The Process of Shipping a Car From Start to Finish (With FAQs)

Brantley Kendall

17 Oct 2022 2 years ago

With over 28 million people moving to a new home every year in the United States, many choose to ship their car rather than drive it. Auto transport is a convenient and cost-effective way to move your vehicle from one location to another. This is especially useful for people who do not have the time or the ability to drive their cars. According to the latest industry statistics, over 4,000 auto shipping companies are operating in the United States. Auto shipping companies typically have a network of terminals and warehouses across the United States, allowing them to offer their services to a wide range of customers. These companies also have an online presence, which makes it easy for customers to request quotes and track their shipments. In this blog, we’ll cover everything from how to choose a shipping company to how to prepare your car for shipment. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of the car shipping process and what to expect.

What is Auto Transport Service?

Auto transport is shipping a vehicle from one location to another. This can be done via open or enclosed carrier and arranged for vehicles of all types, from motorcycles and passenger cars to RVs, trailers, and even boats. Auto transport is a popular service for a few different reasons. People who are moving may not want to drive their car cross-country or may not be able to if they relocate for work. Others may be buying a car from out of state or need to have a car shipped to them for some other reason. And finally, some people prefer to have their vehicle transported rather than drive it themselves.  

Choose Your Method of Transport

There are two types of carrier transport methods: open and enclosed. Both have their pros and cons. Here’s a quick rundown of both of these methods:

Open carrier transport 

Open carrier transport is typically helpful for less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments. Your shipment will share space on the truck with other shipments. Auto Transport Company will load and unload your vehicle with a forklift and place it on racks or shelves in the truck. This type of transport is less expensive than enclosed carrier transport because the truck can carry more shipments at once. This service is best for standard-sized vehicles such as sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks.

Open air carrierr

Enclosed carrier transport 

Enclosed carrier transport is typically used for full truckload (FTL) or high-value shipments that need extra care and safety from the elements. This transport offers more security and protection for your shipment because it will be the only shipment in the truck. Your shipment will be loaded and unloaded with a forklift and placed on the truck’s floor. This type of transport is more expensive than open carrier transport because the truck can only carry one shipment at a time.

Different types of auto transport services 

The United States is home to many different types of vehicle shipping services. You can use these services to ship vehicles of all types, from cars and trucks to motorcycles and boats. Here are five of the most popular vehicle shipping services in the USA:

  • Expedited shipping: This service guarantees faster delivery times than regular shipping. This is best if you are in a hurry or want the shipping company to deliver your vehicle within a specific timeframe. So, our vehicle gets the priority to ensure timely delivery. However, this facility comes with a higher price tag.
  • Guaranteed pick up or drop off service: In this service, the shipper will either pick up your vehicle on the promised time or drop it off on or before the said time. This is an invaluable service for time-sensitive shipments.
  • Door-to-door shipping: It offers the most convenience and peace of mind. Your vehicle will be picked up from your home or office and delivered to your destination. This service is best for people who are shipping their vehicle long distances or do not want to deal with the hassle of drop-off and pickup.
  • Terminal-to-terminal shipping: It is the most economical service. Professionals will drop off your vehicle at a shipping terminal and then pick it up from another shipping terminal at your destination. This service is best for people who are shipping their vehicle short distances or can drop off and pick up their vehicle from the terminal.

Gather the required documents

When you’re ready to ship your vehicle, you’ll need to have a few things in order. Here’s a list of the documents you’ll need:

  • Your vehicle’s title. This proves that you own the car and have the right to ship it.
  • Your registration. This shows that your vehicle is registered and up to date on its paperwork.
  • Your insurance policy. This is required to ship your vehicle. Your insurance company will need to provide a certificate of insurance.
  • A bill of sale. This is optional but recommended. A bill of sale is a document that proves you paid for the vehicle. It can help if there are any disputes later on.
  • A release of liability. This is also optional but recommended. A liability release is a document stating that you are not responsible for any damage that may occur to the vehicle during shipping.

Why do you need all of these documents? 

They all serve different purposes. But they all help to protect you and your vehicle during shipping. Your title proves that you own the car and have the right to ship it. Your registration shows that your vehicle is up to date on its paperwork. Your insurance protects you in case of any damage to the car during shipping. The bill of sale proves that you paid for the vehicle. And the release of liability protects you from any responsibility for damages that may occur during shipping.


Find a Reliable Shipper

You now have the documents and are prepared on your part. The next step is to hire a reliable shipper. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

  • Check out online reviews: A quick Google search will reveal a wealth of information about any company you’re considering. Better Business Bureau is a great site to check trusted reviews of auto transport companies.
  • Make sure they’re licensed and insured: Any reputable auto transport company will be licensed by the federal government and insured in case of any accidents or damage to your vehicle during transport. You can check if a company is licensed by searching the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website.
  • Get a quote: Once you’ve narrowed down your options, get quotes from several companies to compare prices. Be sure to ask about any additional fees they might not include in the quoted price.
  • Ask about their experience: If you have a particularly valuable or rare vehicle, look for a company specializing in high-end shipping vehicles.

Request a Quote

 Just follow these three simple ways to get an instant quote for your shipping needs:

  • Request a quote online: most auto transport companies will have an online form you can fill out to request a quote. Be sure to include all relevant information, such as the make and model of your car, the pickup and drop-off locations, and the date you need the vehicle transported.
  • Give the company a call: Have all of your vehicle information ready and call the company to get a quote over the phone.
  • Send an email: Find the email address for the company and send them a message with all your vehicle information and desired shipping dates and times.

 The shipping process

Here’s a step-by-step action plan to ship your vehicle:

  • Consultation: A professional auto shipping company will provide a consultation to discuss your specific needs and provide a quote.
  • Booking: Once you have decided to use the company’s services, you will need to book your shipment. This can be done online or over the phone.
  • Scheduling: The company will work with you to schedule a pickup date and time that is convenient for you. They will also provide you with an estimated delivery date.
  • Pickup: On the day of pickup, the company will send a driver to your location to pick up your vehicle. They will inspect it for damage and load it onto the transport truck.
  • Shipping: Your vehicle will be shipped to the destination you specified. The company will update you on its whereabouts and provide you with an estimated arrival time.
  • Delivery: Once your vehicle arrives at its destination, the company will unload it and bring it to you. They will inspect it again for any damage that may have occurred during shipping.

 Determining the cost of auto transport

The cost of auto transport varies depending on a few factors, such as the type of vehicle, the distance, and the time of year. For example, shipping a small sedan from Los Angeles to New York City could cost as little as $600, while shipping a larger SUV from San Francisco to Boston could cost upwards of $2,000. In general, the further the distance traveled, the higher the cost. Additionally, cars being shipped across state lines will often incur additional fees.

  • The distance the vehicle is being shipped: The further the distance, the higher the shipping cost will be. For example, shipping a car from Los Angeles to New York will be more expensive than shipping a vehicle from Los Angeles to San Diego.
  • The type of vehicle being shipped: Larger vehicles, such as trucks or SUVs, will cost more to ship than smaller vehicles, such as cars or motorcycles.
  • The shipping method: There are three main methods of shipping vehicles: by land, by sea, or by air. Shipping by land is the most common and affordable method, while shipping by air is the most expensive.
  • The condition of the vehicle: An operable vehicle will cost less to ship than an inoperable vehicle. As inoperable vehicles need more resources and logistics for transportation, i.e., towing, it takes longer and involves hard work.  
  • The time of year: Shipping costs tend to be higher during the summer when demand is higher.
  • The number of vehicles being shipped: Shipping multiple vehicles together will usually be cheaper than shipping just one.
  • The destination: Shipping a vehicle to a remote or rural area will usually cost more than shipping a vehicle to a major city.

How long does the entire shipping process take?

A few things can affect how long it will take to ship your vehicle.

  • The size and weight of a vehicle: A larger and heavier vehicle will take longer to load onto a truck or ship and require more fuel to transport.
  • Distance: A longer distance will take longer to travel than a shorter distance. The mode of transportation chosen will also affect the time it takes to transport a vehicle because some methods are faster than others (e.g., a plane is faster than a train).
  • Time of year: Shipping companies are usually very busy during summer, so it may take longer to ship a vehicle. Winter months tend to be slower, so shipping times may be shorter.
  • Weather conditions: If the roads are snow-covered or icy, it may take longer for the truck to get to your location. Bad weather can also add time because the driver will have to be more careful and possibly take more breaks.
  • Bad road conditions can add time to a shipping trip because the driver will have to go slower.

The benefits of hiring an auto transport company

Hiring an auto transport company can be more convenient and less expensive than you think. Here are some benefits of hiring an auto transport company.

Save Time

Driving your car yourself can take days out of your schedule if you’re moving across the country or even just to a new city. With auto transport services, you can have your car picked up and delivered to your new location while focusing on other things.

Money Saving

The cost of gas and the wear and tear on your vehicle are two of the main reasons to use an auto transport service. Driving long distances can be very expensive, especially if you frequently do it. You can save a lot of money by using an auto transport service to ship your vehicle.

Money savings

Protect your vehicle

When you move your car yourself, there’s always the risk of something happening to it during transit; a flat tire, a fender bender, or even weather damage if you’re driving in inclement conditions. When you hire an auto transport company, however, your vehicle will be safely loaded onto a truck or trailer and carefully driven to its destination, ensuring that it arrives in pristine condition.

Enjoy a hassle-free move

Moving is stressful enough without having to worry about your car as well. When you hire an auto transport company, they will take care of the entire process from beginning to end so that you can focus on other aspects of your move.

Get the right service.  

Not all auto transport companies are created equal – some specialize in long-distance moves, others in shipping vehicles overseas, and some provide door-to-door service. When you take the time to find the right company for your needs, you’ll be sure to get the best possible service.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an auto transport broker?

An auto transport broker is a company that acts as an intermediary between customers and carriers. The broker typically arranges for the transport of vehicles on behalf of customers and provides them with various quotes from different carriers.

How do I prepare my car for shipping?

Most companies will provide you with a list of items that need to be done to prepare your car for shipping. This typically includes cleaning the vehicle, removing all personal items, and ensuring the gas tank is not too full.

What to do after your car is shipped?

Once your car is shipped, you will need to take a few steps to ensure that it arrives safely and on time. Here are some things to do after your car is shipped:

  • Check the estimated arrival time for your vehicle and make sure you are available to receive it.
  • Check the condition of your vehicle when it arrives and ensure there is no damage.
  • You must file a claim with the company if there is any damage.

What are the risks of using an auto-shipping company?

The most common risk is damage to your car during transport. You can avoid this by selecting a reputable company and ensuring your vehicle is adequately prepared for shipping.

How to track your car shipment?

Auto transport companies offer you a way to track your vehicle. Tracking works by allowing you to see the location of your car at all times. This is done by using GPS to track the car’s location. You can also set up alerts so that you are notified if the vehicle arrives at its destination early or late.

Will my car be insured during shipment? 

Auto transport companies are required by law to insure every car they ship. So, the shipping company will insure your vehicle during shipment.

What is included in the service price? 

The auto shipping price includes the cost of shipping your car, fuel, and insurance.

Brantley Kendall