How to Ship a Car
Your car may be an old clunker or it may be a brand-new electric sports car, but one thing’s for sure: it’s not going to drive itself. (Unless your car is KITT from Knight Rider, of course.) So what happens when you need your car to go somewhere and you can’t drive it?
This is when you’ll need the help of an auto shipper. Whether you’re moving to a new city, buying a car online, or taking your prized classic car to the show, auto shippers will be able to get it there for you.
But before you go book your auto transport with the first company that shows up in a Google search, check out these step-by-step tips on how to ship your car or truck. It could save you time, money, and a cracked windshield.
1. Figure out your timeline
Before you begin comparing transport options for your auto shipment, you’ll need to know when you want your car shipped. There are a few questions to consider when picking your dates.
The first question is, when do you need your car to arrive? It can take a few days after booking your shipment for your car to actually get picked up, and then transport can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. So if you’re in San Diego and you want your car in Miami in two weeks, you should book today.
Another thing to consider: living without your car. Do you want to have it around while you pack up your house so you can take loads of old furniture to Goodwill? Do you need it to drive to work each day? Or are you OK without it for a bit?
Most car shipping companies won’t guarantee pickup or arrival dates. Those that do will charge extra for it. So it’s best if you can plan with a little bit of wiggle room on either end of your shipment.
Once you’ve got your dates figured out, you’re done with step one. Woohoo! On to step two.
2. Decide on covered vs. uncovered transport
Unlike full-service moving companies, which offer all kinds of add-on services, car shippers tend to keep things pretty simple. But there is one choice you’ll definitely have to make: covered or uncovered transport.
Have you ever seen an 18-wheeler cruising down the highway with like 20 cars loaded on the trailer? That’s uncovered transport. It’s the cheapest and most common form of car transport out there. It also exposes your car to all of the elements: sun, rain, hail, lightning, literally anything that falls from the sky.
If it makes your cringe just thinking about your Lexus being pooped on by passing birds and hit with rocks from passing trucks, then you might want to go with the covered option.
With covered transport, your car will be loaded into a truck with just a few other vehicles (usually five at most). Most importantly, it will have a roof and four walls to protect it from potential hazards. But it will likely cost you a few Benjamins to upgrade from uncovered shipping.
3. Compare car shipping companies
Once you’ve got your timeline figured out and you know what kind of transport you want, you can start the real fun part: comparing various auto shippers. Well, fun might be an overstatement, but it doesn’t have to be hard if you follow some basic tips.
Before you do anything else, we recommend checking out uShip’s website. uShip is an auto transport broker that will connect you (as brokers do) with an auto carrier.
But the reason we suggest checking out uShip first is not because they have the best prices or the highest quality of service. It’s because they have an awesome price comparison tool that includes quotes from a bunch of top-rated companies.
But as a general rule, you should expect to pay at least $500 for your shipment, no matter where it’s going. Most interstate shipments will probably land in the $650–950 range, but it’s not uncommon to see prices go up to $1,100 and higher.
Once you’ve looked at the prices on uShip, you should have a good ballpark estimate of how much it’ll cost to ship your vehicle. That price range can help guide you as you research specific car shipping companies.
Here’s some things you’ll want to consider when looking into auto shippers:
- Price: Is the quoted price way more than the lowest price you found on uShip? Are there any available discounts?
- Reputation: Is the company certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration? Does it have good customer reviews?
- Features: Does the company offer extra insurance? Does it have any perks, like a free car wash?
We suggest getting quotes from at least five auto shippers. If you’re looking for places to start, we can say we’ve had good experiences with Montway (for all around value), Amerifreight (for great customer service), and Ship a Car Direct (for extra insurance options).
Our final word of advice for finding a shipper: look local. They won’t always come up in the Google ads, but when researching the cheapest car shipping companies, we found that smaller, regional carriers can sometimes offer the best prices (and friendliest service).
4. Choose insurance coverage
Most people like their cars. Some people love their cars. And a few people out there would rather lose a limb than get a dent in their ride. No matter what your relationship to your car is like, you’ll want to have at least some coverage for your auto transport.
All car shipping companies are required to have cargo insurance for the goods they ship (and that includes your vehicle). But this insurance is not always the most comprehensive. In some cases, your vehicle may be worth more than the minimum coverage.
Make sure to call your car shipper and ask about the following:
- What kind of damage is covered by the company’s standard insurance?
- Is there a deductible? If so, how much is it?
- Are there additional insurance options offered by the carrier or a third party?
You should also check in with your existing auto insurance provider. In some cases, your policy might cover your vehicle while it’s being transported.
Cars and trucks are rarely damaged during transport, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Just a bit of research could mean the difference between paying for that broken windshield out-of-pocket and having it paid for by the transport company.
5. Make your reservation
Now that you know your dates, the kind of transport you need (covered or uncovered), the company you’re going to use, and the insurance coverage you want, it’s time to make your reservation!
Some companies will let you book your shipment online, but we suggest calling anyway to make sure that you can discuss any questions you might have.
Be sure to ask the company representative about the following:
- Pickup: Is there a guaranteed pickup date, or is there just a window? How will the driver contact you when they’ve arrived?
- Drop-off: Is there a guaranteed drop-off time?
- Payment: When is payment due? Does the company accept cards and personal checks or just cash? (Usually it’s just cash.)
- Driver information: Can the company provide licensing, insurance, and contact information for the driver that it’ll dispatch?
Phew! Good work. The hardest part is done. Now you just need to prepare your vehicle and wait for transport.
6. Prepare vehicle for shipment
Your sweet, innocent car is about to head out into the big, bad world without you. So make sure that you prepare it for the journey.
Take off any after-market additions to your vehicle, like spoilers, body kits, flags, and extra radio antennas. These are often the first things to get banged up during loading or to blow away in a gust of wind.
Unfortunately, you can’t use your car as a shipping container. So make sure to remove all of your personal belongings from the vehicle. Remember, even if your car is insured during transport, that collection of rare baseball cards that you left in the backseat probably isn’t.
And please, for your own sake, turn off your car alarm! Otherwise your auto transporter will turn it off for you, by any means necessary.
7. Meet driver for pickup
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s your auto carrier coming to pick up your vehicle.
As tempting as it might be to rush through the pickup process, it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to thoroughly inspect your car before it gets on the truck. This pre-loading inspection is your best evidence if you need to submit an insurance claim later.
Once the car has been inspected and all the papers have been signed, you’ll want to get your driver’s contact information. Some auto transport companies have online tracking systems, but—call us old-fashioned—we think it’s always best to have a direct line to the person who’s hauling thousands of dollars of your property.
8. Wait for the drop-off
There’s just one thing left to do: wait for your precious car to come home. Make sure that you or someone you trust is available to inspect and sign for the vehicle during the delivery window.
You’ll also likely need to pay any remaining balance that you owe the company before you can get your vehicle back, so get ready to part with a stack of cash.
And now you’re done! You and your car have been reunited. May you live happily ever after.
Don’t forget to let us know how it went. Did you find uShip’s comparison tool helpful? Was your driver a complete jerk? Know any great money-saving tricks? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.