How Hard Is It To Ship A Car Across The Country? Not That Hard If You Do It Right, And Here’s How You Do Just That!

How Hard Is It To Ship A Car Across The Country? Not That Hard If You Do It Right, And Here’s How You Do Just That!

With the incredible selection of cars that you can find for sale online, you no longer need to find your newest project or latest road trip machine in your own town. Whether you are finding your purchases on Ebay Motors, Marketplace, or Craigslist, they may be 5 miles from home or 5,000! So what do you do if that latest purchase is a long way away from home? Sure you can go pick it up yourself, but sometimes that isn’t more cost effective than shipping it would be, especially when you consider the number of days it might take you to get to and from that new purchase. And if you don’t have a truck and trailer, that adds a completely new problem. And that’s just if you are buying something new. What if you are moving cross country and have multiple cars to move with you?

Regardless of the circumstances, making sure your car is safe and arrives quickly matters more than anything else. That’s why you will absolutely need to hire the best outfit to do cross-country car shipping.

We recently helped a friend make a plan to get his new purchase shipped, and also bought a new project ourselves that is far from home, and it got us thinking about all of you out there who might be in the same boat.

Here, we break down all the steps in painfully boring detail so you can make this process more efficient and secure. We relied on our friends at nxautotransport for some of their tips and advice as well, so if you have a need and want to contact them make sure you mention us.

What Does Shipping a Car Across the Country Cost?

As of 2023, the average cost to ship a car across the country is about $600 for short distances. Then you have around a cost of $1,680 for something traveling 3000 miles. Think of shipping a car cross country. But it’s good to note that prices can move around quite a bit based on factors such as the vehicle’s size, shipping distance, and whether you choose open or enclosed transport. Most companies have a car shipping cost calculator that gives you a price instantly.

As this story is running I’m on my way to Kansas to pick up a new project, which I need like a hole in the head, but I can’t help myself. I own a truck, and a couple of trailers, and going with our Silverado 1500 and an open trailer will still cost me around $200-250 each way for fuel and doesn’t touch food or anything else. That’s for a 100o mile round trip which means smart money would probably be to have it shipped, but nobody ever accused me of being smart when it comes to getting new projects!

Choosing a Reputable Cross Country Vehicle Shipping Company

We mentioned that you need to choose the best auto transport company. The last thing you want is to have your car disappear and end up parted out in Mexico, or to catch fire on the side of the road like the Moonshine Missile that we built during the second $10,000 Drag Shootout. As you search the interwebs, look for car shipping companies with high customer satisfaction ratings, insurance coverage, and a real extensive track record of successful cross-country car shipments. And ask friends!

Reputation is the Secret Sauce

One of the most effective ways to evaluate the quality of a potential choice to ship a car cross country is through online customer reviews. Remember to hit up review spots like Google and the BBB. They can provide you with the nitty-gritty of the experiences of past customers. Nobody is going to be perfect every single time, but you don’t want to trust the companies that can’t do it right even most of the time.

Take time to read through these reviews. Look for stuff that makes your momma proud. Like punctuality, care, and manners. Then the specifics, like the condition of vehicles upon delivery, and how effectively the company handled any issues that came up. Remember, you aren’t going around the block, this is long-distance auto transport.

Every cross-country car transport company is bound to have a pot of both positive and negative reviews. A couple of bad reviews amid hundreds of good ones shouldn’t necessarily disqualify a company, but a consistent pattern of complaints should serve as a red flag. Issues that come up repeatedly, such as late deliveries or poor customer service, could indicate systemic problems within the company that will spill over to you.

Companies with a low number of reviews, or worse, no reviews at all, should generally be brushed aside. While it’s possible that a new or small-scale company might offer competitive rates and high-quality service, they often don’t have the track record to back up their big-boy claims. It’s usually safer to opt for a company with a proven history of customers not wanting to kill them, even if it might cost a bit more. Remember, often the price difference is a couple of hundred bucks, not thousands.

Aside from reviews, a company must have active registration status with the Department of Transportation (DOT). All legitimate auto transport companies in the United States are required to be registered with the DOT and should have a valid Motor Carrier number. This number can be used to look up the company’s safety record on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) website. Take the time to look this stuff up!

Lastly, once you’ve narrowed down your shortlist, request quotes from each company you like. The price to ship a car across the country can vary significantly based on factors such as the size of the vehicle, the distance of the shipment, and the way you chose to transport it. While it’s important to consider lower shipping prices, it should not be car shipping costs alone that influence your decision. Remember, cheaper is not always better, because as the saying goes, you get what you pay for when it comes to picking an auto-shipping company.

By carefully researching potential vehicle shipping companies, reading and understanding the reviews, and looking at the company’s licensing and insurance coverage, you can make a decently informed decision that gives you some sort of ease you aren’t sending old Betsy to a fiery grave. Insurance is an important one folks, you need to check what coverage the company offers AND what coverage your insurance provides during transport. Being underinsured is a much bigger problem than being over insured.

Select the Type of Transport

You have two choices when it comes to shipping your car across the country: open car transport and enclosed car transport. Open auto transport is just cheaper overall. Average costs? Ranging between $500 to $1,000. This way involves loading your car onto a 2-level carrier that is open to the world. This is just like the trucks you see hauling new cars to the dealerships near you all the time. While this is the most popular and cost-effective method of car shipping, it does expose your vehicle to potential weather and road debris damage. Cars that go on an open car transport will look like they have been on the road when they get to you. This is okay as long as you know what you are in for. But if you have a vehicle that has perfect paint and finishes, that you wouldn’t plan on driving down the interstate, you might want to consider enclosed transport.

An enclosed trailer shields your vehicle from what lurks on the road ahead, providing the highest level of protection. However, it is more expensive, with prices ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 on average. This option might be worth considering if you’re shipping your classic car, luxury vehicle, or high-value car and want it to arrive looking like you just pulled it out of the garage.

More About Open Transport

Shipping cars using open transport is the most used and affordable way of shipping a vehicle. It is the cheapest way to ship a car with auto transport providers. With this type, your car is loaded onto a multi-car carrier, similar to the ones you often see transporting new cars to dealerships. These carriers can typically transport 8 to 10 vehicles at a time, which contributes to their cost-effectiveness.

If your wallet has seen its share of cobwebs, open transport can save money as it’s affordable. . It’s 40-60% cheaper than enclosed transport. This makes it an attractive option for you and your sweet factory original 1997 Pontiac Sunfire, or your new project that is going to get a full restoration anyway. Or if you own stuff that isn’t shiny anyway, like me.

However, while open transport is super cost-effective, it does expose your vehicle to potential environmental road debris. Things like dust, rain, snow, and small rocks from the road can come into contact with the vehicle. Though serious damage is rare, minor aesthetic damages like scratches or dings could potentially occur.

More About Enclosed Auto Transport

Using enclosed transport involves shipping your vehicle in a fully enclosed and often climate-controlled trailer. This way provides the highest level of protection for your vehicle, shielding it from weather elements and road debris. Enclosed trailers often carry fewer vehicles at a time, sometimes even one or two, providing a more personalized transport service.

Enclosed transport is typically the go-to option for high-value cars such as luxury, classic cars, or expensive sports cars. It provides additional peace of mind knowing your pride and joy is safe and sound.

However, since this way to ship a car has extra layers of protection, it comes at a higher cost. Enclosed transport can be up to 40-60% more expensive than open transport. That can be a lot if going far. But again, if your vehicle is a super high-value race car, or your ultra rare 1984 Mustang GT Turbo, this additional cost could be a worthy investment for the added security.

Ultimately, the choice between open and enclosed transport depends on you, your vehicle’s value, and how important you think your car is to you.

Regardless of the way you choose to do it, be sure to book well in advance, especially during crazy peak seasons. This will make sure that you have a wider selection of options and the best possible rates.

I realize that sometimes you buy a car and need it shipped with less lead time than might be ideal. This is when talking to a good company can make a big difference too. Call them. Talk to them and see if delaying pickup a week or two might make it cheaper. Then ask friends and family if someone nearby could store the car until the transporter can pick it up. But don’t put the car at risk just to save a few bucks either.

Non-Running Cars, aka everything Chad would buy or owns. 

How can we not mention non-runners, as projects are specialty ‘round these parts? Yes, you can ship a non-running car. It just needs to roll and steer. The price tag? Just about $150-200 more than your normal transport. So if you don’t want to take a chance and risk death driving your Abandoned Gremlin Barn Find home, you can opt for “inop” transport and fix it at home.

If a shipper doesn’t want to deal with a non-running car or truck, and gives you grief while setting up transport, they aren’t the shipper for you. Move on, the right one is there.

Prepare Your Car for Shipping

Preparing your car for shipment shouldn’t be glazed over. Remove all personal belongings from the vehicle, as they’re not covered by the transport company’s insurance. Perform a thorough cleaning of the car, both inside and out, so that any pre-existing damage is easier to identify. Jot down any existing damage, such as dents and scratches, by taking detailed photos. If you have a toll transponder, don’t forget to remove it or disable it. Otherwise, it will count tolls even on the carrier. Ensure that your car is in good working order. Check the tire pressure, battery, and fluid levels. Make sure the car has no leaks, as they can cause damage to other vehicles on the transport truck.

Verify Insurance

Every reputable auto transport company will have liability insurance. However, the amount of coverage can vary significantly from one company to another. Some companies may cover up to the full value of your vehicle, while others may only provide coverage for a portion of its value. This is why it’s important to ask potential transport companies about their insurance policies. DO NOT SKIP THIS!

Do I need My Own Insurance?

The carrier’s insurance will cover a vehicle and personal insurance may not be needed if not driven, but remember, once the vehicle is on the ground it is not protected. Again, I say over insure while it is on the road and coming to you. There is no downside to spending a few extra bucks if your insurance doesn’t cover it all already. And use a reputable company like Hagerty. I use them for all my cars.

Getting Proof of Insurance – Again, THIS IS A MUST!

Ask for a copy of the insurance certificate and confirm its validity if possible. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the coverage, including any exclusions that may apply. Typical policies cover damage caused by accidents during transit, but they may not cover damages resulting from natural disasters or acts of God.

Additionally, it’s important to find out if the carrier’s insurance policy includes a deductible. A deductible is the amount of money that you are responsible for paying out of pocket before the insurance coverage kicks in. Some transport companies may have policies with high deductibles, which could lead to significant upfront costs in the event of an incident.

If the transport company’s coverage is not enough for you or if there are high deductibles, you may want to consider purchasing additional coverage. This could be through the transport company itself, as some offer upgraded coverage options, or through your own auto insurance provider. Some personal auto insurance policies cover vehicle transport, but others do not, so you’ll need to check with your provider to understand your policy details.

Remember, no matter how reputable a transport company is or how many precautions are taken, accidents can happen. From minor scratches and dents to major incidents, you want to make sure you’re financially protected in all scenarios. It’s also important to take photos of your vehicle from different angles before handing it over to the transport company. This will be beneficial in identifying any new damage and providing evidence for claims in case of any disputes.

Finally, don’t skip the insurance step when planning to ship your vehicle. Confirm the carrier’s insurance policy, understand the terms, including deductibles, and consider additional coverage if necessary. This may seem like an added hassle, but having the right coverage can save you from significant financial headaches down the line.

Coordinate Pickup and Delivery

By carefully coordinating the pickup and delivery, being present for inspections, knowing about door-to-door transport vs terminal shipping, and understanding the importance of the Bill of Lading, you can make sure you have a smooth car shipping experience.

Work closely with the transport company to coordinate the pickup and delivery of your vehicle. Most companies offer door-to-door service, where they pick up the car from your home and deliver it to your new residence. However, if you’re looking to save costs, you could opt for terminal-to-terminal shipping, where you drop off and pick up your car at designated locations.

While the estimated delivery date is generally accurate, it’s really important to prepare for potential delays due to unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather or mechanical issues with the transport vehicle. Ensure that you or a designated person are available to receive the car and thoroughly inspect it upon arrival. I can’t stress how important this is. If you don’t see something when you get the car it may come back to bite you later, so check the car out thoroughly. And if you are having a car shipped from a seller, and you haven’t personally been there to get the car into the shipper’s possession, have someone there that is your representative and that can take pictures just before the car is loaded up for transport. This will be important for the Bill of Lading.

Bill of Lading

The Bill of Lading (BOL) serves an essential part of the car shipping process. The BOL includes vital information such as the vehicle’s condition at pickup, terms of the transportation agreement, and the vehicle’s delivery location. When your vehicle is picked up, the driver will perform an inspection and note any existing damage on the BOL.

It’s incredibly important that you, or someone you trust, are present during this inspection to confirm the accuracy of the report. If any pre-existing damage is not listed on the BOL, it could be difficult to prove that the damage occurred during transit when the vehicle is delivered.

Do not forget to receive a copy of the BOL at pickup, and keep it in a safe place. You’ll need to whip that baby out at delivery to make sure your car arrived the way it left. If you have damage, though rare, the driver must sign off on it.

Inspect the Vehicle Upon Arrival

Once the vehicle arrives, inspect it immediately for any damage that may have occurred during transit. Use the pictures you took before the shipment as a reference. If there’s any new damage, document it with photos and report it to the transport company as soon as possible to file a claim.

Door to Door and Terminal Shipping Options

Most companies offer door-to-door delivery, as part of the car shipping service which is the most convenient option. They will pick up and drop off your vehicle as close to your specified locations as possible. However, due to constraints like narrow streets or low-hanging trees, large transport trucks may not be able to reach your exact address, requiring you to meet at a nearby open space.

Alternatively, there is the terminal-to-terminal service, which can be less expensive than door-to-door service. If you go in this direction, the drop off of your car is at a designated location, like a large parking lot or trucking yard, and the transport company picks it up from there. The car will then be delivered to a similar “terminal” near your destination, where you’ll pick it up. Easy peasy.

While terminal-to-terminal service can save you some money, it’s way less convenient than door-to-door service, and it may require your car to be left unattended for a time, which could leave you open to something happening to your car. And it also means you will have to make arrangements to get it to your home. This isn’t an issue with a car that runs and drives, but might be if it doesn’t. Remember that having it towed locally is an added expense, and another chance to damage it along the way. Saving $100 by having it dropped off at a terminal might not actually save you any money.

Regardless of the service type you choose to shell out money for, maintaining flexibility with your schedule is a good idea to make it go easier. Unforeseen delays can occur due to traffic, weather, and mechanical problems with the truck that it’s on. Most companies provide a delivery window rather than a specific date, so it’s best to prepare for these potential delays.

Shipping a Car Cross Country – Final Thoughts

Shipping a car across the country doesn’t have to be overwhelming and hard to do. By selecting from the best car shipping companies, choosing the right type of transport, and preparing, you can achieve car shipping zen. As always, the key to a smooth experience is all in the details and hopefully you’ve learned how to make them a reality with this article. If you have questions, let us know and we’ll put you in touch with folks that can help! Feel free to email me [email protected].


  • Share This
  • Pinterest
  • 0