you some money since there tend to be more terminals in the larger metropolitans.

Bonus Cash Saving Tip — Keep your car’s gas tank near empty before you ship your car. This way you won’t be paying for any extra weight in fuel that you won’t be using.

Finding a Reliable Shipping Company

How to find a reliable car shipping company

Resist the urge to make your car shipping decision based on price alone. Instead of getting bent out of shape about price, you’re better off finding a company that guarantees on-time, safe delivery. Online reviews are critical in this process.

Tips for Picking an Auto Transport Service

Upgrade Your Insurance Before Shipping a Car

The government requires auto shippers to carry liability and cargo insurance, but typically it only covers the Kelley Blue Book value. Things not covered should be listed on your shipping order and the bill of lading. Consider upgrading your auto policy to include comprehensive coverage for theft and collision.

Make sure to inspect your car thoroughly along with the company you’re working with before and after shipment. Take pictures and make a note of any scratches or damage along the way. This will help if you need to file a claim after the transfer has been completed.

Reasons NOT to Ship a Car

Shipping car options, how to ship a car

Here are some reasons why shipping a car might not be beneficial and cost-effective:

  • You know you’ll need it as soon as you reach your destination.
  • It makes better financial sense to sell it and buy a new car at your new destination.
  • You don’t need a car where you’re going or having one would create hassles.

In that final instance, you might want to consider storing your vehicle in a storage unit, especially if it’s of greater value you to you than its resale price or if you’re only relocating temporarily.

Finally, if you’re thinking about saving a few bucks by packing your car full of your possessions, rethink that strategy. The Department of Transportation does not legally allow the transport of personal goods on auto carriers, which means the carrier’s insurance won’t cover losses or damages and your policy probably won’t either.

If you find that you need to store your car on either end of your journey, we hope you’ll consider renting car storage at a Life Storage location near you. Good luck!

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Article originally published in April of 2013 and updated in December of 2017.

About the Author

Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann has written about self storage and moving since 2015, making her our storage expert. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and Linguistics and has published over 150 articles on moving, storage, and home organization. She is also a contributing writer at and Martha Stewart.

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