Car Shipping Guide

If shipping your vehicle is a foreign concept, we’re here to help. Read our research about the industry to make an informed decision for your auto transport.

What Is Car Shipping?

Car shipping transports your vehicle from one location to another on a truck so you don’t have to drive it and add miles to the odometer. If you’re moving across the country or to another state, shipping your car can make your move easier since it gives you one less thing to worry about transporting.

There are two types of car shipping companies: brokers and carriers.

  • Brokers don’t ship vehicles themselves. Instead, they connect customers with networks of carriers that do. Using a broker can be cheaper and give you more flexibility.
  • Carriers do the actual shipping. Some carriers work directly with customers, but most people shipping their cars typically work with brokers.

Types Of Car Shipping

Along with types of car shipping companies, there are also different shipping options that you’ll choose from. Not all auto transport companies offer every kind of service, so you should research what you need and see which company best suits you.

Open Shipping

Open vehicle shipping is the cheapest and most common type. It’s the cheapest option because your car is on an open trailer that can fit multiple vehicles. While it’s unlikely your vehicle will get damaged on an open shipping trailer, it’s still possible. Factors like weather and debris could scratch, dent, or otherwise damage your car.

Enclosed Shipping

Enclosed shipping transports your car inside an enclosed trailer. This type of shipping keeps your vehicle safe from damage that it could be exposed to on an open trailer. However, this added protection typically comes at a higher price. This is because enclosed trailers can’t hold as many vehicles.

Drivers with luxury or classic cars often choose this option so their cars are safer in transit.

Other Car Shipping Options

Open or enclosed carrier isn’t the only choice to make when shipping your car. Here are the other car shipping options you’ll need to consider:

  • Door-to-door shipping: This is the most convenient option for car shipping. The carrier picks your vehicle up and drops it off as close to your home as possible.
  • Terminal-to-terminal shipping: While this is usually less expensive than door-to-door transport, it can be more of a hassle because your car has to be dropped off at a shipping terminal and picked up from another one.
  • Expedited service: You should schedule your shipment at least two weeks out to help ensure carriers are available. Choosing expedited shipping means a carrier can pick your car up within a few days. But while carriers can guarantee when your car will get picked up, they might not guarantee when it will be delivered.
  • Single-car: Sometimes you want extra care and are willing to pay the price to ensure your car is as protected as possible. Shipping your car alone in an enclosed carrier is one of the most expensive options, and it’s best for luxury or classic cars that you’re not willing to risk getting damaged.

Depending on where you’re sending your vehicle, you might be able to select port, freight, or container shipping. These are all expensive options, and they’re less common.

How Car Shipping Works

If you’ve never shipped your car before, you might not know how it works. Here are the eight steps of the process:

  1. Gather your information: To get quotes, you’ll need to give transporters your vehicle and personal information, pickup and drop-off locations, and preferred timeline.
  2. Choose your shipping method: The shipping services you choose — like open versus closed or door-to-door versus terminal-to-terminal — will affect your quotes and which company you choose.
  3. Select a car shipping company: Get quotes from a few of the best car shipping companies so you can compare prices and options for your shipment.
  4. Book your shipment: Once you choose a transport company, you’ll book your shipment. You’ll either pay up front online or pay part of the cost now and then pay the rest in cash or another form when the carrier drops your car off.
  5. Prepare your vehicle for shipment: Before the carrier arrives, clear your car of personal belongings. Your gas tank should only be a quarter full to keep your vehicle as light as possible.
  6. Inspect your car: When the carrier gets there, you’ll both inspect your vehicle for any damage prior to shipping. Take pictures of your car so you have them in case anything happens. You and the carrier will sign the bill of lading at this time.
  7. Track your shipment: You can usually contact your carrier or broker to get an update on where your car is. Some companies have GPS tracking you can check online.
  8. Pick your vehicle up: Whether you pick it up from a terminal or it’s dropped off at your house, you’ll inspect your car with the carrier once again. You’ll both sign the bill of lading again, and the shipment will be complete.

Our Shipping Survey Results

Our team conducted a car shipping survey in 2023 that polled 1,000 customers. Eighty-four percent of respondents compared multiple shipping providers, and over half found them online. The most common car shipping company chosen was American Auto Shipping. Not too far behind were Easy Auto Ship and AmeriFreight.

Most survey respondents’ biggest concern was that their vehicles would get damaged during transport. However, even though open shipping was the most common shipping service chosen, 81 percent of those surveyed said their cars weren’t damaged. Additionally, about a third of respondents said they didn’t have any issues during transport.

How Much Does Shipping A Car Cost?

Shipping costs are highly variable, so it can be hard to know what to expect without getting a quote. With that in mind, here are some of the main factors that influence your car shipping cost:

  • Shipping distance: Shipping your vehicle farther costs less per mile than shipping it shorter distances, but it costs more overall.
  • Services chosen: Depending on which services you choose, your shipment could be more expensive. For example, if you choose an enclosed carrier and door-to-door shipping, you’ll pay more than if you choose an open carrier and terminal-to-terminal shipping.
  • Time of year: Certain seasons are more expensive than others for vehicle transport. In general, car shipping is most expensive in the summer and January.
  • Carrier competition: If you use a marketplace to source a carrier, there will be more competition between them, which could get you a lower price.
  • Fuel costs: If gas prices are high, you’ll pay more to ship your car.
  • Vehicle operability: If your vehicle doesn’t run, the carrier will have to winch it onto the truck, which costs more.
  • Vehicle size: A bigger vehicle weighs more, which increases the cost to ship it.

Average Car Shipping Costs

In our 2023 poll of 1,000 car shipping customers, 69 percent of those surveyed said they shipped their vehicles 1,500 miles or less. Sixty-one percent of respondents paid $1,500 or less for their shipments.

This is in line with the quotes our team received from shipping companies. Here are the average costs for open and enclosed shipping based on the quotes we received in October 2022:

  • Open shipping for 500 miles: $732
  • Open shipping for 1,500 miles: $1,425
  • Enclosed shipping for 1,500 miles: $1,776
  • Open shipping for 3,000 miles: $2,313

We also received quotes in November 2021 for the same distances and shipment methods. From 2021 to 2022, all averages increased at least slightly. The biggest jump was in the average cost for the 3,000-mile shipment, which increased over $760 year over year.

Should You Ship Your Car?

If you’re moving to a new state or across the country, it could be a good idea to ship your car to your new home. While driving your car may seem like the most cost-effective option, it can actually cost you more than shipping your vehicle after you consider the costs for gas, tolls, hotels, and food. Driving a long distance can be mentally and physically taxing as well.

You should also consider the mileage and wear and tear you’d put on your car by driving it to your destination instead of having it shipped there. Shipping could be the best choice if you need your vehicle transported far or you don’t have the ability to drive it yourself.

Our Methodology

At, we’re dedicated to supplying car owners with the well-researched information they need to make sound decisions about auto shipping. Our editorial team consists of experienced automotive researchers, writers, and editors that follow strict guidelines to ensure that our articles are unbiased and fact checked.

To compile our product reviews and rankings, our team continuously evaluates dozens of car shipping companies to compare costs, services, customer experience, and reliability. We verify each provider’s quality through our hands-on research process. We’ve spent hundreds of hours analyzing past customer reviews and mystery shopping top providers to gather 400 pricing quotes for various shipping routes. To learn what matters most to consumers when shipping a car, we sent surveys to 3,000 shipping customers to get their feedback. Lastly, to obtain first-hand product knowledge our team shipped three cars across the country to gather insight into the overall process.

Read our full car shipping review methodology.

Latest Articles

  • By Brogan Woodburn Car Shipping Quotes

    According to the car shipping quotes our team received, transport costs can range from about $653 for 500-mile shipments to over $1,505 for 3,000-mile shipments.

    January 16, 2024
  • By Brogan Woodburn Best Car Shipping Companies

    Based on our research, the best car shipping companies in 2024 are Montway Auto Transport, Sherpa Auto Transport, and SGT Auto Transport.

    January 16, 2024

Meet the team