6 Things to Know about the Best Time to Ship a Car

March 12, 2020 car on road over sunny day

Between figuring out how much it costs to ship your car and how long it’ll take to reach its destination, timing may be the least of your concern. However, knowing the best time to ship a car can also help you understand when to transport your car with the least inconvenience at the best price possible. So it’s something you should never overlook, in addition to essentials like car transport insurance.

Timing and seasonal changes play a major role in car shipping duration and cost for a variety of reasons. For instance, some months see a higher demand for car transport across states due to weather changes, school schedules, and so on. This brings up the cost to ship your car between certain routes. Plus, the high demand also slows down the time taken to arrange a suitable carrier as it gets more challenging to efficiently coordinate their pickups and deliveries.

So it’s crucial that you understand the best time to ship your car to get the best rates without minimal delays. This post will give you a closer look at how seasonal fluctuations affect the auto transport company, thus helping you identify the best time to ship a car.

Best time to ship a car: A month-wise breakdown

When it comes to car shipping season, there are a lot of variables that come into play. Some months may see a higher cost due to higher demand for car transport. On the other hand, other months may have lower demand but still see higher car shipping costs due to dangerous driving conditions. To help you understand these seasonal changes and how they determine the best time to ship a car, here’s a month-wise breakdown:

1: Backlogs clash with driver shortage in January

Like in a lot of industries, January sees a lot of backlogs, being the first month of the post-holiday season and the start of a new year. Just like everyone else, truck drivers also want to spend their time with family during the holidays. This means that for the weeks they were not on the road, there were fewer cars shipped out even though bookings still come in.

This is the month where the backlog clashes with a shortage of car hauling trucks, which will take about two to three weeks to balance out. Meanwhile, retirees, also commonly known as snowbirds, are getting ready to move to warmer states such as Arizona, Southern California, Florida, and Texas.

This means that car transport companies will see tens of thousands of vehicles waiting to be transported to those states. In other words, the high demand for cross country car shipping to those states will bring up the rates for that route. However, if you’re moving in the opposite direction i.e. from southern states to other destinations, you might be able to get great deals on car hauling rates.

With the higher demand and the limited supply, people who pay for premium service and expedited shipping will see their vehicles shipping out first. Smart brokers will direct their customers toward such premium shipping options to get their cars delivered on time. So considering all these factors, January isn’t necessarily the best time to ship a car, especially if you’re headed south.

2: Things slow down from February till mid-March

After the January backlogs clear up and the snowbirds finish moving south, things start slowing down the following month. February is easily one of the slowest months for the auto shipping industry. College kids are already at school and companies won’t relocate their employees as it’s the middle of a school year.

Auto transport companies will also adjust their rates based on this drop in demand, with rates 10-15% lower than the previous month. As the weather starts getting more pleasant by the end of March, some snowbirds will start to make their way north. This means you’ll get the reversed rates for January, with cheaper rates to reach those warmer states and higher prices to ship from there.

March is also the time when business activity starts to pick up again and people start to get comfortable buying cars online. So the end of the month will see a spike in the cost to transport vehicles, and it’ll remain that way for the next couple of months.

If you’ve been planning to sell your car online or if you’re buying one from an online seller, you might have to pay an extra $100-$200 to get expedited shipping and have it delivered on time. This extra cost may not be too significant unless you’re buying a used car to save costs and you don’t want to spend too much to have it delivered.

3: Snowbirds head back home in April and May

Now that spring is finally here, it’s time for the snowbirds to head back home in droves. Naturally, this significantly brings up the cost to ship vehicles from warmer states like Arizona, Southern California, Florida, and Texas. The good news is that it’ll be much cheaper to transport your car to those states.

With the rising cost also comes an increasing timeline to deliver vehicles from those destinations because there are more cars waiting to be shipping out. Like in January, premium rates will help you get expedited shipping in case you want to get your car by a specific date. If you manage to find a cheap rate for May, there’s a good chance you’ll have to wait a while for your car to get picked up.

4: Peak season starts from June and lasts till August

Summer is the peak season in the auto shipping industry. School’s out so it’s the perfect time for companies to relocate their employees, allowing families a smoother transition. College kids will also ship their cars home between May and June while shipping it back in late August and early September. In addition, people are more confident buying cars online during these months.

With this increase in demand across the country, there’s also a slight increase in the cost to transport cars. However, variables like direction do not play such a massive role as in January and spring so you should expect close-to-similar rates across all routes, with the main variable being distance and type of transport. Even in the summer, premium rates will get you to your destination faster. If you manage to get a good deal, you’ll probably have to wait a bit before your car gets shipped out.

5: You get faster service and lower rates from September to November

As the weather cools down in September, so does the demand for car hauling services. For the next couple of months, it’ll cost a bit less to have your char shipped because there aren’t as many vehicles waiting to get transported. Although there are still some college students hurrying back to school during early September, they won’t cause such a mad rush like in the summer months.

Things might slow down for a few days during Thanksgiving week, but this doesn’t affect the cost or shipping duration too much. The lower demand also leads to faster service during the fall, making this the best time to ship a car, provided that it’s convenient for you.

6: The backlog begins in mid-December

The seasonal fluctuations will hit hard in December once again, although it doesn’t kick in until the middle of the month. During the holiday weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, car transport comes to a near standstill due to the shortage of drivers. With most drivers wanting to stay at home for the holidays, carriers will have a hard time fulfilling car shipment orders.

Add that to the dangerous driving conditions due to freezing temperatures and icy roads in some regions, and you’ll get hardly any transport company that offers service during this period. Meanwhile, orders pile up and start adding to the backlog. Not to mention the increasing amount of snowbirds preparing to fly south.

With all these variables considered, the period between mid to late December and early January is the worst time to ship your car. During this period, you’ll have a hard time convincing carriers to transport your car even with a little extra money. These three weeks are also the most stressful time of year for auto transport companies and brokers alike.

Ideally, you should make the necessary preparations and arrange for shipping early in the month or latest by the second week of December. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until late January when the rush ends and the backlogs start to clear up.

When should you ship your car?

So now the question is – when is the best time to ship a car? In some cases, you can’t always decide when to have your car shipped because there may be circumstances outside of your control. When that’s not the case, the best time to ship a car is during the fall between September and November.

If you have to ship your car during peak season, expect to pay premium rates to get your car delivered on time as there are thousands of vehicles waiting in line. For those moving in the opposite direction from the snowbirds, there’s a good chance you can save a couple of hundred bucks during peak snowbird season. So consider those variables as well, if they’re relevant to you.