Should I Drive My Car Across the Country or Ship It? A Comprehensive Guide for Car Owners

Brantley Kendall

15 Jun 2023 1 year ago

The lure of the open road, the thrill of exploring new territories, and the sense of freedom that comes with embarking on a cross-country journey—it’s a dream that has captivated car owners for generations. However, as exciting as a road trip may sound, the question inevitably arises: Is driving my car across the country the best option, or should I consider shipping it instead?

This comprehensive guide is designed to help car owners like you navigate this crucial decision with confidence and clarity. We understand the myriad of factors that come into play when considering whether to drive or ship your vehicle, and we aim to provide you with the information and insights you need to make an informed choice that suits your unique circumstances.

By the time you reach the end, you’ll have the confidence to choose the path that best aligns with your needs, preferences, and aspirations. Let’s embark on this journey together, unraveling the possibilities and discovering the best way to transport your car with peace of mind.

Understanding the Factors: Drive or Ship?

Several factors come into play when deciding whether to drive your car across the country or opt for car shipping services. Let’s explore these factors and how they can influence your decision:

  1. Distance: The distance you need to travel is a crucial factor. For shorter distances, driving your car may be more feasible and cost-effective. However, car shipping services can save you time and effort for longer distances, such as cross-country moves. For example, if you’re relocating from New York City to Los Angeles, driving the approximately 2,800-mile distance would require multiple days of driving, whereas shipping your car would allow you to fly and arrive at your destination more quickly and without the stress of long hours on the road.
  2. Time Constraints: Consider your available time for your move or trip. If you’re on a tight schedule and must reach your destination quickly, there may be more efficient options than driving. Shipping your car allows you to focus on other aspects of your move or travel plans, giving you more flexibility and time to settle in at your destination. For instance, if you have a new job starting soon or need to attend an important event, car shipping can ensure that your vehicle arrives on time while you make other necessary arrangements.
  3. Cost Comparison: Compare the costs associated with driving versus shipping your car. Consider factors such as fuel expenses, accommodations, meals, vehicle maintenance, and the cost of shipping services. In some cases, the overall cost of driving, including wear and tear on your vehicle, accommodations, and meals during the journey, can be comparable to or even higher than shipping. For example, if you have a fuel-inefficient vehicle and need to stay in hotels along the way, the cumulative driving costs may outweigh the cost of shipping your car.
  4. Vehicle Condition and Age: Consider the condition and age of your vehicle. Older vehicles or those with mechanical issues may have a higher risk of breakdowns during long-distance driving. Additionally, driving long distances can increase your vehicle’s wear and tear, potentially affecting its resale value. If your car requires regular maintenance or has higher mileage, shipping it can help preserve its condition and avoid potential mechanical issues arising from a long journey.
  5. Personal Preferences and Comfort: Your preferences and comfort level are important factors to consider. Some people enjoy the adventure and freedom of a cross-country road trip, while others may prefer the convenience and ease of shipping their car. Consider your comfort with long hours of driving, traffic conditions, and overall enjoyment of road trips. Car shipping may be the better option if you prefer a more relaxed and stress-free travel experience.

It’s essential to weigh the practical aspects, such as distance, time, and costs, along with your personal preferences and vehicle condition, to choose the option that best suits your needs.

Evaluating Cost Factors: Drive or Ship? 

Analyzing the cost implications of driving versus shipping your car is crucial for making an informed decision. Here are the key steps to consider:

  • Calculate Fuel Expenses: Determine the approximate fuel consumption based on the mileage and your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Divide the total mileage by the fuel efficiency figure and multiply it by the current average gasoline price to estimate fuel costs.
  • Consider Accommodation and Meals: If you choose to drive, account for overnight stays and meals during the journey. Research and calculate the expenses associated with accommodation options along your route to get an accurate estimation.
  • Factor in Vehicle Maintenance: Long-distance driving can strain your car. Consider potential maintenance costs, such as oil changes, tire rotations, and any required repairs, before embarking on the journey.
  • Compare Shipping Services: Research reputable auto transport companies and obtain car shipping quotes. Consider factors such as distance, vehicle size, shipping method (open or enclosed), and insurance coverage provided. Compare prices and services to assess the cost-effectiveness of car shipping.

Factors to consider  

From reputation and experience to pricing and insurance, here are a few factors to check before you decide to ship your vehicle:

Open Transport vs. Enclosed Transport

Open transport is the most common and cost-effective car shipping option. It involves transporting vehicles on an open trailer, exposing them to external elements like weather and road debris. The benefits of open transport include lower cost, faster availability of carriers, and the ability to ship multiple vehicles simultaneously.

Enclosed transport provides a higher level of protection for special or valuable vehicles. It involves shipping vehicles in an enclosed trailer, shielding them from weather conditions and road debris. This option is ideal for classic cars, luxury vehicles, or high-value automobiles. Although enclosed transport offers enhanced protection, it is generally more expensive than open transport due to the limited capacity of enclosed carriers and the extra security measures involved.

Which one to choose?

Open transport is typically more affordable because it can accommodate more vehicles at once, allowing for shared costs. On the other hand, enclosed transport, with its added protection and exclusivity, comes at a higher price point. When deciding between open and enclosed transport, consider your vehicle’s value, budget, and level of protection required.

Terminal-to-Terminal vs. Door-to-Door Service

Terminal-to-terminal shipping involves dropping off your vehicle at a designated terminal or storage facility and picking it up from a terminal near your destination. This option is usually cheaper than door-to-door service but requires you to coordinate transportation to and from the terminals. It may be suitable for those on a tighter budget or with convenient access to terminal locations.

Door-to-door service provides the highest level of convenience as the car shipping company picks up your vehicle from your specified location and delivers it directly to your destination. This option eliminates the need to transport the vehicle to a terminal. While door-to-door service is more convenient, it generally comes at a higher cost than terminal-to-terminal shipping.

Which one to choose?

The choice between terminal-to-terminal and door-to-door service depends on various factors. Consider your location, proximity to terminals, availability of transportation to and from terminals, and your preferences for convenience and cost. If you’re located in a remote area without easy access to terminals or if you prioritize convenience, door-to-door service may be the better choice. However, if you’re located near terminals and cost is a significant factor, terminal-to-terminal shipping could be a suitable option.

Insurance Coverage

Insurance coverage is essential when shipping your car to protect against potential damages or loss during transit. Accidents, natural disasters, or unforeseen incidents can occur, and having insurance coverage provides peace of mind.

Car shipping companies typically offer two types of insurance coverage: standard and additional. Standard coverage is usually included in the shipping cost and provides basic protection based on the carrier’s liability. Additional coverage, also known as supplemental insurance, offers higher limits and may cover specific damages not included in the standard coverage. It’s important to review the terms and limitations of insurance policies before deciding.

Common misconceptions 

It’s essential to understand insurance policy details to ensure everything is clear. Some car owners may mistakenly believe that their auto insurance will cover damages during car shipping. However, personal auto insurance typically does not extend coverage to vehicles being transported by a shipping company. It’s crucial to clarify this misconception and emphasize the importance of obtaining proper insurance coverage tailored for car shipping.

Which one to choose?

When selecting an insurance policy, consider factors such as the declared value of your vehicle, the deductible amount, and any exclusions or limitations outlined in the policy. Review the terms and conditions carefully to ensure you clearly understand what is covered and the process for filing a claim in case of damages or loss.

Remember, insurance coverage provides financial protection and peace of mind, so choosing a reputable car shipping company that offers reliable insurance options is essential.

How to Choose a Reliable Car Shipping Service

To help you make an informed decision, we’ve compiled some actionable tips for choosing a reliable car shipping service. From conducting thorough research to getting the best quote, these tips will assist you in finding a reputable and dependable company for your vehicle transportation needs.

Researching Car Shipping Companies Thorough research is essential when choosing a reliable car shipping service. Take the time to explore different companies and gather information about their reputation, experience, and track record. By investing effort in research, you can narrow down your options to reputable providers.

For example, you can visit car shipping companies’ websites and look for customer testimonials, case studies, and awards. Check if they have a strong online presence and positive reviews on reputable platforms like Google or the Better Business Bureau.

  • Finding Reputable Car Shipping Companies

To find reputable car shipping companies, consider recommendations from friends, family, or colleagues who have had positive experiences. Additionally, consult online forums or social media groups where people share their experiences and recommendations.

  • Online Reviews and Testimonials

Online reviews and testimonials can provide valuable information about the reliability and performance of car shipping companies. Look for genuine feedback from previous customers to understand their overall satisfaction.

For instance, websites like BBB or Trustpilot allow users to get reviews about client experiences with car shipping services. Take note of patterns in the reviews, paying attention to aspects such as timeliness, communication, and professionalism.

Obtaining Quotes and Comparing Services

  • Obtaining Accurate Quotes

When obtaining quotes, provide details such as the make and model of your vehicle, pick-up and delivery locations, and desired time frame. This will help ensure that the quotes you receive are accurate and reflect the actual cost of shipping your vehicle.

For example, some car shipping companies provide online quote calculators where you can input your vehicle details and transportation requirements to get an estimate. Use these tools and follow up with a phone call or email to confirm the quote.

Information on Insurance and Delivery Times

Request detailed information about the insurance coverage provided by the car shipping service. Ensure it is sufficient to protect your vehicle in case of unforeseen incidents during transit. Besides, inquire about estimated delivery times to set realistic expectations.

For example, reputable car shipping companies often provide insurance coverage that protects your vehicle against damage or theft during transportation. They also provide estimated delivery times based on factors like distance and route.

Checking Licensing and Credentials

  • Verifying Licensing and Credentials

 Verifying the licensing and credentials of a car shipping service is crucial to ensure they operate legally and meets industry standards. Check if the company holds the necessary interstate or international transportation licenses and permits.

For example, in the United States, you can check if a car shipping service is registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and holds a valid Motor Carrier (MC) number. Use the FMCSA’s Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) system to access this information.

  • Legitimate and Registered Car Shippers

 Look for car shipping services that are legitimate and registered entities. Confirm their physical address and contact information. Legitimate companies will have a verifiable presence and be transparent about their operations.

To give you an idea, you can search for the car shipping company’s physical address using online maps and verify its legitimacy. Check if they have a professional website, a listed phone number, and a physical office or warehouse.

  • Industry Certifications and Affiliations

 Certain industry certifications and affiliations can indicate a car shipping company’s commitment to quality and professionalism. Look for affiliations with reputable organizations such as the International Association of Movers (IAM) or the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA).

These organizations often have rigorous criteria for membership, and companies must adhere to their codes of conduct. Membership or certifications from such organizations can give you added confidence in the reliability of the car shipping service.


In conclusion, choosing a reliable car shipping service requires thorough research, obtaining accurate quotes, and checking licensing and credentials. When deciding, consider your specific circumstances, priorities, and budget. Select a car shipping service that aligns with your needs, whether it’s door-to-door delivery, expedited shipping, or specialized vehicle transportation. Remember, entrusting your vehicle to a reliable car shipping service allows you to focus on other aspects of your move or purchase, providing convenience and reducing stress. So, take the time to research, compare, and make an informed decision to ensure a smooth and secure transportation experience for your valued vehicle.

Common “People Also Ask” Questions (PAA)

When it comes to car shipping, it’s natural to have many questions. From concerns about cost and safety to understanding the available options and finding reliable companies, navigating the world of car transportation can be overwhelming. To clarify and address some of the most commonly asked questions, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). So, let’s explore these FAQs and find the answers you’re looking for.

How much does it cost to ship a car across the country? 

The cost of shipping a car across the country varies but can range from $500 to $1,500, depending on factors like distance, vehicle size, and transport type.

Is it cheaper to drive or ship a car across the country? 

Shipping a car across the country can be cheaper than driving, considering fuel, accommodations, and food expenses during a long-distance trip.

What are the benefits of using a car shipping service?

Benefits of using a car shipping service include:

  • Convenience.
  • Saving time and energy.
  • Avoiding wear and tear on the vehicle.
  • Ensuring professional handling and insurance coverage.

 How long does it take to ship a car across the country? 

The time to ship a car across the country typically ranges from 5 to 14 days, depending on the distance, route, and transport logistics.

Are car shipping services safe for my vehicle? 

Car shipping services are generally safe for vehicles when you choose a reputable and experienced company. They provide insurance coverage to protect against damage or theft during transportation.

What factors should I consider when choosing between driving and shipping? 

When choosing between driving and shipping, factors include distance, time constraints, vehicle condition, fuel costs, and personal preferences for convenience or road trip experiences.

What types of car shipping options are available? 

Car shipping options include open car transport (exposing the vehicle to the elements) and enclosed car transport (providing more protection). Expedited shipping and specialized services for classic cars or luxury vehicles are also available.

How do I find a reliable car shipping company? 

To find a reliable car shipping company, conduct thorough research, read reviews, check for licenses and certifications, and compare services, pricing, and insurance coverage.

What insurance coverage do car shipping companies provide? 

Car shipping companies provide insurance coverage that varies in terms of coverage limits and deductibles. Verify the insurance details and make sure it adequately protects your vehicle. Car transport companies in the United States typically have a coverage limit of around $350,000. Understanding that this coverage does not apply to each car being transported is crucial.

Can I ship my car door-to-door, or do I need to use terminals?

Car shipping companies offer both door-to-door and terminal-to-terminal services. Door-to-door shipping is more convenient, as the carrier picks up and delivers your vehicle directly to your desired locations. Terminal shipping requires you to drop off and pick up your vehicle at designated terminals.

Brantley Kendall