Guide to Ship a Car Across Country

With more than 17.4 million light vehicles sold in 2015, it’s no surprise that millions of cars get transported via railroad, large ships, and trucks each year. Whether it’s to ship a car across country or state, auto transportation is big business. The majority of these vehicles are manufactured in North America, Europe, or Asia. Yet, they get distributed worldwide.

New car owners who go through dealerships don’t have to worry about how to ship a car across country. But if you’re involved in a coast-to-coast move or have just purchased an out-of-state vehicle online or via auction, it’s a different story.

Knowing who to trust to ship a car across country isn’t always easy. After all, your vehicle’s likely the second most expensive possession you own after your home. And it may have significant sentimental value.

Fortunately, when you choose the right transporter, you won’t worry about anything beyond paying the shipping costs. Keep reading as we demystify how to ship a car cross country with an automobile transportation company.

What Is Ship a Car Across Country Service?

Let’s start with a simple question. What is a cross country auto shipping service? This service moves automobiles from state-to-state or coast-to-coast relying on car transport haulers.

These transport haulers average 500 to 700 miles per day. They make deliveries within one to nine business days after each initial booking. Of course, harder-to-reach geographic locations such as Hawaii take longer.

If you’re in a pinch when it comes to moving a car across country, look for a company that offers expedited shipping. You’ll pay more for this service, but it could save you stress and hassle depending on your circumstances.

Now that you know what a car transport service is, let’s explore your options for shipping a car across country.

Is Auto Shipping Right for You?

Car transportation is necessary for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you’re moving across country, or you’ve purchased a car from another state. How do you determine when auto transport is right for you?

For many people, a drive of up to 12 hours is justifiable. Especially when working with a tight budget.

A trip that’s longer than 12 hours, though, comes with serious wear and tear on your vehicle. What’s more, you increase your risk of being involved in an auto accident.

After factoring in expenses associated with a long road trip such as fuel, lodging, and food, you’ll likely find auto transport makes more sense. When you work with an experienced, customer-centric company, you can rest assured your vehicle arrives safely and on time.

How to Find the Best Option for Your Needs?

Finding the best auto transport option for your individual needs involves a variety of factors, from cost to timeframe. Of course, the safety of your vehicle remains paramount, too.

Like so many other industries, the car transportation industry has high and low seasons. Busy seasons come with a higher price tag due to increased demand. Another factor related to cost is the point of origin and delivery. Rural areas tend to cost more.

Consider these questions as you explore shipping a car across country:

  • Will you need your vehicle by a certain date?
  • Or, is a week of delay possible?
  • How much time do you have to request quotes from different car shipping companies?
  • Would you prefer to receive multiple quotes simultaneously?
  • Do you mind if your automobile gets exposed to the elements on an open carrier?
  • Or, do you prefer having your car transported in an enclosed shipping container?

The answers to these questions will offer you a much better sense of how to balance your budget against safe vehicle transportation.

What Is the Cheapest Way to Ship a Car?

For some individuals, their only concern is finding the cheapest auto transportation available. If you fall into this camp, then your best bet is simple. Book an open carrier through a marketplace.

This approach often proves the cheapest and easiest way to lock in a decent deal. That said, you don’t want to pick a company simply because they advertise below-average rates. Instead, find one that is easy to work with and reliable.

How do you do this? Start by reaching out to different transporters. How rapidly and efficiently they get back to you with answers to your questions will tell you a lot about what it’ll be like to work with this company.

When you’re searching for transport a car across country services, it can feel overwhelming. Nonetheless, there are cheap and reliable ways to get your ride where you need it without lots of additional wear and mileage.

What’s the Best Way to Ship a Car Across Country?

When determining the best way to ship a car across country, there’s no one-size-fits-all. Your decision will be based on a variety of factors, including your budget, geographic location, and the distance your vehicle must travel, among other things.

You’ll also have a handful of decisions to make as you move forward with the type of carrier to use. First, you must decide between open auto shipping and enclosed auto shipping.

Open auto shipping relies on the types of car-moving trailers you commonly see on the road. These contain multiple vehicles that appear stacked atop one another. This form of transport is generally the cheapest way to move an automobile.

It’s important to remember that open carriers don’t protect vehicles from highway rocks and debris, let alone weather damage. With the most valuable vehicles, always opt for enclosed carriers.

Enclosed carriers fit into two categories: soft-sided or hard-sided. They only carry a few vehicles at a time, so you’ll pay more for this service.

However, if you’ve got a valuable vehicle to transport, an enclosed carrier will provide you with extra protection and peace of mind.

You’ll also need to decide which type of service you’d like for your vehicle. There are two options to consider:

  • Door-to-door services
  • Terminal-to-terminal services

Both of these options come with pros and cons. To make the right decision for your vehicle and lifestyle, you need to understand their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look.


By far, door-to-door service is the most convenient. It provides pick-up of your vehicle from a destination that you designate and drop-off at another chosen location.

While more expensive, this service proves very convenient for those amid a major move. It also works well for cars that have been purchased through a private party.

Remember that this service doesn’t always mean your vehicle is delivered right to your door, though. In many cases, people will make arrangements to pick up their car from a prominent building, a business premise, or a popular street.

You may also opt to have the vehicle delivered to a parking lot in your neighborhood.

What’s the number one advantage of this form of car transportation? Knowing that your automobile will stay on the same trailer throughout its journey.


As for terminal-to-terminal service, your vehicle must be dropped off and picked up from a designated location. Your ride gets consolidated with other cars during shipping from one terminal to the next.

Terminal-to-terminal is the cheaper option. You’ll need to factor some caveats in if you go this route, though. For example, your car will have to sit at both terminals, so inquire about sheltering fees that may be charged and how much they cost.

The waiting period will be based on how long it takes for the shipping service to get a full load. So, get ready to factor in delays along with sheltering fees. What’s more, your car will sit unguarded outside, so if you’re nervous about exposure to the elements or theft, this option won’t thrill you.

You’ll also want to calculate how far your car is from the start and end terminals to better understand what you’ll ultimately pay.


So, what’s your best option? With door-to-door transportation, you’ll pay more from the start. After all, the auto transport company must expend extra time, gas, and money to pick-up and deliver your car to designated locations.

You’ll need to compensate these movers for the additional effort.

That said, the best decision for you is muddied by the fact that terminal-to-terminal transportation can come with expenses not calculated in the initial figure, such as sheltering fees. You’ll need to factor in whether you’re okay with the car being exposed to the elements.

When it’s all said and done, door-to-door services prove best for those who place a premium on convenience.

Once you’ve decided on the type of transportation service for shipping a car cross country, choose a reputable company. Then, lock in a price. Here are some tips to help you do this.

How to Find a Reliable Auto Transport Company?

What’s one of the most critical factors when it comes to finding reliable auto transport companies? Avoiding the urge to make a decision based solely on price. Other factors also play a critical part in your choice, such as:

  • Safe delivery
  • On-time services

How do you vet a company to find out if it delivers on its promises? A fantastic place to start is by searching online reviews and ratings.

Also, contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hotline at 888-368-7238. This hotline will allow you to check each shipper’s license and insurance record as well as inquire about complaints.

Additional Precautions to Consider Before You Transport a Car Across Country

Federal regulations require auto transporters to carry cargo and liability insurance. That said, this insurance generally only covers the Kelley Blue Book value. Check your shipping order and bill of lading for information on what this insurance does not cover.

Because of coverage limitations, consider upgrading your auto insurance to encompass collision and theft protection, too.

Besides purchasing additional insurance, thoroughly inspect your vehicle before and after transportation. Take photos. Make notes of any scratches or damage that occur in transit.

This documentation will come in handy should you need to file a claim later.

How Much Will It Cost to Ship a Car Coast-to-Coast?

Now that you know your options for automobile transportation, let’s talk pricing. The final price tag will depend on the company you choose coupled with other variables.

These variables include:

  • Your car’s current functionality
  • The weight and type of vehicle you’re shipping
  • How far your vehicle must travel
  • Whether door-to-door delivery will take the driver from their main route

In a recent survey of online calculators, the average price for shipping a car across country, let’s say an Acura from San Francisco, California, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is $1,000. If you know where to look, however, you can find much better deals.

For example, check out this free calculator for the best car shipping company rates on the market. This calculator allows you to get a real-time quote based on the make and model of your car, its current condition, and how far you need to transport it.

How to Ship a Car Cross Country

When it comes to how to ship a car across country, the most desirable and affordable option is often an auto shipping company. Especially when you factor in hidden costs associated with driving the vehicle yourself like fuel, lodging, food, and vehicle wear and tear.

Fortunately, when you do your research and choose the best car shipping company for your needs, you can rest assured your car arrives safely and quickly. Ready to explore your auto transport options further? Learn more about the best way to transport a car 600 miles or more.

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