If you’re planning a long-distance or cross-country move, you may be faced with the decision to drive or ship your car to your new home. While a road trip may seem exciting, driving yourself could be more expensive than shipping your car. The cost of food, lodging, and tolls along the way tend to add up. Furthermore, driving long distances adds wear and tear to your vehicle.
If you’re trying to perform a cost-benefit analysis of driving versus shipping your car, our guide will help you determine what’s best for your move. If you’re leaning towards shipping, we have reviewed the industry’s best car shipping companies. We recommend that when looking at shipping providers, you compare multiple quotes.
Ship A Car Vs. Driving: Pros And Cons
When deciding between shipping a car and driving it, there are many factors to consider. It helps to be aware of the potential hassles and benefits associated with either option. For example, hiring an auto shipping company reduces the wear and tear on your vehicle, while driving may protect your peace of mind by giving you complete control of your own schedule.
Here are a few pros and cons of each to consider:
No matter what you choose, you’ll need to weigh what’s most important to you. Often that comes down to whether shipping a car or driving is the most convenient option.
What To Know About Car Shipping
Many drivers don’t have any experience with car shipping, yet it’s important to understand all your options before making a decision about shipping vs. driving. Below is everything you need to know and what you can expect when shipping your car.
Types Of Car Shipping Services
There are two main types of services offered by auto transport companies:
This shipping option means that car carriers will pick up and drop off your vehicle at specific addresses as long as these addresses are legally and physically accessible. Most customers prefer door-to-door shipping for its convenience, though this is harder to accomplish if you live in a big city on a crowded street.
Shipping to and from terminals is generally cheaper than door-to-door service, but it’s less convenient for the customer. It takes extra time to get to and from the terminal, as most of these are located in bigger cities.
Types Of Auto Transport
There are two main types of auto transport:
Open transport is the cheapest way to ship your car. Auto shipping companies can transport many cars over long distances with open carrier trucks that fit eight to ten vehicles. The hauler can make stops along the route to pick up and drop off cargo.
Open transport keeps prices down by distributing fuel costs across several different customers. However, keep in mind that open transport does leave your car exposed to road debris and potential bad weather.
If you’re shipping a high-end or classic car, you may want to opt for an enclosed trailer. The enclosed carrier keeps your car safe from bad weather and road hazards, but it will raise the cost of your transport. Shipping via enclosed trailer can be up to 50 percent more expensive than open auto transport.
Car Shipping Process
The car shipping process may seem daunting, but it can be broken up into a few simple steps.
- Get car shipping quotes online: Most car transport companies have tools on their websites to provide you with free quotes. Plug in your pick up and delivery locations, the make, model, and year of your vehicle, and your preferred transport type. You’ll also need to provide contact information and a timeframe for your delivery. To find cheap car shipping rates, it’s a good idea to obtain quotes from several car transport service providers.
- Book your shipment: Once you find a quote that meets both your budget and your shipping needs, book your transport. Each company is different, but most will have you contact a representative to confirm your quoted price and pickup window.
- Prepare your car for shipment: Gather paperwork, make an extra set of keys, and inspect your vehicle for any existing damage before the auto transport carrier arrives.
- Track your shipment: Once your car is en route to the delivery location, you can track the status of your transport. Some vehicle transport companies provide apps with GPS tracking, while others offer updates through a customer service representative.
- Receive your vehicle: Once your car is delivered, you and the truck driver will once again inspect the vehicle for any damage occurred during transit. You’ll sign a bill of lading to complete the job and pay any remaining balance.
What To Look For In A Car Shipping Company
Your car is a part of your life, so you’ll want to find a reputable auto shipper. Here’s what to keep in mind when selecting a vehicle shipping company:
- Years of experience: Companies that have been around for a decade or more have had time to build their offered services, improve their quality, and grow a good reputation among customers. They’re also more likely to provide nationwide shipping.
- Affordable rates: There are plenty of good companies that offer services with competitive prices, but some companies sweeten the deal by offering specialized discounts and guaranteed pricing limits.
- Positive customer reviews: Sites like Trustpilot, Google, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and Transport Reviews are all great places to find honest and detailed customer testimonials for auto transport companies.
- Proper registration: You know a car shipping company is safe and legitimate if they’re registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Top Recommended Providers For Car Shipping
Below are two companies we have chosen from our top providers based on their variety of services, special benefits, and customer satisfaction reviews across websites like Google and the BBB.
Montway Auto Transport: Best Overall
BBB score: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars
With guaranteed pickup dates, door-to-door shipping, and a 15-year history of over 620,000 customers served, Montway’s extensive portfolio makes it a leader in the car shipping industry. In addition to affordable rates, the fact that this company holds an A+ score from the BBB, and boasts thousands of positive customer reviews across multiple rating sites, makes it a superb choice for car shipping anywhere.
Read our Montway Auto Transport review for more information.
Easy Auto Ship: Best For A Quick Pickup
BBB score: 4.6 out of 5.0 stars
Easy Auto Ship (EAS) has built its reputation on a foundation of specialized benefits, which could be why Forbes Home named it the Best of 2022 for Car Shipping Companies. Along with standard auto shipping services, this company offers veteran and active-military discounts, rental cars for delayed shipments, and free car washes for dirty vehicles. With EAS’s guaranteed pricing, there also won’t be any sudden cost changes or hidden fees, which can add some peace of mind.
Discover more with our full Easy Auto Ship review.
Average Costs Of Car Shipping
We reached out to a few of the top car shipping companies for quotes on shipping an operable 2018 Toyota RAV4 via open transport. Here’s what we received:
|Shipping Provider||Shipping Locations||Distance||Cost|
|Montway Auto Transport||Los Angeles to Houston||1,556 miles||$979|
|Easy Auto Ship||New York City to San Francisco||3,036 miles||$1,514|
|Sherpa Auto Transport||Chicago to Kansas City, MO||503 miles||$675|
Factors That Affect Car Shipping Costs
You can expect to pay anywhere from $0.58 to $1.96 per mile for car shipping. There are many other factors that affect car shipping costs, however. They include:
- Distance: Even though long-distance shipping will cost less per mile, it will end up being more expensive overall than shorter-distance transports.
- Vehicle type: Larger and heavier vehicles will be more expensive to ship than standard sedans, because they take up more space in the car containers.
- Vehicle operability: If your vehicle isn’t driveable, it will require more labor to load onto the transport truck.
- Time of year: Demand for car shipping increases during January and the summer months, so transport costs will fluctuate seasonally.
- Transport type: The shipping option you choose will affect the price of your transport. Open-air carrier shipping is the cheapest option for shipping a car. Enclosed auto transport provides more protection, but can cost up to 50 percent more.
- Fuel costs: As gas prices rise, so does the cost of shipping a car.
- Timeframe: If you’re flexible with scheduling your pickup and delivery times, you’ll save money on your transport. Most companies will offer expedited shipping, but it will cost significantly more.
- Pickup and delivery locations: It costs more to transport a car to rural areas than to more urban centers.
Average Cost Of Driving
Though prices do fluctuate based on what part of the country you’re in, we’ve tallied up average travel costs for a one-night trip. Here’s what we found:
A full tank of gas could cost between $59 and $75 dollars. At the time of this writing, the average price for a gallon of regular gas is $4.955. The cost to fill a 12-gallon tank is $59.46, while the cost to fill a 16-gallon tank is $74.33.
Depending on the hotel you choose (and the choices present as you’re traveling), you could spend between $130 and $150 for one night of economy lodging.
Food-away-from-home prices in April 2022 were 7.2% higher than in April 2021. Depending on where you choose to eat, you could be spending around $15 per person per basic meal.
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.