How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Car?

April 4, 2020 Car driver hands. People driving on driveway.

You never know what life will bring, and sometimes what it brings means you’ll need to ship your car. Of course, your main concern at this time will be that your vehicle arrives at its destination safely (and on schedule), and that the cost to ship a car doesn’t drain your savings.

Fortunately for you, this article will show you what influences car transport rates and how to save hundreds of dollars simply by planning ahead. You can even use our instant cost calculator to grab an instant car shipping quote. Be sure to give it a try at the end!

So whether you’re:

● Moving cross-country to be closer to family
● Relocating for the job of your dreams
● Or adding a hot rod to your collection…

We’ve got you covered!

There Are Two Different Types Of Car Shipping Companies

There’s several factors which determine car shipping rates, but what you first need to decide is whether you want to ship with an auto transport broker or an auto transport carrier. Each has their similarities and their differences, and knowing what sets them apart from each other will help you find the right option for you.

Auto Transport Brokers

If this is your first time shipping a car, then using an auto transport broker could be a good idea. While brokers don’t actually ship your vehicle, they do assume the responsibility of finding a carrier that will. Now, you may worry about adding a middleman to your vehicle shipping process and the extra costs that could entail.

Thankfully, that’s not always the case. Because brokers have years of experience shipping cars, they also know the most reputable and customer-centric vehicle transporters in the business. Rather than searching for the best deals on your own and hoping, auto transport brokers know exactly where to find the most reasonable rates and quickest pickup times. You eliminate needless stress on your end for less of a markup than you might think!

Auto Transport Carriers

When your situation isn’t urgent and you don’t mind doing a little leg work to find a trustworthy and affordable shipping company, auto transport carriers are a great option for shipping your car. Having a direct line of communication with the people who are actually loading, transporting, and delivering your vehicle is never a bad thing.

Working directly with an auto transport carrier makes it easier to coordinate pickup and delivery times, receive accurate auto shipping quotes, and secure the carrier’s insurance information. However, auto transport carriers have zero incentive to refer you to other carriers who may be able to offer you a lower price and/or an earlier delivery.

In addition, the process of searching out the right carrier can be needlessly complicated and time consuming. You’d think Google would make this easier, but that’s not the case as most customers often struggle to find the auto transport carrier best suited to meet their needs.

Did you know — 80% of the entries on the first few pages of Google for auto shipping related search terms are for auto transport brokers? 19% of those links are for lead generation sites (which sell your information to the highest-bidding brokers), which means only 1% of the entries are from actual carriers.

The best auto shipment carriers usually don’t invest in marketing. They’re much more worried about the actual operations of their business and how that affects customer satisfaction.

Why risk missing out on the companies who actually put your best interest first? That’s why brokers exist, connecting you with the best carriers the industry has to offer while saving you time and needless stress.

These Are The Key Factors Which Influence Cost

In a perfect world, calculating what it will cost to ship a car would be simple. However, key pricing factors such as demand for a particular route and the cost of gas make it nearly impossible to figure out on your own.

The following, in no particular order, are the questions you need to ask yourself before calculating your overall car shipping cost. Other factors such as your method of payment and insurance provider play a role, but not to the same extent as the following.

What is the Size and Weight of Your Vehicle?

The total size of your vehicle is a primary factor for auto shipping companies in determining your shipment cost. The longer or taller your vehicle is, the more space it takes up in the trailer which increases cost.

In addition, the heavier your vehicle is, the more you’ll likely have to pay to transport it. Please note that vehicle modifications such as lowering, lifting, or additions such as oversized tires could raise your overall shipment cost. The more atypical and compact your vehicle is, the less you’ll probably have to spend.

Where Is Your Car Going and How Far Does It Need to Travel?

It’s probably not surprising to you that the longer the distance is between your pickup and dropoff points, the more you’re going to pay. Longer distances require more fuel expenditure and extended driving hours from the trucker hauling your order. The more it costs a company to execute your shipment, the more you’ll pay.

Rural locales are often harder for truckers to drive into and out of, especially if there’s limited highway access. Generally, it will cost you less to place your pickup and dropoff points in a main city or thoroughfare right off the highway. Anything that eliminates extra steps or labor from the trucker executing your shipment could save you significant money.

What Time Of Year Is It?

The auto shipping industry is prone to seasonal fluctuations which heavily impact the amount you’ll pay for service. There’s a common misconception out there that you’ll pay more during the industry’s busiest months during the summer. After all, demand is at its highest with car sales booming, career relocations peaking, and college students relocating.

However, that’s just not the case. While demand for services is at its apex during the summer, the number of drivers on the road is at its peak too. Calibrated supply and demand is the way to get a good deal. Conversely, the winter months can be much more expensive with limited driver availability and harsh weather conditions making cross-country shipping treks a lot tougher. If you can, aim for the industry sweet spot from late August to Thanksgiving. Driver supply and demand is at its most balanced, and that could save you hundreds of dollars.

What’s the Make and Model of Your Car?

The size and weight of your vehicle are usually more important to calculating your cost, but there are exceptions to that rule. Cars with significant value such as luxury sedans and new sports cars cost more to ship because they cost more for your shipping carrier to insure them for the journey ahead.

Also, customers with higher-end vehicles tend to prefer an enclosed shipping option to safeguard their car or truck from external highway dangers. Enclosed shipping generally costs significantly more because there’s limited space compared to an open shipment bed which can haul several orders at once.

Is the Vehicle Running?

If your car currently isn’t operational, you’re going to see a sharp uptick in your shipping quote. Operators have to use special machinery and spend more time to load an inoperable vehicle onto and off of their truck. Also, cars that are extremely dirty or significantly damaged are hard to assess from an insurance standpoint. That dissonance usually leads to added cost on your end.

Even if you’re unable to repair your vehicle before delivery, be sure to clean it as best you can before pickup. This makes it easier to conduct a proper inspection, which in turn will help you with a damage claim if something happens along the way.

Do You Plan to Have It Covered or Uncovered?

Open transport carriers are the cheaper option and oftentimes come with shorter wait times for delivery service. However, uncovered carriers also expose your car to potential damage from wind, rain, snow, hail, dust, and other unexpected perils on highways and byways. If you’re shipping a classic car or one with major sentimental value, enclosed shipping offers extra peace of mind.

Some classic cars must be shipped in a controlled environment with precise humidity and temperatures. This is because these cars are much older and are often constructed with delicate materials susceptible to damage. The precautions of enclosed shipping are essential for these particular vehicles, but it does come at a price.

Door-To-Door Shipping or Terminal-To-Terminal?

Door-to-door shipping is an extremely convenient option, but it’s more expensive than terminal-to-terminal shipping because of the extra driving your transporter has to do. Also, sometimes the roads in certain subdivisions and neighborhoods aren’t wide enough for a carrier to make a delivery.

In such cases, you can drop your car off at a local terminal and pick it up from the terminal closest to your destination. This may be your only option, honestly, if you live in a remote area with access roads not wide enough or safe enough for a shipment carrier to drive. The plus here, though, is that you’ll save solid money over a door-to-door option.

How Many Drivers Are Available For Your Route?

Just like you, drivers have families. And just like you, drivers want to spend the holidays with the ones they love. During the holiday months, the amount of available drivers for most vehicle shipping routes plummets. That doesn’t mean that a vehicle shipment broker won’t be able to find a driver for you. It just means that you may have to pay extra to get a driver to go out of their way to pick up and drop off your order.

The less drivers on the road, the less spots available on trailers for your vehicle to use. While sometimes a drop in demand is healthy for your wallet, it could also prove burdensome if there’s a concurrent drop in the supply of drivers. Ask your carrier or broker what the driver availability situation looks like for your particular route and how it may change in the coming weeks.

How Quickly Do You Need Your Car?

If you’ve ever ordered a package from Amazon or another online retailer, you understand that different delivery windows cost different amounts. That’s the same for the auto shipping industry. The more flexible you are about when your vehicle can arrive at its destination, the less you’re likely to spend.

It pays to be realistic and plan ahead. It’s impossible for you to receive your vehicle in New York from California just two days after you place your order. It may not get there for a couple weeks or so, depending on the aforementioned driver availability, weather, etc. You can request expedited shipping with most carriers which can get your vehicle picked up within a day or so, but that’s usually a much more expensive option than ordering in advance and working within a standard shipping window.

Shipping Outside the U.S.?

Going to Europe, South America, or some remote island off the coast of Africa? When you leave the U.S. and need to take your car with you, there are extra things to consider. You have to pay taxes, secure proper insurance for the country you’re headed to, and factor in extended wait times for international shipping. Not all auto shipping companies deliver internationally, so be sure to ask your carrier or broker.

You’ll also need to speak with your insurance company to see if your car is covered for both overseas delivery and for driving in the country you’re headed to. While your carrier will factor cargo insurance into the cost of your bill, you still need to be covered for using your car wherever you’re headed.

Is There A Deposit Refund Policy?

If your carrier requires a deposit prior to pickup, ask them if the deposit is refundable. After all, things come up. The trip you thought you were taking in March may get postponed to May. You may decide not to take that job in Chicago after all.

While a nonrefundable deposit isn’t a dealbreaker in most cases, it may be if you’re wavering on whether or not you’ll actually need to ship your car. If you choose not to and the deposit is nonrefundable, you just threw a significant chunk of money down the drain. Ask your broker to find a carrier with a refundable deposit policy, or ask around and see what you can find.

How To Prepare Your Car For Shipment

If you ask yourself the questions above and tailor your shipment effectively, you can save yourself hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in shipping costs. That’s money which can be spent on your next vacation, moving expenditures, or just a new gadget or two to play with. We all love gadgets.

With that out of the way, though, you need to prepare your car for shipment. There are several steps you need to take which could save you money, stress, and ensure you’re fully covered in case of calamity during shipment:

1. Wash your car completely, both inside and out.
2. Use up your gas until there’s only a quarter tank left. Or, fill it to a quarter tank.
3. Double check your fluid levels and contact your carrier if you spot any leaks.
4. Double check your tire pressure and battery health.
5. Remove extras like roof racks, antennae, decorative toe ornaments, etc.
6. Remove toll tags, EZ passes, and other identifying stickers from your windshield.
7. Completely check the inside of your car to make sure no personal belongings are left. Personal belongings are not insured for damage or theft by a carrier’s insurance.
8. Leave a spare tire and a jack in the trunk.
9. When conducting inspections with the driver, take your own high-resolution photos of your vehicle to reduce the chances of a bogus insurance claim

Check Out Our Instant Cost Calculator!

Now that you know what goes into determining the cost of your vehicle shipment, do yourself a favor and use our instant cost calculator to get a free quote!

Our instant cost calculator factors in everything we discussed in this article to generate a real-time shipping quote. The calculator doesn’t require you to input any personal details. With limited information about your vehicle, we’ll provide you with a fast and accurate shipping quote. And if you’re happy with the prices you see, you can go ahead and book your order!

If you have any questions and would prefer to speak to someone first, feel free to give us a (toll-free) call at 224-218-2949 and you can speak with one of our friendly shipping experts who will be happy to assist you.