Trying to send your vehicle across the country but not able to drive it there yourself? This guide explains how to ship a car anywhere in the United States.
While the process itself is quite simple, it’s good to know the factors that impact costs and how to get the best rates. This way, you can be sure that you find a fair price for your auto shipment.
Once you’re ready to start comparing providers, read our review of the best car shipping companies. Or, reach out for free vehicle shipping quotes from our top-rated providers below.
How Does The Car Shipping Process Work?
When deciding how to ship a car, you’ll likely want to arrange your vehicle shipment through a broker. Auto shipping brokers work with a large network of drivers to help customers find their cheapest options. Because of the logistics involved, working through a dedicated broker is the most efficient way to match customers with carriers.
While not all auto shipping brokers are the same, most use a similar shipping process. In general, here’s the process of how to ship a car using a broker:
1. Submit car shipment information
The first step is to get quotes from multiple brokers. When requesting a quote, you’ll usually be asked to submit the following information:
- Vehicle year, make, and model
- Pickup and drop-off locations
- Pickup and delivery dates
- Type of transport service requested (open carrier or enclosed carrier)
- Vehicle operability status (driveable or not driveable)
Some brokers may offer an instant quote, while others will request your contact information and call or email you with more information. This is because some brokers have their carriers make offers on your shipment. Once the broker determines your best offer, they’ll contact you with your options.
Your car shipping quote is likely to be an estimate – it’s the broker’s best guess of what your final cost will be. However, your final rate will not be locked until you are matched with a carrier or, in some cases, until your vehicle is delivered.
2. Compare your quotes and decide on a company
Once you have multiple quotes, compare them and select the transport company you trust most with your shipment. You’ll then verify the cost and pickup and drop-off times with your carrier. At this point, you may be required to make a partial payment as a deposit.
3. Prepare your vehicle
To prepare your vehicle, you’ll need to empty it of all items. This will lower the weight of your vehicle and may bring down your shipping costs. It is typically recommended that you leave no more than a quarter tank of gas in your car as well.
4. Drop off your vehicle
Bring your vehicle to the pickup location (or, in the case of door-to-door shipping, the driver will come to you). Before the car is loaded onto the transporter, you and the driver will inspect the vehicle for damages. You’ll then sign a form noting any pre-existing damage.
5. Wait for delivery
Many top vehicle transport brokers maintain regular communication during the auto shipping process. Some provide GPS tracking and others may provide text updates on your vehicle’s progress.
6. Pick up your vehicle and pay any remaining balance
After the vehicle is delivered, you must inspect it again for damages. You’ll sign a bill of lading and, if applicable, make any final payments to your driver.
How Much Does It Cost To Ship A Car?
So, now you know how to ship a car. But how much is it going to cost you? The cost of car shipping is affected by a number of factors. These include the following:
|Factor||How It Affects Car Shipping Costs|
|Distance||The further you ship your vehicle, the more it will cost.|
|Open or Enclosed Transport||Open transport means your car will not be protected from the elements or road debris while on the truck. Enclosed transport means your vehicle will be transported inside a container. Enclosed transport costs more.|
|Door-to-Door or Terminal-to-Terminal Transport||If your car is picked up and delivered to a specific address, it will cost more. You can choose to have your vehicle shipped to and from a central shipping terminal, which is less expensive. However, the nearest shipping terminal may be far from your final destination. Also, not every car shipping company offers terminal-to-terminal shipping.|
|Pickup and Delivery Locations||It is more expensive to ship to rural, less-traveled areas. Shipping between major cities on well-traveled highways is cheaper.|
|Time of Year||Demand plays a big role in your final car shipping cost. The most expensive times to ship a car are generally in the summer and in January.|
|Vehicle Size||The larger and heavier your vehicle, the more expensive it will be to ship.|
|Vehicle Operability||If your car is inoperable, it will not be able to be driven onto the transporter. This requires extra effort and will cost more to ship than an operable vehicle.|
|Extra Options||Choosing extra options such as single-car shipping or expedited shipping will cost more.|
To give you a better idea of the cost of car shipping, consider some of the open transport shipping quotes our research team received from several top auto shipping companies for an operable SUV:
|Auto Shipping Broker||Distance||Transport Type||Cost|
|Montway Auto Transport||503 miles||Open||$679|
|Sherpa Auto Transport||1,556 miles||Open||$1,300|
The rates above provide some context for the cost of car shipping, but your own rates may vary.
Tips For How To Ship A Car
When it comes time to ship your vehicle, there are a few tips to keep in mind to help you find cheap car shipping:
- Book in advance: The further in advance you request an auto transport quote, the better chance you will receive a low rate. Brokers send your job to carriers who may bid on your contract. The longer you are able to wait, the better your chance of getting a good deal.
- Be flexible: If you are flexible with your drop-off and delivery dates, you will have more options. Carriers try to choose jobs that are best optimized for their schedules. If you are able to work around the carrier’s schedule, you’ll secure a better deal.
- Consider terminal-to-terminal: If possible, ship to and from a central terminal instead of having your car picked up and delivered to your door. This can be much less expensive. Remember that not every auto transporter offers terminal-to-terminal service.
- Consider open shipping: Shipping with an open car carrier is cheaper than on an enclosed trailer. Unless you have a car with low clearance, a classic car, or a luxury vehicle, consider open shipping to reduce costs.
- Prepare your vehicle: You should reduce your vehicle weight as much as possible before shipping. This means you should clean it out and leave no more than a quarter tank of fuel. Be sure to leave some gas in the car so it can be driven on and off the trailer.
- Check legitimacy: Every auto shipper is issued a United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number. Be sure to get this number from your carrier and check its validity on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website.
By following these tips, you can ensure that you will be satisfied with the car shipping process, regardless of which company you choose. Based on a survey our team conducted in 2021, about half of 1,000 respondents mentioned they were “very satisfied” with their car shipping experience.
Our Recommendations For Auto Shipping
Once you’re confident you know how to ship a car, it’s time to compare broker options. You can learn about two highly rated auto transport companies below.
Montway Auto Transport: Best Overall
Montway Auto Transport works with over 15,000 carriers to provide auto shipping services everywhere in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. In our Montway Auto Transport review, we rate the broker 4.7 out of 5.0-stars and name it the Best Overall provider because of its competitive pricing, strong customer reputation, and smooth booking process.
All Montway shipping partners are registered with the FMCSA and are fully insured. On top of carrier insurance, Montway includes a contingent cargo insurance policy up to $250,000 that kicks in if your trucker’s policy fails to fully cover a valid claim.
Montway is a reputable company that has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and a score of 4.5 out of 5.0-stars on Trustpilot based on over 1,200 customer reviews.
To get a free quote from Montway Auto Transport, click below.
Sherpa Auto Transport: Locked-In Prices
Sherpa Auto Transport is another of our highest-rated auto shipping brokers. In our Sherpa Auto Transport review, we rate the company 4.6 out of 5.0-stars. We like Sherpa for its easy booking process, Price Lock Promise, and excellent customer reputation.
Most auto shipping brokers only offer quote estimates, which are finalized after your carrier has been booked or your vehicle is delivered. Sherpa is unique in that it promises to honor initial quotes. If your carrier charges you more than you initially agreed to, Sherpa will make up the difference (up to $300).
Sherpa boasts an A+ rating from the BBB and a 4.93 out of 5.0-star BBB customer review score based on more than 215 reviews. Most reviewers describe a fast and efficient pickup and delivery service, as well as courteous and professional drivers.
See how much it would cost to ship your car with Sherpa below.
Frequently Asked Questions
In an effort to provide accurate and unbiased information to consumers, our expert review team collects data from dozens of car shipping companies to formulate rankings of the best transporters. Providers receive a score in each of the following categories, as well as an overall weighted score out of 5.0 stars.
- Reputation: Shippers with a history of strong business practices and endorsements from experts receive the highest scores in this category.
- Cost: Our research team reviews sample quotes for a variety of shipping routes, distances, and vehicles. Companies with lower prices and many discount opportunities receive the best scores.
- Services: This rating is based on types of auto transport services available, insurance coverage, and the ability to guarantee pick-up and dropoff dates.
- Customer Experience: We comb through customer reviews and perform our own shopper analysis to get a sense of the responsiveness and helpfulness of each car transporter.