101 Guide: How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Car?

November 29, 2019 car shipping

When you’re shipping your car to another city or state, it’s important to think about the cost.. While you want to make sure that you’re getting your car safely to its destination, you also want to make sure that you’re not overcharged. This means you’ll be researching the average cost to transport a car so you can get a better idea of what’s a reasonable rate.

This makes sense since you’re already spending so much in moving costs or in buying the car; you’d want to get the best deal in transporting it. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the major factors that affect car transporting costs and what you can expect to pay to ship your car. Let’s dive right in.

Factors that Affect Car Transporting Costs

Even if you know the average cost per mile to ship a car, there are other variables which affect the overall car transport cost.. There are several factors that come into play when determining the actual cost to transport a car. These factors include (but aren’t limited to):

1: Location

It’s only natural that location will be among the major factors affecting car transporting costs because you have to factor in the distance, accessibility and routes.

Of course, miles will be a starting point to calculate the price of service. It makes sense that the farther your destination, the more it’ll cost to ship your car. It will cost more to ship a car out of state than transport it to another city within the same state, for instance.

In most cases, the average cost to ship a car per mile decreases as the distance increases. Let’s say the base rate per mile to ship a car within 500 miles is $1, so the base rate per mile between 500 and 1,000 miles may reduce to $0.75.

At the same time, this cost isn’t always proportional to distance because there are several other factors that come into play. Some routes may cost more depending on accessibility and popularity.

It will typically cost more if your pickup or destination points are in hard-to-reach areas. The same goes for pickup or destination points that aren’t in heavily-traveled routes. In both cases, the carrier has to deviate from its usual route and make significant adjustments to accommodate you.

Even if the carrier has to travel the same distance, supply and demand will sometimes affect the car transporting costs. For instance, the carrier cost of shipping a car in June from Seattle, WA to Long Island, NY will be around $900. However, the carrier cost of transporting a car in the opposite direction i.e. from Long Island, NY to Seattle, WA will be around $1,200.

This is because there is more demand to transport cars out of New York than the amount of cars available for transport out of the Seattle, WA area.  So truckers running this particular route want to get the best price possible to start their trip from Seattle and will head east to pick up the hot loads to come back with.

2: Type of Carrier

The type of carrier is another major factor that affects the cost to transport a car. You have the option to choose between open car trailers and enclosed car carriers.

Open trailers are the most cost-effective option, as they can transport more cars at a time. One of the biggest issues with this is that this type of carrier leaves your car exposed to the elements. So there’s a slight chance of damage from road debris and other natural elements.

At the same time, the risk of damage is very low and you usually get coverage for any dings, dents, or paint chips that occur during transport. It’s also a much safer option than transporting your car using a tow dolly, because it will be securely placed and there’s a lower risk of wear and tear.

If an open trailer is too risky for you, you can also go for an enclosed carrier that will be more expensive since the carrier will be getting paid to transport fewer vehicles. Usually, enclosed car shipping will cost you 40-60% more than an open trailer. With a higher cost comes a higher level of service, which is ideal for transporting high-value cars like luxury vehicles and classics.

3: Delivery Time

How soon do you want your car delivered? You should expect a higher cost if you want your car delivered within a couple of days. Expedited shipping options come at a premium price since the transporting company has to adjust their whole route around your requirement and might even need to use a single car carrier.

Rushed shipping will usually cost you $200-$500 more than the normal cost of shipping. This option is ideal if you need your car by a specific date, perhaps for a car show or an auction.

For those with specific requirements for pickup and delivery dates at a more reasonable rate, Nexus Auto Transport ensures that you get precise service according to your delivery timeframe. We assign a trucker who can accommodate your schedule at the best price.

This option is ideal if you’re selling your car online and the buyer expects it by a specific timeframe or if you’re moving to a different city and you’ll need your car as soon as possible. Refer to the Standard Price under the Car Shipment Cost Calculator to get an approximate idea of how much you’d be looking to pay.

Since transit time depends on distance, some first-time car buyers may make the mistake of not booking an order in advance. Check out the approximate transit time per mileage in the chart below to get an idea of how early you need to book your order.

Mileage Transit Time
0-500 miles 1-2 days
500-1000 miles 2-3 days
1000-1500 miles 3-4 days
1500-2000 miles 5-6 days
2000-2500 miles 6-7 days
2500-3000 miles 7-8 days
3000+ miles 10-12 days

A more flexible time frame can guarantee an even lower cost than standard shipping. The Economy pricing option offers the lowest cost for transporting your car. However, it usually takes time to arrange a driver so you should go for this option only if you don’t have a set schedule for pickup and delivery and are willing to wait.

4: Time of Year

Believe it or not, seasonality is a major factor affecting the cost to transport a car. This is because there is a higher demand for carriers during peak car shipping seasons, which brings up the cost for certain routes.

For instance, there’s a high amount of vehicles waiting to be picked up in the Florida-to-East Coast route during the snowbird season. This is typically when the weather starts to warm up during March and April and people migrate to the northern states. It also extends to September and October when people move back down south again.

Shipping your car during the holidays can both expensive and challenging to book because carrier staff are taking their holidays too. You may have a hard time shipping your car before Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other major holidays.

Prices to ship a vehicle during these peak seasons can increase as much as $200-$300. In addition, hurricane season in states like California, Florida, and Texas may also affect availability and demand, which in turn affects car transporting costs. It’s ideal to choose off-season months to ship your car at a lower rate.    

5: Type of Vehicle

Another obvious factor that affects the cost to transport a car is vehicle type. The type of vehicle will determine its size and weight, which the carrier has to take into consideration for efficient and accurate planning.

There are safety restrictions on how much weight a trailer can carry. Heavier vehicles like SUVs and trucks use up more of the weight limitation, meaning the trailer will have to reduce the number of vehicles it can carry for that trip. As such, heavier vehicles will cost more to transport.

Similarly, some vehicles that are longer than average will take up more than one space inside the trailer. The carrier will have to make necessary adjustments to optimize the use of space. Since there’s more logistics involved in transporting larger vehicles, you can expect a slightly higher cost.

Considering all this, vehicle modifications that affect size and weight will play a major role in determining the actual cost to transport your car.

Besides size and weight, there’s also the fact that some cars need better service and care during transport. The carrier has to pay closer attention to luxury vehicles and classics and may have to make special adjustments to transport them. This also calls for a higher transporting cost.

6: Brokerage Fee

In addition to the price quoted by the carrier company, you’ll have to consider brokerage fees as well. Most carriers won’t work directly with customers that require car shipping. They work with brokers who provide them with jobs and help with the logistics of transporting multiple vehicles, thus ensuring efficiency.

Working through a broker also benefits the customer since they will complete all the necessary vetting on your behalf. They will verify the carrier’s past history, their insurance coverage, and their authority with the Department of Transportation. As such, they’ll ensure that you have your vehicle transported by a credible carrier company and have the necessary protection in case of accidental damage in transit.

Most brokers charge a deposit of about $100-$200, known as the broker fee. This fee may vary for each broker, and some may even provide discounts during off-season. It’s a good idea to shop around for different brokers as you shop around for different carriers.

Bottom Line

There are plenty of factors that come into play when determining the actual cost to transport a car. While distance and location are the main factors, factors like vehicle type, delivery timeframe, and time of year will all play a role. To get a more accurate idea of how much you can expect to pay without going through the headache of calculating all these factors, use the Nexus Auto Transport Cost Calculator.