Car Shipping Cost VS Car Tow Dolly

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George Arkin
George Arkin is an experienced writer focusing on online car auctions and the full car transportation process.
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Are you looking for ways to transport a car from point A to B? Whether you're the happy winner of a cross-country auction or in the midst of an interstate move, you may have questions about your options.

For example, is car shipping really worth it? On the surface, renting or purchasing a tow dolly might look like a more inexpensive way to move a vehicle around. But there are other questions you also need to ask.

Questions like, "What is the difference in car shipping or towing?" Let's take a look at these different options to find out which one's right for you.

What Is the Difference in Car Shipping or Towing?

Before delving into some of the pros and cons associated with car shipping vs. car towing, let's go over a few basics. First, we'll dive into how tow dollies work.

A tow or car dolly faciliates the transport of vehicles over short distances. This two-wheel trailer is a typical fixture at U-Haul facilities and provides a tempting option for those looking to economize.

That said, there are a couple of things you must bear in mind before going this route. For starters, the rear wheels of the vehicle remain on the ground throughout transportation.

As for an auto carrier, they transport vehicles over long distances. Once placed on the trailer, all four wheels remain off the ground. Why does this matter? It'll protect your car's rear wheels from unnecessary wear and tear.

But the differences don't end there. You must consider vehicle compatibility before deciding on the right car transportation for your needs.

Car Towing vs. Car Shipping: The Pros and Cons

Now that you've got a basic understanding of the differences between car towing and car shipping, let's explore how they compare. We'll take a look at the following categories, considering the pros and cons of each form of transport:

  • Vehicle Compatibility
  • Tire wear and tear
  • Exposure to the elements
  • Service setup
  • Safety considerations
  • Cost factors

Let's take a closer look at each of these factors, looking for the clear winner when it comes to your upcoming car hauling needs.

Vehicle Compatibility

A car dolly works with most front-wheel-drive vehicles. In some cases, you can use it with all-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive, and rear-wheel-drive cars. But you'll want to make sure before loading your car onto one of these dollies, or it could lead to damage.

As for a trailer, there are no restrictions on the types of vehicles you can transport. Your driver can make adjustments to accommodate many sizes, makes, and models. That said, you'll pay more for bigger and heavier models.

Why? Because hauling them requires more gas and more space on the trailer. Your driver will likely need to carry fewer vehicles to make up for this added weight and size.

Auto transport companies come out on top when it comes to this category. You don't have to worry about car compatibility, and the driver can make adjustments as needed.

Tire Wear and Tear

We've already mentioned the fact that your vehicle's rear wheels remain on the ground when using a tow dolly. While this might be an acceptable risk over a short distance, longer hauls this way can lead to considerable wear and tear.

While you might assume this damage is comparable to taking your car on a road trip, think again. Placing the front wheels of your automobile in the dolly forces the vehicle into a position it was never manufactured to maintain.

With extraordinary weight hoisted onto the back of the vehicle by this off-kilter alignment, the rear wheels suffer. In a pinch, it's a great option. But over long hauls, there are better ways to move a vehicle.

What's more, we don't ever recommend using this mode of transport with an investment-worthy vehicle such as a classic ride or a race car. If you've got an automobile that's been modified, consider this as well.

Car dollies often result in clearance issues. While you might assume this doesn't apply to your vehicle with standard clearance, it could. Not only are cars lower to the ground more susceptible to these clearance issues, but so are vehicles that are extra long in the front.

Clearance issues may result in car components dragging on the ground. It could damage your undercarriage parts, bumpers, and body kits.

Fortunately, you won't have to worry about these issues with a car carrier. That's because all four wheels get loaded onto the trailer. What's more, cars sit in a position where their weight is distributed properly. For these reasons, expect minimal wear and tear to your wheels.

Exposure to the Elements

As for other forms of damage? If you go with an open carrier, by far the most affordable and popular way to move a car, there is a minor risk of dents and dings. But when you work with an experienced and reputable company, they'll carry an insurance policy on each car they move.

That means added peace of mind, even if your car gets hit by a small piece of road gravel or hail while on the interstate.

On that note, let's compare these risks to the vulnerabilities a car faces while in transit on a tow dolly. Overall, the vehicle's exterior will prove just as vulnerable to the elements. After all, the protection levels are ultimately the same.

For these reasons, there's no clear winner for this category.

Service Setup

What else do you need to consider before making a deacon about how to transport your car? Setup represents another factor. If you're looking for a streamlined, uncomplicated experience, nothing beats car shipping.

Beyond meeting with the driver at the time of pickup for a vehicle inspection and paper signing, there's not too much to the process. Sure, you also need to book the service, but the same goes for renting a tow dolly.

After the tow dolly is rented, you'll need to drive it home. Now, you're on the clock. Because if you're worried about economizing, the last thing you want to do is miss the rental return date.

Of course, this is only the beginning of the tow dolly experience. Next, you've got to figure out how to properly hook up your car. This process can feel both complicated and stressful.

If you don't do it properly, it could result in damage to your vehicle or even accidents on the roadway. To avoid such problems, make sure that the drive wheels are extra secure.

Remember that once you've got your car placed on the tow dolly, you can't set your emergency brake. After all, those rear tires have to be free rotating at all times.

What about towing a rear-wheel-drive vehicle that you've determined incompatible? The process gets a lot stickier. In some cases, you'll need to take the drive shafts out.

Why this added step? To prevent front clearance issues. You may also wish to consider flat towing for s more streamlined setup.

Car trailers win hands-down when it comes to ease of transport.

Safety Considerations

Another question drivers often ask is, "How safe is it to drive a car dolly?" The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Diver experience
  • Terrain
  • Road conditions
  • Weather
  • Weight and size of the vehicle
  • Travel speed

That said, tow dollies do come with some unique safety issues. For starters, tow dolly trailers tend to sway. This "sway" leads to fishtailing, especially at higher travel speeds.

How dangerous are trailer sway and the fishtailing motion it causes? It ranks among the most common causes of towing accidents on the road today.

When you add other factors to the mix, like driver inexperience, poor road conditions, or bad weather, the likelihood of an issue increase exponentially. Find out more about trailer sway and how to stop it.

How about safety when it comes to car shipping? Transport on a carrier is generally much safer. Especially when you select a reputable auto transport company to work with.

How do you know whether you're working with a company that takes safety seriously? Ask for their US DOT and MC numbers. Then, hop online to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website to search these registration numbers.

You'll gain access to the company's safety record as well as verification that their registration is up-to-date. If a company can't or won't provide you with these numbers, then continue shopping for a better service provider.

When it comes to safety, leaving your ride in the hands of a professional car mover remains your best and safest option. Not only will an experienced driver ensure your car's safety, but the company will also provide insurance coverage should the unforeseen occur.

Cost Factors

How do tow dollies and auto transport carriers compare when it comes to cost? This is a category where dollies have carriers beat. You can rent a car dolly for as little as $100 at U-Haul. As for a carrier, they start at $120.

Mileage won't factor into the final cost you pay to use a tow dolly. But the wear and tear it'll do to your vehicle is more than enough of a deterrent against longer drives.

That said, there are other factors you must also take into consideration. For example, you should include gas expenses associated with towing the car yourself. Remember that the added weight of pulling another vehicle will ramp up your gas consumption.

If you don't have a vehicle capable of pulling the dolly, you'll need to add truck rental costs to the mix. Moreover, most companies won't rent tow dollies unless you rent a truck for pulling. In this car, the tow dolly is factored into the overall cost of the truck rental.

Last but not least, the truck/trailer rental company won't cover the car you're towing. So, you'll need to handle that liability yourself. As for an auto carrier, they should come with a policy covering possible your vehicle.

What's the verdict on this point? On the surface, a tow dolly might look like the more affordable and practical option. But watch out for cost creep from hidden expenses like gas and truck rental.

Car Towing vs. Car Shipping: The Takeaway

As you can see, there's plenty to consider before making a decision s between renting a car dolly and booking car transport services.

Why tow a car? Tow dollies provide a decent solution for customers who meet the following criteria:

  • Very limited budget
  • Experience with tow dollies
  • Extra time to dedicate to setup
  • Experience driving trucks with trailers
  • Ownership of a vehicle cleared to pull a tow dolly

You'll also want to carefully consider the duration of the trip you're taking, road conditions, and the compatibility of your vehicle.

Why ship a car? Car shipping represents the far better solution for most consumers. You don't have to worry about setup or dealing with a trailer. You don't have to worry about things such as ground clearance and vehicle compatibility, either.

A fantastic car shipping company will put your needs as a customer first, and you always have someone you can talk to should any complications arise. For this reason, we rank car shipping as the winner of this comparison.

Finding the Right Car Shipping Company

If you've already started the hunt for a car shipping company, you know the selection of companies can be overwhelming. But you don't have to spend hours online trying to sort out the best from the worst companies.

Instead, go with a trusted industry leader, Nexus Auto Transport. Get a complimentary, no-obligation shipping quote now.

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