For most people, a cross-country road trip sounds fun. For instance, let’s say you are moving from New York to California. Suddenly you start thinking about the cost of gas, the wear and tear on your vehicle, and just how incredibly long sitting in a car for over 24 hours can be (believe us, it’s a long time). That’s the moment an idea pops in your head… what if I just ship my car?
There are multiple situations where you might find yourself needing to ship an automobile. The most common of these include moving long distances, or if you are selling your auto to someone in another state. Whether you are in one of these situations or have another reason for transporting your car, this is the type of thing that most people only do a handful of times in their lives, leading to a great deal of unfamiliarity.
From choosing the ideal automotive transportation company to preparing your car for the journey, there are many things to do before you actually send your car across the country or on a shorter trip. Start by familiarizing yourself with the basics of car shipping, and then you can take a closer look at the companies that will get your car to its destination in one piece.
Our Picks for Car Transport Companies
The following are our top picks for automotive transportation companies, based on factors such as reputation, pricing, guarantees, time spent, customer service, and other considerations.
Ship a Car Direct markets themselves as the “#1 Car Shipping Company” in the country, a claim which is backed by their high rankings on independent reviews and numerous satisfied customers. To help with your confidence in this company, Ship a Car Direct has more than 18,000 reviews on TransportReviews.com, leading to a score of five stars. It also has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, which has accredited it since 2008. This company is fully licensed and bonded, as well, delivering added confidence. It also lists its DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration number clearly on its website.
To make the process of shipping an auto as convenient as possible for customers, Ship a Car Direct has door-to-door transportation, so you will not need to bring your auto to a terminal. It also does not require any upfront deposit, something that always alludes to a more reputable company.
In terms of insurance and potential damage, Ship a Car Direct has a “Damage Free Guarantee” and will help pay for any damage that does occur. Despite its high spot on this list, Ship a Car Direct is actually a broker for auto shipping companies instead of doing the shipping themselves. It works with hundreds of carriers, requiring them to go through a detailed selection process. In fact, the standards for Ship a Car Direct are so high that it refuses to work with 80 percent of carriers, which is what allows it to offer that strong “Damage Free Guarantee.”
Because it works with so many carriers, Ship a Car Direct is able to offer competitive pricing along with a range of transportation options. This includes enclosed carriers as well as accommodations for autos of any size.
One of the nice aspects of Ship a Car Direct is their plethora of informational tools for clients. It has a free email series, as well as free videos that users can take advantage of to prepare them for every aspect of shipping their vehicle. These tools ensure that you understand the process and know how to prepare your auto.
Like our other top picks from auto transport, King of the Road Transport is accredited with the BBB, giving you peace of mind. It has been accredited since July 2013, meaning King of the Road Transport has met BBB standards for about five years and counting. In addition to an A+ rating from the BBB, King of the Road Transport is licensed, bonded, and insured, Consumer Affairs Accredited with a five-star rating, and approved/endorsed by D&B, USA.gov, FMCSA, SAM, and more.
One of the great things about King of the Road Transport is that it specializes in shipping all types of transportation, including cars, motorcycles, and even boats. This is particularly useful for those who are moving and have a motorbike or boat in addition to their car as you can ship all those vehicles with the same company.
King of the Transport makes a significant effort to ensure your auto shipping goes as smoothly as possible with door-to-door service from pre-screened insured, bonded, and licensed auto shippers. The company takes care of everything, including contracting, scheduling inspection reports, tracking, and even a post-delivery follow up. There is a convenient button to track your auto at the top of the company’s website.
This company has affordable pricing and does not charge hidden fees. It also does not require any money to be paid upfront, eliminating many concerns. There are many discounts available, including for seniors, military members, students, dealers, returning customers, multiple vehicles, referrals, round trips, and moving companies.
For added convenience, you can actually book with King of the Road Transport on their website, including from a mobile device. It only takes a few clicks and can involve talking to a live agent. Those who prefer can also make a reservation over the phone on weekdays.
King of the Road Transport also offers information, such as auto transport tips and a “car shipping coach.” This information includes a page dedicated to estimated transit times. For those who need more complicated auto shipping, it can assist with international shipping or shipments to the non-continental U.S.
AmeriFreight has numerous accreditations, including a five-star rating from Consumer Affairs and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. It has been in business since 2004, making them among the more experienced companies for auto transport. Additionally, AmeriFreight has maintained their BBB accreditation since 2008.
AmeriFreight focuses on shipping within the continental United States, but it can organize international shipping for those who need it. In that case, the company will provide customs clearance in addition to their other normal services.
Like most of the other top car transport companies, AmeriFreight offers door-to-door transportation, which is highly convenient for customers. Every client gets a personal freight agent for a seamless user experience. Enclosed shipments are available as well.
As with most other top companies, AmeriFreight acts as a broker for auto transportation, but it carefully evaluates all carriers before choosing to work with them. AmeriFreight makes up for any gaps in the insurance of the carrier with the AFta PLAN’s gap protection so you get peace of mind. This delivers additional protection of up to $600.
As a broker, AmeriFreight is also able to negotiate on behalf of its customers, trying to get you a rate below the current market average. There are additional discounts available for bookings 24 hours after the quote as well as for repeat customers, multiple vehicles, senior citizens, first responders, military members, and students. As it ships all types of vehicles, including RVs, boats, trailers, and motorcycles in addition to cars, many clients qualify for the multiple vehicle discount. AmeriFreight offers a price guarantee so you will never pay more than the quoted price for your vehicle shipment.
We appreciate that AmeriFreight is one of the auto transport companies that provide clients with as much information as possible. It has quick information on the homepage regarding multiple concerns, including what to expect, plus a more detailed help guide for shipping your car.
Using AmeriFreight to ship your car is simple as it has a rate calculator on their website that does not require any personal information. The rate calculator delivers an estimate and you confirm the quote by calling them at any time.
Professional automotive shippers founded Executive Auto Shippers in 2009. It focuses on the delivery of daily use, classic, and luxury cars, as well as ATVs. It has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 2010 and has an A+ rating, indicating that you can trust Executive Auto Shippers with your vehicle. This company also has a strong five-star rating on Consumer Affairs, which is based on the 518 ratings submitted within the last year. It also regularly receives awards for “Super Service” from Angie’s List, having done so every year from 2012 to the present.
To give car owners peace of mind, Executive Auto Shippers provides multiple guarantees. Their price guarantee ensures that what you are quoted is what you will pay, without any concern about hidden fees. You also get a car rental guarantee, meaning that if it arrives late, you will receive reimbursement for an Enterprise rental car until your auto is delivered, without a limit.
Customers have a Resolution Specialist to help take care of any issues that arise, and customers get access to their emergency line that has a live representative 24/7. Executive Auto Shippers works with a network of carriers, which it monitors to ensure they not only meet exacting standards initially but maintain those standards.
Executive Auto Shippers stands out with their lengthy list of auto transport services. It can provide standard transportation in an open or enclosed trailer, along with overseas shipping and assistance with military moves. In addition to cars, Executive Auto Shippers can transport motorcycles, personal watercraft, and ATVs.
Like our other top picks, Executive Auto Shippers does provide basic guides for shipping your car, as well as moving in general. It also offers discounts to military members and has a customer referral program.
You can request a quote right from their website or give the company a call. There is also tracking available on the Executive Auto Shippers website, although it does require a click as opposed to competitors, which have tracking on their homepage.
eShip can take care of moves both within the United States and Canada, and it transports more than 1,000 vehicles each month. Those who plan a farther move can work with eShip to broker an international move thanks to eShip’s global partnerships. This is one of those rare situations where a shipping broker would be a provably reputable company since eShip has a strong reputation for shipping cars within the U.S. and Canada.
In terms of reputation, eShip does have two complaints registered against them with the Better Business Bureau, but these are overcome by the 29 positive customer reviews. Additionally, eShip has an impressive A+ rating from the BBB, indicating that customers can count on its services. The company is also accredited by Consumer Repairs.
eShip actually acts as both a broker and a transportation company and readily lists their licenses on their home page. Unlike some brokers, eShip takes the time to confirm that any carrier it works with is fully insured and bonded with a reputation for dependability and reliability. It essentially does the research so clients do not have to. As a company, it provides a wide range of shipping options, including enclosed transportation and expedited shipping for those who need them.
The process of shipping your auto with eShip is designed to be as straightforward and seamless as possible. The company provides door-to-door service, without any need to bring your auto to or pick it up from a terminal. There is vehicle tracking available 24/7 via a convenient pop-up on the eShip website. Additionally, everyone is assigned a personal agent that handles their file throughout the entire shipping process, so you do not have to repeat information and can enjoy personalized service.
In terms of pricing, eShip guarantees competitive rates and prides themselves on not having any hidden fees. To add even greater value to the cost of their shipping services, eShip includes a platinum protection plan at no charge. This features as much as $300 in added insurance for minor damage that a carrier’s deductible does not cover or rental reimbursement of $300 for vehicle delays in which the auto is more than 48 hours late.
Even with our suggestions, everyone has unique needs when it comes to car transportation, meaning that the company that is the best choice for your neighbor may not be right for you. Whether you want to hire one of our picks or do your own research and come to a decision by yourself, you need to keep some key information in mind.
Start by confirming that any auto shipping you consider is fully registered. Any company offering these services must have registration with the DOT, Department of Transportation. Some companies may be able to get away without this registration, but only if they remain within state lines. You can confirm that it is properly registered by asking for their DOT number. Also ask for a Motor Carrier number, which you can then research with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website. If you are shipping your auto overseas, the company also must have Federal Maritime Commission registration.
Once you know that the company you are considering is registered, ask for an estimate of how much it will cost. The price can vary between companies and will also depend on which services they offer. Be sure to ask about “extra” fees and charges that it does not necessarily mention upfront. Keep in mind that in order to get an estimate for the service, you will need to provide the locations your auto is traveling between and basic info like the make, model, and year. Essentially, the shipping company will need to know how far it is traveling, the value of the auto, and its general size and weight to give you an accurate estimate.
When looking into prices for shipping your car, ask whether there are discounts available. Some companies might offer a discount if you have to ship more than one auto or even if you are a member of certain organizations or in the military. This is also the time to ask how and when you pay. The company might request payment in full before you ship the auto, or it might have you pay a deposit of some sort before and then the balance at delivery, assuming that your car could always serve as collateral.
Early on in your decision-making process, confirm what services the car transport company in question offers. There may be restrictions based on location, the type of autos it transports, or even the maximum value of an auto it will move. This is also when you should check the type of vehicle it uses to move the cars. Open trailers tend to be much more affordable but can be harder on your car as well, particularly for longer moves. If you have a valuable car or are concerned about its condition during the transport, opt for a company that uses enclosed automotive carriers.
This is also the time to check how long the shipping will take, which depends on distance. Expect the company to give you a range as there are numerous things that can delay automotive shipping, particularly when the shipping in question covers a long distance. As a general rule of thumb, most companies will estimate one to two weeks to get a car between coasts in the United States, but international shipping can take significantly longer.
Only choose a car transport company that offers insurance of some sort for your vehicle as it is unlikely your regular auto insurance will not cover a cross-country ride on a trailer. Remember to ask not only about standard insurance coverage but also whether it is possible to increase this if you do not feel the standard coverage is enough.
When discussing insurance, you need to confirm how the company determines that nothing has happened to your auto during the journey. The typical auto shipper will require you and the delivery driver to sign off on an inspection at pickup and delivery. Remember to not only ask how the company determines whether there was damage but how it resolves issues. The best transport companies will work with you to file a claim with their insurance if damage does occur, but they should also be able to give you more information on this process before you sign documents, including how long the claim process typically takes.
You might also want to ask the automotive transport company what documents it requires and what else you need to do to prepare your auto. In most cases, it just needs your registration and insurance documentation and will require that the car be empty. It might also have a maximum amount of fuel allowed in your tank to keep the shipping weight down. In most cases, there will not be any unpleasant surprises when it comes to documentation or preparation, so you can theoretically wait to ask until choosing a company. By asking before you sign paperwork, however, you will know that there are no hidden challenges or hard-to-meet requirements.
Of course, before you make your final decision as to which car transport company to use, check its reputation. Read reviews about the company and check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints. You want to confirm that autos arrive within the estimated time frame, there are no hidden fees, that damage to the autos is rare, and that the company takes responsibility if damage does occur and facilitates the claims process.
A word of caution when looking for an auto transport company: Be wary of auto transport brokers. Some companies will not actually ship the car yourself but are instead brokers who charge you a fee then bid the shipment to other companies for transportation. This means that you do not know what company will actually ship your car and what standards it holds to.
There are technically three main methods for shipping cars within the continental United States, but almost every company will use truck transportation. This is common due to its comparatively lower cost and the option of door-to-door pickup and delivery, depending on the size of the truck and streets in the area. Most of the time, the moving company will send a smaller truck to pick up and drop off the auto at your home or have you bring it and collect it from a central terminal close to your home for a slightly lower price.
Although less common, you can also find car transport companies that load the vehicle onto a train, then transport it like rail cargo. This is much faster and generally safer than the typical truck transport but comes with a higher cost. Not only is it expensive, but most transport companies do not offer it and it may require additional insurance.
The most expensive option for domestic transportation of your auto is via air, and this is very rarely done due to the expense. It will be the fastest method and most consider it the safest. However, it will be significantly more expensive than truck or rail transportation.
In certain situations, such as for international moves, a transportation company may also ship your auto via a boat. Obviously, boat transportation will always be combined with shipping in a truck to get to and from the vessel.
Going back to the most common transportation method for auto shipping, there are several varieties of trucks used to accomplish this. Single truck trailers are also known as hot shots and, as the name implies, only carry one car at a time, although some might carry two or three. Tractor-trailers are much more common and hold many more cars; these are the ones you typically see on the highway loaded with five to 15 cars or even more.
Single truck trailers are more expensive since you have to pay for the entire transportation process. To make up for this, they tend to be quicker since there is less time spent loading and unloading multiple autos. Because they are smaller, it is also more likely that a company using a single truck trailer can deliver and pick up your car from your door.
With a tractor-trailer, you split the cost of the travel with the owners of every other auto on the trailer, making it a much more affordable method. It is a particularly good option for those living in cities or who want to transport multiple vehicles as there will be enough demand to fill the trailer regularly. In most cases, you will have to deliver and pick up your auto from a terminal if you use a tractor-trailer since the oversized truck cannot fit down side roads. You may be able to pay extra for delivery depending on your chosen company.
The other main option for truck transportation of cars is an open or enclosed trailer. Open trailers are the most affordable choice, but your auto will be exposed to the elements during the journey. However, if you and your shipping company take precautions, the risk of damage from this exposure is minimal. Many companies offer shipping in enclosed trailers for those who want some extra protection for their auto. This will cost more but is ideal for those with luxury, collector, or heavily customized autos.
The first step of preparing your auto for shipment is booking the service as far in advance as you can. The most popular car transport companies fill up their schedules quickly, particularly during peak moving times. If you have a specific schedule you need to follow, book as soon as possible.
Next, make sure that you have all the documents that you need, both originals and photocopies. Remember to double-check the specific requirements for your chosen shipping company. However, expect to need at least your insurance and registration documents. You should also confirm whether the company has any specific requirements or suggestions for preparing your car. If not, just follow our advice.
Start by ensuring that you do not have any personal property left in the vehicle. During the transportation process, multiple people will load, unload, and inspect your auto. Most companies strongly encourage you to remove things like CDs, GPS systems, aftermarket stereos, and anything else that is removable. Take out your extras, like your snow brush, box of tissues, and extra water bottles.
Some auto transport companies might let you ship your car with personal items inside, such as if you are moving and want to place boxes inside of it, but this is rare. Always check with the company first and expect to pay extra if it allows you to do this. In most cases, it will be cheaper to just ship those boxes via traditional means.
Don’t forget to also remove such things as parking passes and toll tags from your auto. They are not only valuable items that thieves may want but also put you at risk of accumulating tolls you do not need to pay as your auto travels.
Before the transport company takes your car, give it a thorough inspection and document its condition carefully. It is best to do this after a thorough wash so dents, chips, and scratches are obvious. Ideally, you will date photographs and written records. Make sure that the transport company also notes your auto’s condition.
Right before you are due to ship your car, take care of last-minute maintenance, such as ensuring the tires are inflated to the proper level and the battery is fully charged. Top off the auto’s fluids, and make sure your gas tank has about a quarter to an eighth of a tank of gas. This will reduce the weight of the vehicle, so many transport companies require this level. Just make sure there is still enough gas to get your car from the pickup location to a gas station.
Finally, prepare your auto for the actual loading process. In the case of a convertible, the top should be up and secured. No matter your auto, disable or turn off the car alarm or provide detailed written instructions on how to turn it off if it goes off en route. Retract your auto’s antenna, fold back its mirrors, and remove any detachable spoilers or other accessories. Lock your car, and it should be ready for shipment.