Best 5 Ways to Ship a Car

March 9, 2020

Whether you’re moving to another city, buying a car online, or selling one to someone who lives in another city, you’ll always want to know the best way to ship your car. While the cheapest option might seem attractive at first, cheaper isn’t necessarily better.

Instead, you should consider your unique needs like whether you need to ship it to a different state or whether you need expedited shipping, and then decide on the method that meets those needs. In this post, we take a look at some of the best ways to ship a car and help you make the right choice based on what you need.

1: Tow Dolly – Cheapest DIY Option

If you want something that’s extremely affordable and you don’t mind the hard work, you can tow your car using a dolly. Some movers provide tow dolly rentals so you can hitch your car to the moving truck and transport it yourself. This is the most affordable option, and will cost you no more than $100 in most cases.

However, shipping your car using a tow dolly is a little tricky as you won’t be able to back it up or maneuver it very easily. So it’s only recommended for those who have some experience towing cars using a dolly.

Plus, your car gets exposed to the elements, making it highly susceptible to dirt, dents, and scratches. There’s also the fact that tow dollies cannot accommodate every type of vehicle so make sure you keep your car make and model in mind before renting one.

2: Open-Air Carrier – Cheapest Car Shipping Option

For an affordable yet stress-free car shipping experience, you can always go for an open-air carrier. With this option, an open trailer will transport your car along with several others that have to be delivered along the same route. This significantly brings down the cost to ship your car, and you might end up spending around $1,000-$2,000 depending on the distance and car type.

However, an open carrier will take longer to deliver your car as it has to make several stops along the way to deliver the other cars. Though the same is true for enclosed carriers as well, they don’t have to make as many stops as they accommodate fewer cars. Shipping your car through an open-air auto transport may take anywhere from 7- 12 days depending on the distance.

There’s also the fact that open carrier auto shipping leaves your car exposed to the elements. So there’s a small chance that your car will get dirty or scratched, though the chance isn’t as high as when you tow it with a dolly.

3: Shipping by Rail – Cheapest Interstate Shipping Option

If you have to ship your car to another state, the cost can build up quickly because auto transport services will quote their rates per mile. So if you’re looking for the best way to ship your car to another state, you could also consider shipping by rail. This option costs significantly less than shipping through an open-air carrier, with rates ranging between $300 and $1,500 depending on distance and type of car.

The main drawback to this option is that the timeframe can get a little unpredictable as the carrier has to wait to fill up all the available slots. So it may take weeks before you can get your car delivered and not everyone can afford the wait. Plus, the pickup and drop-off locations are limited to the stations along the line, which could be an inconvenience for some.

4: Single-Car Carrier – Fastest Way to Ship a Car

As the name suggests, a single-car carrier will transport just your car for that particular trip.  This is one of the safest ways to ship your car and protect it from the elements because there’s no danger of accidental scratches or dings from contact with other cars.

In addition, transport providers typically take extra care to load and ship your car in a single-vehicle carrier. This means the service is personalized just for you, which is a huge plus if personalization is important to you. This makes it an excellent option for classic car shipping and shipping expensive sports cars that require special care.

Since it doesn’t have to make any stops along the way, it’s also the fastest option. So for those who need their car by a specific date and require express car shipping, a single-car carrier would be an excellent option.

The main drawback is the cost, as you might end up paying $200-$500 on top of the regular cost to ship a car. This may even go higher if your car has custom modifications and add-ons that make it heavier or more challenging to transport.

5: Enclosed Carrier – Best Overall Car Shipping Option

An enclosed carrier offers a little bit of everything in terms of safety and speed, and it doesn’t cost as much as a single-car carrier. It keeps your car protected from the elements and road debris, ensuring better safety. So it’s much less likely to get scratched, dirty, or damaged in transit than when you ship it using an open-air carrier.

This makes it perfect especially if you have to ship your car in bad weather conditions, when there’s a higher risk of damage from the elements. An enclosed carrier will protect your car from rain, wind, and storm and safely deliver it to its destination.

Enclosed carriers also accommodate fewer vehicles than an open trailer, meaning they have to make fewer stops on the way and can deliver your car faster. Although it’s not as fast as a single-car carrier, it’s still a great option for those who want to save a few hundred bucks without sacrificing too much time.

Depending on the distance, enclosed car shipping will cost you anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500. Note that car size and weight will also affect the cost to ship your car.

Bonus: Door-to-Door Shipping – For Added Convenience

For added convenience, some auto transport providers also offer door-to-door shipping. This means they pick up your car from and deliver it to your doorstep. This saves you the trouble of traveling to and from the terminal, making it extremely convenient for those with tight schedules.

Note, however, that this type of specialized service comes at a higher cost. It may be even more expensive if you don’t live in or around a major city as the transporter will have to go out of their way to get to your house.

Bottom Line

We’ve sorted these five car transport options based on what’s best for a specific need and even thrown in an add-on service that might be nice to have. Instead of going for the cheapest option by default, consider your needs first and see which shipping method fulfills that need best.

Perhaps you need to get your car by a specific date or you want to ship a high-value car to an online buyer. Maybe you just need something that will get your car from point A to B in the least expensive way possible and you don’t really care about wear and tear. Whatever your needs are, this guide will help you find the best way to ship a car.

Note, however, that seasonal changes may also affect the cost to ship a car. Due to higher demand, it’ll usually be more expensive to transport your car during peak car shipping season. If cost is a major concern and you can afford to wait, you might want to ship your car during off-season.

Make sure you consider all these factors and use our online car shipping cost calculator to get the most accurate estimate.