Speed Reads:

  • The two most popular methods of auto shipping are open car transport and enclosed carrier shipping.
  • On average, car shipping costs between 40 cents and $2 per mile depending on the distance and carrier.
  • Factors such as the shipping distance, pickup and delivery locations, and chosen type of transport will all affect car shipping costs.

If you’re planning to make a long-distance move, shipping your vehicle with a car transport company could remove the hassle of a long drive. Auto shipping is a great way to avoid wasting time on the road, especially if you’re moving more than a few hundred miles away.

Our team spent over 300 hours researching how to ship a car and we’ll use this article to explain how car shipping works. In doing so, we’ll provide cost estimates, explain whether it’s worth it, and offer recommendations on the industry’s best car shipping companies.

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How Does Car Shipping Work?

The process for shipping a car isn’t all that difficult, but it still takes a bit of explaining. Below, you’ll find some details on the steps for moving a vehicle using an auto transport service.

1. Choose An Auto Transport Method

The most popular types of car shipping are open and enclosed trailer transport. If you own a luxury vehicle or sports car, you may want to consider the extra protection of enclosed trailers. If you’re more concerned about car shipping costs, you should pick open trailer transport.

2. Compare Car Shipping Quotes

Once you’ve chosen your shipping method, start getting car shipping quotes online from various reputable auto haulers. You’ll find providers with online marketplaces as well as auto shipping companies that work as transport brokers, so decide which one you’re more comfortable with. Most providers have free quote tools and car shipping calculators on their websites to simplify the process.

The best way to vet carriers is by looking at customer reviews on platforms like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Trustpilot, and Google. Another method is by looking up motor carrier numbers given out to reputable providers by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

3. Book The Best Shipping Option

Once you’ve found a provider that suits your needs, it’s time to book the transport. If you settle on a broker, it’ll take care of posting your bid and finding the right car carrier. Those who go with an online auto transport marketplace like uShip will deal directly with the winning carrier throughout the car shipping process.

4. Prepare Your Vehicle For Shipment

After booking a vehicle moving service, you’ll need to prepare the car for transport. Remove all personal items from your car and take pictures of it in case you need to file a damage claim. It’s also recommended that you leave no more than a quarter tank of gas in your car.

5. Drop Your Car Off

On the dropoff date, you’ll need to meet your trucker at an agreed-upon location. Both of you will inspect the car and record any preexisting dents or damage on the bill of lading, which acts as a form of proof that your car was picked up and delivered to its destination. At that point, you’ll sign the bill of lading and your vehicle will be ready to get loaded for transport.

6. Pick Your Car Up

If you selected door-to-door shipping, your car will head right to its intended destination. If you chose to have your car shipped to a terminal instead, you’ll need to meet the hauler at a predetermined terminal on the pickup date. Inspect it again for new damages, sign the bill of lading if everything looks alright, and drive your car away.



Is Shipping Your Car Worth It?

If you’re someone who loves a good road trip, then you may want to drive your car to its final destination. However, those looking to simplify their moves and reduce time, hassle, and stress may want to learn how car shipping works.

Shipping your car can protect the vehicle from wear and tear that comes with a long drive. You’ll also avoid the risk of being involved in a car accident or of the vehicle suffering a mechanical breakdown. Ultimately, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of your situation before making a decision.

How Soon Will My Car Arrive?

Patience is key when it comes to vehicle transport. If you’re shipping a car cross country, you can expect the vehicle’s delivery time frame to be anywhere between seven and 10 days. If you’re shipping a car internationally or to either Hawaii or Alaska, prepare for a longer shipment. Carriers can run into bad weather, heavy traffic, and even road closures, all which may affect how long it takes for your car to travel.

Many shipping providers offer online tracking, so it’s worth using the tool if you’re looking for peace of mind and a set arrival date. Jack Savov, CEO of SGT Auto Transport, encourages customers to “request frequent updates from the car carrier and ask for a notice before pickup and delivery to ensure a smooth and seamless transaction.” He also suggests “providing multiple phone numbers or contact methods … as it can help to avoid communication issues.”

What If My Car Gets Damaged?

If you’re worried about damage to your vehicle during transport, know that providers are legally required to carry insurance to protect the car. The federal government issues minimum-liability insurance requirements for auto carriers, though higher levels of protection can typically be purchased as add-ons.

Take the time to check out what a carrier’s insurance policy will and won’t cover. Once your car reaches its destination, inspect it carefully for damages and have the provider note any issues on your bill of lading. You’ll then need to contact the shipping company to file a claim.



How Much Does Car Shipping Cost?

Our research team found that price per mile is the most common way that vehicle transport rates are calculated. According to estimates from Montway Auto Transport and Easy Auto Ship, the average cost to ship a car is anywhere from 40 cents to $2 per mile.

The shorter the shipping distance, the more you’ll likely pay per mile to ship a car. If you’re transporting your vehicle over a long distance, you’ll pay less per mile but more overall. The table below has a breakdown of the average car shipping costs per mile for various distances.

Shipping DistanceCost Per Mile
500 miles or less$1 to $1.96
500 to 1,500 miles$0.60 to $0.93
1,500 miles or more$0.40 to $0.60

To learn more about the average cost of car shipping, we led a customer satisfaction survey of 1,000 people who have previously shipped their vehicle. The infographic below highlights our findings on the car shipping costs faced by recent customers:

Bar graph based on our 2021 car shipping customer satisfaction survey, showing that the majority of the 1,000 participants paid between $1,500 and $1,999 to ship their car.

What Changes Car Shipping Rates?

Remember that your actual costs will vary depending on factors like your chosen auto shipper, dropoff and delivery locations, and the shipping services you pick. See below for more details on the factors that affect your vehicle shipping costs.

  • Shipping distance: You’ll receive a better rate per mile with long-distance shipping, but your overall costs will be higher than if you shipped the car a shorter distance.
  • Delivery and pickup locations: If you live in or are shipping to a rural area, your shipping prices will probably be higher than for someone from a more populous spot. In addition, door-to-door transport services will cost more than if you take advantage of terminal-to-terminal shipping.
  • Time of year: If you’re choosing to ship a car during the summer months or in January, you’ll pay more than if you ship your vehicle during slower months of the year.
  • Vehicle condition: The operability of your car influences shipping costs. Vehicles that are inoperable must be winched or forklifted onto the trailer, which costs extra.
  • Vehicle size: If you’re shipping a large vehicle such as a truck or SUV, you’ll pay more.
  • Type of transport: Open transport will cost you less than enclosed trailer shipping.
  • Shipping speed: if you’ve opted for expedited shipping or a guaranteed delivery window, you’ll end up paying more. Flexibility with the speed of your car shipment and the delivery date can save you money.



Open Vs. Enclosed Car Shipping

There are many different ways that car shipping works, but your specific needs will determine the best method for you. While it’s sometimes possible to ship a car via train, boat, or plane, the most common method is to transport it via either an open or an enclosed carrier.

As with any type of transport, there are pros and cons to enclosed vs. open car shipping. However, our research shows that the most popular method of car transport is open trailer shipping. After surveying 1,000 people who’d previously shipped a car, we found that 43 percent chose open carrier shipping while 20 percent picked enclosed auto transport.

Open Carrier Car Shipping

Open auto transport carriers allow multiple vehicles to be shipped together at once. Vehicles sit outdoors during the shipment, as they travel on an open trailer without a covering. While this shipping method is great for those looking for cheap car shipping, it leaves your vehicle exposed to road debris, bad weather, and other potential hazards during transit.

Enclosed Carrier Car Shipping

Enclosed carrier vehicle transport involves the use of an enclosed trailer rather than an open one. Enclosed carrier shipping services are the safest option to ship your vehicle, as they protect it from potential hazards that could occur. Enclosed shipping usually comes with higher limits from insurance companies, which could benefit owners of luxury vehicles and classic cars.



We’d encourage you to reach out to several auto transport companies for instant quotes once you’ve learned how car shipping works. Online shipping quotes are both free and relatively easy to obtain.

Our team has carefully researched the reputation, costs, car transport services, and customer experience of auto shippers to help you choose the best one for your needs. Two of the industry’s most affordable and high-quality choices are Montway Auto Transport and Sherpa Auto Transport.

Montway Auto Transport: Best Overall

Montway Auto Transport is a major car shipping company that works with over 15,000 carriers across the United States. It boasts an A+ rating with the BBB and has 4.6 stars out of 5.0 from more than 2,300 customer reviews. All of Montway Auto Transport’s shippers are insured, and the company provides an additional $250,000 of cargo coverage in case your trucker’s policy doesn’t fully cover a valid claim.

With options for door-to-door delivery, expedited shipping, and open and enclosed auto transport, we feel that Montway Auto Transport is one of the best car shippers around. Another benefit is that the company is willing to transport vehicles with up to 100 pounds of personal belongings packed away.

Read more: Montway Auto Transport review

Montway Auto Transport Our #1 Rated Provider
BBB Rating : A+ Phone : 844-601-0286
Pros & Cons
Pros Zero upfront payment Network of over 15,000 car carriers Competitive prices Military, return customer, and pay-in-cash discounts available Strong customer reputation Cons No guaranteed pricing $199 cancellation fee

Montway Auto Transport tops our list of the best car transport companies in 2022. The company works with over 15,000 carriers across the nation and can ship a car to anywhere in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. According to our consumer vehicle shipping survey, Montway Auto Transport had the highest satisfaction rating of any major provider.

Sherpa Auto Transport: Locked-In Prices

Sherpa Auto Transport holds an A+ rating and 4.9 out of 5.0 stars from the BBB, revealing its positive customer service reputation. A standout feature of Sherpa is the company’s Price Lock Promise, which makes sure that your initially quoted rate won’t go up mid-shipment.

You can receive either open or enclosed auto shipping to anywhere in the U.S. other than Hawaii or Alaska. Sherpa Auto Transport also offers 24/7 real-time updates on your vehicle during transport, which may ease your nerves as your car makes its way to its destination.

Read more: Sherpa Auto Transport review

Sherpa Auto Transport Locked-In Prices
BBB Rating : A+ Phone : 888-216-2214
Pros & Cons
Pros A+ rating from the BBB and very few customer complaints Easy-to-use booking process and quick shipper matching Price Lock Promise on every quote Cons Can be slightly more expensive Does not ship to Alaska or Hawaii

Your quoted price or lower is guaranteed with this car shipping company. Sherpa Auto Transport offers a price lock promise, clean car guarantee, and vets all its carriers.



The Bottom Line: How Does Car Shipping Work?

The way that car shipping works is pretty straightforward, even for first-time movers. As long as you’re willing to vet car carriers and compare rates, you’ll likely enjoy a positive experience. Our team recommends Montway Auto Transport and Sherpa Auto Transport as two legitimate providers with a known history of strong customer service and competitive pricing.

FAQ: How Does Car Shipping Work?

Below are some frequently asked questions about how car shipping works in practice.