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. (You’ll pay more, for example, for door-to-door service vs. at the shipper’s terminal).

8 things to know before shipping your car (1)

How Much Does it Cost?

According to uShip, shipping a car or light truck from New York City to San Francisco, for example, will cost approximately $1,148. From Minneapolis to Orlando, it’s about $725. Check out sites like to get quotes and compare prices.

But before you hand over your keys to anyone, follow these eight tips:

Car transporter on the highway

1. Do Your Homework

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.

Review shippers at sites like Yelp, Google, Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs.

2. Ask Questions

“Ask what’s all 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.

3. Check Out the Hauler’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 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.

4. Book Early

Book in advance, if possible, especially during peak-summer moving season. By the way, coast-to-coast moves typically take seven to 10 days, for example, while Midwest to either coast is around five to seven days.

5. 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.

6. Look for Red Flags

“Make sure to get all your questions answered,” Van Gelder said. “If they aren’t willing to answer them, it could be a red flag and bad sign of how the communication will be during the shipment.”

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). At the time of delivery, you will inspect your automobile and sign off on the condition.

8. Understand How Payment Works

“When do you pay? Who will be paid and how?” Van Gelder said.

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 prices while indoor storage offers the most protection, but charges the highest prices.

RoboVault Self Storage in Fort Lauderdale, FL, for example, offers indoor vehicle storage with climate-controlled units.

“We put the car on a pallet. It goes on a turn table and the robotic crane lifts it and puts it up in storage units that are 30 feet above sea level,” explained Larry Nicolas, manager at RoboVault.

“We also have a third-party vendor who will come in and perform light maintenance on the car (for an additional fee). They give it a once-over to make sure it’s always road ready for the customer.”

Liz Wolf