How Does Interstate Car Shipping Work?

March 14, 2020 Attractive young couple sitting on the hood of their car

You have to ship your car to another state, but your mind is riddled with questions. How will you ship it and how much will it cost? Will it take long to deliver the car to its destination? What happens if something goes wrong? Whether you’re moving houses, you just bought a new car online, or you have to ship it to an online buyer, the whole preparation process is daunting.

In this post, we help you tackle those fears by exploring interstate car shipping in depth and helping you understand the process more thoroughly. Let’s get started.

What Interstate Car Shipping Options are Available?

While you can drive the car yourself, there are many reasons you might not choose to do so;  for example, you might not have the time to make the drive.. You could also hire someone to drive it for you, though this can be a bit risky because it’s hard to find a reliable driver.

There’s also the option to hitch it to the back of your moving truck and hauling it using a tow dolly, although you’ll be putting your car at risk of wear and tear. Tow dollies are typically okay to use for short distance hauling, but aren’t a good idea for interstate car shipping.

Besides these options, there are a few other ways to transport your car to another state:

1: Shipping by Rail

This is one of the most affordable interstate car shipping options and may cost a few hundred bucks less than shipping it through an auto transport carrier. However, there are several risks associated with rail shipping.

First, the carrier has to fill up all the available slots before they ship out your car. This makes for an unpredictable delivery timeframe and can seriously delay the time taken to deliver your car. Sometimes, it may even take weeks to get your car to its destination.

There’s also the fact that the carrier will only transport cars between stops along the rail route. This means if you live far from the station, dropping off and picking up your vehicle can be a bit of a hassle.

2: Open-Air Car Transport

If you like something affordable but without the unpredictable delivery timeframe, you can also ship your car using an open carrier car transport. With this option, an open-air trailer will transport your car along with several others.

It’s a little pricier than rail shipping, but it’s worth it considering you get a more definite delivery date. Note, however, that auto transport services can’t always promise to deliver your car by a specific date because there’s some risk of unpredictability along the route.

Depending on the distance, delivery can take anywhere between one and 12 days. The broker or shipping provider will give you an accurate estimate of how long it’ll take to deliver your car after accounting for seasonality and distance. Seasonality matters because bad weather can delay the delivery as shipping trailers have to go slower to avoid accidents.

3: Enclosed Car Carrier

Even faster than an open carrier car transport is enclosed car shipping, which transports your car in an closed container. These containers carry fewer cars than open-air trailers, meaning they have to make fewer stops on the route. This slightly speeds up the transit time and ensures speedier delivery, though bad weather may affect this as well.

Enclosed car shipping also ensures better safety for your car since it protects from rain, wind, and road debris. So there’s a lower risk of damage in transit, making it perfect for shipping more expensive vehicles like classic cars and sports cars. However, it does cost a bit more than open carrier car shipping, especially if you have to ship your vehicle to another state.

4: Expedited Shipping

If you must have your car by a specific date, you also have the option to get express car shipping. With this option, the carrier will ship your car top priority and might even use a single-car carrier. This ensures the fastest delivery possible and is an excellent choice for those who cannot risk any unexpected delays.

This type of express service also comes at a premium price, so it’s the most expensive interstate car shipping option available. Remember that the delivery timeframe still has to be realistic. You can’t expect to get a car delivered from California to Connecticut in one day because it’s physically impossible to cover the 2,900+ miles by road in 24 hours.

How Much Does It Cost?

Cost is another major concern when you’re shipping your car across state lines. Car shipping costs for a four-door sedan typically range between $600 and $1,000 on average, while larger vehicles like SUVs and pickups will cost somewhere around $800 to $1,100. here are several factors that can affect the actual cost.

Some of the major factors include:

1: Car size and weight – Naturally, bigger and heavier cars will cost more to transport as they take up more space and increase fuel use.

2: Car make and model – Some types of cars like luxury cars and classic cars may cost more to transport as the carrier has to make special accommodations for them. These cars require more personalized service and attention because they’re much more expensive to fix in case of damages.

3: Distance – As you’d expect, it will cost more if you have to ship your car to a location that’s farther away. That’s not only because of the higher fuel use but also because of toll charges.

4: Time of year – Seasonality plays a major role in interstate car shipping cost. If you have to relocate during peak car shipping season, the high demand will drive up the overall cost to ship your car. You’ll likely save a few extra bucks if you move during the off-season months.

5: Transportation method – As mentioned earlier, the cost to ship a car varies by the type of shipping method you decide to use. Enclosed car carriers cost more than open-air carriers, while shipping by rail costs the least. However, you should also consider the risks associated with cheaper shipping methods and ask yourself if you’re willing to take those risks.

Since there’s a lot that goes into calculating the actual cost to ship your car, it’s difficult to get an accurate estimate on your own. Check out our online auto shipping cost calculator to get a better idea of how much you might need to pay for interstate car shipping.

How Long Will It Take?

You may also have some concerns about how long it’ll take to ship your car to another state. This may be a major concern especially if you’re buying a car online and you want to know how long the whole process will take. The same goes for those who are selling their car online and want to give buyers an accurate estimate of how long it’ll take to get the car.

Distance plays the most important role in the overall car shipping duration. So with interstate car shipping, it might take a lot longer to get the car to its destination. Any distance over 1,000 miles will take a minimum of three days, while it could even take up to 12 days if the distance is over 3,000 miles.

In addition, factors like road conditions, weather, and transportation method will also have some impact on the shipping duration. Check out our post on how long it takes to ship a car to get a better idea of what factors will come into play.

Final Thoughts

Compared to regular car transport, interstate car shipping will take a bit longer and cost a bit more owing to longer distances and tolls. So make sure you thoroughly research which transport services offer the best service at the best rates. In addition, it’s a good idea to check what kind of car transport insurance they carry and how much coverage you’ll have in case anything goes wrong.

If you find all of this a bit overwhelming, you can always get recommendations and car shipping advice from a reliable broker.