How to Ship a Car in 2022
Do you need to move but don't know how to ship a car? Whether you're moving internationally, across the country, or just a few hundred miles away, it's important to consider your car shipping service options, key factors that impact shipping costs, and top-rated transporters to ensure your shipment is easy and hassle-free.
We've researched and ranked the best car shipping companies for every situation. Car shipping can be costly, so it's best to reach out to multiple auto transporters before booking a shipment. Click below to get free, non-committal quotes from our top picks.
What to Expect from the Car Shipping Process
To better explain how to ship a car, we've outlined the auto transport process step by step. However, some car shippers may require additional information or steps, so use this as a guide rather than a checklist.
#1 Select a car shipping company. In the auto transport industry, there are two main types of companies: brokers and carriers. Brokers connect customers with carriers in their network based on the individual's shipping needs. A reliable broker should be licensed through the Department of Transportation (DOT) and insured. Carriers transport vehicles from one place to another. High-quality carriers should also be insured.
#2 Provide your information. Auto transporters need to know details about your vehicle, pickup location, and destination to provide the right service. Most companies will ask for the following:
- Vehicle make, model, age, and operability
- Pickup location and destination
- Preferred time frame for shipment
- Name, email, and phone number
Using this information, the company will offer you a quote for your car shipment. Be aware that your final car shipping cost can cost more than the original quote you receive. Initial quotes may not reflect service fees, added carrier charges, or insurance costs. These quotes are also best estimates, and the carrier can charge more by the time the shipment is booked.
#3 Choose your auto transport service. Most companies offer open transport and enclosed transport as well as door-to-door shipping. Others offer specialty services like terminal-to-terminal, expedited, international, and single-car shipping. We'll explain each type of service in detail in the next section.
#4 Book your shipment. After you've selected a service, timeframe, and location you're happy with, you can book your shipment. You will either pay in full upfront or make a partial initial payment and pay the balance once your vehicle is delivered.
#5 Remove all personal items. Once you've chosen a motor carrier either directly or through a broker, you'll need to prepare your vehicle. Most car shipping companies do not let you ship personal items inside the car. This makes sure your valuables are kept safe, and since some companies weigh your vehicle before shipping, lowers your auto transport costs.
#6 Inspect your vehicle. On shipping day, you and the carrier will inspect your vehicle to account for any existing damages before shipping begins. Take photos of your car in case of any subsequent damage or loss.
#7 Touch base with the car shipping company. Most companies provide GPS tracking information through an app, website, or phone service. By checking in on your car, you'll also know about any delays that could affect the pickup date or location.
#8 Pick up your car. Your vehicle will either be delivered to your door or to a predetermined terminal. You should inspect your vehicle after drop-off in case of any damage, then sign the bill of lading, which states that the vehicle was delivered. If necessary, you'll pay your remaining balance at this time.
Ways to Ship a Car
When choosing how to ship a car, you'll likely come across a number of options that can enhance the shipping process. Here are a few car shipping services you may be able to select depending on the company, your budget, and your vehicle:
- Open trailer auto transport: Most common car transport service in which your vehicle is exposed to the elements
- Enclosed auto transport: Vehicle is transported in an enclosed trailer or shipping container to prevent damage
- Door-to-door: Vehicle ships as close to the customer's home as possible
- Terminal-to-terminal: Vehicle is dropped off and picked up at a predetermined location along with other auto shipments (you can save money using this type of shipping)
- Expedited: Rather than wait one to two weeks for carrier availability, customers can ship vehicles in a few days
- Single-car: Vehicle is shipped by itself (often in an enclosed shipping container)
How to Ship a Car: Open vs. Enclosed Shipping
Open shipping is cheaper than enclosed shipping, but it exposes your vehicle to the elements. We recommend open auto transport for budget-conscious drivers, while enclosed transport is better suited for classic or luxury vehicle owners.
How to Ship a Car: Door-to-Door vs. Terminal-to-Terminal
If you live far from a terminal or are simply moving to a new home, it's nice to choose door-to-door shipping. Terminal-to-terminal shipping is less expensive, but terminals can sometimes be two or more hours from your destination, depending on where you move. Not every provider is equipped for terminal-to-terminal shipping.
How Much Does Car Shipping Cost?
If you're wondering how to ship a car, you may also be curious about how much it costs. Based on our research, auto shipping costs an average of $1,200. This factors in dozens of car shipping quotes we received from top carriers for an operable 2018 Honda CR-V and an operable Lexus ES 350 being shipped anywhere from 200 to 2,500 miles during January, a peak shipping month.
Related: How Long Does It Take to Ship a Car?
What Factors Affect the Price of Car Shipping?
Before reaching out for a quote, it's good to know what impacts your car shipping prices.
- Miles traveled: Cross-country shipments have better rates per mile than shorter-distance shipments, but they cost more overall.
- Transport type: Pricing for enclosed carrier transport is higher than open carrier transport, but it may be worth it for luxury and classic cars. Door-to-door shipping is also more expensive than terminal-to-terminal shipping since the service is personalized.
- Time of year: Demand is higher in January and summer months, making car shipping services more expensive.
- Carrier competition: When using a marketplace-style service, higher competition between car carrier bids means lower auto shipping costs.
- Price of fuel: When fuel prices rise, car shipping costs increase.
- Vehicle operability: Inoperable vehicles take more effort and resources to move, making them more expensive to ship.
- Vehicle size: Larger vehicles, like SUVs and trucks, cost more to ship than a standard sedan. This also applies to specialty vehicles like recreational vehicles (RVs) and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
- Hidden fees: Service fees, insurance costs, and carrier price increases may also increase your final car shipping cost.
Our Recommendations for Auto Shipping
In our 2021 best car shipping companies review, Montway Auto Transport, AmeriFreight, and Sherpa Auto Transport were our top picks. It's a good idea to get several free car shipping quotes before booking your shipment. That way, you have a better chance of finding cheap car shipping.
Montway Auto Transport: Best Availability
Montway Auto Transport is a hassle-free auto broker with competitive prices and a pickup date guarantee. The company shipped over 100,000 vehicles in 2019 alone and works with a vetted network of 15,000 motor carriers. With Montway, you can choose between open, enclosed, door-to-door, expedited, Hawaii, and international shipping.
Montway Auto Transport holds an accredited A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and while its customer service ratings are slightly below the industry average, they're still above 4.0 stars.
AmeriFreight: Best Discounts
Holding the No. 2 spot in our best car shipping companies review, AmeriFreight offers the best discounts in the industry. Military personnel, seniors, students, returning customers—all can take advantage of AmeriFreight's car shipping discounts.
With AmeriFreight, customers can choose open, enclosed, door-to-door, terminal-to-terminal, alternative vehicle, and expedited shipping services. The auto transport company has an accredited A+ rating from the BBB and a 4.86 out of 5-star customer rating.
Sherpa Auto Transport: Best for Locked-In Prices
Sherpa Auto Transport is best known for its Price Lock Promise. This ensures you won't be surprised by any hidden fees—all quotes from the company are locked in and include additional costs upfront.
The company has an accredited A+ BBB rating and a 4.88-star customer rating. It offers open, enclosed, and door-to-door shipping services.
Auto shipping ratings are based on a comprehensive comparison between every major car transport company in the industry. We rate providers based on cost, available services, company reputation, and the customer experience. Each auto transporter receives scores in these individual categories and an overall score out of 5.0 stars.
To formulate rankings, our review team considers a company's offerings compared to competitors, ratings from experts like the Better Business Bureau, and customer reviews. We also collect sample quotes across a variety of shipping routes, distances, and transport types to measure pricing against the industry average.