Auto Transport Tips



The first question you'll want answered is "What is the total cost of shipping my car?" To get a good price, obtain quotes from several car transport companies and be prepared to provide:

  • origin/destination - include ZIP codes if possible
  • approximate departure date
  • type of vehicle(s)
  • preferred shipping options (see Tip #2)

Just remember that the cheapest price is not always the best. (See Tip #9)



To get an accurate quote and be able to compare quotes between companies, make sure you understand your shipping options and what your preferences are:

  • door-to-door vs. terminal-to-terminal - For door-to-door shipping, the car carrier picks-up your vehicle at your home or workplace and delivers your vehicle to your final destination. For terminal-to-terminal shipping, you deliver your vehicle to a vehicle storage location where the car carrier will then pick up your vehicle. It is delivered to a similar type of location near your final destination.
  • open or enclosed - Open transport is the less expensive and most common way to ship a vehicle. Enclosed transport is typically priced higher, and it protects your vehicle from dust, rain, snow and other elements. High-end vehicles are sometimes shipped enclosed.
  • operable or inoperable - Operable vehicles can be driven onto the truck. Inoperable vehicles require special equipment to pull the vehicle onto the truck. If your vehicle is inoperable you need to let the auto transport company know, so they can make sure the truck that picks up your vehicle has the proper equipment.



Personal items are typically NOT allowed in your vehicle. Most carriers are not insured to transport household items. Also, the additional weight can put carriers over their weight limit and items of value are easily stolen from an automobile's trunk. That being said.. some carriers will transport your Luggage/personal property if it's confined to trunk, with no heavy articles, and not to exceed 100 lbs on your own responsiblilitiy.   



The time that your car is in transit will be dependent on a number of factors, including the origin and destination, time of year, and the actual truck that will be shipping your car. When you get quotes from auto transport companies, you should also ask about estimated shipping time. The following are common time frames for shipping between different parts of the country.

East Coast to West Coast - typically 7 to 10 days 
Midwest to East Coast - typically 3 to 7 days 
Midwest to West Coast - typically 3 to 7 days 
South to the North - typically 3 to 5 days



While some car transport companies may not require payment in advance, most require a intial deposit/booking fee (10-25% of the total cost) or full payment in advance. If a deposit is given, the remaining amount due is required at the time of delivery – oftentimes with a cashiers check or cash. Some auto transport companies do accept credit cards, but they may charge a 2-3% surcharge if paying full amount through credit card. Usually credit card payments due before the delivery.  



READ YOUR CONTRACT AND SERVICE TERMS CAREFULLY!!! And, do not rely on any verbal promises from your car transport company.

After you sign your contract or submit online order, your car transport company will ALWAYS refer you to the contract for any complaints you may have, including the cost to cancel your shipment. The main thing to look for is a clause that says there is no guaranteed pickup or delivery date. Even though most cars are delivered by car transport companies within the expected time frame, most will not guarantee a delivery date. You can ask for the following things to protect yourself against verbal promises that you would have otherwise relied upon (also see Tip #8 below):

  • Ask for a contract clause (in writing) that waives the cancellation fee if the car is not picked up by your car transport company within some number of days of the scheduled pickup date. If you cancel within the allotted window, expect to pay some fee, which may vary from $50 to $250. Although most cars are picked up on the scheduled date or within a few days of that date, in some circumstances a delay of upto a week may occasionally happen if there is a mother nature affecting the area of your pick up location or delivery or sudden increase in car shipping request from your area which sometimes makes delays.
  • It is difficult for any car transport company to promise a delivery date, however, if your car transport company offers a guarantee that covers a rental car, find out the cost of the guarantee (if any) and the maximum dollars per day covered.



Your vehicle(s) should be insured against damage and theft by your car transport company. Take the following four steps to be sure of the coverage:

  1. Get a copy of Their Insurance Coverage.
  2. Determine if the carrier's insurance is Primary or Secondary to your own insurance in the event of damage during car transport.
  3. Ask if there is a damage deductible.

In addition, your own car insurance may cover your vehicle in transit – check with your car insurance company to verify. Keep in mind that many car transport companies may discourage or prohibit you from leaving personal articles in your vehicle. Any personal articles left in the car are not insured – your home policy may cover these articles, but you should check with your home insurance agent to verify. ALSO NOTE: overloading your trunk with heavy items may result in damage to your car's undercarriage. Your car transport company may not cover damage in that instance.



Ask for estimated pick-up and delivery times from your car transport company. You should be able to get a 3-day window for pick-up – during the busy summer or snow bird season the window may be larger, but the car transport company should warn you of possible delays ahead of time. BE SKEPTICAL OF EXACT PICK-UP AND DELIVERY DATES promised by auto transport companies – If you are promised exact dates, get it in writing and state the remedy if service is not performed on the promised dates ($50 discount, no fee to cancel, reimbursement for rental car, etc.). Once the pick-up is made, your car transport company should provide you with a fairly precise delivery date. If you need an exact date for pick-up, most car transport services can pick-up your car and hold it at a terminal for an additional charge.



BEFORE SELECTING A COMPANY, we recommend that you search about the company's service history.  Also you could check their reviews online such as on Google,, Yelp etc. Ask them for references, if possible.



Use the following tips to be ready for your car pick-up:

  1. Wash your car, so that you can properly inspect it and there are no disagreements over responsibility for any damage.
  2. Remove personal items from your vehicle (see Tip#3).
  3. Remove or secure any special effects on your car, such as spoilers, fog lights and antennas. These can easily be damaged during transport.
  4. Be sure your car battery is charged, so your car can be easily loaded and unloaded from the carrier. If your vehicle inoperable carrier may charge you extra to use winch. 



As long as you are shipping within the United States, the only paperwork you will need is provided by the shipping company and is called the BOL "Bill of Lading" also contains "Original Inspection Report". This report provides pick-up and delivery information, current mileage, and MOST IMPORTANTLY shows the condition of your car at the time of pick-up – pre-existing scratches and dents, cracked glass/mirrors, general paint condition, etc. Keep this report and use it when you receive your vehicle.



At the time of delivery, inspect your vehicle SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY and compare the condition and mileage against the "Original Inspection Report" provided by your car transport company at origination. Be sure to inspect the roof and under the front and rear bumpers. If there are inconsistencies, note them as exceptions and be sure the driver signs it. NEVER ACCEPT YOUR VEHICLE AT NIGHT IF YOU CANNOT VERIFY ITS CONDITION – without being viewed and signed by the driver, you have little recourse if damage occurred during transit.




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