There are all kinds of variables involved, but it’s probably not as much as you think.

Our recent feature on NASCAR Monster Energy Cup driver Denny Hamlin and his FedEx hauler got us thinking a bit more about the world of shipping cars. No, you can’t go to the local FedEx office and schedule a vehicle pick-up – Denny Hamiln’s “FedEx Race Box” is strictly for him, but you can enter 2017DH112017 into the tracking field on FedEx’s website and follow the hauler’s progress.

For the rest of us mere mortals, there are actually all kinds of options available for getting cars from point A to point B, and it may not be as expensive as you think. $300 to $2,000 is a good place to start; that’s obviously a big spread, so we’ll help break it down for you.

Shipping cars
Shipping cars

Photos courtesy Transport-Auto, Mark Holloway via Wikimedia Commons

First off, consider which kind of transport will suit your needs best. If you scored a sketchy Nissan 240SX project car for $500, it wouldn’t make sense to front the cash for an expensive, deluxe enclosed hauler. On the other hand, the vintage Camaro you found online for half the going rate would probably benefit from the best possible protection. Some major companies like Intercity Lines offer only enclosed transport, while others like Reliable Carriers feature both open and closed trailers.

$300 to $2,000 is a good place to start; that’s obviously a big spread, so we’ll help break it down for you.

Every carrier will have its own quoting process, however Direct Express Auto Transport based in California offers instant, no-obligation quotes for both open and enclosed transport. The system also factors in vehicles that are running versus non-running (that can make a difference), and it provides options for expedited service. We ran some numbers to gain some averages, and though prices will certainly vary among carriers, these figures should give you a decent baseline to work from.

Per the quote generator, Direct Express Auto Transport will ship a 2003 Ford Mustang convertible coast-to-coast on an open transport for $1,095. That’s the standard price with vehicles generally being assigned a pick-up date within 1-7 days of the order; expedited service adds $150 but your car will be assigned a pick-up date with 1-2 days. Covered transport adds approximately $600, so if you are in a rush to ship a typical car across the country via enclosed hauler, figure on spending upwards of $1,840.

Direct Express Auto Transport will ship a 2003 Ford Mustang convertible coast-to-coast on an open transport for $1,095

The type of car being shipped also factors into the shipping cost. Swap the Mustang for a 2003 Ferrari 575M and you’ll pay roughly $100 extra across the board. Size certainly plays a role as well – a 2003 Ford F-250 Super Cab with a long box would cost $1,470 for standard shipping across the country on an open transport..

What about shorter distances? Cutting the coast-to-coast trip in half generally drops $350 from the price, while an 800-mile day trip would shave approximately $450. That means our Mustang would go halfway across the U.S. on an open trailer for $720, or a quarter of the distance for $620. Keep in mind, these estimated figures all stem from Direct Express Auto Transport and include taxes and insurance – which by the way, any reputable carrier should have proper insurance. And always make sure to have plenty of photos before and after the car is loaded. If you’re on the receiving end, have the seller take photos. It’s simple insurance to have in case of disputed damages upon delivery.

Shipping cars
Shipping cars

For distances closer to home a smaller company might be able to offer a good combination of service and price. Many such companies (as well as larger operations) work through UShip – a website that allows people to receive bids from multiple shippers. A quick check of their site shows a 2004 Mercedes E-Class going from Pennsylvania to Kentucky for $375. Also, local car clubs, dealerships or Facebook groups can be good resources for tracking down auto shipping options.

One thing we’ll say about the Internet – from research to sales it’s completely changed the car buying process. If you happen to spy a good deal on eBay, Bring A Trailer, or any number of online showrooms, there are all kinds of options to bring that deal home. Hopefully this primer on shipping can help take some of the stress out of the experience.

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