Rental Agency Car Shipping Best Practices

Jason Hilderbrand

14 May 2021 3 years ago

Whether you have an established rental car agency or are looking to establish one, it’s crucial that you optimize your inventory management. This means looking at a 3PL logistics provider (Like SAKAEM Logistics to help manage the movement of your fleet)

With the right carrier network in place, you can optimize this one piece of the puzzle. This reduces your overhead and many other associated operational costs. 

This guidebook will walk you through the process of setting up your shipping services to ensure you have a streamlined system in place.

Why Work With an Auto Transport Company? 

Working with an auto transport company helps you move your inventory quickly. Without a carrier providing shipping services, you’re responsible for securing your own shipping solution. This takes your focus away from your core business management. 

Without having an established auto transport company in place, you could potentially pay more than necessary. Last-minute and rushed decisions result in increased costs. 


Ensuring you have a smooth-running company means choosing the right vendors to partner with. Set your car rental agency up for success by researching potential carriers. Look beyond their service territory and pricing. 

When you commit to performing your own research, you can separate the reputable and reliable companies from those that don’t deliver. Narrow your options by considering these factors to work with companies that can commit to your needs and perform to your expectations. 


The carrier that you work with needs to have the shipping capacity that can support your needs. Smaller companies may not have the truck capacity to support your car shipping needs. However, large national carriers have the capacity to ship thousands of vehicles. This can result in feeling lost in the system among many other shipping clients. 

Working with the right carrier will ensure your business gets valued the way it should. This means finding an auto transport company that’s large enough to provide a sophisticated service while also providing customized service. 

This medium-sized carrier is agile enough to quickly respond if the origin location isn’t ready. The carrier can resolve this and compensate with other car shipping demands. Then when you’re ready it will have additional trailers ready for transport. 

Another smart option is to work with a broker. They will have the largest capacity since they have access to multiple car shippers. With their network of carriers, they can find the perfect fit for each of your shipment needs. Working with a carrier gives you the perfect combination of the large capacity of the national carriers with the personalized touch of the smaller local carriers. 

Territory Covered 

Carriers have regions of the country that they focus on. The car carrier you work with needs to provide shipping services in the locations you need vehicles shipped. National carriers can provide shipping services across the entire country and sometimes into Canada and Mexico. 

A regional carrier focuses on providing shipping services across several states in one area of the country. Local carriers typically provide shipping services within a single state. 

While you can technically work with any carrier for any shipment, this isn’t the best course of action. A carrier will agree to transport your vehicles, but they’ll charge you a premium for making a special trip outside of their standard shipping lanes. Working with carriers who specialize in the geographical region you need will help you secure the best rates. 

This also helps the carrier to have better flexibility and the ability to fulfill your needs. This is beneficial when life happens, and you need to readjust a booked shipment. 

Services Offered 

Look for a car shipper that can provide you with a complete suite of services. They should have competent and skilled drivers. This enables them to offer an expanded list of services that can address any need that you may have. 

A skilled car shipper can help you through every step of the process. 

  • Readying cars
  • Phone numbers
  • Contact people
  • Consultative services

If you’re struggling to find a single carrier that offers all of your needed and desired services, then consider working with a broker. A broker is a third party entity that works with you and several car shippers as the middle man. Having multiple carrier relationships allows them to tailor each shipment booking to your current needs. 

Safety Record

The company you choose needs to be reliable with a strong track record for safe and reliable shipping services. You can ask the individual carriers about their safety track record, but you can also confirm it for yourself. 

Visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration SAFER System. You can look up each company’s snapshot to verify their safety record, safety rating, roadside out-of-service inspection, and crash information. Use each shipping service’s DOT Number, MC/MX number, or name to look them up. 

A reputable company will perform proper inspections to ensure the safety and reliability of their trucks and trailers. This ensures the safety and on-time delivery of your vehicle inventory. These inspections also ensure no stray leaks or other issues that could degrade your vehicles’ quality. The last thing you want is a carrier with outdated trucks leaking hydraulic fluid all over your lot. 


Every professional auto transport service must be registered with the Department of Transport. This is especially true if the carrier crosses state lines. Any reputable carrier should be able to provide you with a ‘DOT number’ and a Motor Carrier number. You should then be able to verify these numbers by looking them up on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. 


Every auto transport service that you work with must have insurance. This is what protects your vehicles should anything happen to them during transport. Ask potential auto transport companies if they carry insurance and what the limits are. 

Unlike a private shipper that’s only transporting one vehicle, you’ll have many on the trailer. This means that the insurance limits need to appropriately reflect this with coverage limits that can protect every vehicle on the trailer. 

Working with a broker is a smart option. Reputable brokers will hold the car shippers they work with to a high standard. This includes requiring plenty of insurance. The broker will also carry its own insurance policy. This extra umbrella policy will fill in any missing coverage gaps for complete protection. 

Software Integration 

If you currently use or plan to use software to manage your car rental agency, then it can help to have a shipping service that integrates into it. This streamlines the shipment booking process. 

Another viable solution is a broker that offers an API. This lets you easily book shipments through a streamlined process. You can integrate the booking form into your website or other software for a native feel with the API. 

Quality Customer Service

Don’t discount the importance of quality customer service. Choosing a carrier with quality customer service will give you a more enjoyable shipping process. This extends to every area of the shipping business. 

Look for a carrier who can offer you a single point of contact throughout the entire shipping process. This allows you to establish a relationship so the shipping advisor can learn about your business’s details. This is preferable over a carrier that directs you to a call center environment. You want to feel like more than just a number and receive personalized service for your shipping needs.  

Quality customer service extends beyond this, though. The drivers should also be pleasant to work with. They should pride themselves on maintaining their truck and trailer. This ensures that the truck, trailer, or vehicles don’t leak fluids onto any other vehicles. 

Comparative Quoting 

You can’t ignore the cost factor. However, there are more components to this than just looking at the bottom line number. You’ll also want to consider how quickly the carrier returns a quote and can act on it. 

Several factors go into providing a quote. You’ll want to keep as many variables the same as possible. This will give you the most accurate data to make a comparative analysis. 

Working with a broker can streamline the quote gathering process for you. They will collect the relevant information and reach out to their network of carriers. Then your single broker contact will return multiple quote options. Another advantage of a broker is that you can often secure lower rates because you can take advantage of their volume discounts. 

However, do not look at shipping quotes in a vacuum. A car shipper could provide you with a lower shipping quote. However, that carrier may also have longer shipping times and be slower to schedule pickups. This can cost you more in other areas of your rental agency business. You may find that the higher shipping quote actually saves you more in the long run with their ability to move quickly. 

10 Questions to Ask a Carrier Before Shipping 

To better understand a car shipper and how they work, have a list of questions ready. Then you can ask them to each carrier as you do your research. Compare the answers and determine which shipper would be a good fit for your rental agency. 

  1. Are you registered and licensed with the appropriate agencies? 
  2. What insurance do you have? Can I buy additional insurance? 
  3. What services do you offer? 
  4. What is the cost of those services? 
  5. What are the payment arrangements? 
  6. How long does quoting take? 
  7. What documents are necessary for shipping? 
  8. How do you want cars prepared for shipping? 
  9. What are your average shipping times? 
  10. How do you ensure the safety of the vehicles?

Things to Avoid

There are several potential pitfalls that inexperienced shippers face. Many of these result from a lack of knowledge about the industry or an effort to save money. These are mistakes you can’t afford to make, as they’ll cost your business unnecessarily. 

Keep these common pitfalls in mind when following this guide. They will help you throughout the entire process, from the research to the carrier selection and booking phase. 

Choosing the Cheapest Option 

There’s truth in the saying “you get what you pay for”, especially when it comes to car shipping. It’s smart to shop around and get multiple quotes. This helps you make smart financial decisions for your business. 

However, don’t let price be your only focus or criteria. Choosing the carrier with the lowest possible quote can lead to more expensive problems. The cost of the potential issues will far outweigh the higher quote from a more reputable car shipper. 

Look for a balance between affordability and quality. Consider the extra services and features that come with some carriers. A carrier that returns a higher quote may actually be the better value when you consider service quality. 

Working With an Inexperienced Carrier 

Freight shippers specialize in transporting particular types of goods. Car carriers have specialized trucks and trailers to secure the vehicles. These carriers understand your unique needs and challenges. 

This also applies to brokers. These are people that will help you source car shippers. However, you don’t want to work with just any broker. You need to work with one who understands rental car agencies and how they work. They need to be accustomed to your high volume and sudden demands. 

Not Thoroughly Researching Carriers 

When you don’t thoroughly research your options, you risk making a decision that’s based on missing or inaccurate information. This could result in you working with a carrier that has a questionable safety track record or one that doesn’t have insurance. 

Less than reputable carriers will tell you what you want to hear to get your business. It’s your job to protect your car rental agency and rental cars. Thoroughly research the car carriers you intend to work with. 

Poor Documentation 

It’s crucial that you and the car shopper you work with have organized and detailed documentation. There are several documents that you’ll need to have completed for each shipment. Your carrier should provide you with all essential documents for each shipment. Then you’ll need to provide them to the driver. 

If there’s an inspection report, you’ll need to sign it and ask the driver to sign it. You’ll need this signed document if you need to file a damage claim. 

Work With the Professionals

As you can see, several factors go into the car shipping process. When you develop a solid relationship with a reputable carrier, you can depend on them to help you establish and grow your business. 

It’s crucial that you follow this guide to have a successful partnership experience. Start by following the steps to select your auto transport partner. Then, work your way through the checklist for quoting, booking, and shipping your vehicle inventory. Be sure to keep the things to avoid in mind so you can avoid common pitfalls. 

Contact our team of advisors today and experience quality shipping services at affordable pricing.

(888) 725-0005

Jason Hilderbrand