What Is a Car Transport Bill of Lading?

One of the most exciting steps in life is when you get the opportunity to purchase a new car. Unfortunately (depending on the state), your new car might not be so "new" in reality.

In fact, dealers in some states are not required to inform you of any damage to the vehicle while it is in transit. This should be an important aspect of your pre-purchase research.

Since buying a new car involves a good chunk of change, it may behoove you to do some quick (but thorough) research on the dealership's disclosure policy - especially if the dealership uses a car transport service. If a car is being shipped from overseas, it will be loaded and unloaded a number of times before it ever makes it to your dealership.

Because there are so many opportunities for damage during car transport, another crucial task is obtaining a Bill of Lading. With that in mind, let's take a deeper look at an auto transport bill of lading (BOL) and why they are important when dealing with vehicle transfer services.

Car Transport and BOL 101

Surely you've seen them - the huge trucks pulling a trailer load of vehicles down the highway. In the most basic way, this is what we mean by car transport.

Car transport services are used for a number of different reasons, including for the delivery of multiple cars to a dealership, coordination of vehicle transport overseas, or simply because it's a cheaper way to move multiple personal vehicles cross-country at the same time.

As we all know, things don't always go exactly as we had hoped - car transport services might encounter unpredictable weather, for example. Some other potential hazards that can happen during car shipping include but are not limited to:

  • Damage while loading
  • Damage while unloading
  • Damage at sea
  • Accident influenced or caused by another driver
  • Natural disasters
  • Damage sustained during manufacture

As you can see from this partial list, all sorts of things can go wrong during car transport that is no fault of the transport service. While damages during car transport are exceedingly rare, what is the best way to ensure that nothing happens to your investment in transit? A thorough and detailed Bill of Lading.

What Is a Bill of Lading?

A Bill of Lading (also known as a BOL) is an exhaustive checklist during a thorough inspection that is required before and after a car transport. It often comes with pictures and a detailed description of any pre-existing damage to the vehicle.

This document protects the consumer from any responsibility for damage sustained to the vehicle or vehicles during transport. Some information that you should expect to see on a car transport BOL:

  • Shipper and consignee names
  • Beginning and ending addresses
  • Weight, size, or volume of the freight
  • Itemized list of each shipment
  • Name of the freight carrier
  • Number and a brief description of each product
  • Pictures to accompany any pre-existing damages
  • Any special instructions requested by the consignee or shipper

A BOL is a required document not only because it protects the consignee it also protects the shipper from any false allegations on behalf of the consignee. As mentioned above, all of these instances are very rare, but there's no reason that all of the proper paperwork shouldn't be taken care of before car transport.

Why You Should Use a Car Transport Service for Your Car

If you are looking into vehicle transport options as a private citizen rather than as a dealer or manufacturer, you can (in theory) be both the shipper and the consignee. Cross-country or long-distance moves are some of the reasons that private citizens consider car transport services. Let's take a look at some examples and the benefits associated therein.

We've already briefly mentioned a few reasons private citizens may choose to use a car transport service. However, the benefits can save more money than you might think if you do your homework.

You Have Multiple Vehicles or Toys

If you have multiple vehicles and you are moving a significant distance - stateside or abroad - it very well might be cheaper to hire a company for your car transport. You might consider your boat or RV in this, as well.

Think of it this way - instead of hiring extra movers simply to drive your vehicles from Point A to Point B, paying for their hotel stays, per diem, and any other costs incurred by the moving company, you can instead hire a company that specializes in such moves.

They are professionals about loading and unloading all of your vehicles on a vehicle transport truck or trailer and let someone else worry about those costs.

You Are Moving Overseas or Shipping Internationally

Unless you are James Bond, it's not likely that your vehicle is capable of transporting itself overseas. Instead of fretting about international shipping and the red tape that goes with it, an experienced car transport service will be able to use their expertise and handle that problem for you.

Conversely, if you purchased a rare vehicle internationally, hiring a car transport service is equally important to help ensure that your investment arrives in the shape in which you purchased it.

You Are Moving Cross-Country

If you consider the still-astronomical price of gasoline and you're moving cross-country, it is a good idea to get out the calculator. If your move involves a long (think 1,000+) distance move, there is a good chance that it'd be cheaper to let someone else haul it for you rather than pay for the fuel from Point A to Point B.

If you've got several vehicles or you're a collector, this is an especially important decision. Regardless of the number of vehicles you plan to move - you will still need to inspect all of the cargo that is about to be shipped and fill out a BOL that indicates the condition of the cargo.

You Are a Collector

This is a no-brainer. If you are a collector of classic cars, sports cars, or any other niche makes or model of vehicle, moving your collection can be a harrowing experience.

Chances are that you are already very protective of your collection and are committed to its proper curation. An auto transport bill of lading should help put your mind at ease.

You can inspect your investments with a metaphorical fine-toothed comb and take pictures of any existing damage. Another advantage is the fact that you know your vehicle well and you might have an idea of any awkward problem spots or unique angles that might get bumped or damaged en route.

Car Auction

If you are the coordinator of a car auction, using a car transport service is a hand-in-glove partnership. Since most cars in an auction are used or previously repossessed for nonpayment or wrecked, the BOL is even more important in terms of accuracy and detail.

Many cars at an auction won't be ready for immediate resale and may need significant maintenance and bodywork before being presented to potential buyers. Therefore, maintaining an accurate chain-of-custody and detailed BOL becomes all the more important.

Military Member

It's no secret that career members of the military may need to move fairly often. If our heroes are deployed, hiring a car transport may be the best idea for them and their families - in fact, they might be eligible to receive a stipend from their respective branch to move their things.

How Will the Car Transport Service Move My Car?

There are several different ways that the car transport service will move your vehicle depending on your needs, their routes, and the destination or conditions along the way. Let's take a quick look at the different ways in which a professional car transport tries to execute your car shipping request and why a BOL is important for each respective method.

  • Enclosed truck
  • Open trailer
  • Enclosed trailer
  • Via Freightliner overseas
  • Via cargo train
  • Dual-axle trailer
  • Tow truck

What About the Rest of My Stuff?

Considering the fact that you are learning about how to hire car transport services, you might also be in the market for residential moving. Many car transport services also offer residential moving services, which will also be protected by a Bill of Lading.

If you can name it, there is likely a business that will haul it for you. Many car transport services will even move a mobile home from one piece of property to another for you. This can be especially helpful if you are a construction business owner that requires a mobile office.

Is a Bill of Lading Legally Binding?

In short, yes it is. An auto transport Bill of Lading is a required document that serves as a legally binding acknowledgment from both the shipper and the consignee that the cargo (whatever it may be) has been shipped and delivered in the same condition. As mentioned above, it absolves both parties of any liability for damages before or during the car transport.

Who Is Authorized to Sign?

Most of the time, a shipper and consignee have a prearranged agreement as far as which representatives of each respective business, organization, or personal entity have the authorization to inspect and sign off on the auto transport Bill of Lading.

If this is not the case, it will be an important subject to cover when contacting a car transport service. Some examples of authorized individuals to sign an auto transport Bill of Lading include but are not limited to:

  • Owner of the vehicle(s)
  • Dealership Manager
  • Designated Auctioneer
  • Executor of the Estate for Owner
  • Foreman
  • Property Manager

Many other agreements or arrangements on paper between the shipper and the consignee regarding specific names or people filling specific job duties on the day of delivery that has the authorization to sign off on the Bill of Lading.

What Is the Average Cost of Car Transport?

The answer to this question is highly variable. It will depend on the method of car transport, the mileage from Point A to Point B, what kind of equipment they'll need, and several other factors, including:

  • Value of the cargo
  • Shipped stateside or abroad
  • Number of units
  • Weight or size/volume of cargo
  • Method of shipment
  • Special shipment instructions
  • Additional liability insurance that may be required or desired
  • Location-specific needs (such as residential regulations)
  • Number of staff required to move

Should I Hang On to My Bill of Lading?

You absolutely should hang on to it! It is a vital document that an authorized person can review in the event of litigation that can show evidence of both parties' agreement that the cargo meets delivery as specified and in the same condition.

We live in a litigious society, so any tangible documents, photos, or artifacts that can be maintained by either party are very important to document and store in a secure place.

The Importance of Car Transport Bills of Lading

Now that you've taken the entire 101 crash course on car transport and BOL, you should understand the extreme importance of this legally binding and required document. Like so many things in life, it is crucial to leave a paper trail that shows that all of your business is complete.

It is also important to again stress how rare it is for any of these issues to come to fruition, so if you have any further questions or would like to ask for a quote, please feel free to check out our car shipping cost estimator or give us a call today!

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