The Step by Step Guide to Shipping a Car

Car owners may find that driving cross-country is not always the best way to transport a vehicle. In some situations, shipping a car is a faster, safer and overall better solution for delivering a vehicle to a new location. Shipping alleviates the wear and tear a vehicle endures while traveling, and it provides a more efficient way to transport a vehicle.
Whether the interstate car shipping is required to sell the vehicle or just to bring it along when a family moves, understanding how to ship a car and the steps that go into its transport can be an essential step in reducing stress and confusion when shipping day arrives.

Deciding if Shipping is Right for Your Needs

car carrierBefore committing to inter-state car transport, it’s smart to review the pros and cons of shipping a vehicle. When you know what shipping entails and when it’s appropriate, you can make the right choice for your needs. Knowing what you need will also help you to choose the best transport company and arrange for safe transit of the vehicle.

For some people, having a vehicle shipped is necessary. For example, people moving to Hawaii or overseas do not have the option of driving a vehicle. In these cases, the car owner must choose between having the car shipped or buying a new vehicle at their destination.

For those living in the contiguous United States, however, a move over state lines provides more flexibility. Some people choose to drive cross-country themselves or tow their vehicles behind a moving truck. This is not always the best or most efficient choice for bringing a vehicle cross-country.

Benefits of Shipping

  • You do not need to drive the vehicle yourself. You can fly to your destination and pick up the vehicle once you’ve arrived.
  • You don’t have to run the risk of damaging your car trying to tow it yourself. Experts who know how to safely transport vehicles will be responsible for your car’s well-being.
  • You can have the vehicle delivered on a different timetable than your move, providing you with greater flexibility.
  • Vehicles that cannot or should not be driven long distances, such as restored antique cars, can be transported across the country for shows or other purposes.

Drawbacks of Shipping a Car

  • Shipping costs can be quite expensive, and it may not always be worth it to pay for shipping on an older or less valuable vehicle. This is especially true for long journeys. It may be cheaper to simply sell the car and buy a new one at your destination.
  • The car may be damaged during shipping. This risk is however mediated by the company’s liability insurance.
  • You will need to arrange alternative transportation for yourself or your family rather than driving to the destination.

Determining Costs

Shipping costs are a major factor in determining whether it’s worthwhile to ship a vehicle cross-country. Before making a decision, it’s important to research your options and choose a shipping service within your budget. It’s also a good idea to have reasonable expectations so that you can budget accordingly and make the right decision about whether it’s worth the cost and effort to have your vehicle shipped.

The cost of shipping a car cross-country will vary based upon a variety of factors including:

– The type of shipping company you work with.
– The year, make and model of your vehicle.
– The distance the car will be shipped.
– The vehicle’s size and weight
– Whether any additional factors must be considered, such as keeping the car covered.

In general, smaller and lighter vehicles will be cheaper to ship because they will put less strain on the shipping vehicle. Oversized cars or those with unique dimensions, such as vehicles with lift kits or extended cabs, may cost more to ship due to not fitting in standard shipping containers or trailers.

When looking for a shipping company, it’s a good idea to get quotes from multiple providers and narrow down the options that way. This is also a good time to assess the costs of driving the vehicle rather than shipping it, if possible; in some cases, driving may be more efficient, but it is often actually much cheaper to ship a car across state lines than drive one.

Once a number of quotes have been collected, it’s time to decide which shipping company to work with. From there, individual arrangements for payment, shipping and pick-up can be made.

Choosing the Right Shipping Company

Before arranging to have a vehicle shipped, doing some research to find the best shipping company is a wise idea. Multiple shipping services exist across the country, but not every company serves every route and location. The right transport company will employ experienced professionals and have a good reputation. Be sure to check user ratings and reviews from people who have worked with the company in the past. You can also speak with the company prior to hiring them to ensure your questions are answered and the service will be a good fit for you.

In general, there are two types of transport carriers: transporters (also called auto haulers) and transport brokers. A broker will arrange for transport on the owner’s behalf, using a third party shipping provider. A car transporter or hauler does their own shipping, utilizing a fleet of trucks for that purpose.

Car haulers will often be the less cost-efficient option, and a good broker can be very helpful in ensuring the transport goes smoothly. However, when using a broker, it’s especially important to research as there are unscrupulous brokers who will cut corners or otherwise potentially put a vehicle at risk.

How Will the Vehicle Be Shipped?

When deciding on a car hauling company or broker, it’s a good idea to ask how the vehicle will be shipped. There are multiple methods for car transport. One of the most common is on the back of a specially-designed car hauling semi truck trailer. Several vehicles may be shipped at once this way.

Bear in mind, however, that vehicles shipped in this fashion will be left uncovered and exposed to the elements. A particularly delicate or valuable vehicle might benefit from a different kind of transport where it will be enclosed.

Vehicles being shipped over long distances may also be carried in train cars, airplanes or on ferry boats. Ferries and planes are frequently used to transport cars from the contiguous lower 48 states to Hawaii. Generally, air travel is the most expensive shipping option. Choosing to have a car transported by land will nearly always net you the best savings.

Preparing a Car for Shipping

Once the shipping company has been chosen and arrangements have been made to deliver the vehicle, it’s time to prepare the car for transport. Careful preparations ensure the safety of the vehicle and its transport team as well as reduce costs and improve efficiency.

– First, be sure to thoroughly wash and detail the vehicle. This will allow you to inspect it and document any preexisting damage. It’s not a bad idea to take photos at this point as well to prove the condition of the vehicle. This will help in the event that the car sustains damage during transport.

– Remove or secure any after-market parts. This includes all variety of customized accessories to the vehicle’s exterior. Things like under-carriage lights or spoiler kits may work loose during shipping or cause the vehicle to fit poorly in the shipping container or trailer. Speak with the transport company prior to shipping to determine what, if anything, should be done with these additions.

– Secure all doors, windows and convertible top. Be sure to disable the car alarm and provide the transport company with any necessary remotes for disengaging the alarm, automatic starting and other features. Finally, ensure that there is not too much gas in the tank. Most shipping companies will prefer a quarter tank or less for weight and safety reasons.

Special Considerations for Insurance

Auto transport companies carry liability insurance and should be held responsible for damages incurred during transport. However, this coverage may be too limited in scope or have too low of limits to fully cover the costs of repair, especially on expensive cars.

Prior to arranging for interstate car shipping, it’s important to speak with your insurance company to ensure the appropriate coverage is applied to the vehicle. In general, damage to a vehicle being shipped will be covered under the “comprehensive” coverage on the auto policy.

If you do not have full coverage on the vehicle that will be shipped, temporarily adding the coverage or purchasing a specialized transport policy may be a good idea. Speak with the insurance company prior to the shipping date to ensure the appropriate coverage is added to the vehicle if necessary.

Taking pictures of the vehicle prior to shipping and carefully recording all prior damage will help significantly when it comes to filing a claim for auto damage that occurs during shipping.

Receiving the Vehicle

The time it takes to ship a vehicle will depend on the distance it’s traveling, the route taken by the auto hauler and the schedule of the transport company. When you set up your initial car transport appointment, the transport company should provide an estimated time for pick up. Bear in mind however that external factors like traffic and weather conditions can affect the speed of travel, so a vehicle may not arrive exactly on time. Communicate with the transport company to identify when a vehicle is available for pick up.

At the time of pick up, it is important to first thoroughly inspect the vehicle for any signs of wear or damage. In many cases, if the damage is not identified and pointed out immediate, it may not be possible to file a claim or win a case for repairs. Bringing photographs and other documentation of the vehicle’s “before” state can help for comparison and improving your chances of having repairs covered in full if necessary.

However, in most cases, vehicles arrive from cross-country transport unscathed. Once the vehicle has been inspected, any remaining fees should be paid to the transport company. You are then free to drive the vehicle or have it placed in storage at its destination.

Now that you understand the basic steps involved in having a vehicle shipped long distances, you can put that knowledge to use in choosing the right transport company and moving forward with having the vehicle moved. Whether you choose to have your car shipped or decide that the cost and effort is not worthwhile for your situation, you can rest easy knowing you’ve made an informed decision.

Interstate car transport is a huge industry with some reputable and some not so reputable companies out there.
Let us help you find one of the good guys. Get a Free Quote