How Much Does Car Shipping Cost – We Have the Answer

July 16, 2019 / Posted in Car Shipping
Michael Vaughan

Moving through the Bay Area, Michael works as a freelance writer in the moving and transportation industry.

When it comes to getting your vehicle safely transported across the country, the first question on your mind might be: how much does shipping a car cost? You may find the entire process very confusing at first, especially if you’ve never done this before. But there’s no need to worry about it, as it isn’t as complicated as it may seem at first glance.

black sports car
Figure out how shipping works when you want to transport your auto

Perhaps you are moving to another state and want your family car transported to your new home. Maybe you have just bought an expensive sports car, and you would like it safely shipped to you. Whatever the case is, you will be looking for the safest and the most efficient way to ship your car, but without overpaying the service. Here’s what to keep in mind before you go looking for the best auto transport companies.

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Do Your Research and Remember That Cheapest May Not Be the Safest

You shouldn’t rush anything when it comes to relocation. Perhaps you want to get to your new home as soon as possible because you’re moving for a new job. Maybe you just need your vehicle transported as quickly as possible as it is your only transportation option. Either way, you will want your car to be shipped in one piece and without a single scratch. It could seem like a sound idea to hire the first company you come across to ship your car or the one with the best-looking website.

Perhaps you’re already moving on a budget and have found the cheapest option available. This is one of the most common moving mistakes. When it comes to relocation, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Take the time to research different car transport companies before you make any final decisions. It will pay off in the long-run, and you won’t have to worry about your car getting damaged. What seems like the cheapest option at first often turns out to be much more expensive in car repairs – if your car even gets to the desired location.

open trailer on the road
If you are worried about safety, then don’t go for the cheapest option

What Kind of Vehicle Do You Want to Ship?

Trailers have a carrying limit for obvious safety reasons. This means that depending on the size of the cars, there is a set number of vehicles that the carriers can transport. For this reason, it’s more expensive to ship larger vehicles like vans, trucks, and SUVs. The carrier can fit more vehicles like compacts and sedans, and transport them safely.  Cars that are longer and heavier also cost more to transport. When it comes to transporting unusual or unique cars, it can also take more time for the trailer to depart.

Consider the auto transport company’s interest as well – they want to have a full trailer before they set off. In case you have any special requests regarding the transportation of your car, that could cost you additionally, depending on the shippers you are working with.

open trailer on the road stacked with cars
The trailer can transport a certain number of cars depending on their size

How Much Does Shipping a Car Cost?

Wondering how much does shipping a car cost? The final price of car shipping is conditioned by many factors, including the distance and time needed for relocation. Would you like to use enclosed auto transport or have an open trailer, and whether you will be hiring movers or you will do it by yourself? Yet, those are only a few of the various factors that could affect the final cost to transport a car. In order to get a complete picture of how car shipping works we present you with the elements that inevitably influence the rise of expenses and how you can control it. Let’s delve deeper into all the factors that you should consider before you go searching for the auto transport company that suits you the most. Hopefully, you will have a good idea of what to look for, and won’t be surprised when you receive quotes from different shippers.

Main Factors That Can Affect the Cost of Car Shipping

The Condition of Your Vehicle Matters

If your car doesn’t run on its own, it will be considered inoperable, which will increase the price of shipping. This will mean more work for the crew, who will need more time and special equipment to take care of it carefully. Depending on the vehicle, it may also require a tow truck to get it on and off the moving truck. Don’t forget that your vehicle may have to be offloaded many times due to its location on the trailer. In case your vehicle is damaged, it may have to be lifted by a forklift onto the carrier. Usually, companies charge from $100 to $150 extra to ship inoperable vehicles. If the car needs to be forklifted, the additional price can be between $200 and $500, depending on its size.

Type and Characteristics of the Vehicle

The cost of interstate moving is logically not the same for all types of vehicles. Shipping a car and moving a motorcycle is differently calculated. The average cost to ship a car depends on their size because, in some cases, larger automobiles might need some extra space. Besides, a carrier is limited on weight and the number of vehicles it can carry. The total weight of the truck, trailer and all the automobiles combined cant exceed 80,000 lbs. For that reason, you’ll have to provide your long-distance moving company with exact information associated with length, height, and curb weight. In case your auto is oversized, then count on paying a higher price.

The Distance Between the States

One of the major factors of how much auto shipping will cost you is the distance to the desired location. The distance between origin and destination is crucial for determining the charge of shipping a car: the more miles and farther the destination, the higher expenses. If you want it transported farther away, it will be more expensive, but not as much as you would expect. Many movers offer cheaper rates for long-distance relocations, which may surprise you when you get a moving quote. The effort and time spent working on the trailer and the cars are generally the same for the driver and the rest of the crew. The only difference is how much time the carriers will spend on the road.

Open Trailer or Enclosed Trailer Auto Shipping

Another factor that defines the expenses is a type of car transport – open or enclosed. The type of trailer impacts the delivery date in terms of the number of transferred vehicles. The fewer vehicles and drop-offs, the faster the truck is.

Open auto transport is the most common type of transfer people choose since it is the cheapest way to ship the car. Using an open auto trailer allows you to save up to 40%, which is a considerable amount. And this also answers one of the most common questions, what’s the cheapest way to ship my car? Still, although it is the most affordable way of transporting, you should keep in mind that the vehicle is exposed to weather conditions, consequently influencing your auto’s safety by making it more prone to damages.

Enclosed carrier transportation is the more expensive one of the two options. It’s often used if you have just bought a new car and would like it shipped in the safest way possible. Maybe you are moving to another state and don’t want to drive your classic across the country yourself. Either way, remember that the enclosed carrier service is the safest solution, but also costs more. The main advantage is that your vehicle will be safe from the road and weather conditions, like dust, rain, snow, and hail.So, if you’re moving in winter, you should be especially careful in choosing the trailer. Using enclosed trailers in this case is a much better option.

Terminal-To-Terminal or Door-To-Door Transport

Now that you’re aware that the pickup and delivery location can affect the price of the services, let’s go over the two options that you’ll have at your disposal. You will have to choose between terminal-to-terminal and door-to-door transportation, depending on your preferences and your budget.

Most major cities have terminals, carrier hubs where you can drop off and pick up your vehicle. This is often the cheapest way to ship your car, especially if you live close to a terminal facility. However, if your car will be at the storage facility for a while, the additional storage fees can quickly add up. There is also the question of safety. You have to determine whether or not your car will be in a secure storage facility or an open lot with hundreds of other cars.

As the name suggests, door-to-door auto transport means that your car will be transported straight to a chosen location. Everything will be in your hands as you get to choose where the car will be picked up and where it will be dropped off. Depending on where you live, or where you want it transported, this option can be cheaper or more expensive than terminal-to-terminal shipping, but it’s definitely more convenient. It will cost you more if the driver has to take weird routes to get to your home. But, you will feel much better about the safety of your vehicle, knowing that it’s waiting for you in front of your new home.

Pickup and Delivery Locations Are Important

Where do you want your vehicle transported is also an important factor. Depending on the delivery location, the rates may differ. Larger cities and metro areas just have more companies available and are connected with major highways. This makes it easier for the trucks to go about their business and makes the relocation process both safer and faster.

In case you have just moved to a smaller town that’s off the beaten track, getting your car transported there will cost more. The door-to-door deliveries are the most expensive, so if you want some more affordable option, then consider picking up your four-wheeler in our regional terminal, specially designated for this purpose. It may significantly decrease the costs. If you are already moving on a budget, you can consider waiting for the car carrier along the highway, which will lower your total costs.

Do You Need It Transported as Soon as Possible?

First of all, unless you’re moving last-minute, you should research different shippers and arrange the auto transport two weeks or ten days before the moving day. Secondly, you should discuss the time of the pickup and delivery with the movers, and, if possible, get a guarantee of how long the relocation will take, especially if you decide to go with the door-to-door service. In case you want your car to be transported as soon as possible, you can pay extra for express delivery. In most cases, express delivery costs around 30% more than the standard one.

Delivery Time Has an Effect

The rate per mile is not the only factor to consider when calculating the costs of shipping a car cross country. Another element that tremendously affects the expenses is time. Or more precisely, how long does it take to ship a car, what time the carrier needs to deliver the automobile.

A single driver can roll 500 miles per day, so the date of delivery depends on the number of drop-offs, too. Some general rule on the average period needed to deliver the car would look like this:

  • East Coast to West Coast, 5–14 days,
  • Midwest to East Coast, 3–8 days,
  • South to North, 3–8 days.

Knowing all this will provide you with time orientation and help you book a date with the car shipping company in time and avoid one of the most common moving mistakes – late transportation scheduling and last-minute moving.

Season of Your Relocation Can Affect How Much Shipping a Car Costs

The timing of the move can also affect how much you will have to pay for car relocation. In case you are moving during the holidays, car transportation may cost you more. The same goes for relocating during summer, as that’s the most popular season to move. Car carriers are in high demand, and the rates jump accordingly.

Relocating in bad weather, for example, if you are moving during the winter months, can also mean an additional fee. The additional price can vary between different companies, and it’s often between $100 and $500. Perhaps you are moving on a budget, and you’ve decided to do it during the winter as the rates are lower than when it comes to moving in the summer. Just keep in mind that due to the bad road and weather conditions, transporting your vehicle could end up costing you more, and might take more time.

Using an Online Calculator to Get an Idea of the Costs

Now that you know what to look for, you can search for helpful online auto shipping cost calculators. That is if you plan on checking how much everything would cost you, and want to get a rough idea before you get a quote from any carrier. Most calculators work by requesting the exact state you are moving from and the state you are moving to. Then you can select the type and make of the car that you want to be transported. The calculator will then give you a rough estimate so you will know how to organize your budget before you move.

In general, the most common rate is $1 per mile transported, with the rates going down when it comes to relocating long distance. On top of the rates, which can be fixed or not, there are additional costs that you should be aware of. Transporting larger vehicles can mean an added fee that can range from $75 to $150. In case you want your car to be loaded on the top, this request will be around $100. If you have chosen enclosed auto transport, then expect the price of the move to be about 80% percent higher than the standard. The only variable that can vary greatly is the price of gas, because it depends on the economy and the current market, and can differ from state to state.

Get a Quote From Different Companies

Going with the first company that offers you an amazing shipping quote is a bad idea. This is why getting many different quotes is among the most popular tips and advice that you will get. After you have researched different movers, get quotes from the ones that you find most suitable. Then you can create a shortlist that will help in your decision-making process. Comparing the quotes will give you a good idea of what seems too good to be true, and which business offers reasonable prices.

a mover holding a box on his shoulder
Don’t make any rash decisions before you get quotes from different movers

How to Prepare an Automobile for Auto Transport

The very first step you need to undertake is to prepare the car for shipping. No matter if you decide to drive it on your own or hire a professional freight company, this means that you’ll have to see the mechanic and perform all the necessary repairs.

The second step is to clean out the car of all personal belongings and other stuff. Still, most companies will set a weight limit for belongings that can be left in a vehicle. Also, most transportation companies insist on removing the gas out of the tank down to a quarter, which will be just enough for you to drive it home after a pick-up.

The third step is to take pictures of the car from inside and outside, from many angles. This is important in the case that something happens, and the service provider is asking you to prove the previous state of your automobile. With these photos, you will be absolutely secured in case of an accident, while your shipper will be responsible for reimbursing the damage.

 Man is holding his mobile phone with both hands and taking pictures of its black automobile.
Don't forget to take the pictures of your automobile before it gets on a truck, ready for transfer

Hiring the Right Auto Transport Company to Ship Your Car

You will have to choose the company that will suit your needs and your budget the most. The cheapest services can also be the most dangerous choice. On the other hand, the most expensive one doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get the best service.

This is why you should contact the companies on your shortlist before you make any crucial decisions. Not only to get a moving quote but to talk about the service you need as well. You can find out if they can help you out with any special requests and whether or not the company can help you out. In case you have already hired movers for their packing and moving services, don’t be afraid to ask if they offer auto transport services, as well. If it’s a business that you trust with your household belongings, then you can trust them to ship your vehicle as well.

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