Winter vs. Summer Car Shipping: The Differences for Seasonal Residents

Harish Makam

24 Nov 2023 3 months ago

Moving – it’s something tons of Americans tackle each year. Over 15 million households pack up their lives annually. That’s around 9.8 percent of the country on the move every year! With the average family size being 2.3 people, we’re talking over 3 million folks switching to interstate addresses annually.

Now, most people like to make their big moves during the warmer months. About 60 percent pick between May and August to get it done. And you can’t blame them; summer weather makes loading trucks and driving cross-country more bearable.

But what happens when you’re not an average family doing a regular summer move? What if you’re a snowbird couple or a seasonal business transporting vehicles between different locations before winter hits? Well, then, you’re facing some unique challenges.

Shipping your cars and equipment between summer and winter homes is more complex than throwing some boxes in a U-Haul. The weather, demand, and logistics look way different. You have to plan and understand how to navigate seasonally shifting your rides.

Please stick with us as we break it all down in this post! Whether you’re a snowbird or a business owner, we’ll clue you in on mastering seasonal auto transport so you can focus on enjoying those new destinations.

The Step-by-Step Process of Shipping Your Vehicle to a New Destination

Shipping a car to a new destination involves a straightforward series of steps. Whether it’s peak summer or the dead of winter, certain basics remain the same throughout the process. We’ll walk through what to expect when arranging to ship your vehicle.

Step 1: Choosing a Transport Company

First, you must pick an auto transport company to handle your shipment. Search online directories and read reviews to find reputable, licensed companies that service your locations. Key factors to consider are:

  • Experience shipping in winter conditions.
  • Availability for your timing needs.
  • Providing upfront pricing.

Get free quotes from 3-5 companies outlining costs, services, and insurance and carrier options. Compare quotes and vet options thoroughly before selecting a transporter best suited for your vehicle’s needs.

Step 2: Scheduling Pickup and Drop-off

Once you’ve chosen a company, you’ll confirm your shipping schedule. Select pickup and dropoff dates that accommodate your moving timeline and the transporter’s availability. For winter shipping, arrange plans well in advance of any weather risks. Confirm pickup and dropoff addresses where the carrier can easily access your car. Communicate any special needs for parking, gated entries, or limited access times.

Step 3: Pre-Shipment Inspection

On pickup day, the carrier will complete a thorough pre-shipment inspection of your vehicle, noting all existing damages with accompanying photos. This provides proof of condition before transport. If shipping in winter, inspect antifreeze, wipers, tires, etc., to ensure they can withstand conditions. Point out any vulnerabilities needing extra caution.

Step 4: Loading the Vehicle

At pickup, your car is carefully driven onto the transport truck and secured in place. Enclosed trailers provide the best protection in winter against road debris, salt, ice, snow, etc. You can use open carriers in milder climates. Secure tie-downs hold the vehicle firmly in place for transit. Any loose components are also properly secured.

Step 5: Shipping to Destination

Once loaded, the transport truck heads towards your destination, driving cautiously in winter weather when applicable. Distance, weather, and road conditions determine drive time. Interstate transport takes 1-5 days on average. The company should keep you updated on the vehicle’s status during transit.

Step 6: Unloading at Destination

Upon arriving, your car is unloaded at the confirmed dropoff address, ideally indoors or under cover in winter. A final inspection matching the pickup checklist notes any new damage incurred. You’ll review and sign this documentation after checking the vehicle yourself.

Step 7: Driving Away!

Finally, pay any remaining balance for the transport after confirming safe arrival. Verify all paperwork for your records for claims if needed. With the shipping process complete, you can now drive your car to its new home!

While process basics stay consistent, planning extra preparation and protection in winter helps ensure your vehicle ships safely door-to-door. Follow these tips, and you can look forward to hassle-free seasonal transport!

Factors That Impact Car Shipping

While the shipping process itself follows standard steps, there are a few key factors that can affect the experience. These are important to keep in mind, especially when coordinating seasonal shipments.

Weather Conditions

 Inclement weather poses the most significant impact on winter shipping. Snow, ice, high winds, and freezing rain can make roads hazardous and delay transit times. For example, a blizzard may force a carrier to halt transport for 2-3 days. Cold temperatures also increase risks of exterior damage risks and freezing mechanical issues. Checking forecasts and planning accordingly helps mitigate weather risks.

Seasonal Demand 

Peak summer and winter moving seasons see high demand for auto transport, which allows companies to charge higher rates. For instance, rates may be 20% higher in January than in April. Prices are often lowest during spring and fall when demand dips. Booking in advance of seasonal rushes secures availability and the best prices.

Carrier Options 

Enclosed shipping trailers cost more but protect vehicles from weather and road debris. Open car transport is more affordable but leaves cars exposed. For example, enclosed car shipping may cost $600 vs $400 for open carrier. Areas with milder climates can utilize open carriers year-round. Snowy regions often require held shipping in winter.

Fuel Costs

 Like all industries, the shipping business is impacted by fluctuating fuel prices. When diesel and gas prices rise, carriers pass some costs along through higher transport rates. Comparing carriers helps find the most fuel-efficient transport options.


Longer transport distances cost more in general. Cross-country trips or moving to/from Alaska and Hawaii have higher base rates than regional transports between neighboring states due to increased fuel usage. For example, Seattle to Miami may cost $1000+ vs $500 Seattle to Idaho.

Beating the Cold: The Challenges and Benefits of Winter Car Shipping

When those temperatures drop, shipping vehicles to a winter home gets trickier. Icy roads, swirling snowstorms, shivering cold – old man winter can throw serious challenges at your car move. But it isn’t all bad news! Winter shipping also has some frosty benefits if you play your cards right.

Let’s break it down to help you stay prepared for the icy downsides and money-saving perks of arranging winter auto transport.

Challenges of Winter Shipping

Snowy, slick roads: One challenge is safely navigating hazardous winter conditions. Ice, snow drifts, and freezing rain can cause treacherous driving situations. Carriers may move at slower speeds and take more cautious routes. This could mean delivery delays. For example, a Raleigh to Boston trip might take six days in January versus 4 in August. No one wants their babysitting at a rest stop for extra days!

Chilly temperatures: Freezing temps also bring risks of damage. Exposed metal and rubber components like brakes and axles become more brittle. A car’s exterior could face damage from salt, sand, and debris kicked up on the roads. Wintery mixes also heighten the chances for cracks and chips in glass. Protecting your ride in an enclosed, temperature-controlled trailer minimizes these cold weather risks.

Peaked demand: When Snowbirds flock south for winter alongside holiday moves, it spikes demand for shipping between November and February. Limited carrier availability plus high volume leads to inflated rates during peak season. Shipping a sedan from Chicago to Orlando could run $700-$800 compared to $500-$600 in October.

Benefits of Winter Shipping

Less competition: While everyone’s angling for vehicles in November, demand drops sharply from January to March. You’ll face less competition for carrier bookings, so comparing quotes nets significant bargaining power. Off-peak season deals offer big savings, even with increased weather precautions.

Carrier availability: When demand dips after the new year, more carriers have open trailers. This makes last-minute coordinating or door-to-door services more realistic than peak season. If your plans change, flexibility is on your side.

Making Summer Car Shipping a Breeze

After tackling the challenges of winter shipping, moving vehicles in summer seems much more straightforward. But sunny skies can still bring some bumps in the road. From hot highways to busy peak times, summer has unique hurdles for shipping your car. What’s the good news? With some clever planning, you can save money and avoid headaches! Let’s cool down and go over how to master the summer auto transport experience.

Staying Cool: Challenges of Hot Weather Shipping

  • Sizzling hot temps:  When it’s hot out, vehicles face risks like overheating or damage from the intense heat. Parts like hoses, tires, and engines can warp or melt. Covered, temperature-controlled shipping keeps your car cool. Checking fluid levels prevents boiling over.
  • Busy peak season: Between college moves, families relocating, and snowbirds, summer is a busy time for car shipping. More demand but limited trucks means higher prices. For example, June rates from New York to Florida could be $600+ versus $400 in September. Book early to get the best deals.
  • Extra care needed: Long days baking in the sun can fade paint or affect interiors. Added coverings help avoid issues, especially on open trucks without protection. Enclosed shipping helps protect your vehicle from sunlight, so no worries.

Saving Money in Summer: Benefits of Warm Weather

  • Faster shipping: With no snowy roads to navigate, summer transports often take less time. Cross country could be 4-5 days in summer versus 6-7 in winter. Schedule summer moves to build in buffer time.

More truck options: Many car carriers are available between May and August as demand drops for winter shipping. It makes last-minute or door-to-door shipping easier to book. More choices mean more bargains!

Shipping Tips for All Types of Seasonal Residents

The snowbirds flying south or families heading to beach houses aren’t the only seasonal residents shipping vehicles. All sorts of people switch homes part-time and need smooth transportation. Understanding the different types of seasonal residents can ensure you get shipping tips based on your unique requirements. 

For snowbird retirees with winter and summer estates, the key is finding affordable fixed-income options. Timeliness and door-to-door convenience are also priorities.

Second, homeowners splitting time between two properties want hassle-free shipping that works within tight schedules. They require flexibility for life’s uncertainties. Vacation rental owners shuttle vehicles between properties. Their focus is maximizing earnings, so fast transit at the lowest costs is crucial.

Corporate transferees need white-glove service moving expensive vehicles and managing complex logistics. They expect high-touch customer service. Part-time relocators like traveling nurses also shuffle vehicles routinely. Mileage on their cars must be minimized, so enclosed shipping or flatbeds are preferred.

Understanding these differences helps target the right balance of cost, speed, insurance, and hands-on service for each seasonal shipper. Getting the perfect vehicle match ensures smooth sailing between addresses, leaving more time to enjoy new destinations.

So whether you’re a snowbird, vacation rental owner, or corporate transferee, the right tips tailored to your needs make seasonal shipping a breeze!

Prepping Your Vehicle for Shipment

Proper preparation protects your car in transit and prevents issues. Follow these tips to get your car summer and winter-ready before transport:

Summer Vehicle Preparation

  • Flush all fluids and replace them with summer formulations. Top off coolant/antifreeze mixes to prevent overheating.
  • Inspect radiators, caps, and hoses, and replace any cracked or worn parts to avoid leaks.
  • Check engine belts for cracks or wear and tighten replacements to prevent slippage.
  • Examine tires closely for bald spots, dry rotting, or melting. Replace any suspect tires to avoid blowouts.
  • Install sunshades on windows and apply UV-protectant wax to the exterior finish.
  • Remove or secure external components like spoilers that may be vulnerable in high winds.
  • Optional: Consider window tinting, cooling system upgrades, and clear protective wraps to protect the exterior.

Winter Vehicle Preparation

  • Flush the coolant system and fill it with winter antifreeze mix to avoid freezing.
  • Replace windshield wipers with durable winter blades and refill wiper fluid with antifreeze agents.
  • Inspect battery age and power – cold weather is taxing on weaker batteries.
  • Install winter or all-season tires for ample traction in snow and ice. Check existing treads.
  • Apply corrosion inhibitors inside fender wells and on exposed chrome/metal to prevent rust.
  • Seal any body gaps or holes with weatherstripping to keep out drafts, moisture, and road salt spray.
  • Optional: Consider a remote starter, battery warmer, and heated seats/mirrors for comfort and reliability.

Choosing the Ideal Auto Transport Company

Selecting a reputable company to entrust your vehicle is critical for worry-free shipping. Here are helpful guidelines for making the right choice:

  • Ask neighbors and friends for referrals and search online reviews. Look for consistent 5-star ratings. Complaints are red flags.
  • Verify the company has all required FMCSA licenses and insurance for household moves and enclosed transport. Ask for documentation.
  • Seek carriers with expertise in your seasonal routes and at least five years of experience in snowbird or northern transports.
  • Request binding quotes from 3-4 well-vetted companies for comparison. Get details on car shipping costs, transit times, and services in writing.
  • Choose a company that demonstrates professionalism from start to finish. You should feel confident they will handle your vehicle correctly.
  • Confirm they offer GPS tracking and are insured. This protects in case of damage or loss.
  • Ask detailed questions on preparations, precautions for weather risks, insurance deductibles, and claims processes.

Insurance and Safety Considerations

Most carriers provide liability and cargo coverage, so damages in transit are insured. But policies only cover vehicles – not belongings inside. That’s why we recommend removing all possessions from your car before shipping.

Cargo insurance from your car shipping company should cover damage incurred during transit after paying your deductible. However, coverage terms vary, so it’s essential to understand your policy’s details.

Make sure you’re comfortable with the level of protection provided. The federally required minimum may fall short of your vehicle’s actual value. Ask vital questions upfront to avoid surprises:

  • Is there a deductible, and how much is it for damage claims? Standard deductibles range from $250-$500.
  • What types of damage are covered? Policies differ – some exclude exterior flaws like paint scratches.
  • What are coverage limits? Many policies cap around $100,000, which may not match your car’s worth.
  • Are just certain parts covered or the entire vehicle? Door-to-door policies are the most comprehensive.
  • Will specialty items like spoilers, racks, or accessories be covered? Customized equipment often needs added riders.
  • Can you purchase additional coverage if the included policy seems lacking? Top-off insurance fills gaps.

When shipping with reputable companies like ours, insurance is built into the price. Our advisors are glad to address questions and clarify coverage for your peace of mind.

The Bottom Line

Relocating your vehicle between summer and winter homes takes some legwork to make sure it’s a smooth, headache-free process. The key things to consider are properly prepping your car for the weather conditions at either destination and doing the maintenance checks. You should also take preventative steps to protect components from what Mother Nature might throw at you.

You’ll also want to put time into picking a reputable auto transport company by comparing factors like experience, licensing, insurance coverage, and ratings. Remember to document your car’s condition beforehand to avoid disputes over pre-existing dings down the road. Transporting in an enclosed trailer or with GPS tracking are great options for added peace of mind. Lastly, kick those tires thoroughly at dropoff before signing the dotted line.While seasonal vehicle shuffling brings challenges, going in informed means smooth sailing to your destination while you kick back and enjoy the scenery. For personalized tips catered to your specific shipping needs, the experts at SAKAEM Logistics have years of experience navigating seasonal auto transports. Check them out at or ring them at (888) 725-0005 for a free quote.

Common Questions People Also Ask (PAA)

What is the best season to ship a car?

Spring and fall are the best seasons to ship a car. Demand is lower, so prices are more affordable. Weather risks are also reduced compared to summer heat or winter snow and ice.

How does winter weather affect car shipping?

Winter weather, like snow, ice, and salt, can delay transit times. It also makes roads hazardous, increasing the chances of skidding or accidents. Extra precautions are needed to protect vehicles against cold, wind, and precipitation.

Why is summer car shipping more expensive?

Prices are higher in summer due to a spike in demand from college moves, families relocating in summer, and snowbirds returning north. The limited availability of car carriers also drives up rates when demand peaks.

How can I prepare my car for shipping in the winter?

To prepare a car for winter shipping, flush and refill wiper fluids, check the antifreeze, install winter tires, add padding around mirrors, and trim. Remove exterior mounted hardware if prone to damage.

Are there any discounts for seasonal residents shipping cars?

Some seasonal shipping companies offer discounted “snowbird specials” for retirees moving south for winter months. This provides 5-15% off costs as an incentive to use off-peak seasons.

What insurance is needed for seasonal car shipping?

Supplemental “door-to-door” insurance covers a car for the entire shipping process. This protects from weather damage, accidents, and theft – gaps the carrier’s insurance may miss.

How long does it take to ship a car in summer versus winter?

Transit times vary between seasons. Summer shipping may take 4-6 days for cross country, while winter could extend to 6-8 days due to cautious speeds on icy roads.

Harish Makam