Cost Breakdown: Should I Ship Or Drive A Car Across The Country

March 23, 2020

Should you ship or drive a car across the country? 88% of American households have cars; this number should make clear how important it is to have autonomous travel in our country. For the majority of Americans, living without a vehicle is simply unfeasible and very inconvenient.

Perhaps you’re a first-time car buyer who’s found a great deal, but it’s out of state. Or perhaps you’re moving house, or you’re moving a car for family. Whatever the case, you might be in a dilemma.

Is the main question in your mind: should I ship or drive a car across the country? Then keep reading. We’ll break down all the possible scenarios to help you make the best decision for your situation.

Driving a Car Coast-to-Coast for 2,000+ Miles

This is the most extreme circumstance you could drive in; it doesn’t get much further than coast-to-coast, after all.

In total, it should take around 45 hours to drive coast-to-coast. If you dedicate 8 hours a day to driving, then this will take you almost a week to do (6 days).

Not only do you have to pay for all that fuel, but you have to consider your own basic needs as well. You’ll need to pay for hotel rooms every night, and assuming you eat 3 meals a day, you’ll have to buy 18 meals total, as well as some snacks. You might be able to reduce costs by either skipping breakfast or bringing some non-perishable foods with you.

The trip might take 45 hours, assuming you drive efficiently and don’t stop very often. But factor in possible delays (due to construction, traffic hour, or you pulling over to rest), and those 45 hours may go up.

Plus, if your car is on the older side, it may not be in fantastic shape. It might not be able to make the coast-to-coast trip. And if it does, it might put unnecessary wear and tear on it, which means you’ll have to pay for vehicle maintenance.

However, if you have the time and money to do this, it can be a nice road trip to see the sights. Do note that if you’re not moving to the destination, you’ll have to arrange for transportation back home to the other coast.

Driving a Car for 1,000 to 2,000 Miles

This is more doable than driving coast-to-coast, but it’ll still take up a lot of time and money. Assuming you drive at an average of 60 MPH, you’ll need anywhere between 16 to 34 hours. So this trip may take you anywhere between 2 to 4 (or 5) days if you drive 8 hours a day.

Like with driving cross-country, there are lodging and food costs to consider. They’ll be significantly less than with driving coast-to-coast, so it may be a feasible trip, depending on your finances and amount of free time.

Driving a Car 200 to 500 Miles

Using the numbers from above, driving 200 to 500 miles can take anywhere between 3 to a little over 8 hours.

If you’re making such a short trip, it may be more cost-effective to drive instead of having your car shipped. You won’t have to factor in accommodations, which is a significant portion of your costs. You might have to eat 1 or 2 meals, and bring some snacks along the way.

With an energy drink by your side, you can easily make the trip in 1 go, without stopping for rest. For most people (especially those on a budget), driving is definitely the better choice for trips under 500 miles.

Shipping Your Car Instead

Maybe you’ve decided that driving your car isn’t worth the time, money, and effort it takes to do so. In that case, you might be better off shipping your car instead.

With auto shipping, there are several choices available. Take a look below to get a brief look at each one.

Open Carrier Auto Shipping

When it comes to car transportation, one of the cheapest ways you can do so is through open carrier auto shipping. This option is the cheapest because the car transportation company stacks a bunch of cars on the carrier in rows and columns. As the name suggests, all the vehicles are out in the open, which means they don’t have any additional protection against the elements.

This is the most commonly used type of car shipping, which means you’ll have an easier time scheduling pickup and delivery. The driver should call you 24 hours in advance to schedule both.

If you have an old car, or if you aren’t too worried about it getting damaged by things such as hail, then open carrier auto shipping is the most economical choice for you. Plus, your vehicle is fully insured against all accidental damages, so in the worst-case scenario, you’ll get reimbursed to fix any issues.

Enclosed Auto Shipping

Enclosed auto shipping is where all the vehicles are secured inside a closed carrier. This ensures that all cars inside are safe from the elements and additional damage. Just like with open carrier auto shipping, your car will be fully insured.

Because this method involves more care, it’s often more expensive. It may be a more ideal choice if you have an expensive, classic, or antique vehicle you need to keep in pristine condition.

Expedited Express Car Shipping

If you’re in a hurry and need to have your car pronto, then consider using an expedited express car shipping service. While you’ll have to pay a little extra for this rush service, it’ll be worth it when you can get your vehicle exactly when you need it.

Some Important Factors

No matter if you decide to drive or ship your car, the costs for everything will depend on a few important factors. Read on to find out what they are and what will make one method better over the other for you.


Where you’re traveling to and from will affect how long and how much it costs for you to drive or ship a vehicle.

In general, the more rural you are, the more expensive it’ll be. This is because you’re farther away from main roads, freeways, and highways.

Also, some routes will have toll fees, so you’ll have to factor that in as well. Make sure you plan out your route well in advance so you can be aware of any fees or detours there may be.


The type of car you have will also affect your costs. For instance, a larger, gas-guzzling SUV will eat up more gas than a compact little hatchback.

Also, if you have an older vehicle, you may have a higher chance of breakdowns and other issues happening. It can be anything as simple as a broken light or as serious as a complete engine breakdown.

Lastly, if you’re shipping your car, the size of it will impact the cost. The larger it is, the more it’ll cost, considering it’ll take up more room in the carrier (meaning they can’t take as many vehicles).

Time of the Year

Depending on how far you’re going and what the climate’s like in your journey, you may need to purchase additional things for your drive. For instance, if it’s snowing heavily en route, you might need snow chains.

When shipping a vehicle, the time of the year matters too. For example, spring and summer are peak times for moving, so you’ll have to pay more.

And during winter, many people “migrate” south. That, plus roads that are more dangerous, makes winter shipping more expensive as well.

So if you’re considering auto shipping services, the best time to use them is during the fall.

Trailer Requirements

This section is more for car shipping than for driving it yourself.

You may be familiar with those large trailers on the road, the ones used to transport cars to dealerships. They can take on 8 to 10 cars, which means these trucks are huge. They stand at 14 feet tall and can be over 80 feet long.

Because of this, the carrier may not be able to fit on your road. In this case, the auto transport company may send a local service to get to either your initial or final destination. This will come at an added cost.

Do You Want To Ship Or Drive A Car Across The Country?

If your answer is the former, there are plenty of options available with Nexus Auto Transport.

If you aren’t sure which auto transport service you want to use, you can always use the cost calculator. That way, you can take a closer look at your choices and make a decision without being pressured at all.

Have you decided that it may be more cost-efficient to ship your car instead of drive it? Then use our cost calculator now! You’ll receive an anonymous quote within seconds, based on the real-time market.