What to Know About How Auto Shipping Prices are Determined

There are more reasons than I could state why a person would find it necessary to ship a vehicle to another state. Maybe you found a deal that is just too good to pass up or maybe you are moving out of town for your job, your dreams or just a change of scenery. Whatever the reason may be, shipping a vehicle to another state can be a daunting task for most. The imagination can run rabid with all the different scenarios you might encounter. We hope to bring light to one of the biggest questions asked when someone is looking to transport their vehicle. What are my options and How much should I expect to pay?


There are reliable and affordable ways to ship a vehicle. There are plenty of reputable companies out there who can accommodate these services for you. Instead of putting unnecessary miles or wear and tear on your vehicle, we’ll give you a short and simple guide to your options and what you should expect to pay. We will cap off with some auto transport tips and advice showing you how to save money throughout the process.


What Are My Options?

When it comes to shipping a vehicle, you have two basic options.

  1. Terminal-to-Terminal Services: Your vehicle arrives and departs from specific, designated locations and is consolidated with other vehicles being shipped to a terminal location.
  2. Door-to-Door Services: Your vehicle is picked up from an area that you designate & is delivered to your desired designation, or as close to these addresses as possible. Some city & state laws prevent large commercial vehicles from driving on certain roads.

Terminal-to-Terminal Services is typically cheaper, but typically means your vehicle may sit at the originating terminal until the shipping service finds a load headed to your destination terminal. In addition to delays, your vehicle might be parked outside, exposing it to the elements. You will also have to drive your vehicle or have it towed to the terminal. Depending on where you are in regards to the terminal, this might add unnecessary mileage, additional costs in towing or waste precious time. You may also incur storage fees as your vehicle sits stagnant waiting for departure. It would be in your best interest to do a little homework. Find out who the nearest terminal is, how far away they are from you, if they charge storage fees, how long before the vehicle departs, and what to expect on a total cost.

Door-to-Door Services are a usually a bit higher than a terminal service, a little more common & usually hassle free (if you ship with a reputable company). Door-to-Door means your vehicle will be in your possession until it is on the back of the carrier and in route to the final destination. There are 2 options with a door-to-door service and they would be going through a broker or going through a carrier direct. Obviously going through a broker would be a little higher than a carrier, but typically gives you the best chance at securing an assignment on a carrier with the least amount of work. Though cheaper, going through a carrier entails finding a carrier who has availability and is headed in your general direction. You can make a couple dozen phone calls & send a couple dozen e-mails before you find one who matches with your needs, budget & timeframe.


Picking a Type of Carrier

When shipping a vehicle, there are two types of carriers you can utilize. You have the option of an open carrier or an enclosed trailer. Open carriers are the trailers you see on the road that are stacked with cars and an enclosed trailer are dry van trailers with a low drop & ramp.

Open carrier transports are typically cheaper, but expose your vehicle to the elements. Though uncommon, your vehicle can be affected by drastic weather changes & highway rocks that might cause damage to your car outside of the carriers control. If your vehicle is valuable & holds a high priced ticket, this just might be a deal breaker. Open carrier trailers also tend to hold more vehicles than an enclosed trailer would.

Enclosed carrier transports are a safe & secure shipping method to keep your vehicle away from the elements. They come either hard or soft sided, but will protect your vehicle more efficiently than an open carrier. Typically, enclosed carriers hold less vehicles & come with a higher cost for shipping.


How Shipping Prices Are Determined

Along with the type of service & transport method, prices can vary depending on a few variables.

Variables Include:

The type of vehicle you are shipping (Sedan, Compact, SUV, Pickup Truck, Heavy Duty, etc.)

The weight of the vehicle you are shipping

Whether or not its operable

The time of year (Rates are typically lower in the winter)

How far you’re shipping it

How far door-to-door will take the driver from his route

Rates charged by auto transport services are based upon predetermined trucking routes and truck availability. Estimates can and do change from day to day. Shipping from large cities instead of small towns or suburbs can save you some money being there tends to be more direct lines to major metropolitans.

Depending on the mileage, availability, trailer type and route, typically expect to pay between $0.70-$2.10/mile. This is an average roundabout of what it costs to ship a vehicle. There are many different factors that can drive the cost up or down, but this is a safe median to go off.


Choosing a Reliable Shipping Company

We have all heard the old adage that states “You Get What You Pay For”. This can not be more true within the transport industry. Resist the urge to make your decision based off of price alone. Know who you are receiving quotes from. It is important you know who these companies are, how long they have been in business, how are they rated based on experiences from other people, and how well they deliver their promise of on-time and safe delivery.

The transport industry is competitive. There are hundreds of thousands of companies to choose from. Like anything else, it is not always the wisest choice to go with the cheapest option available. Making a decision based off price alone may lead to major problems down the road. Will they meet your time frame? Will your vehicle be tended with care? Are they a reputable company? Do they have experience in shipping vehicles? Do they hold insurance? Will they lock me in a contract & take my deposit and than not show up? These are all questions you should be asking yourself when receiving a low ball price. Another thought to take in account is the transporters expenses. Between tolls, fuel, driver compensation & repairs, are they giving you an accurate quote that caters them a profit after their bottom line? Obviously whether the transporter makes a profit or not is not your problem, but it should be a minor concern. Think about how far they have to go from point a to b and determine whether or not a low price can cover the expense for just your shipment alone. If it does not make feasible sense to you, than it probably does not make logical sense to them. Don’t get duped because you tried to save a couple bucks.

Picture walking into a store to buy an item. For example, let’s say you walked into Best Buy to buy an iPhone. We all know that iPhones are quite expensive. These newer model iPhones are well over $1000.00! The salesperson in the electronics department tells you that he has a brand new iPhone for $1100.00. You want to take the time to think about if the phone is really worth that much to you. So you walk outside & there is a man with standing near a car saying he has the newest model iPhones in his trunk and he will sell it to you for $700.00. Being someone who can never pass a bargain opportunity decide to have a closer look. At first sight, it looks to be a brand new iPhone, factory wrapped in the box. Everything looks right and you decide to cough up your hard earned money and buy the new phone at discount. When you open the box, you find the brand new device you yearned for. You bring it to your local phone retailer to have it activated and they tell you that the IMEI has been blacklisted and the phone cannot be activated. You spent $700.00 on a touchscreen paper weight. Now you are out $700.00 & are still in need of a new phone. It might sound farfetched, but these things do happen. Don’t let a situation like this happen when it comes to shipping your vehicle. An item way more valuable & needed than a brand new iPhone.

Take the time to do a little research. No one is telling you to spend your hard earned money on the most expensive transportation service out there. We are simply telling you to be careful and aware when it comes to pricing that sounds too good to be true. You will save yourself from time and stress.


Upgrade Your Insurance Before Shipping Your Car

The U.S. Department of Transportation & the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration require all brokers & carriers to hold liability and cargo insurance. These policies typically only cover the Kelley Blue Book value of the vehicle. What is not covered under their insurance is typically written on your order form and bill of lading. Though not a necessity, you should consider upgrading your insurance policy to include comprehensive coverage for theft and collision.

At the time of pickup and delivery, you will do a thorough inspection of your vehicle with the carrier. You might notice him taking pictures & marking comments on an inspection report. You will eventually sign off on these reports before the carrier departs. We recommend that you take your own pictures & note any scratches or damages during pickup and delivery. This will help if you need to file a claim after the transport has been completed.

If you are thinking about packing out your vehicle with personal belongings, you might want to rethink this through. The Department of Transportation does not legally allow the transport of personal belongings on an auto carrier. This means your carrier’s insurance will not cover the loss or damage of these belongings and it is likely your insurance company will not either. There are companies out there that will allow you to place personal belongings within the trunk space of the vehicle. If they are a reputable and responsible company, they will be sure to inform you that these belongings are not covered & they are not responsible for loss or theft.


Tips & Tricks

Save cash by keeping your vehicle’s gas tank near empty before you ship your car. Reducing the vehicles weight might save you some money.

If you are leaning towards utilizing the company with the lowest possible price, do your homework. If it doesn’t make sense to you, than it probably doesn’t make sense for them.

Check ratings, reviews and learn as much as you can about a company you are leaning towards before signing a contract and leaving a deposit.

Make sure that the company is an active & authorized entity registered with the FMCSA. You can lookup any companies status here.

When using “instant quote” internet forms, be sure that this is a set & secure rate that will not change a day before scheduled pickup or in transit.

If you utilize a broker, you have the right to know the carrier assigned. Be sure to ask your broker for the name & number of the driver assigned to pick up your vehicle.