Tips For Shipping Your Car

1.   Schedule early
2.   Be Flexible – Be Patient
3.   Do your research
4.   Pick a reliable company
5.   Choose the right shipping method and the right price for your vehicle
6.   Get a contract / Check insurance coverage
7.   Clean your car
8.   Disable alarms and remove accessories
9.   Inspect your vehicle upon pick-up and delivery
10.   Demand Communication Excellence!

Schedule early

Sometimes you need your car shipped right now. Maybe you just purchased a car from out of state and can’t wait a week to get it. Or maybe you must haul your classic car across the country for a last-minute auto show. Or you need to make a last-minute move. Life happens.

But, you should schedule your vehicle shipping as early as possible. Besides distance and location, the timing of shipping a car is the number one factor in determining how much it will cost.

So how early is early? It depends on the company you’re using, but generally, the best window for booking your auto shipment is 2-4 weeks before your desired ship date. If you try to book within less time than two weeks, auto shippers may not have availability or may charge a much higher fee.

Be Flexible – Be Patient

Transporting a vehicle around the country with a ‘deadline’ is not an exact science due to driver shortages, equipment failure, diesel shortages and the weather from 1 region to the other. So – schedule early but be as flexible as your schedule allows. If you have to ship an auto to an auto event and the car ‘must’ be there on a specific date – make arrangements for that in advance.

Being flexible with your schedule allows for unforeseen problems that Auto transport companies encounter. Have patience.

Do Your Research

Let’s say you’re moving to L.A. in the fall and need someone to schlep your vehicle across the country. How do you find the best company to do the job?

If you Google, “ship my car to L.A.,” you’ll get a lot of hits. But you don’t necessarily want to go with the first company that appears on the list. In fact, many of the top hits may be brokers rather than actual carriers. What’s the difference?

Auto transport broker: Using a broker is a convenient but indirect way of shipping a car. Brokers are in touch with many different auto carriers and will give you an estimate based on the quotes they get from the carriers. The broker will add certain fees on top of the actual price of the shipment, which is how they make their money.

Auto transport carrier: Carriers are the actual companies that do the shipping. They offer a smaller range of shipment options than a broker (some carriers operate a few trucks) and can be harder to find online. But when you book with a carrier, you work directly with the individuals who do the shipping.

So which is better? That depends on what you want.

The biggest risk in using a broker is that you end up with a bill higher than your quote (brokers often underquote to get your business). The biggest risk in going directly to a carrier is that it requires more research and the company may have fewer scheduling options. 

With today’s extremely high gas and diesel prices, a fuel surcharge may be added to the estimated cost – check with the auto company. The fuel surcharge gets adjusted monthly nationwide.

Pick a Reliable Company

You wouldn’t give the keys to your brand-new Corvette to your 16-year-old son. So why should you give them to some random auto-shipper?

Once you’ve gotten quotes from various vehicle shipping companies or brokers, you’ll want to do some final vetting before signing a contract or putting down a deposit.

Here are a few things to look for when picking out a reliable car shipping company.

Read the reviews: Check reviews on Yelp and other online aggregators to see what other customers say about the company.

You can get referrals: Check with your moving company, State Moving Association or corporate relocation company, which often have relationships with reputable vehicle shipping companies.

Be wary of large deposits or strange payment methods (like wire transfers): Most legitimate companies will require a small deposit or no deposit at all. It is normal for a company to prefer cash payments upon receipt of the vehicle.

Ensure the company is registered: All direct carriers and brokers must be registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You can look up the company by name or its Motor Carrier (MC) number on the FMCSA website and check its status.

Choose the Right Shipping Method and the Right Price for Your Vehicle

There are two main ways of transporting a vehicle: open and enclosed. These methods are just what they sound like.

Open vehicle shipping is the industry standard and involves putting your car on an open truck. You’ve definitely seen these open carriers on the road (huge semi-trucks hauling a two-level stack of cars).

Enclosed vehicle shipping means your car will be in a completely closed truck. Fewer cars fit into enclosed trucks and it can cost significantly more than open transport.

If you’re moving cross-country and want to get your family vehicle to your new house, you should probably save money and choose open transport. Your car will be exposed to a few risks (hail damage, rock chips, bird poop, etc.), but it’s much cheaper and damage is rare. The enclosed transport is mostly used by people shipping rare classic cars or expensive sports cars.

In the Author’s experience – paying $500 extra for enclosed transport on a run-down, beaten-to-the-ground Honda is a waste – use an outside carrier – it will save you money. If you have a brand new car or antique that you don’t want to be rained on or to take a chance and have rocks fly up and mare the paint, use enclosed transport.

Get a contract / Check insurance coverage

All legitimate vehicle shipping companies will provide a contract when you book your car for shipment. These contracts can be lengthy and convoluted, but it’s important to understand some basic agreement elements before signing.

Auto shipment contracts should state the:

-Quoted price

-Estimated delivery date

-Cancellation policies and fees

-Claims procedures

-Insurance information

If you disagree with what’s stated in the contract, contact the company and get clarification or request a change. 

Thinking about insurance is probably the last thing you want to do while you’re in the middle of a move. But just like with moving insurance, it’s worth a few minutes of your time to dou- ble-check your auto shipper’s insurance coverage.

Most companies will have somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 in coverage. While that may be enough to cover your 2015 Ford Escape, it might not be enough for newer and fancier vehicles.

Another thing to look for in your auto carrier’s insurance policy is exemptions. Many policies explicitly do not cover “acts of god,” which is basically anything that happens in a disaster movie (earthquakes, volcanos, floods, hurricanes, giant green superheroes who “smash”).

If you do need additional coverage, check with your existing auto insurer or call the carrier to see what options they may have.

Clean Your Car

We’re not here to be the tidy-up police. What empty soda bottles and greasy fast food containers you have stuffed under your seat is your business.

However, having a messy car will make it much harder to do a pre-trip and post-trip inspection. These inspections are when you and the carrier agree on the vehicle’s condition so that any damage that happens during transport can be tracked.

You don’t have to detail your entire vehicle, but if things are too dirty, some carriers may refuse transport altogether.

Q: Can you put stuff in your car when you ship it?

A: The short answer is no, your car is not a PODS shipping container. But some companies may allow you to put a very limited amount of stuff in your vehicle during transport (often there’s a 100-pound limit), so you don’t have to worry about clearing out emergency equipment and other odds and ends that you may keep in your trunk

Q: Is it ok to transport my car with a full tank of gas?

A: Some carriers prefer that your auto have 1/4 tank of gas or less – this makes the entire ‘load’ lighter for transport.

Q: Is it ok to leave or transport ‘firearms’ in my vehicle? A: Most Auto transport companies usually say ‘no.’ But – follow all the rules of the state or Interstate firearms Carry and alert your auto carrier before signing the contract.

Disable Alarms and Remove Accessories

Military families, snowbirds, car collectors, or anyone who regularly ships vehicles nationwide will know this one well. You definitely want to disable your car alarm before you ship your car.

Why? Because if your alarm goes off during transport, the driver has permission to turn it off by any means necessary. Do you remember that scene in The Big Lebowski where Walter destroys the sports car with a baseball bat? That may be a bit extreme, but you get the picture.

You’ll also need to remove spoiler kits, custom hoods, fender flares, side skirts, or other body modifications you’ve made on your ride. These extra parts can easily get damaged when shipping a car.

Inspect Your Vehicle Upon Pick-up and Delivery.

When the driver arrives to pick up your vehicle, you want to make sure you do an inspection and get a bill of loading. This document verifies that the driver has picked up your vehicle.

You’ll need to be present when the vehicle is delivered so that you can do a post-trip inspection. This is when you’ll look for any damage that happened during the trip and finish up any payments you haven’t yet made. Be sure to document any damage thoroughly for any future insurance claims.

Remember – no car is perfect or free from nicks or dents – even brand-new cars have their faults. Inspect your vehicle carefully – ensure all information is marked on the Bill of Lading or Contract.

Q: How much should you tip for the delivery of a car?

A: You’re not required to tip your car transport driver, but it’s a nice thing to do. Drivers come to expect tips these days. If your car was delivered on time, the driver was communicative, and everything else looks in order, you may want to consider throwing in extra money for the driver.

Demand Communication Excellence!

The amount of communication between the customer and the Shipper measures communication with any delivery or service.

We all know how angry we get when we expect a home delivery between 8 and 11 and the driver shows up at 5 pm – where did the communication breakdown?

When booking an Autotransporter – make sure everyone has your contact phone number and you have the driver’s number and the company number. If you are having a relative or friend meet the driver – again – all information should be communicated. Ensure the auto company knows that you expect any breakdown in communication to be resolved quickly.

Auto Carriers are very ‘big’ riggs. Sometimes they cannot get into every local neighborhood in the USA so alternative plans have to be made. It is not unheard of for a customer to meet the tractor-trailer at a Home Depot Parking Lot to accept his or her auto.

New Jersey Warehouse and Movers Association –

Blog Submission: Written by Easton Smith, adapted by Jeff Haney, Plycar LLC.


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