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It may seem difficult to ship your car, but the process is relatively simple once you learn how it works. In this guide, we’ll explain how to ship a car, your possible costs, and some tips for how to save money on auto transport services.

Our team has researched the best car shipping companies to help you find the right fit for your budget and shipping needs. We’ll outline the steps below, from reaching out to multiple providers to compare quotes to finally picking up your vehicle, to help you understand how to ship a car.

How To Ship a Car in Six Steps

Our team has identified the six main steps entailed in the car shipping process.

1. Get Quotes From Multiple Providers

The first thing you’ll want to do is to get free quotes from a few different car shipping companies. That way, you’ll get a good sense of what price range to expect for your auto transport service. You’ll also be able to quickly compare offerings from multiple providers.

Whether you’re speaking to a representative or obtaining car shipping quotes online, you’ll need to provide the following pieces of information:

  • The make, model, and age of your vehicle
  • Whether your car is operable or not
  • Your preferred pickup and delivery locations
  • The time frame for both pickup and delivery
  • Your preferred shipping method (open carrier transport or enclosed transport)
  • Your name, phone number, and email address

After providing these details, a representative from each auto shipping company will contact you with a quote for your move. Keep in mind that while some companies offer guaranteed pricing, most car shipping quotes are merely estimates with potentially higher final price tags.

How Do I Know If a Car Shipper is Reputable?

When looking for legitimate vehicle shipping companies, always make sure you’re considering providers with cargo insurance policies and licensing from the US Department of Transportation. Additionally, the most trustworthy car shippers vet their network of carriers, ensuring that all haulers are registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

2. Choose a Shipping Provider

Once you have a handful of auto transport quotes, compare the prices and services offered by each provider. Once you choose an auto shipper, you and an agent will work to determine when your vehicle transport should take place. You’ll offer a window for both pickup and delivery, and the agent will find a car carrier available to work during that time frame.

In some cases, you may need to put down a partial payment to secure the transport. Some companies may offer a significant discount if you pay for the transport in full upfront.

3. Prepare Your Vehicle for Shipment

Once you and the shipping company have a date locked in for pickup, you’ll need to get your vehicle ready to be shipped. Here are the steps to take:

  • Wash your car.Washing your car helps you find any dings, dents, scratches, or other cosmetic issues when you do your pre-shipment inspection.
  • Inspect your vehicle for existing damage. If you find any damage, take photos for your records. Should any issues occur during the shipping process, you can show the shipping company what damage was present before transport.
  • Remove valuables and personal items.Take out any personal items and valuables to ensure peace of mind while your vehicle is in transit. Beyond potential loss or theft, a heavier car leads to a more expensive transport, so removing nonessential items saves you money.
  • Secure or remove loose parts.If you’re able to remove parts like a radio antenna, a spoiler, or a hood ornament, you should store them in the trunk of your car to avoid any possible damage. Before your car is loaded onto the carrier truck, be sure to fold in your side mirrors and make sure that sunroofs or convertible tops are closed and secured.
  • Perform a maintenance check.Take care of any routine maintenance needs before shipping. Top off all fluids, check that your car’s battery has charge, inflate all tires, and record your current mileage. Note any leaks or other mechanical issues and get them fixed if possible, as issues may complicate the shipping process.
  • Empty your gas tank.Leave no more than a quarter tank of gas in your vehicle. A full tank of gas adds weight, greatly increasing the price of your transport.
  • Keep an extra set of keys.The truck driver will need keys to drive your car onto and off of the truck, so make sure to have an extra set in the event that your car keys get lost along the route.

4. Bring Your Car to the Pickup Location

When using door-to-door shipping, make sure that the address where your car will be picked up is accessible and safe. If using terminal-to-terminal shipping, take your car to the terminal on or before the pickup date.

5. Wait for Delivery

When booking your car transport service, you’ll find out the method your company uses to track car shipments. Some providers offer 24/7 GPS tracking, some offer an app, and some offer frequent updates from representatives.

6. Pick Up Your Car

Once your car has reached its destination, you’ll need to meet the trucker at your delivery point. There, the two of you will again inspect the car for any damage that occurred during transit. You’ll sign a bill of lading to conclude the job and pay the carrier any remaining balance.

How Much Does It Cost To Ship a Car?

Leading carriers like Montway Auto Transport and Sherpa Auto Transport state that the cost to ship a car can range anywhere between 53 cents and $2.75 per mile. Your specific route, vehicle type, and other factors determine how much you can expect to pay.

Below is a table of the estimated cost per mile for door-to-door car shipping in an open carrier. Keep in mind that a number of factors influence how much it costs to ship a car, so your final price may look different.

Distance of ShipmentPrice Estimate Per Mile0 to 500 miles$1.96 to $2.75500 to 1,000 miles$0.93 to $1.551,001 to 1,500 miles$0.70 to $1.231,501 to 2,000 miles$0.58 to $12,001 to 2,500 miles$0.53 to $0.842,500+ miles$0.48 to $0.74

Factors That Affect Auto Shipping Costs

When researching how to ship a car, we determined the factors that can affect the overall cost of car shipping. We’ll run through eight of the most common ones below:

FactorHow It Affects Car Shipping CostsShipping distanceA long-distance transport will cost less per mile but more overall.Fuel costsAs gas and diesel prices rise, shipping a car gets more expensive.Vehicle sizeBigger and heavier vehicles, like pickup trucks and SUVs, cost more to ship than smaller cars.Vehicle operabilityInoperable cars usually cost more to ship as they require more labor, time, and equipment to load onto the carrier truck.Transport typeThe cheapest shipping option is open auto transport, but it can leave your vehicle exposed to road debris and poor weather conditions. Shipping in an enclosed carrier is good for luxury vehicles and classic cars, but it’s often over 50 percent more expensive than open transport.Shipping methodDoor-to-door shipping is more convenient than terminal-to-terminal shipping, but requires more driving time and is more expensive.Pickup and delivery locationsUrban areas are generally on the more popular shipping routes, so going to and from cities is cheaper. Rural areas require more fuel and time, making them more expensive destinations.Time of yearDemand for car shipping generally goes up in the summer and in January. Shipping during these times of year is more expensive.

How To Save Money on Car Shipping

It’s not difficult to discover how to ship a car at a reasonable rate if you follow some tips to cut down on costs:

Get Multiple Quotes

In order to find the best rates, you should source free quotes from several different auto transport companies. Some providers have online tools for instant quotes, so checking rates from different car shipping services is quick and easy.

Keep a Flexible Time Frame

Most car carriers select jobs that fit into their existing shipping schedules, so the bigger the window you provide for pickup, the more likely you are to find inexpensive transports. Many companies offer expedited shipping, but it will cost more to book a last-minute shipment.

Book Your Transport in Advance

Book your auto transport as well in advance as possible. The more lead time you give the shipping company, the more likely it is that you’ll find a cheaper rate. We recommend booking your transport at least two weeks before your moving date.

Use Open Car Transport

The cheapest way to ship a car is shipping via an open-air carrier. Open trailers can hold up to 10 cars at once, allowing for multiple stops along transport routes. This is especially important if gas prices are high, as the cost of fuel gets spread between clients and dealerships.

Keep in mind, however, that open auto transport leaves your car exposed to the elements and to potential damage from road hazards. If you want more protection, shipping your car in an enclosed trailer is a good option. However, enclosed shipping can cost up to 50 percent more.

Opt for Terminal-to-Terminal Shipping

If you live in or near a major city, consider shipping your car to and from a terminal. This cuts down on a car hauler’s travel time, likely saving you money in the end.

Recommended Car Shipping Companies

Now that you have a better idea of how to ship a car, we’d recommend taking a look at some of the industry’s top auto transport providers. Montway Auto Transport and Sherpa Auto Transport are both known for their competitive rates and excellent quality of service.

Montway Auto Transport: Best Overall

Montway Auto Transport is one of the largest names in the auto shipping industry. Over the past 15 years, Montway has delivered over 740,000 vehicles across the US. The company works with over 15,000 professional drivers to provide low-cost auto transport services.

The car transporter is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and customers on the BBB give Montway Auto Transport a 4.6-star rating out of 5.0.

Keep reading: Montway Auto Transport review

Sherpa Auto Transport: Best for Locked-In Rates

Though it’s only been in business since 2017, Sherpa Auto Transport has earned an excellent name in the auto shipping industry. The company offers affordable and straightforward auto transport services across the US, though it doesn’t serve Alaska or Hawaii.

One thing that makes Sherpa Auto Transport stand out is its Price Lock Promise. You’ll receive locked-in rates from the provider, meaning that the price you’re quoted is likely the price you’ll pay. Should the quote not be enough to secure services, Sherpa will offer up to $300 toward the difference.

Sherpa holds accreditation and an A+ rating from the BBB, and customer reviews give the company a 4.9- out of 5.0-star rating.
Keep reading: Sherpa Auto Transport review

How To Ship a Car: FAQ

Is it worth it to ship a car?

Whether shipping a car is worth it depends largely on how much it costs to get to your destination. Driving across the country may be more expensive and time-consuming than shipping your car, but shipping a car within your state may not always be worth it.

Can I ship my car with stuff in it?

While many companies do allow between 50 and 100 pounds of personal items to be shipped in the car’s trunk, it’s not recommended. Heavier cars will be more expensive to ship and in the event of theft, most car shipping companies cannot be held responsible for missing items.

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

The average cost of cross-country shipping, such as from New York or Florida to Los Angeles, fluctuates based on a number of factors. Our research team found that you can expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 for a 3,000-mile transport.

Our Shipping Review Standards

Our review team prides itself on sharing accurate and unbiased information with consumers. We have accumulated data from dozens of car shipping companies to formulate our rankings of the industry’s best providers. Auto transporters receive a score out of 5.0 overall, as well as a rating in each of the following categories:

  • Price: Comparing providers can be difficult due to the many factors that influence cost. To determine this score, we employ a secret shopper analysis using different vehicles, distances, and routes.
  • Services: A wide variety of services is essential to support the differing needs of customers. We take into account the types of services available, insurance coverage, and the ability to guarantee pickup and drop-off dates. We also consider whether a car transport company is a broker or a provider.
  • Customer Service: The level of customer service and care provided by a shipping company is an important consideration. Our review team sifts through customer reviews and complaints from reputable sources such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot. We also consider the responsiveness of each company’s customer service team based on our secret shopper analysis.
  • Reputation: Good auto shipping providers consistently provide quality experiences. Our team takes into account BBB ratings and the company’s history of reliable service when giving this score.


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