If you are a first-time auto transport customer, you may be wondering exactly how the car shipping process works. After all, your car is a valuable possession so you want to be sure you completely understand how car shippers operate. Simply put, car shipping companies transport vehicles from one location to another via a trailer. This is a safe and convenient way to transport your vehicle a long distance. That said, there are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for the right shipping company and there are also some things you should know in order to prepare your vehicle for shipment. This guide will help you understand the step-by-step process for shipping your vehicle.
Step 1: Have Your Vehicle and Shipment Information Ready
When you begin shopping around for quotes, the first thing shipping companies are going to ask you is what kind of car you will be shipping. Make sure you know the exact make, model, and year of your vehicle. You also need to know the exact destination points for pick-up and delivery. In addition, you need to be prepared to include information regarding whether or not your vehicle is operable or inoperable, or even oversized. Finally, if you require any additional services such as expedited shipping, enclosed transport, or door-to-door delivery you will want to discuss these services. This information will ensure you get the most accurate estimate.
Step 2: Get Shipping Quotes
Shop online and gather quotes from a few different car shipping companies. Compare prices and services until you find a company that suits your needs and budget. Remember, however, that the cheapest quote doesn’t always mean the best value. Like many other industries, you get what you pay for so look for quality in addition to the price. Be sure to check the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website to verify proper licensing, registration, and insurance. You can also check the company’s safety record here as well.
Step 3: Choose Open or Enclosed Transport
You will now select between using an open or enclosed carrier. Open-air carriers are the most common transportation method and they are cheaper. However, your car will be exposed to the outdoor elements which could be a concern for some customers. If you are shipping a brand new, luxury, antique, or exotic car you may choose to pay a little extra for enclosed transport to ensure your vehicle is protected from the outdoors.
Step 4: Choose Door-to-Door or Terminal-to-Terminal Shipping
Next, you will need to specify whether or not you prefer door-to-door shipping. This service is certainly most convenient and can usually be handled for an additional cost. However, some delivery locations have restrictions on shipping trailers because of laws, poor road access, or low-hanging trees. Furthermore, if you are in a rural location, door-to-door services may not be offered. In these instances, your vehicle may be delivered to the nearest terminal. Be sure to discuss these options with your shipping company.
Step 5: Prepare Your Car for Shipment
There are a few things you will need to do in order to prepare your car for shipment. Start by removing all personal belongings from inside the vehicle. You also want to use up most of your gas, leaving your tank no more than ¼ full. This reduces your car’s weight and makes it safer for shipment. You should also wash your car inside and out prior to shipment. Once your car is washed, take photos of your vehicle’s exterior and make a note of any dents, dings, or scratches. This visual proof of your vehicle’s condition will make it easier to note any damage that might have occurred during shipment.
Step 6: Your Vehicle will be Picked Up
On the date of your scheduled pickup, a carrier will arrive to load your vehicle onto their trailer. You will need to have proof of vehicle ownership in order to ship your vehicle. At this time, you will exchange contact information with your carrier so you can stay informed with delivery information. You will also inspect your vehicle’s condition and make a note of it on the Bill of Lading. At this time, you will sign your final contract and hand over your keys.
Step 7: Your Car Will be Delivered
Upon delivery, you will do a final inspection of your vehicle’s condition and sign the Bill of Lading. This is when you would make a note of any damage that could have occurred. Once you have signed the Bill of Lading, you will make your final payment and take your vehicle.
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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