How Long Does it Take to Ship a Car?

Before you ship your car, you’ll have several questions in mind. Once you get answers to the cost-related questions, one of the top questions you’ll ask is – How long does it take to ship a car? The answer depends on several factors, and this guide is going to help you learn exactly that.

While most carriers can give you delivery time estimates, the following factors will play a role in the actual time it takes to transport your car:

1. Pickup and Drop-off Locations

Location plays a major role in shipping time because some areas may be harder to reach than most and will naturally take longer. On the other hand, some places may be easily accessible and heavily traveled, which will significantly shorten the time it takes to pick up and deliver your car.

For the most part, pickup and drop-off locations in metropolitan areas are much easier to access for the carrier. Since they only need to travel along main highways and interstates, they can pick up and deliver your car much faster. If the location is in a rural or hard-to-reach area that deviates from the carrier’s usual route, prepare for a longer pickup and delivery time.

2. Distance

Another obvious factor affecting car shipping delivery time is the distance between the pickup location and the destination. The longer the distance, the longer the transit, and the longer it’ll take to have your car delivered.

While many car transport services offer expedited delivery, remember the shipping duration still has to be realistic based on the distance. For instance, you can’t expect a speedy two-day delivery if you want to ship your car between New York and California as it’ll take several days to cover the 3000+ miles distance between the two locations.

Check out the following table to get a realistic idea of delivery time estimates based on distance. This will help you understand what to expect when you schedule your car for shipping.

MileageTransit Time
0-500 miles1-2 days
500-1000 miles2-3 days
1000-1500 miles3-4 days
1500-2000 miles5-6 days
2000-2500 miles6-7 days
2500-3000 miles7-8 days
3000+ miles10-12 days

3. Season

Peak car shipping seasons may bring up the cost to transport your car, but the good thing is they shorten transit time. Between late spring and early fall, there’s a huge demand for car transport services because it’s peak moving season. This means your car could get picked up sooner since there’s a huge amount of trucks traveling back and forth across the country.

On the other hand, it may take longer to arrange pickup and delivery during the winter months because the demand for car shipping services is lower. Factoring in the holidays when some carriers and drivers may want to take a break to spend time with family, there’s also a smaller amount of carriers that can accommodate your schedule.

4. Weather Conditions

Just as it takes longer to get home from work on a rainy day, bad weather will result in a longer shipping duration. If there’s any severe weather conditions in the shipping route such as rain, snow, hail, or thunderstorms, there’s a chance it could delay delivery.

These conditions can result in slippery roads and may affect visibility, creating unsafe driving conditions. The Driver will have to prioritize their safety (and that of your car) and drive slower or even make a stop until the weather clears up.

5. Road Conditions

Another unforeseen factor that affects car shipping time is the condition of the road. There may be road construction along the way or some unexpected detours that can delay transit time. Sometimes, drivers may also come across temporary road blocks due to driving accidents, which also affect the time it takes to get your car to its destination.

6. Driver’s Hours

If there’s a single driver operating the truck, the driver’s hours will also play a role in how long it takes to get your car delivered. Truck drivers can legally be on the road for a certain amount of hours each week according to the United States Department of Transportation regulations, and are required to rest for a certain amount of time to ensure safety.

You’re in luck if you have a team of drivers operating the truck, as they can take turns driving to ensure that your car reaches its destination quickly.

7. Type of Transportation Method

Your choice of transportation method is also going to play a major role in the time taken to ship your car. There are three main ways to transport your car to another city or state, and each of these options will have some variations in delivery time.

Open car carriers can transport more vehicles at a time, which means they’ll have to make several stops to pick up other cars along the way. This could increase the overall transit time but generally is one of the fastest ways to ship your car.

Enclosed car carriers can transport fewer vehicles but may take longer to coordinate since there aren’t as many enclosed car carriers as open car carriers. One of the benefits is that it protects cars from weather elements since the car is an enclosed space. Generally, around 10% of car shipping is done via enclosed carriers.

Of course, you can also try transporting the car yourself using a tow dolly but that won’t necessarily guarantee shorter transit time. You still have to ensure safety when using one, as you could risk damaging your car or getting into an accident. This means you can’t drive faster than 55 mph, which significantly increases your travel duration.

In case you have to ship the car overseas, the most common options are roll-on/roll-off (RORO) and container shipping. RORO provides a more reliable schedule with more accurate departure and arrival dates. On the other hand, container shipping is unpredictable and typically takes more time because the container has to be full before it departs.

Air freight is the fastest option to transport your car overseas. With that said, it’s expensive and unrealistic for most people, and would be best for shipping expensive, classic cars that need special care.

Best Practices for Faster Shipping Time

With all of these factors in mind, you might want to find the best way to get your car delivered as quickly as possible. Perhaps you’re selling your car and the buyer expects delivery by a specific date or maybe you’re moving and you will need your car as soon as you get settled. It could even be that you’re buying a new car online and you’re excited to get it as soon as possible.

Regardless of your situation, here are a few best practices to follow if you want a faster car shipping delivery time:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule your car for transport as it requires a lot of planning and coordination to ensure that your car gets delivered on time. The transport company will have to find a driver who can accommodate your schedule and coordinate the pickup accordingly. Ideally, you should book your car shipping order at least 2-3 weeks before the expected pickup date.
  • Do thorough research on a car shipping company before entrusting them with your vehicle. See customer reviews and third-party review sites to understand their quality of service. Have there been multiple delays? If so, there’s a good chance your delivery could be delayed as well.
  • In addition, make sure you review their safety and delivery records on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) site. This will help you assess whether the company is capable of transporting your car safely and delivering it on time.

Bottom Line

There are a lot of factors that can affect your car shipping delivery time, and a lot of unforeseen circumstances that could further delay it. Make sure you consider all of these factors before you decide to ship your car, especially if you’re going to need it by a certain time frame. This will help you choose the right type of transportation method to ensure timely delivery.