How to Transport a Car out of State – Your Auto Shipping Guide

November 8, 2017 / Posted in Car Shipping
Steven Rogers

Apart from sharing Captain America's name, our freelance writer Steven is also a big fan of moving, history, and geography.

The decision to move out of state is not easy, but when it’s made, there are many questions and issues to address. One of them is how to transport a car across the country. Wherever you relocate to in the US, you’ll be needing your ride, and we present you with a guide on how to do it properly.

luxury yellow car parked in the garage
There are few things you should know before shipping your auto out of the state

Basic Info on How to Transport a Car

To move a car from state to state, the most convenient solution is to hire a company specialized in the transportation of vehicles. Auto transport seems like a pretty straightforward business, with the sole point of getting a car from point A to point B safely and in a reasonable time frame. When you hire shipping experts and set a date for pick up, your car will be placed on a truck and shipped to a new destination. However, many details have to be ironed out before you put a signature on the contract.

It is even possible to cut out the middleman and move a car yourself, but we’ll come to that a bit later. For now, let’s assume you want expert assistance.

a open trailer stacked with cars
Transporting your vehicle with an auto shipping company is the most convenient way to go about this business

How to Choose a Reliable Company?

Deciding on which shipper to hire should rest on two main pillars – reliability and price. However, pay special attention to the cost. If the shipper offers a much lower price than the competitors, you might try to find out why it’s so. The reasons usually aren’t positive.

So, don’t rush it. Research many companies and compare their prices and reputation. As a rule, it is smart to pay a bit more for a more trustworthy shipper. Still, some conditions have to be met before you even begin to consider hiring this mover or that.

Make sure to opt for a shipper that will rent you a car for free in case the delivery isn’t on time. Accountability is a thing these days.

Another point that is often overlooked is the auto shipping company’s working hours. Since it is possible only to estimate how long a car shipping will take, it can’t hurt to have a partner who is open and available for contact 24/7.

The opportunity to pack some of your personal belongings in the car is also a nice perk to have. So is the option of putting your car in storage if such a need ever arises.


What Is a Must-Have and What Is a Deal Breaker?

Arguably the most important step in this process is checking a shipper’s license. Data on that shouldn’t be hard to find since every business in the branch will want you to immediately know that they’re licensed.

The second crucial thing is insurance. If you’re in a dilemma between two shippers, check out their insurance details. Will they pay for the damages if any occur, or help you with the payment if there are expenses for which you must splash the cash? You may learn that directly from the company’s customer department, if not online. But there is one more address that you might visit for that information – the website or a local office of the relevant government agency. Insurance may ramp up the overall cost a bit, but it’s well worth it.

Reviews and Fakes

Every decent business will add a customer review section on their site, a modern version of a good old guestbook. People who used the company’s services in the past will share their experiences and tell what they think of the shipper they had partnered with. It may be a valuable source of information, but you should never take every review at face value. With the ever-growing number of internet trolls, it can be handy to know how to recognize fake reviews.

car on the street
Moving across the country to a new home often puts you in need of the service of the best auto transport companies.

The Cost of Cross-Country Auto Shipping

With the “reliability” box checked, you can move on to the cost of interstate shipping. It may (and probably will) depend on a number of things. Distance is among the most significant contributors to the cost of your car transportation, along with the booking date. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that last-minute arrangements are far more expensive than those made weeks in advance. Make carefully-laid plans, if possible, and you’ll be faced with fewer expenses than it would otherwise be the case.

The price also varies depending on whether you opt for open transport or enclosed one.

The cost is determined by the characteristics of the transported vehicle itself, too. Transporting a Rolls Royce takes a lot more bucks than moving a Ford Focus. The same goes for when you compare an SUV to a Mini or Smart. Different models, dimensions and types of cars require different handling and conditions, and every detail in that regard affects the final price.

Choose an Auto Shipping Company With Binding Quotes

The best thing you can do when choosing a shipper (concerning the price) is to opt for one that gives a binding price quote. It is significantly different than when you get an estimate because, with a binding quote, you know that the price won’t rise. With a non-binding estimate, it usually does.

Don’t hesitate to contact all companies that you’re considering and question the movers on all details that are relevant to your decision-making.

Other Things That Can Add to the Price

Besides the basics mentioned above, there are other, somewhat overlooked factors that can pump the costs up. It is not the same if you’re moving during the summer or in winter (we’ll get back to that in a moment).

Location matters, too. Due to the broader market and more trucks available, it is easier to ship to and from bigger cities, and therefore a bit cheaper (though a sheer number of transported vehicles to and from, say, Los Angeles evens that out in a way). If you are moving to a small town (or having a newly-bought car delivered to you in one), try to arrange with movers for a rendezvous point. That way, you won’t have to travel to any of the terminals in the next big city and also won’t pay possibly large sums for a truck to make a detour.

Also, you will pay more for the transportation of a car that is not fully operational since it requires specific equipment and skill.

couple working on a laptop
The cost of auto shipping is vital, so check the offers of several companies before making a decision

What Is the Best Time to Ship a Car?

The answer to this should be rather simple – a few weeks from the moment you need to ship a vehicle. However, due to the weather and the varying number of people who choose different seasons to relocate, the time of the year, month or week affects the price of shipping your car cross-country to a great extent.

Summer seems like a natural season for relocation. Weather is sunny and bright, and it’s time for vacations, so moving in the summer is a no-brainer for most. Yet, that might be a wrong approach when it comes to car transportation. It is a very seasonal business, and summer is the peak season. That means more vehicles for transport and, therefore, a heftier price for a place on a truck.

In winter, things are a bit more complicated. Though the basic amount of money needed for winter transport might be lesser due to lower demand, there are some other things to worry about. It is quite possible that during the winter months, drivers won’t take shortcuts for fear of getting bogged down in snow or ending up on a closed road. Also, weather conditions may prolong the trip.

car on the road during the sunset
Summer is the most convenient season to move a car, but also the most expensive

How to Ship Your Car Out of State – Open or Enclosed Method?

There are two basic methods of car transport – open and enclosed, and each has its own benefits.

Open carriers are cheaper, and since there are a lot more of them on the roads, they are much easier to book. Another pro is that the driver can see any potential damage at very short notice. But, on the other hand, it may not be the best option in winter, for your car will be fully exposed to the elements. Another possible downside may be the fact that the trip may last longer due to the bigger number of cars on a carrier and, therefore, multiple potential stops along the way.

An enclosed carrier is much safer for a car, but also at least 50% more expensive. With your car insulated from weather conditions as well as from any eventual debris along the way, you can be much more relaxed. It is recommended for transportation of high-end or luxury cars, as well as classic models. Also, since there are fewer cars inside a truck, you may expect less hauling time.

a trailer stacked with cars
A reputable shipper should include both the open and closed option

Door-to-Door or Terminal-to-Terminal Auto Shipping

The final part is to choose, when possible, whether you wish your car delivered to your home or the nearest terminal.

Door-to-door delivery is more expensive, especially if you don’t live in a big city, and some conditions have to be met, such as sufficient parking space for the truck.

Terminals are usually located in larger cities and are a much cheaper option. However, if your trip to the terminal will drain more of your money, life, and nerves than door-to-door delivery, then, by all means, go for the more convenient solution.

front rear of a car
Choose the right option for you and your car

Other Ways to Move Your Vehicle Between the States

While hauling vehicles on carrier trucks may be the most popular option, it is not the only one. You may also consider driving a hauling truck yourself or towing a car on a dolly. For that, you’ll need to rent a truck, as well as other necessary equipment. Unless, of course, you own a truck. Still, driving a semi can be quite challenging, so think about that very carefully.

Another option is hiring a driver to take your vehicle to the new home. Hired drivers will usually accept to take your pet along, too. It will add considerable mileage to the car and will be expensive, but at least your ride will be in the hands of a professional. Always make sure to hire a driver through a company, and not some friend of a friend or online. Additional expenses may be a plane ticket for the driver to return home.

Do It Yourself and Hidden Expenses

You also have the possibility of driving the car yourself. From the perspective of basic costs, this is the cheapest option imaginable. Yet, there are certain things to consider when deciding whether to drive or ship a car. The two that should definitely make it to the list are the distance, but also the convenience, especially if you’re relocating with family.

Regarding money spent, you may avoid paying the movers, but you and your fellow travelers will have to at least eat and sleep along the way. So, make sure to include those expenses in your budget plan.

How to Transport a Car by Rail

Auto-shipping by train is growing in popularity among the people who relocate to the other parts of the country.

It is quite similar to the solution with trucks, but much, much more affordable. The other big perk is that, unlike movers, nobody on a train will raise an issue about stuff you packed inside the vehicle. That’s another few bucks saved.

Downsides are that the only possible drop off points (and loading, too) are train stations along the railway route. Also, a significant constraint for trains is that they have to be fully loaded with vehicles before going on a trip, so expect long delays.

girl working on a laptop
Explore other options

How to Prepare a Car for a Long-Distance Trip?

When you finally decide how to transport your four-wheeler to its final destination, you’ll have to prepare it for traveling before sending it off. It is important that you check with your movers what steps have to be taken to prepare a car for shipping because some companies won’t accept a car if their standards are not met. They do so mostly for the sake of insurance, but there are other reasons, as well.

For the most part, they will require that the car battery is full, that tires are in good condition and inflated, and that the fuel tank is only a quarter full. Some washing and minor repairs may be in order, too.

Check For Damages

Before taking your vehicle to the loading point, check it thoroughly for any dents, scratches or other possible damage. That way, both you and movers will know what was already there and what occurred during the trip.

Empty the Vehicle

Check with your shipper whether it is allowed for a car to be packed with belongings, and take everything out if it’s not. Even if it is, it’s highly recommended that you remove valuables from the car before loading, especially documents and devices with GPS.

guy working on a car
Don’t forget to service the brakes before you ship a car

You’re All Set

And there it is — a quick guide to transporting your vehicle. And before you put your ride in gear and go on a cruise around the new town, remember to tip the carriers and thank them for a job well done. Good luck!

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