Are you preparing to have your vehicle shipped across the country? If so, you may be wondering what you need to do to ensure your vehicle is properly prepared for transport. Since auto transport isn’t something most people do on a regular basis, you may not be aware of exactly what steps you need to take to make sure your vehicle is ready for its cross-country haul. As the owner of the vehicle, you are responsible for preparing your automobile for transport prior to the driver’s arrival. Here is everything you need to know so you can prepare your vehicle for shipping day.
1. Wash the Vehicle
The first thing you will want to do is wash the exterior of your vehicle. This may seem counterintuitive since you are about to have it shipped across the country, but the reason for washing your car is so you can document its condition. You will need to inspect your car and make note of any existing scratches or dings and it’s much easier to spot any imperfections on a clean car.
2. Take Photos of Your Vehicle
Once you have thoroughly cleaned your car, you will want to take time-stamped photos of the exterior of your vehicle. You want to document any scratches, dings, dents, or paint chips prior to handing your vehicle over for transport. These photos will serve as proof of your vehicle’s condition in the unlikely event that your vehicle is damaged during transport. When your car is picked up for shipment, you want to have these pictures ready so you can include them on the Bill of Lading (the inspection report you will sign).
3. Remove Exterior Accessories
Any exterior accessories on your vehicle could get damaged during transport so it’s best to remove them before shipping your car. These items include:
- Removable bike racks
- Luggage racks and rooftop boxes
- Retractable antennas
- Custom spoilers
4. Perform Any Necessary Maintenance
If you are transporting an inoperable vehicle, you will need to notify the car shipping company of your vehicle’s condition beforehand, as it requires special equipment to transport inoperable vehicles. For vehicles in working condition, you want to check your car for any leaks or mechanical issues. You also want to check to be sure your battery is fully charged, you have adequate air pressure in your tires, and be sure to top off your fluids.
5. Take a Picture of the Odometer
You will need to note the mileage of your vehicle before shipment and upon delivery so you should take a picture of the odometer. This will provide you with peace of mind knowing that no one took your vehicle for a joy ride during transport.
6.Empty Your Gas Tank
You want to make sure that your vehicle has no more than a quarter tank of gas. Extra gas means extra weight and this can add to your shipping cost. Since carriers have to meet certain weight requirements, they prefer that your vehicle have a quarter tank of gas or less.
7. Disable Alarms and Remove Toll Tags
The last thing your driver wants to deal with is a car alarm that won’t turn off. To prevent this from happening, disable your car alarm prior to shipment. In addition, you won’t need to pay any tolls while your car is in transport on a trailer, but your tag would likely still pick up the fee. Therefore, deactivate or remove toll tags before shipment.
8. Remove Personal Items
Most car shipping companies do not allow you to pack personal items inside your vehicle during shipment. These items are not insured against damage or theft, so be sure to remove all personal belongings before handing over your vehicle. This includes items such as sunglasses, charging cables, water bottles, GPS devices, jewelry, or any other personal items.
9. Gather Your Vehicle’s Documents
Before you hand your vehicle over to the driver, they will want proof that the vehicle is actually yours. To prevent any last-minute delays, have your paperwork prepared in advance. You will need the following documents:
- Vehicle registration information
- Proof of insurance
- Bill of sale or other proof of ownership
- Original vehicle title
- A valid ID
10. Get an Extra Set of Keys
Your car will need to be driven onto the carrier for loading so your transport driver will need a set of keys to get your vehicle on and off the trailer. This is a good time to have an extra set of keys made if you don’t already have them. You don’t want to hand over your only set of keys.
Frequently Asked Questions
Honest Answers to Your Car Shipping Questions
Yes, we always ask for your specific pickup and delivery addresses, if the carrier can get right to the addresses you provide, they will. If the addresses that you give us are not safely accessible for a Multi-car carrier, however, you will need to make arrangements with the driver to meet at a nearby location where the carrier can safely get in and out.
People do it all the time (rarely for free) but the official answer is no.
Not what you wanted to hear, we know, but that is the honest answer.
We are not licensed to broker the shipment of household goods and, likewise, no car carrier that operates in the USA is licensed to transport them from state to state either. Despite what you might be being told by other car shipping companies you may speak with.
Remember, at the end of the day we're all salespeople, and the true answer to this question is not a great selling point.
You will hear a lot of companies tell you that you can put up to 100 pounds of items in the trunk, but that is not entirely true. That fact is that items of that amount are fairly common and the department of transportation is probably not going to split hairs and fine the trucker over items of that amount, provided they are not over their weight limit. They could fine them, however, if they see a vehicle stuffed full of personal items so the car carrier will most likely try to negotiate something with you to cover themselves against any costs they could incur. It's not something we can build into your contract though.
We have a short and helpful video on this topic in our user videos.
Only in rare cases and car carriers will usually charge a premium to make it happen.
All dates given by car carriers are typically estimates and projections.
For this reason (and to keep your cost down) we ask that you build in some flexibility and give us the earliest possible date you would be WILLING to release the vehicle, even though it may not be your preferred date.
We'll put you in direct contact with your car carrier and the driver will also typically call you the afternoon or evening before your pick up and delivery (they won't just show up unannounced, and if they do we want to hear about it). However, car carriers are out on the road battling traffic, weather and any number of other factors that can and do throw them off of their pickup and delivery projections from time to time.
If the projected dates we give you come and you are unable to make contact with your carrier, please call our office immediately so that we may help resolve the situation.
The average transit time from pick up to delivery on any vehicle going coast to coast will average 7 to 10 days. From there you can figure your transit time based on how far your vehicle is traveling, i.e. from either coast to the Midwest might average 3-7 days.
Even better, we do not even ask for payment until we have you confirmed for pickup by a safe, reliable, fully insured, direct car carrier. If for any reason you do not ship your car with the carrier that we arrange for you, there is no fee.
The fees paid directly to the carrier however, (in most cases, their fees are not paid until your vehicle is delivered) are not directly controlled by us, so any requests for a refund of the carrier's portion would need to be addressed with the carrier directly.
Of course! And you are always backed by our Damage Free Guarantee policy.
Part of what you pay us for is to verify that the car carrier that we put you on is covered by the proper amount of insurance and that everything is up to date.
There is never any additional cost to you for this coverage, and their insurance is always primary.
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