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Shipping a Car Across The Country: A Step-by-Step Guide

Whether you’re moving across the country, working long-term from another state, or if you bought a vehicle from a seller who lives a few hundred miles away, shipping a car across the country is a necessity sometimes. Hiring a car shipping company is a convenient way to facilitate the entire process.

In this article, we provide some helpful tips on how you can save time and money when hiring a vehicle shipping company or auto transporter. At the end of the article, we also provide a free car shipping calculator that will help you get the lowest price for your cross-country car shipping.

How Much Does It Cost To Ship Your Car State to State?

The cost to ship a car from one place to the next depends on many factors. Here are the main things to keep in mind:

Distance

The nationwide average of shipping a vehicle across short distances (less than 200 miles) is around $2.92/mile. That price drops dramatically once you ship over 1,000 miles, which averages out to only $0.78/mile. So if you’re shipping a vehicle from state to state, you’re definitely better off.

Vehicle Type

Smaller and lighter vehicles will demand lower prices, while larger and heavier vehicles will cost more. Exotic sports cars and vintage models that require special care and attention will cost more than shipping a small sedan.

Open vs. Enclosed Transport

You will typically have the option between an open or enclosed transport carrier when you ship your car. Open transport is the most economical way to ship a vehicle across the country. But for high-end luxury vehicles, expensive vintage cars, or megabuck supercars, open transport might not be the best option. In this case, you probably don’t want to take the risk of exposing your vehicle to the elements. The chances of incurring even minor damage to the paint, glass, and exterior trim will increase exponentially the farther and longer it sits on the open trailer.

Another thing to consider is how auto transport trailers will usually have two levels or decks. Shipping the vehicle on the upper deck or top-loading offers better protection against fluid leaks and rock chips. You have the option to request a top load, but shipping companies will charge more (around $75 or more) for this service.

Which one should you choose? In general, most people will choose open transport as it’s cheaper. If you have a more expensive car or money isn’t so important, closed transport might be a better option for you. uShip goes into more detail about the differences in this article.

Vehicle transporter with a car on its trailer.
An open transporter will likely be less expensive when shipping your car. However, if you have an exotic or classic car, having it shipped via an enclosed trailer is better.

How Long Will It Take To Ship My Car Across Country?

Shipping a vehicle a few hundred miles will likely only take one or two days, while it may a week to 10 days to ship the same car across the country. Expect to pay more if you choose an expedited shipping service or express shipping. Expedited shipping means your vehicle will arrive faster than the usual time it takes for a standard service.

You’ll also need to consider the pick-up window (or the time it takes to retrieve the vehicle after scheduling the pick-up date), which generally takes between one to five days. For example, if the pick-up date is March 3rd, the pick-up window is 24 to 48 hours after the pick-up date, between March 4th to the 5th. Logistical issues are fairly common since the shipping company is dealing with weather, traffic, and human-related factors.

Note the pick-up window is not part of the total transit time. Keep this in mind when you’re booking an appointment with your preferred transport hauler.

Understanding The Pick-Up & Delivery Process

Always Review The Bill of Lading

During pick up and delivery, the shipping company will hand over the Bill of Lading. The Bill of Lading is a contract between the shipping company and the vehicle owner. It contains the terms of the agreement, what vehicle is being transported, the transporter’s identity, and the vehicle’s condition before and after transporting.

After delivery, you should indicate any new damage to the vehicle after being transported in the Bill of Lading.

Do You Have To Be There?

How much do you love your car? Kidding aside, you don’t have to be there personally during pick-up or delivery, but it’s essential to have an adult there to supervise the process. You or your chosen representative will need to sign the Bill of Lading when picking the vehicle up.

Will My Car Be Shipped To My Exact Location?

Yes, but there are certain conditions. As much as possible, the driver’s job is to deliver your vehicle to your doorstep, but this is not always the case. Remember, your vehicle will be transported on a carrier truck; a gargantuan vehicle 60 to 70 feet long and up to 13 feet high in some cases.

If you live in an area with narrow roads, low-hanging trees, or your place is downtown, it might make it hard for the transporter to reach you, either when they are picking up the vehicle for shipping, or dropping it off. If this is the case, you or your chosen representative might have to drive a little to meet the transporter in a spacious and secure location.

On the other hand, most auto transport carriers offer door-to-door service, even in rural locations. Door-to-door service means you are not required to go anywhere specifically to drop off or receive your car. However, you usually do have the option to meet the truck driver at a location near the delivery or pick-up point (like the junction to a major interstate). Although less convenient than door-to-door service, taking this option may save you money on your car shipping cost.

How To Prepare Your Vehicle For Shipping (+ Printable Checklist)

You’ll want to wash your vehicle to remove excess dirt and grime. A clean exterior makes it easier for the inspector to see any dings, scratches, or dents. It will also make it easier for you to see any damage that may have occurred during shipping once your car is delivered. Other than that, here are a few more tips for shipping your vehicle across the country:

  • Disable the vehicle alarm if possible.
  • Check the tire pressures and battery condition.
  • Deactivate the vehicle’s electronic toll pass (if applicable).
  • Remove exterior attachments and accessories like antennas and bike racks.
  • Make sure there are no valuables (money, jewelry, electronics, etc.) left inside.
  • Check and refill vital fluids like the engine oil, brake fluid, and transmission fluid.
  • Fill the gas tank at least a quarter full. If you can help it, it’s better to ship a vehicle with less gas in the tank. More gas means more weight and higher costs.
  • Make sure the parking/emergency brake is working. Car shipping companies can refuse service for a defective or non-working parking brake.
Checklist for shipping you car across the country.
Click or tap the image to download a PDF copy of this checklist. You can keep it on your phone or print it out, whichever is most helpful as you are getting ready to ship your car across the country.

How To Find The Best Car Shipping Company

We recommend looking for three things in particular when you are researching car shipping companies.

Customer Reviews

The Internet is awash with customer reviews of every business under the sun. We always recommend transport providers with sterling reviews (look for comments about on-time delivery). You can find reviews on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit as well.

Care & Concern

Your vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases you will make, besides your home. The best auto shipping companies will care for your vehicle like it’s their own and arrive on time with minimal delay. You can often tell by the reviews how a given car shipping company will treat your vehicle.

Trackability

We prefer car shipping companies that offer an online tracking service. Reliable and reputable carriers will often provide necessary updates by phone, email, or text to notify you of any changes to the itinerary. Choose a shipping provider that closely monitors your vehicle, especially if you’re shipping an expensive car.

Cheapest Way To Ship a Car Across The Country

Similar to buying a car, the best way to save money on car shipping costs is to compare multiple quotes. Remember, there are many variables to consider when shipping a car. Comparing the level of service, experience, and pricing between one shipping company to the next is imperative to get the best deals available.

With that in mind, we have a car shipping calculator from uShip that you can use for free below:

Car Shipping Calculator

Just enter a few basic details about the car, condition, and locations, and it’ll give you a quick estimate on shipping costs and the ability to get a free quote. We were told that the calculator isn’t loading on some browsers with ad blockers, so if you have any trouble below, please disable the ad blocker and try again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should You Book In Advance?

Yes! You’ll get better chances of scoring the best deals if you book at least two weeks in advance or roughly 15 days before the first available shipping date.

Head over to uShip’s vehicle shipping page to get a comparison for shipping quotes and to book in advance.

Should I Ship My Car or Just Drive?

If the destination is less than 500 miles and driving the vehicle is a valid option, you can do so and pocket the savings.

However, there are some exceptions. Suppose your vehicle is a lease, for example. In that case, hiring a car shipping company is more reasonable than paying more money for incurring excess mileage penalties (which amounts to about 15 or 20 cents per mile). The same rule applies to vintage cars, concept cars, supercars, or limited-edition vehicles – shipping the car might just make more financial sense. In some cases, the car might not be legal on public roads (like racing cars or highly-tuned off-road vehicles).

Mind you, driving a vehicle over long distances is not devoid of added costs like food, lodging, tolls, and gas expenses – not to mention engine wear, tire wear, and depreciation. The general rule of thumb is to consider driving the vehicle if the destination is less than 500 miles away.

Do I Need Any Special Insurance?

Auto shipping companies, by law, are required to have liability and cargo insurance. It covers any damages to your vehicle incurred during the transit period. However, this type of insurance will not cover the loss of personal possessions left inside the car and is the reason why you should never leave your valuables when shipping a vehicle.

But there’s a catch. The amount of coverage varies depending on the shipping company. In some cases, the coverage may not be enough to cover the value of your vehicle. Here are things to consider when reviewing the insurance policy of your shipping provider:

– Request proof of insurance from the transport company.
– Determine the deductible.
– Review the type of damages that are covered by the policy.
– Know the limitations of the insurance policy.

Should I Purchase Additional Coverage?

Yes and no. You should get additional coverage if the policy is not enough to cover the value of your vehicle. Consider this if you’re shipping an expensive, rare, or vintage car. On the other hand, the standard liability insurance by the transport provider may be enough for an average sedan, SUV, or pickup truck.

Always read the fine print. Know the limitations and the type of damages covered by the policy before signing the dotted line.

Can I Ship a Damaged Car?

It’s possible, but the shipping rates will change depending on factors like location, size of the vehicle, and carrier type. Broken or damaged vehicles need a winch carrier, and most auto shipping companies can arrange for this type of service, albeit for a fee.

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