Updated: November 8, 2022

You’re making a cross-country move, but what happens if you can’t drive your vehicle to your new destination? It can be difficult finding a way to move a 4,000-pound car to your new home. One hassle-free option is hiring a professional auto shipper.

Experts, however, say to choose a hauler carefully and understand what determines the cost, including your destination, the type of vehicle, your timing needs, the season, whether it’s shipped on an open or enclosed trailer, and the type of drop-off/pickup. (For example, you’ll pay more for door-to-door service vs. picking your car up at the shipper’s terminal.)

Car transporter on the highway

1. Compare Costs

As with any service, you want to find the best deal within your budget. Sites like uShip.com make it easy to compare pricing by viewing similar types of shipments. The platform also gives you the option to list your shipment and wait for competing bids.

2. Research

Research the company you’re looking to hire. “See what others have said, what their website says, and what they tell you on the phone. Does it all line up?” said Matt Van Gelder, CEO at Monroe, Iowa-based Executive Auto Shippers.

You should evaluate auto carriers based on their experience, licensing, authority and insurance. Legal haulers are required to be registered with the Department of Transportation and have valid Motor Carrier authority. Google, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and uShip are great resources for feedback from previous customers.

3. Ask Questions

“Ask what’s included in the quote you receive,” Van Gelder suggested. “Does it include fees or insurance? Is the price guaranteed or could it change?”

Experts say it’s never wise to hire a company based exclusively on pricing.

“Never shop on price. Shop on reputation,” said Gavin Kesten, CEO of Ship Your Car Now based in Boca Raton, FL, warning that the auto-shipping business is essentially an unregulated industry.

More often than not, you get what you pay for, added Shannon Noyes, director of business development at Reliable Carriers Inc. Transportation companies that charge less could have less customer-friendly insurance policies and older, less-versatile equipment with less-experienced drivers, he warned.

4. Check Out the Carrier’s Insurance

Your standard auto insurance probably won’t cover shipping your car across the country, so make sure your shipping company has adequate insurance coverage.

Ask for a copy of the carrier’s insurance, Noyes said. Some have it available right on their website.

Find out exactly what level of coverage your vehicle will have while it’s being shipped. If you don’t think it’s enough, ask about increasing the coverage.

5. Protect Your Vehicle From the Elements

“If you own a classic, vintage or luxury vehicle, you’ll want to request either a fully enclosed transport (an enclosed trailer), or to have your vehicle ‘top loaded’,” said Collin Bass, writer and social media specialist at uShip. “Top loading typically costs a bit more, but your vehicle will travel on the upper deck of the carrier, where contact with road debris and auto fluids is less likely.”

6. Prep the Vehicle

To get the vehicle ready, make sure it’s in good mechanical shape. Top off all fluids and leave only a quarter of a tank of gas in the car, which is the safest option during transport. Also, remove all personal items from your vehicle.

“And make sure the exterior is clean, so you can see any scratches, dings or dents very clearly,” Kesten added.

Take photos and note any existing damage. Your vehicle will be inspected at pickup and delivery, so you want to be prepared.

7. Be On-site for Pickup and Delivery

Plan to be on-site to turn your car over to the driver as well as to receive it upon delivery. (If that’s not possible, designate someone). 

When your carrier arrives to pick up your vehicle, watch how your vehicle is being loaded and verify the delivery information. At the time of delivery, you will inspect your automobile and sign off on the condition.

8. Understand How Payment Works

Typically, you pay the driver upon delivery with cash, cashier’s check or postal money order. You can also usually pay using Visa, MasterCard or Discover card.

Shipping your vehicle is a major decision, so do your homework, take your time and make the best choice for your needs.

What If You Need to Store Your Vehicle?

Of course, another option when moving is storing your vehicle if you don’t need it right away.

Three self-storage options exist: outdoor, covered and indoor car storage. Outdoor storage offers the least protection from the elements, but charges the lowest price while indoor storage offers the most protection, but charges the highest price.

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Liz Wolf