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10 Things To Know Before Shipping a Car

So, you need to get your car from point A to point B, but driving that distance yourself isn’t ideal. Maybe you’re moving long distances, selling to someone out of state, or just don’t fancy the road trip.

Whatever the reason, shipping your car sounds like a convenient solution. But before you hand over the keys and watch your beloved vehicle disappear onto a trailer, you should know a few things.

Shipping a car can be a smooth and stress-free experience, but a little preparation goes a long way. This guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to navigate the process confidently.

We’ll cover everything from choosing the right shipping company to getting your car ready for its journey. We’ll also delve into the nitty-gritty of insurance, documentation, and what to expect upon arrival.

By the end of this guide, you’ll be a car shipping pro, ready to send your vehicle off on its adventure with peace of mind. So, buckle up and get ready to learn the 10 essential things you need to know before shipping your car!

1. Researching Auto Transport Companies

You want to entrust the job of shipping your car to a reliable company. A little online research can go a long way in finding a reputable service. When searching for a cheap vehicle transport company, ensure you balance cost with reliability.

Look for companies with a strong online presence, positive customer reviews on platforms like Google or the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and a valid Department of Transportation (DOT) registration number.

Be wary of companies offering unrealistically low prices, which might indicate subpar service or hidden fees. Don’t hesitate to contact several companies and request quotes to compare pricing and services offered.

2. Understanding Shipping Methods

There are two main methods for car shipping: open carrier and enclosed carrier. Open carrier car shipping is a common choice if you’re considering affordability. It involves transporting your car on an open trailer, which is generally cheaper but exposes the car to the elements.

Enclosed auto transport service offers a more luxurious ride for your car, with it being fully protected within a trailer. This option is ideal for classic cars, luxury vehicles, or if you’re particularly worried about weather damage.

3. Getting it Ready for Transport

Before your car gets hitched to its temporary trailer, there are some steps you can take to ensure a smooth journey. First, give your car a thorough cleaning, both inside and out. This will not only make it easier to document any existing damage during inspections, but it’s also a courtesy to the transport company.

Next, remove all personal belongings and loose items from the interior. Anything not securely fastened could become a projectile during transport. Check and adjust all fluid levels (oil, antifreeze, etc.) according to your car’s manual.

Verify your tire pressure is at the manufacturer’s recommended level for optimal safety. While not mandatory, addressing any minor mechanical issues beforehand can give you peace of mind.

4. Vehicle Documentation and Insurance

When it comes to shipping your car, documentation is key. Have your car registration and title readily available. These documents are proof of ownership and might be required by the shipping company or during transport.

Additionally, ensure your car insurance policy covers your vehicle during transport. If the existing coverage doesn’t extend to shipping, consider obtaining additional insurance for peace of mind.

5. Pre-Shipment Inspection

Before your car is loaded onto the trailer, the transport company driver will conduct a detailed inspection. This inspection documents any pre-existing damage, such as scratches, dents, or dings.

It’s crucial to be present for this inspection and carefully review the report with the driver. Don’t be afraid to point out anything you find concerning. Once you agree with the report and sign it, you’ll have a record of your car’s condition before transport.

The pre-shipment inspection is even more critical if you are shipping a high-end car. Those opting for luxury vehicle shipping will want to document every detail to ensure any potential damage is noted.

6. Transport Timeframes

Shipping a car isn’t like hopping on a plane—it takes time. Several factors can influence the timeframe, including the distance your car needs to travel, the chosen shipping method (an open carrier generally takes longer), the route taken by the transporter, and potential delays due to weather or traffic.

When requesting quotes from different companies, be sure to inquire about estimated delivery windows. This will help you manage your expectations and make any necessary arrangements for the car’s arrival.

7. Payment and Fees

Be wary of companies that require large upfront deposits. Reputable car shipping companies typically operate on a payment-upon-delivery model. However, it’s wise to understand all the associated fees before booking.

This might include the base transport cost, fuel surcharges (especially for long distances), and any additional insurance you choose. Ensure you receive a clear breakdown of all charges before finalizing the agreement.

8. Delivery and Final Inspection

The moment your car arrives at its destination, it is finally here! But the job isn’t done yet. Upon delivery, thoroughly inspect your car for any damage that might have occurred during transport.

Carefully compare the car’s condition to the pre-shipment inspection report. If you notice any new damage, don’t hesitate to point it out to the driver and note it on the delivery receipt.

Ideally, document any discrepancies with photos before the driver leaves. Acting swiftly helps ensure a smooth claims process if necessary.

9. What to Do in Case of Damage

In the unfortunate event of damage, especially if you’ve used a boat transport company or opted for inoperable auto transport, contact the transport company immediately and provide all necessary documentation.

Despite your best efforts, unforeseen circumstances can sometimes lead to damage during transport. If you discover any damage upon delivery, don’t panic! Most reputable car shipping companies have procedures in place for handling such situations.

Immediately contact the transport company and report the damage you’ve found. Be sure to keep copies of all relevant documents, including the inspection reports, photos, and any communication with the company. Following these steps will strengthen your case if you need to file a claim.

10. Staying Informed Throughout the Journey

While your car is nestled on its temporary trailer, you might wonder where it is and when it will arrive. Luckily, many reputable car shipping companies offer tracking options. These can provide real-time updates on your car’s location and estimated delivery timeframe.

Additionally, don’t hesitate to contact the company with any questions or concerns you might have during the transport process. Clear communication can help alleviate any anxieties and ensure a smooth experience.


Shipping your car can be a convenient and efficient way to get it from one place to another. By following these 10 essential tips, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate the process confidently.

Remember, a little research, preparation, and understanding can go a long way in ensuring a smooth and stress-free car shipping experience. So, buckle up, get organized, and prepare to send your car on its adventure with peace of mind!


Q1: What are the different types of car shipping services available?
A1: 1. Open Carrier Transport: The most common and affordable method, where vehicles are transported on an open trailer exposed to the elements.
2. Enclosed Carrier Transport: Offers more protection by transporting vehicles in a covered trailer, ideal for classic, luxury, or high-value cars.
3. Door-to-Door Service: The vehicle is picked up from and delivered directly to specified locations.
4. Terminal-to-Terminal Service: The vehicle is picked off at designated terminals.
5. Expedited Shipping: Faster service at a higher cost for urgent transport needs.
6. Inoperable Vehicle Transport: Specialized service for cars that do not run.

Q2: Are there any restrictions on what can be shipped in the car?
A2: Personal belongings should not be left in the car during transport due to safety and insurance policies. Items can shift and cause damage; most transport companies are not liable for personal items.

Q3: How do I choose a reputable car shipping company?
A3: 1. Research Online: Look for companies with positive reviews on platforms like Google and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
2. Verify Credentials: Ensure the company has a valid Department of Transportation (DOT) registration number.
3. Compare Quotes: Get multiple quotes and compare services and prices.
4. Check Insurance: Confirm that the company offers adequate insurance coverage.
5. Read Reviews: Look for customer feedback and testimonials.

Q4: Can I track the progress of my vehicle during transportation?
A4: Many reputable car shipping companies offer tracking options that provide real-time updates on your vehicle’s location and estimated delivery timeframe.

Q5: Are there any specific requirements for shipping a classic or luxury car?
A5: Yes, for classic or luxury cars, it is recommended to:
1. Use Enclosed Transport: To protect the vehicle from weather and road debris.
2. Document Condition: Thoroughly document the car’s condition with photos and notes before shipping.
3. Verify Insurance: Ensure the transport company’s insurance covers high-value vehicles.
4. Choose a Specialized Company: Look for companies specializing in shipping classic or luxury cars.

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