If you are looking to book a long-distance move, and are trying to reduce the hassle of dealing with multiple providers for your moving needs, then booking with a single carrier is a logical place to start. Some household goods movers will be able to handle the shipping of your car. However, the logistics of packing your car into one of their moving trucks make this a bit cost-prohibitive.
Of course, this will all depend on your budget. Many companies who use full-sized moving vans will be able to pack your car in with your household items. However, they will charge far steeper rates due to the space lost for other potential moves on that same truck.
Logistics of Shipping a Car
Frankly, cars take up a lot of space. By far, the most cost-effective way to ship a car is with a dedicated auto transporter, on an open carrier. Some professional movers can handle the process upon request, but most would prefer to contract the work out to a professional auto shipping service.
If your moving company agrees to ship your car for you, alongside your household goods, they will likely load it into the back of the moving van near the door. The average sedan is just under 15 feet long. Add in the five feet of overhead clearance and six feet in width, and it is an absolutely massive item, in terms of space lost for movers. In large moving vans (18-wheeler trailers), your movers will try to offset this by using overhead planking. Sheets of plywood suspended over your car can provide much-needed storage space. However, they will not be able to support much weight, and will be reserved for lighter, loose items.
Preparing Your Car to Ship
Before shipping your car, you will have to go through an exhaustive cleaning and preparatory process. First and foremost, you should resolve any outstanding mechanical issues with your vehicle. Your auto transport service will have to charge you extra if your car isn’t in working order, or if they need extra machinery to get it off of the transport. At the very least, you should get a full tune-up and oil change before pickup.
Next, you should cater to the appearance of your vehicle. Thoroughly cleaning the outside will serve multiple purposes. First off, your car will be exposed to the elements (if using an open vehicle transport), so you should try to mitigate the eventual negative effects that this will have on its appearance. Next, it is obviously far easier to see any damage on your vehicle when it is clean. If it sustains any scrapes, dents, or worse, during its journey to the drop-off point, then you will want to make note of that immediately after delivery. Filing claims after you’ve signed a bill of lading can be tricky, for obvious reasons.
Next, you should fully detail the inside of your vehicle. Wipe down every surface, vacuum and clean the floors and seats, and box up any personal items you normally keep inside your car. Remember, the only item protected by an auto carrier’s insurance (and your potential gap insurance) is the vehicle itself.
The final step in this process will be running your car’s fuel down to around a quarter of a tank. You should ideally only keep as much gas in your vehicle as is needed to drive it on and off the transport. Keep your car title, registration, insurance, and driver’s license on-hand, as you will need to show these to your driver at the pickup point.
What to Expect from Auto Shippers
Just as is the case with moving companies, car shipping quotes are free, with no obligation. You should field a few of these quotes if you opt for the more cost-effective choice of booking with an auto transport company.
Many companies you deal with in this field are brokers, rather than direct carriers. You shouldn’t let this deter you, however. Many of the best brokers in the field have extensive networks of actual drivers and carriers that they routinely work with. They serve as the middlemen between you and the driver who will actually transport your vehicle.
Whether by GPS tracking or through contact with a driver, you should be able to make contact with your shipment at all times. However, you will oftentimes not hear from your driver until it is time for delivery – if all goes well.
Upon pickup and delivery at your new home, you and the driver will do a full walk-around and inspection of your vehicle to verify its condition. At pickup, the driver will note any damage on a bill of lading, which will be checked against the condition of your vehicle at delivery. If all appears to be above-board, you will sign that document and pay your driver for services rendered. Any payment before this point will be to your shipment broker for arranging the service.
Finally, all car shipping companies must be registered with the FMCSA. You can research their USDOT number here, along with all proofs of insurance and complaint histories.
Average Cost of Car Shipping
Shipping your vehicle with a dedicated auto transporter may seem like a large cost but, compared to shipping it with a long-distance mover, it is by far the best option for any budget.
Your cost will vary based on a number of factors. Fuel costs, demand of car shippers, extra gap insurance on your vehicle, and distance are the main ones to be aware of. If you are shipping a vehicle from New York to California, for instance, you can expect to pay between $1650 and $2200. Costs per mile range from $2 per mile for shorter trips, and $0.60 per mile for longer shipments of 1,500 to 2,000 miles or more. A closed transport for a luxury or new car can inflate your cost by a substantial percentage as well.
To get the best possible price, and avoid many of the pitfalls that come with hiring any service provider, you should call around and ask for as many pricing figures as you can.
Car Shipping FAQ
Can I ship items inside my car?
Whether you’re shipping your car with a full-service mover or an auto transportation specialist, you will be asked to avoid placing any items in your car. Before shipping, you should go through an exhaustive cleaning process, which involves removing all items and important documents. Any insurance coverage you may have will only cover your vehicle in the event of theft. Items inside are not covered.
How far in advance should I book car transport services?
Generally speaking, your car shipping service will require at least a few days’ worth of lead time in order to effectively handle your vehicle. Car carriers transport multiple vehicles at a time, and will try to schedule shipments along the same route to save time and fuel. You should book at least two weeks in advance to be safe.
How long does it take for a car to make it to the delivery point?
In the continental United States, you can expect your car to take anywhere from four days to two weeks to be delivered. This is a rather large delivery window to adjust for, but it can’t be helped if you go with a strictly-car shipping company.
Are enclosed transports necessary?
Enclosed transports or carriers are typically used for higher-end or luxury vehicles. Antiques can be shipped in these transports as well. The purpose of these transports is to shield cars from the elements to reduce potential wear or damage. Ultimately, it isn’t a necessary add-on to have for your car to make it to its new destination safely. Most open transports have excellent safety records and will be sufficient for your vehicle.
Will I be able to track my car in transit?
The majority of car shippers and moving companies offering car shipping as a service will allow you to track your car in transit. Depending on the provider, this will either be done via GPS, or through your driver maintaining an open line of communication.