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When booking with a car transport company, you will most likely have the option of choosing between enclosed car shipping and open car shipping – but which is the best option for your needs? This article will explain the costs and services to think about when looking at enclosed vs. open car shipping.

Both enclosed and open carriers are both commonly used by the best car shipping companies, and we have reviewed the country’s top-rated auto transport brokers based on cost, service, and customer experience. We recommend that you take the time to get a free, no-obligation quote from a few providers below.

 

In this article:

Open Vs. Enclosed Car Shipping: What’s The Difference?

Open car shipping, or open auto transport, is a commonly used method for vehicle transport that is either “out in the open” or in a multicar trailer without an exterior covering. This shipping style can accommodate up to 10 vehicles at once, though this often depends on:

  • Car size
  • Car weight
  • Demand

Compared to enclosed car shipping, open car shipping is far less expensive, as more cars can be transported at once.

Enclosed car shipping, or enclosed auto transport, is a method used for vehicles that need protection inside an enclosed trailer. Enclosed trailers are smaller and can’t accommodate as many cars as an open trailer – on average, only 2-3 cars can be transported at once. Enclosed auto transport carriers tend to cost double that of open carriers, so this shipping method is less popular among consumers unless they own luxury cars that need more security.

There are more options for open car carriers than enclosed carriers among auto transport brokers, so those considering how to ship a car with enclosed vs. open car shipping gravitate toward the latter. The open car shipping method is also quicker, as open car trailers are more common than enclosed car carriers and require less stops during transport.


Pros And Cons Of Enclosed Car Shipping Vs. Open Car Shipping

If you’re still trying to understand these two transport types, you should take the time to consider the pros and cons of enclosed vs. open car shipping. There are many aspects of each method that can either positively or negatively impact your experience, so it’s important to make yourself aware of everything upfront before making a decision.

Enclosed Car Shipping

While enclosed shipping may be the best option for valuable cars, it can be quite expensive and usually takes longer to transport than open shipping.

Pros & Cons of Enclosed Car Shipping
Pros Of Enclosed Car Shipping Cons Of Enclosed Car Shipping
Provides security and protection during transport Costs twice the amount of open car shipping

Opens up access to carriers

that are more experienced with high-end vehicles

Less fuel-efficient

Removes the potential of damages

due to flying road debris or bad weather

Car transport can take longer
 

Open Car Shipping

Open car shipping is a more common method and is less expensive, but you may worry about your vehicle being exposed to weather elements. Your car may also be very dirty upon arrival, as an open carrier doesn’t protect the car’s exterior from dirt or debris.

Pros & Cons of Open Car Shipping
Pros Of Open Car Shipping Cons Of Open Car Shipping
Faster and more affordable No protection against debris or bad weather conditions
Fuel-efficient Less security and protection for expensive vehicles

More open transport options, making it easier to

book your preferred shipping date and time

 
 

Open Vs. Enclosed Car Shipping Cost

The average quote for enclosed car shipping ranges between $1,000 and $2,000, while open transport usually costs between $500 and $1,000. You will pay anywhere from 50 to 100 percent more per mile for enclosed vs. open car shipping.

Regardless of which shipping method you choose, there are a variety of factors that can affect the final price of your car shipment. These include:

  • Distance: Long-distance transport generally costs less per mile but is more expensive overall.
  • Destination: Popular shipment locations may be cheaper.
  • Type of vehicle, make, and model: Expensive and new cars tend to cost more to ship.
  • Shipment type: Terminal-to-terminal is typically cheaper than door-to-door shipping.
  • Condition of vehicle: Operable vehicles cost far less to move.

Enclosed car transport, of course, also bumps the price up. This is to be expected. The shipping method offers peace of mind for customers who need their vehicle to arrive in perfect condition. While it may not be the best method for cheap car shipping, there are situations when you should choose enclosed over open car shipping.


Should I Use Enclosed Or Open Car Shipping?

Even though open car shipping is a faster and cheaper way to transport your vehicle, it’s not always your best option. Realize that your vehicle will be exposed to weather conditions with open transport and won’t be protected from road debris. For owners of luxury vehicles, classic cars, and sports cars, this is something you should consider.

If you’re trying to choose between enclosed vs. open car shipping, balance your vehicle’s value with enclosed transport’s higher price tag. Since fewer cars can be moved at once, enclosed transport will be more expensive than open car shipping. Also, open-air trailers tend to require less fuel than enclosed transport trailers, so fuel costs for enclosed car shipping will increase your car shipping cost even more.

The car transport option you choose depends on a number of factors, and taking the time to understand the pros and cons of each will help you determine which would be best for your auto transportation needs.


Best Companies For Enclosed And Open Car Shipping

We reviewed some of the most reputable auto transport companies for enclosed vs. open car shipping and ranked them based on overall cost, quality, and customer experience.

Each company has thousands of positive reviews from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot, and all provide top-rated service for both enclosed and open car shipping. We have also written reviews based on customer feedback and experiences, which are listed below.

The chart shows our ratings for each company based on cost, service standards, and customer satisfaction.

Best Car Shipping Companies
Car Shipping Company

Overall Star Rating

Cost Rating

Service Rating

Customer Experience Rating
Montway Auto Transport 4.6 4.3 4.8 4.6
Sherpa Auto Transport 4.5 4.6 4.5 4.6
AmeriFreight 4.5 4.3 4.9 4.2
 

To learn even more, you can get free, customized car shipping quotes online from these recommended providers below.

 

Open Vs. Enclosed Car Shipping: FAQ

How much does it cost to ship a car in an enclosed trailer?

The average cost of enclosed car shipping is around $1 per mile, with the overall price ranging from $1,000 to over $2,000. Enclosed transport generally costs between $500 and $2,000 more than open car shipping, as haulers have to use specialty trailers and follow more security measures with enclosed vs. open car shipping.

Is open car shipping safe?

Yes, open car shipping is generally a safe way to transport your vehicle and is the most common type of car shipping service. Open-air carriers use trucks and trailers to transport your car as securely and safely as possible, and many reliable auto transport companies have insurance to cover the cost of any potential damages during the process.

How many cars can be on an open car trailer vs. an enclosed car trailer?

Enclosed car trailers hold fewer vehicles than open car trailers. On average, eight to ten cars will be loaded onto an open car trailer, while only two to three cars can fit into an enclosed trailer. This is one of many reasons why enclosed trailers are the best option for rare or expensive vehicles.


Methodology

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.