There are times when you need to transport a car from one part of the country to another. Maybe you've purchased a car online from a private party or a dealership in another state, or perhaps you're relocating for a new job. Maybe you want to send a car to a relative. Shipping a vehicle across the country can be costly, but if you weigh that against flying to pick up a car and the time and expense involved in driving it home, it is often worth it.
We here at Edmunds.com have shipped cars and had cars shipped to us for our long-term fleet several times. Here are some questions to ask and things to keep in mind when planning to ship a car.
Be Prepared To Wait
Shipping a vehicle isn't like shipping a package: It won't happen overnight. Deliveries in the U.S. have roughly a four-week window from when the car is picked up to when it will arrive at its destination. International deliveries will take six to eight weeks.
Covered or Uncovered Carrier?
An uncovered car carrier will often be the less expensive option, but your vehicle will be susceptible to the elements and any debris that may fly in the path of the truck. A covered or enclosed carrier gives you the most protection, but it can cost roughly 60 percent more.
Scheduled Pickup or Open Transport?
In most cases, the shipping company will contact you when it has a truck with an open slot that's heading in the direction of your destination. If you prefer an exact pick-up date, it will cost extra.
Door to Door or Terminal to Terminal?
Door-to-door service is the most convenient method of shipping a vehicle, but if you're looking to keep costs low, ask if the company has terminal-to-terminal service. This means that the sender drops off the car at a predetermined terminal and the recipient picks it up at a terminal in the destination city.
Research Prices and the Company
There are dozens of vehicle shipping companies out there, but it can be difficult to spot the good ones. For example, we've dealt with Reliable Carriers when we've bought and sold cars from our long-term fleet and have had no issues. On the other hand, the company has mixed reviews online. As you make your shipper choice, we strongly recommend you do thorough research, including reading online reviews.
uShip is a shipping-company aggregator that eBay makes available for its vehicle sales. The site makes it easy to read reviews and sort through numerous price quotes from the dozens of shipping companies on the site.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration maintains a hotline for consumers to check on a shipper's license and insurance record as well as whether any complaints have been made about the company.
Regardless of whom you call, talk to three shippers and see which one gives you the best vibe, along with a competitive price.
Other Pricing Variables
Location: A delivery between two major cities may be cheaper than shipping between smaller cities or towns. More carriers cover these routes.
Vehicle Size: Bigger cars take up more space in the carrier and heavier cars add more cargo weight, making them more expensive to ship.
Season: Fewer people transport cars in winter, so rates may be lower then.
Check Your Insurance Coverage
It is important to ask about the company's liability insurance coverage, in case anything happens to your vehicle during transport. Most reputable carriers will have $50,000-$100,000 in coverage according to Paysafe Escrow, a third-party escrow service. Additionally, you'll want to check with your own insurance to see what coverage you have in the event of an accident along the way.
Inspect the Vehicle for Damage
The shipping company usually does a thorough walk-around of the vehicle before it is loaded onto the truck. The shipping company is looking for any scratches or dents and will make a note of them. This will be an important piece of evidence in case something gets damaged, so make sure you inspect the car and agree with the report. Similarly, you'll want to inspect an arriving vehicle for any damage that might have occurred during transport. Taking a few pre- and post-shipment photos is a good idea, in case you need to support a damage claim.
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.