6 Tips on How to Avoid Car Shipping Scams

November 5, 2019 Happy senior couple in the car. Transportation.

One of the scariest things about shipping your car is that it could get damaged in transit due to unforeseen circumstances. What’s even worse is not being able to ship your car at all even though you’ve already sent a payment to the so-called transporter. That’s what happens when you fall victim to a car shipping scam.

The Better Business Bureau even published a warning a couple of years back about a fake transporting business that was operating under a once-legit company name. People had collectively lost over $30,000 to these scammers at the time of the BBB alert.

In some cases, scammed customers thought they were buying a car from a legit seller, but never received the vehicle after they sent the payment. Other cases also involve customers who visited a seemingly legitimate website, received a quote, and paid to schedule shipping. Only when the transport truck never arrives do they realize they’ve been scammed.

Other scammers may also run completely legit businesses but have a tendency to trick their customers with sketchy practices such as the old bait and switch. So before you decide to ship your car with a certain company, it’s crucial that you learn how to avoid car shipping scams. Here are some tips to help you out:

1: Find out how the car shipping industry works

Some knowledge about how the auto transport industry works can go a long way, and will eventually help you learn how to avoid car shipping scams. This involves understanding the difference between brokers and carriers, the different types of shipping methods, the average time taken, and the approximate cost.

Brokers are the ones who arrange to have your car shipped, so they take charge of the whole operation including finding the right carrier and assigning the driver. Usually, these are the people you’ll initially contact to arrange for car transport. This works in your favor as reliable brokers carefully vet the carriers they work with, helping you avoid working with sketchy companies.

Brokers will charge a small fee, which usually ranges between $100 and $250 although the actual rates may vary depending on factors like distance and car type. For instance, it’ll cost a bit more to arrange for interstate car shipping, transporting expensive cars, and so on. Anything that’s excessively above this rate is a hint that you’re dealing with someone who’s probably trying to scam you.

Carriers are the people who actually transport your car from one place to another. Their job starts only after the broker assigns them to ship the car. However, they are responsible for providing insurance and ensuring that your car reaches its destination safely. Naturally, the majority of your car shipping fee will also go to the carrier, but only after the vehicle is delivered.

2: Research the transport company

If you want to learn how to avoid car shipping scams, you should also learn how to research transport carriers. Look through their website and pay close attention to the smaller details such as grammar and spelling. In some cases, scammers will be quick to put up a fraudulent website so they’ll fail to check for grammatical and spelling errors.

In addition, see if the company has included a legitimate physical address on their site. This gives you some idea of whether the carrier is trying to hide some info from you. You should also research the company’s BBB rating, Google rating, and social media rating.

Note, however, that some of the ratings and reviews on Google and social media can be fake too. So read through the reviews carefully to find out if there’s any close similarity in the language used by multiple reviewers. Further, you can also look for reviews on Trustpilot to see whether the website is trustworthy.

Once you’ve completed this initial research process and decided that a company seems legitimate, you should also check their license. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates auto shipping companies, so any legitimate carrier will not hesitate to display their Motor Carrier number with the FMCSA on their website.

You can even research the company’s history on the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records website of the FMCSA. This will show you whether the carrier is prone to accidents and road safety risks. However, what’s even more important is finding out if there’s any information at all about the trucking company. The website will not list fraudulent companies, so that’s one of the main signs that will help you avoid car shipping scams.

3: Avoid upfront payment and wire transfers

This is where a lot of people fall victim to scammers. Most car shipping scams are only successful because they manage to convince people to pay them upfront. Prevention is as easy as looking out for carriers that expect payment before they even pick up your car.

However, you will need to pay the broker fee before you ship out your car. You then pay for the rest of the charges after the vehicle reaches its destination. At Nexus Auto Transport, we only charge our broker fee when we’ve assigned a reputable carrier to transport your vehicle. In other words, we don’t charge you unless we provide you with the service first.

It’s also good to note that scammers will typically ask for payment via wire transfers. This makes it virtually impossible to dispute the payment if you do get scammed. Legitimate carriers should be able to accept credit cards or checks. Credit card payment is ideal because it also gives you added fraud protection.

4: Beware of the bait and switch trick

Even with legitimate businesses, there’s still a risk of getting scammed. Some (sketchy) carriers may offer a certain price to ship your vehicle initially and then add on some more charges before the pick-up date. If you experience this type of bait and switch trick, beware of continuing business with the company.

At the time of getting a quote, remember that if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. This is where your knowledge of the approximate cost to ship a car comes in handy. Understand the industry rates and how cost changes based on shipping season as well as other factors, and you’ll be able to tell when a quote doesn’t seem realistic.

One way to avoid this type of scam is by asking for the quote in writing so you have documentary proof even if they decide to switch prices later on. Working with a reliable broker often relieves you of this headache. At Nexus Auto Transport, we carefully vet the carriers we work with to make sure you get the best service possible. We avoid working with transport companies that engage in such sketchy practices.

5: Beware of surprisingly quick scheduling

The process of arranging and coordinating car transport carriers based on your needs and schedule will take time. After receiving your requirements, the broker will reach out to trucking companies in their network to find a compatible carrier. This will take time because they might have to contact a number of companies before they find someone who can haul the car within the timeframe you need.

It takes even longer to find a suitable carrier during peak car shipping seasons because there’s higher demand. In some cases, it might even take days to arrange a driver due to extremely high demand. So if you get a call or email informing you that a carrier will pick up your car only hours after you schedule it for shipping, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

Of course, you can still get quick service from legitimate companies on occasion. What you need to look out for are brokers who magically find you a carrier even before they spend any time on the order.

6: Ask for proof of insurance

Another tell-tale sign of a fraudulent or unreliable transport company is the absence of insurance. Basic level car shipping insurance is a legal requirement for all legitimate transport companies. So, even the smallest companies will carry at least $1,000,000 in liability insurance in case of any loss or damage in transit.

Before you sign an agreement with a carrier, make sure you ask for proof of insurance to check for legitimacy. If they refuse or hesitate, it’s best to avoid working with them.

Again, even when it comes to this, a reliable broker will save you the trouble due to their thorough vetting process. At Nexus Auto Transport, we make sure that the transport companies we work with have the most updated license and car shipping insurance so you never experience an issue.

However, it’s still a good idea to check for proof of insurance to understand the extent of coverage and whether you’ll need to invest in additional coverage.

Wrapping up

These six tips will provide you with the basic steps on how to avoid car shipping scams. However, the best way to avoid getting scammed is by working with a reliable broker who can set you up with a reputable transport company. They can also give you the best deals on car shipping without any tricks or hidden fees. So, start by finding a reliable broker to work with and you’re all set.