The Process of Shipping a Car in Three Phases: A Comprehensive Guide

Brantley Kendall

13 Oct 2023 9 months ago

Are you moving across the country or buying a car from another state? Shipping a car can be a bit daunting, but fear not! This comprehensive guide will break down the process into three easy phases, ensuring a smooth and stress-free experience. 

First, there’s the pre-shipping phase, where all the necessary documentation, permits, and insurance coverage are sorted out. Next up is the transportation phase. This involves loading the vehicle onto a carrier, like a car carrier truck or a cargo ship. The mode of transportation depends on the distance and logistics of the shipment. Finally comes the post-shipping phase. This is where the vehicle is unloaded, goes through customs clearance, and is finally delivered to its destination.  

Efficient vehicle shipping helps individuals and businesses overcome geographical barriers. It grants them the freedom to explore new opportunities and expand their reach. Whether it’s a personal vehicle or a commercial fleet, ensuring the safe and efficient shipping of vehicles guarantees a seamless and hassle-free experience for all parties involved.

 In this blog post, we’ll explore each shipping phase in detail, from the essential pre-shipping preparations to the thrilling transportation phase and post-shipping procedures. Let’s get started.

Phase I: Selection of a Reliable Shipping Company

When selecting a reliable shipping company for transporting your vehicle, conducting thorough research is essential to avoid any potential pitfalls. Making the wrong choice can lead to costly consequences, both financially and in terms of vehicle safety. Here are some proven tips to help you select a dependable shipping company:

Licensing and Insurance

Did you know that legitimate and reputable shipping companies must have specific licenses issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT) or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)? This ensures that they meet the industry standards and regulations, providing you with peace of mind knowing that your vehicle is in safe hands. Ensure the shipping company has all the necessary licenses and insurance coverage.

Reviews and Testimonials

According to a survey conducted by Emplifi, a leading unified customer engagement platform, over 90% of people read online reviews before purchasing. Take the time to read reviews and testimonials from previous customers. These can offer valuable insights into the company’s reliability, customer satisfaction, and professionalism. This also highlights the significance of leveraging the experiences of others to make an informed choice. 

Experience Matters

Consider the experience of the shipping company in the industry. Opting for a company with years of operation under its belt ensures that they have encountered and overcome various challenges. This experience speaks volumes about their reliability, expertise, and ability to meet customer needs. Did you know that established shipping companies often have comprehensive networks, allowing them to provide more reliable service and easily handle unforeseen circumstances? 

 Customer Service Excellence

A study found that 86% of customers are willing to pay more for better customer service. This emphasizes the importance of the shipping company’s attentive and professional customer service. Prompt and effective communication is vital throughout the shipping process. Companies with dedicated and helpful customer service teams demonstrate their commitment to ensuring a smooth experience for their clients.

Comprehensive Comparison

Get quotes from several shipping companies to compare pricing and services. While cost is a factor, it should not be the sole determining factor. Consider the overall value, reputation, and reliability of the company. As per the Better Business Bureau, cheaper quotes are often associated with unreliable or fraudulent companies.

Balancing pricing and quality is crucial to ensure a safe and hassle-free shipping experience. By considering these well-researched tips and understanding the potential costs of making the wrong choice, you can secure a reliable shipping company that will handle your vehicle transportation needs carefully and professionally. Don’t compromise when it comes to the safety and well-being of your vehicle.   

Steps for Preparing Your Vehicle for Transit

Preparing your vehicle for shipping requires careful steps to ensure a smooth and safe transport. Let’s go through a detailed step-by-step guide with examples and stats to help you get your vehicle ready.

  • Clean your vehicle: Give your car a good wash, both inside and out, to make sure it’s squeaky clean. This helps the transport company quickly inspect the vehicle.
  • Remove personal belongings: Take out all your items from the car. This includes DVDs, CDs, loose change, and other valuable or sentimental items. These should be kept safe with you.
  • Document existing damages: Grab a camera or phone and take clear pictures of your car from all angles. This helps if any injuries occur during shipping, so you have evidence.
  • Check for leaks: Inspect your vehicle for any fluid leaks. Fixing these leaks before shipping is essential, as leaks can damage other cars during transport.
  • Check the battery: Ensure your car is fully charged and securely fastened. This ensures that your vehicle can be easily moved in emergencies.
  • Check the tires: Check the tire pressure and ensure they are correctly inflated. This helps to avoid any damage during loading and unloading.
  • Fold-in mirrors: Fold your car’s side mirrors to protect them during transportation. This helps prevent any accidental damages or breakages.
  • Disable car alarms: If your vehicle has an alarm system, turn it off before shipping. No one wants to hear a blaring car alarm during transportation.
  • Reduce fuel tank level: Keeping the fuel tank at around ¼ complete is recommended. This reduces weight and minimizes the risk of leaks during shipment.
  • Inform the transport company: Provide the company with accurate information about your vehicle, including its make, model, and any modifications. This ensures they have the necessary equipment to handle your specific vehicle.
  • Keep copies of essential documents: Keep copies of your vehicle’s registration, insurance, and other relevant paperwork. You might need these during transport.

Understanding Cost Factors Before Shipping Your Vehicle

So, you’re ready to ship your beloved vehicle, but before you do, let’s dive into the exciting world of cost factors! Understanding what influences the price tag of sending your ride is enjoyable. Here are a few factors that affect the cost to ship a car:

1. Distance: Longer distances usually result in higher expenses. For example, shipping a car from New York to California can cost around $900-$1,300, whereas shipping within the same state may range from $400 to $700.

2. Vehicle size and weight: Larger and heavier vehicles require more space on the carrier and may incur additional fees. For example, shipping an SUV might cost more than sending a compact car. Shipping a midsize sedan within the United States can cost around $600-$1,000.

 3. Vehicle condition: Non-running vehicles or those with mechanical issues may require special equipment or handling, increasing the shipping cost. Transporting an inoperable car can cost an additional $100 to $500.

4. Time of year: Demand for car shipping services fluctuates yearly. During peak seasons, such as spring and summer, when many people are relocating or going on vacation, prices tend to be higher. Off-peak seasons, like late fall and winter, offer better deals. For instance, shipping a car in July might cost more than in December.

5. Transportation method: The choice between open and enclosed carriers also affects the cost. Open carriers, which are more common and can transport multiple vehicles, are generally cheaper than enclosed carriers, which offer extra protection for high-value or classic cars. Open carrier shipments may cost around $500 to $1,000, while enclosed carriers can range from $1,000 to $2,500.

Tips to get the best quote and car shipping deals:

  1. Plan: Booking in advance gives you more time to explore different options and secure better deals. Last-minute bookings may limit your choices and result in higher prices.
  2. Be flexible with dates: If you have some flexibility in your schedule, choosing flexible pickup and delivery dates can help you find more cost-effective options. Carriers often consolidate shipments to optimize their routes, leading to better rates.
  3. Bundle services: Some companies offer discounted rates if you bundle multiple vehicles or services. If you need to ship more than one car or require additional services like storage or door-to-door delivery, inquire about package deals.
  4. Ask for discounts: Be bold and bold and ask the transport company about available discounts. They may have promotional offers for first-time customers, military personnel, or seasonal discounts that can lower the overall cost.
  5. Check for hidden costs: Carefully review the quote and contract to ensure no hidden fees or surcharges. Ask about any potential additional charges, such as storage fees, insurance costs, or fuel surcharges, to avoid any surprises.

Phase II: The Transit Phase

his phase has three key parts. Here’s a detailed explanation of each, with tips to make the most of your car shipping experience.

Modes of Vehicle Transit (Open vs. Enclosed

Regarding vehicle transport, there are two main modes: open and enclosed. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each, as well as the safety measures taken by auto transport companies:

Open transport

 This method involves shipping your vehicle on an open-air carrier, often seen on highways. Here are some pros and cons:


  • Cost-effective: Open car transport is generally more affordable compared to enclosed transport.
  • Availability: As open carriers are more common, finding a carrier with available slots is usually easier and quicker.
  • Visibility: Your car will be visible during transport, allowing you to monitor it.


  • Exposure to elements: Since your vehicle is exposed to the environment, it might get dirty or experience weather-related wear.
  • Less protection: Unlike enclosed carriers, open carriers don’t offer an extra layer of security, such as the covering structure, making your vehicle less protected.

Safety measures in open transport

  • Proper vehicle securing: Auto transport companies secure your vehicle with straps, ensuring it stays in place during transit.
  • Driver expertise: Experienced drivers take precautions to maintain safe distances and carefully handle the vehicle.

Enclosed transport

 This method involves shipping your vehicle in an enclosed trailer, offering extra protection. Here are some pros and cons:


  • Enhanced protection: Enclosed carriers shield your vehicle from weather conditions, road debris, and potential damage. –
  • Ideal for high-value or classic cars: If you have a luxury or vintage vehicle, the added protection of an enclosed carrier is a wise choice.
  • Peace of mind: Knowing your car is enclosed, safeguarded, and hidden from prying eyes can provide security.


  • Higher cost: Enclosed car transport tends to be more expensive due to these carriers’ added protection and limited availability.
  • Reduced visibility: Since your vehicle is enclosed, you won’t be able to see it during transport.

Safety measures in enclosed transport

  • Soft tie-down straps: Auto transport companies use soft tie-down straps to secure your vehicle without causing any damage.
  • Climate control: Enclosed carriers often have climate control systems to maintain a stable temperature throughout the journey.

Ultimately, the choice between open and enclosed transport depends on your budget, vehicle value, and personal preferences. Rest assured that reputable auto transport companies take safety precautions and prioritize your vehicle’s secure transport, whether in an open or enclosed carrier.

Tracking and Communication

Tracking and communication play a crucial role in keeping you updated when you’re shipping your vehicle from point A to point B. Here’s how it works:

  • Tracking: Just like when you order a pizza and want to know where it is, vehicle transport companies provide tracking services. They use fancy technology (GPS, to be exact) to keep tabs on your car’s location during transit. You’ll usually get a tracking number or a link to a website to check the progress. It’s like having a virtual eye on your car as it cruises towards its destination.
  • Communication: Car shipping companies will contact you via phone, email, or text. They’ll provide updates on pickup and delivery times, any delays (hopefully not!), and any important details you need to know. And if you have questions or concerns, they’re just a call or message away. So, with tracking, you can see where your car is on its journey, and with communication, the transport company will keep you informed every step of the way. It’s like having a friendly co-pilot.

Ensuring Vehicle Safety during Transit

You may wonder, “How do vehicle shipping companies ensure the safety of my precious ride during transit?” Well, let us break it down for you. These companies take various measures to protect your vehicle:

1. Professional loading and securing: Before your car hits the highway, the transport company’s skilled professionals will carefully load it onto the carrier. They know precisely how to handle vehicles of all shapes and sizes. They’ll secure your car with straps or chains to stay put throughout the journey. Think of it like strapping your car into a comfy seatbelt for the ride.

2. Insurance coverage: Reputable vehicle shipping companies understand that accidents can happen on the road. That’s why they provide insurance coverage for your vehicle during transit. In case of any unforeseen mishaps, such as minor scratches or more severe damage, you can rest assured knowing that the insurance will have your back.

3. Quality carriers and trailers: Ever notice those big, durable-looking carriers on the highway hauling multiple vehicles? Those are the ones your car will be riding in. Vehicle transport companies invest in sturdy carriers and trailers for safe transportation. They’re built to withstand various road conditions and protect your car from the elements.

4. Thorough inspection processes: Auto transport companies will conduct a thorough inspection before loading your car. They’ll note any damages to your vehicle and document them with photographs. This ensures that both you and the transport company are aware of the condition of your car before it embarks on its voyage5. Driver expertise: When it comes to the hands on the wheel, you can trust the experience and expertise of the drivers. They know the ins and outs of safely transporting vehicles. They’ll follow regulations and take precautions to ensure a smooth and secure journey for your car. They’re like the guardians of the road, responsible for the safe arrival of your vehicle.

Phase III: It’s The Time for Vehicle Delivery

We’ve covered the pre-shipping preparations and your vehicle’s actual journey with the carrier. Now, it’s time to explore what happens once your car arrives at its destination. So, let’s dive into the final stage of bringing your beloved vehicle safely to its new abode.

Inspection upon Arrival

n inspection occurs when your vehicle finally arrives at its destination after being transported. This is called the “inspection upon arrival.” Here’s how it works:

Once the transport carrier reaches its destination, it’s time to give your car a good look. The transport company will carefully inspect your vehicle to ensure it’s in the same condition as when it was loaded onto the carrier. They’ll compare it to the “before” pictures and notes taken during the previous inspection. 

During the inspection, they’ll check for any new damages, scratches, or dings that may have occurred during transport. Both you and the transport company need to be on the same page about the condition of your vehicle when it arrives. This way, if any issues are found, they can be resolved smoothly.

You might be wondering, “How long does this inspection take?” Well, it typically doesn’t take too long—just a quick yet thorough once-over to ensure everything is in order. If any new damages are discovered, don’t worry! That’s what insurance is for. If any valid claims regarding damages occurred during transport, the insurance will kick in and cover the costs

Handling Post-Transit Documentation

It involves managing and processing the necessary paperwork and documents after transporting the vehicle to its destination. This includes completing delivery paperwork, obtaining signatures, and ensuring all the required documentation is in order. Here are a few examples of what handling post-transit documentation entails:

1. Delivery Receipt: This document verifies the successful delivery of the vehicle and includes essential information such as the date, time, and condition of the vehicle upon arrival. The transport company will typically require the recipient to sign this receipt to confirm receipt of the vehicle.

2. Bill of Lading: The bill of lading is a contract between the vehicle owner and the transport company. It includes details such as the pickup and delivery addresses, vehicle information, and payment terms and conditions of the transportation agreement. The carrier and the owner should review and sign the bill of lading to ensure agreement on all terms.

3. Inspection Report: This report documents the vehicle’s condition, noting any damages or changes compared to its original state before transport. It may include photographs to provide visual evidence. The sender and the recipient should carefully review and sign this report for accuracy and future reference.

4. Payment and Invoice: The transport company will provide an invoice detailing the transportation charges and any additional fees. The vehicle owner is responsible for making the payment according to the agreed terms and receiving a receipt indicating the payment has been made.5. Insurance Claim Forms (if applicable): If any damages occurred during transport and are covered by insurance, handling post-transit documentation involves assisting the owner with filing insurance claims. This may include providing necessary forms and supporting documentation, such as photographs of the damages, estimates for repairs, and other relevant evidence.

Tips for Safe Unloading

Here are some tips for safe unloading after the arrival of your vehicle. And guess what? A professional auto transport company follows all these steps and takes stringent measures to ensure 360-degree protection of your car:

  • Clear the Area: Ensure the unloading area is clear of any obstacles or debris. Professional auto transport companies are diligent about choosing safe unloading locations free from potential hazards.
  • Use the Right Equipment: Professional transporters have the tools and equipment to unload your vehicle safely. Whether using ramps, lift gates, or hoists, they know what’s needed to ensure a smooth and secure unloading process.
  • Expertise and Experience: A reliable auto transport company employs experienced professionals trained in proper unloading techniques. Their expertise ensures that your car is carefully unloaded, minimizing the risk of accidents or damage.
  • Safety First: Safety is always the top priority for professional transport companies. They follow strict safety protocols, use protective equipment, and comply with industry regulations to ensure your car’s and their staff’s safety during the unloading process.

 Frequently Asked Questions

How does auto transportation work? 

Auto transportation involves hiring a transport company to move your vehicle from one location to another. The company will load your car onto a carrier, secure it for transport, and then deliver it to the desired destination using trucks or trailers.

How long does auto transportation take? 

The duration can vary depending on several factors, such as the distance of the transport, the specific route, and any unforeseen circumstances. Transportation within the same country can take a few days or weeks.

 Is my vehicle insured during transportation? 

Reputable auto transport companies provide insurance coverage for your vehicle during transportation. This insurance protects against any damages while your car is being transported. Reviewing the insurance policy and asking questions to understand the coverage provided is essential.

Can I pack personal belongings in my vehicle during transportation?

Packing personal belongings in your vehicle during transportation is typically not recommended. Auto transport companies usually have restrictions on transporting personal items due to safety reasons and insurance regulations. It’s best to remove any personal items from your car before transport.

How do I choose a reliable auto transport company? 

Look for companies with good reputations, positive customer reviews, and proper licensing and insurance. Obtain quotes from multiple companies to compare pricing and services. Additionally, consider asking for recommendations from friends, family, or car enthusiasts who have used auto transport services.


In conclusion, vehicle shipping involves three critical phases that ensure a smooth and hassle-free transport experience: planning, preparation, and execution. You can make informed decisions during the planning phase by carefully considering factors like distance, budget, and timeline. During the preparation phase, steps like cleaning your vehicle, documenting its condition, and making necessary arrangements with a reliable transport company will set the stage for successful transport. Lastly, the execution phase involves entrusting your vehicle to professional transporters to handle its safe delivery. 

If you want a complete auto transport solution, visit SAKAEM Logistics. With their expertise and commitment to customer satisfaction, they provide reliable and efficient auto transportation services. From pickup to delivery, their team will ensure the utmost care and attention to detail throughout the process. Don’t settle for anything less when shipping your vehicle – choose SAKAEM Logistics for a seamless and worry-free experience. Contact them today to get started on your auto transport journey.

Common Questions People Also Ask

How long does it take to ship a car?

Shipping a car can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the distance and specific route.

  What factors affect the cost of shipping a vehicle?

Factors like distance, vehicle size, transport type, and any additional services required influence the cost of vehicle shipping.

  How do I prepare my car for shipping?

 To prepare your car for shipping, remove personal items, clean it thoroughly, and document any existing damages. 

  Are there different methods of car shipping?

Yes, there are different methods of car shipping, such as open transport, enclosed transport, and even specialized options for certain types of vehicles.

What is the difference between open and enclosed transport?

Open transport means your car is exposed to the elements, while enclosed transport protects within a covered trailer.

How can I track my vehicle during transit?

You can track your vehicle during transit by contacting the transport company and requesting updates or utilizing online tracking tools. 

What should I inspect when my car is delivered?

When your car is delivered, inspect it for any new damages or issues that may have occurred during transport and document them.

 Are there any hidden fees for car shipping?

 Reputable car shipping companies should have transparent pricing without hidden fees. Ask for a detailed quote and clarify if there are any additional costs. 

 How do I select a reliable car shipping company?

Select a reliable car shipping company by researching their reputation, reading customer reviews, and ensuring they have proper licensing and insurance.

What documentation is required for shipping a vehicle?

The documentation required for vehicle shipping typically includes the following:

  • The original title or a copy.
  • A bill of lading.
  • Any other specific documents requested by the Transport Company or applicable regulations.

Brantley Kendall