Despite making over $110,000 a year on the road, most car shipping services fail to meet clients' needs. So we put together this guide to help you choose car transport services that handle the complexities of this task and give you peace of mind.

Because sending a vehicle from one city to the other should be seamless. Here's how to choose the right company for the task:

Find Companies that Offer the Specific Services You Need

Before you Google “car haulers for hire near me,” come up with a list of the essential services you'd need from an auto transport company and use it to guide your search.

For example, auto transporters use enclosed carriers, multi-carriers, and open-carriers in their work. Though multi and open-carriers are cheaper, they leave your vehicle exposed to harsh weather. If you want to transport and protect a luxury or antique car, it’s best to look for carriers with enclosed trailers.

If you’re moving to a new country, you may need an auto shipper that offers international shipping to handle the logistics. If you’re looking for concierge service, you can find auto shippers that offer door-to-door pickup and delivery.

Once you have your criteria, look for companies that offer what you need. Once your list is narrowed down, you can start comparing and setting consultations with representatives to learn more about their services. During those consultations, keep this list of questions to ask a car transport company handy.

Check Customer Ratings and Reviews

Business review sites like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and third-party sites like TrustRadius provide unbiased reviews and ratings for companies. Be sure to read the reviews for your prospective car haulers and remove any companies that have a lot of complaints and negative reviews.

While reading online reviews, look for a company that values quality service and quick responses. The car hauler should also value professionalism and demonstrate commitment to helping their customers through this often stressful process.

Your friends and family can give you recommendations for an auto transporter. Even if they haven’t used one themselves, they may know someone who has and can recommend a reliable company.

Verify Their Motor Carrier Number

The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) requires car carriers to have an eight-digit USDOT number to transport goods across state lines. If the company is legitimate, they will openly showcase this number on their website. They'll also be willing to share it with you on request.

They’re required to have a Motor Carrier (MC) number, which is a six-digit number issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You can use the MC number to check a company's operating status, inspections, and mailing addresses.

Always verify the USDOT number through the USDOT’s Electronic Records on the FMCSA website. This site also maintains a list of sites that give easy access to important safety-related information. All you need is the company's MC number, USDOT number, or name to search.

The FMCSA cautions you against transacting with any broker or auto transporter with a fake MC number. You can file a complaint or call a helpline provided on the FMCSA site if you fall victim to a shipping scam.

Check Whether They Do Car Inspections

The car hauler should inspect your vehicle for previous damage before loading it for transport, including the interior and exterior. The condition is recorded on the Bill of Lading document, which you should check to verify its accuracy.

Both parties should seal the inspection report with signatures for formality. Without the signature, you can't prove to an insurance company that your vehicle was in good condition before shipping.

Give the carrier keys to any locked compartment in your car. USDOT requires the car shipping driver to have a key for every lock on the vehicle, so give your spare keys to the driver and hold onto your originals.

Ask the car hauler whether they'll inspect your car before loading it onto the trailer and after unloading it. If you can't be present during the inspection, send a trusted friend or family member to the site. Your signature should appear on the report during the two inspections.

Learn More About Their Insurance Plans and Cancelation Policy

Check that the auto transporter is insured and bonded. If your vehicle or the car transport driver is involved in an accident or incident during transport, your car is covered for damage.

However, you should evaluate their insurance policy and understand what it covers. Auto carriers have limited liability. This means that if your vehicle is damaged in transit, the adjuster will determine the actual cash value (ACV) – not necessarily the exact replacement cost.

In addition, some carrier insurance doesn’t cover “Acts of God,” which are usually natural events like tornados and hurricanes. These are rare, but you need to be aware of the possibility because you won’t have coverage from the carrier. You only have your own auto insurance policy.

You should also review the auto transporter's cancelation policy if they have one. Inquire whether they have a deadline for the shipping service and fines for canceling. If you're unsure about when your car will be ready for shipping, ask the customer support staff how you can cancel or reschedule.

Some carriers have penalties for canceling a reservation without prior notice. Others may allow you to reschedule the shipping for free. Either way, get the terms and conditions of the cancelation policy in writing before agreeing to it.

Inquire About Their Tracking Systems

Knowing the current status of your shipment gives you great peace of mind and allows you to plan your schedule. Most auto transporters offer a car tracker or tracking system to keep you updated about the shipping process.

The company should have a dedicated customer service team to provide a tracking number that you can use to check on the location of your car. Upon request, the auto transporter must contact your driver and give you a personalized shipping update through email or phone.

Some car shipping providers have GPS systems fitted in their carrier vehicles. Tracking will only be possible if the driver is willing to activate GPS tracking on the truck.

Since auto-tracking is quite new and expensive in the car shipping world, many carriers are reluctant to implement it. Some companies prefer to stick to traditional tracking means like phone calls. You should thus discuss your expectations for tracking services with the shipping company.

Ask About Payment Arrangements

The auto transporter may ask you to pay the shipping costs upfront or in installments. Check whether their payment plans match your car transport budget. Learn about their transaction, late payment, or installment fees before working with them.

You can also check their site or call a representative for a price quote. Most car transport companies offer free quotes to attract customers, so you should get and compare a few quotes.

Though it's tempting to settle for cheap options for transport services, balance costs with quality. You could end up with hidden fees, hassles, or worse, shoddy service that puts your car at risk.

Car hauling prices vary based on the mileage covered by the truck or trailer. Auto transporters typically charge lower per-mile rates for long-distance moves and higher per-mile rates for shorter distances. Since enclosed carriers offer more security and protection, they can cost about 40% more on average than open carriers.

Factors like size, location, season, and timeline affect the price of car hauling services. A heavier vehicle may cost more to ship, and it may be expensive to ferry a car to a rural location. You can save money in winter when the demand for car shipping services is low, but winter weather can create delays and challenges.

Find out About the Paperwork Required

The common documents required during the shipping process include the Bill of Lading, insurance terms and conditions, and the title and registration. Other documents include photo ID and proof of insurance, depending on the auto transporter.

If you’re having an agent receive your car on your behalf, you may need an absent owner authorization. If you’re shipping a vehicle with a lien from outside of the US, you may need a lienholder authorization form.

The Bill of Lading is a piece of paperwork that acts as proof of delivery in the shipping process. It also records your car's condition during pickup and delivery. Without it, you have no way to prove that your car was damaged during transport.

Work with a Car Hauler Broker to Ship Your Vehicle

Though shipping a car can be stressful, these tips can help you find a quality car transport service that aligns with your needs and budget for a seamless shipping experience.

If you’d rather save time and effort – without sacrificing quality – a car hauler broker like Nexus Auto Transport can take the burden for you. We’ll take care of every step of the process, from finding and coordinating carriers to monitoring transportation. Check out our cost calculator for instant shipping quotes!

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