Anyone who plans to ship their car has one question that automatically pops in their mind: “How much would...
Shipping an automobile can be a stressful and expensive process. These companies are here to make the process a bit easier.
Transporting a car is a perilous matter, they’re a big investment and finding the best auto transport company among the legions out there is difficult. Fortunately, there are a few key things that one can look for when they’re picking the right company to get their vehicle to the right destination.
So, whether it’s a truck, RV, car, or even a motorcycle you’re in good hands. Read on and we’ll explore the factors someone needs to take into account to make sure they get a reliable and safe car shipping service on their side.
Automotive transport companies offer their clients the ability to have a car shipped to wherever it might need to be.
While the use of car carriers is the most common, there are a variety of different methods used depending on the vehicle and your needs. While a daily driver might be fine on an open carrier, someone transporting a high-end supercar will probably want something more secure.
That’s the beauty of car shipping services: there’s someone out there who offers just the right protection for virtually any need.
Problems arise for people when they don’t know what they’re looking for, however. Scams are commonplace enough that the BBB has tried to keep people informed.
Regardless of your exact needs, this is one area where it pays off to vet any service you’re planning on using. If you don’t you can end up being out a lot of money by the time all is said and done.
The most important step in choosing an auto transport company is making sure that they’re solid. In all honesty, everything else comes second to that one critical factor.
Since the client is trusting the company with a valuable piece of their property for an extended period all vetting should be done thoroughly, especially with smaller companies.
Take all of the following into account.
All car shippers need to be registered with the Department of Transportation and their state licensing board in order to operate.
If there are any doubts at all one should check the license number they’re presenting against the FMCSA database. If they have a Federal Motor Carrier license that’s legitimate then the chances of a scam are extremely low.
Do not work with a company that lacks licensing. Full stop. Without a license, you’ll basically be on your own if you get scammed or something happens.
Like any sort of company, the level of customer satisfaction varies widely across different auto shipping services. As long as the company is licensed you’re protected from big mishaps, but when it comes to the individual details of the move some companies leave a lot to be desired.
Checking online reviews is a good place to start. The prospective client can also check and see if there have been any complaints lodged with the BBB if they have serious doubts.
Different companies have different specialties. While one transporting service may be just the thing for hauling a Ferrari across the country they’re probably not who you’re looking for to transport a badly damaged vehicle to a repair shop.
It may not be obvious at first glance since most car shippers offer such a wide variety of services, but with a little bit of digging it’s easy to figure out what the company primarily does.
While a reputable company is sure to act satisfactorily with any of their services, it’s often a good idea to go with a company that has your intended form of shipping making up the bulk of their business. It makes things easier on both ends.
The ideal car shipper will be transparent about everything from license numbers and pricing to the pre-inspection process.
It’s a business which is steeped in fly-by-night operations that can do some serious financial damage if left unchecked.
Before committing the following questions should be asked:
Any hesitation in giving you the requested information is a major red flag and the customer would likely be better served by moving on to another company.
Once someone has made sure that everything is on the up-and-up, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty: the actual services offered by the company.
The person needing the car shipped should ask themselves the following questions to help determine what they need:
These questions will help one figure out exactly what’s needed so they can determine if the company is able to properly service their needs.
Not all car shipping services offer complete coverage of the nation. Some are smaller outfits that simply don’t have the resources or clientele to justify sending a car carrier from coast-to-coast while others may have a good hold on a specific area.
A prospective customer can save themselves some time and embarrassment by making sure that any company they call for a quote actually covers the area they’re planning on transporting the vehicle to and from.
The majority of interstate transports are done with the use of a car carrier trailer on a semi. The vehicle is going to be on the open road for some time so it’s important to gauge whether or not you’re comfortable with open shipping.
Enclosed shipping is mostly used for exotic vehicles and rare collector cars. It’s quite a bit more expensive but offers more protection to the vehicle than found with an open carrier.
Not all car shippers offer enclosed shipping, but it’s the most secure way to make sure an irreplaceable vehicle doesn’t end up damaged along the highway.
Those motor carriers that offer open shipping often offer guaranteed top-loading for an extra fee.
Since the majority of automotive transport trailers are double-deckers the cars underneath may be subject to more road wear and any leaking fluids from the vehicles above.
In cases where a car is nice but not quite worth the extra expense of enclosed shipping the customer often opts to spend a few extra bucks for a little bit of added vehicle safety.
Not every auto transport service handles vehicles that aren’t running. Unfortunately, moving a non-operative vehicle is one of the most common uses, especially for car collectors who may pick up rare specimens on the other side of the country.
There’s a reason for this: moving a vehicle that isn’t running is much more complicated and requires specialized tools that really aren’t necessary for vehicles which can be moved directly onto the car trailer.
The workers involved will also need the know-how to handle the whole affair without damaging the vehicle or any of the equipment needed to get it on and off the trailer.
The cost of extra equipment and skilled personnel gets passed on to the consumer, of course. Shipping a vehicle which isn’t in running condition will also land the customer a higher price than moving one which is functioning.
Exactly how much depends on both the company and the state of the vehicle in question.
It’s a good idea to find out what equipment will be needed at the destination as well. For non-rolling cars, for instance, you may need to make sure that there is a forklift available once the vehicle arrives.
While most reputable vehicle movers will be able to give the customer tracking information, they vary a bit in how it’s done. If it’s a big concern to the customer they should check this out beforehand.
Minute-to-minute updates aren’t common but in general tracking information will either be easily available through the website or require a call to the company with tracking information at the ready.
It’s more of a peace of mind feature than anything but for those who are transporting extremely expensive vehicles it can be worth paying a little more to make it easier to access the vehicle’s location during transit.
One’s not dealing with a simple transaction here.
Oftentimes you won’t even be able to get an exact date for the vehicle being picked up, let alone knowing which day it will arrive. That’s one of the reasons we recommend making sure you have tracking features with the company used.
However, some companies stand out from the pack by offering guaranteed or even expedited pickup for those in a hurry.
Keep in mind that even the best companies don’t offer guaranteed delivery dates. There are simply too many factors that can mess things up along the logistics train for a company to stake their reputation on it.
Something as simple as encountering a traffic accident on an interstate can set a truck back hours while still eating up their allowed drive time for instance, forcing a day or two of delay in the process.
Some companies charge the whole thing up front, others will allow the customer to pay a deposit before the vehicle ships and then fill the rest of the invoice’s cost once it’s arrived.
As long as the company is licensed, you’re entitled to some protection. Vet the company properly and this becomes a matter of choice rather than a make-or-break part of the business arrangement.
Not every vehicle can be moved in the normal way.
Motorcycles, for instance, will be transported in a way that hardly resembles the big car carriers most often used for interstate transport. RVs and other over-sized vehicles are also going to require a different approach on the part of the mover.
For someone moving something out of the ordinary options may be limited. Keep that in mind when planning and look for companies which have experience in similar vehicles.
Insurance can vary from simple protection to comprehensive coverage of the vehicle. It’s definitely something to ask about when you call since not many companies openly display their pricing and options.
Better coverage will cost more, of course, but for particularly expensive or rare vehicles it’s often prudent to go with the absolute best the company has to offer.
Like any service, it’s important for the potential customer to know what the prices they’re facing look like in comparison to the industry average.
Automotive shipping companies vary widely in cost, so the following should only be taken as general guidelines.
For the most part, the consumer ends up paying per mile plus any additional services they’ve requested along the way like guaranteed top-loading. Since transporting a vehicle ties up some of a company’s resources shorter distances will be more expensive in almost every situation.
For open shipping with no frills the customer is looking at the following:
Enclosed shipping usually runs about twice the cost of open shipping.
Any extra charges are entirely dependent on the carrier. This is one instance where it will pay off in a big way to call and get quotes from any company which offers the services needed for the vehicle being transported.
When getting a quote it’s important to find out if it’s binding or non-binding as well. The former quote will be the guaranteed top price, while a non-binding quote can go up if there are any special circumstances that occur during transport.
What You Absolutely Need in an Automotive Transport Service
Since auto shipping varies so much from case to case it can be hard to pinpoint the exact things needed.
Fortunately, there’s a relatively short list to keep in mind as long as the company is able to move the vehicle. Make sure all of these are in order for the best results:
It can’t be repeated enough. Fly-by-night shippers will lack license numbers and are often scam artists. Anyone interested in moving a vehicle should make sure that the license numbers check out with the FMSCA and DOT.
There’s one other factor here: most reputable companies will openly display their numbers on both their website and vehicles. While the latter is required by law, the former is a good indication that a company is on the up-and-up.
If one has to go digging or actually call to get the licensing information it’s best to go with another company. Anyone reputable will have this information front and center on their web page.
Customer support gets overlooked sometimes, but this is one case where the company should have a sterling reputation. Even a cheap vehicle is often a huge investment so it pays off to know that you’ll be supported if you need help.
While not every reputable company offers 24/7 customer service, it’s a good thing to look for.
At the very least you should be wary of any company which has a reputation for being hard to get on the phone. For those unsure about a company’s customer service, it’s best to try calling the company and see how long they take to pick up the phone or call you back.
It’s important to know the type of company being dealt with before making a final decision.
Carriers can range from a single truck driver with a trailer who carries primarily for brokers to entire companies with their own fleet of trucks and logistics. Often even larger companies will pick up business from brokers, so the customer isn’t limited to small operations when using an automotive shipping broker instead.
Working directly with a carrier is the cheapest route in most cases, but you’ll be working on their time and you should be careful to thoroughly vet the company since your own judgement is the only layer of protection you have.
Brokers hire out the shipments requested to carriers. You’ll usually end up paying more but their coverage area is much larger than most carrier companies. They act as middlemen so often the fees will be a bit higher than average since they’ll need to get their cut.
Brokers save time and give an extra level of protection for the vehicle since they’ll have experience in vetting carrier companies. They’re also more flexible on time since they’re not held to one fleet’s schedule.
Auto shipping management companies, on the other hand, are end-to-end businesses that handle everything about the shipment. Their fee will be higher than a broker but they also offer a relatively hands-off experience for the customer from start to finish.
For someone with shipping anxiety a full management company is the best option. They offer the most protection and keep track of all of the details during the shipping process. Just be aware the cost will be higher.
Avoid The Biggest Red Flag: Wire Transfer Only
If a company only accepts wire transfers skip them. It’s the most common form of the auto-shipping scam and any company worth the price will take normal methods of payment like a debit card with no issues.
Many reputable companies will take wire transfers alongside other forms of payment. Just using them as a form of payment isn’t a bad thing.
But the truth is that a car shipping company which only takes wire transfers can be safely discarded as a reputable option.
Q: Do I need any documents to transport a vehicle?
A: Yes, it’s important to make sure that all of your papers are in order before you commit to shipping. You’ll need at least one form of identification, the original title on the vehicle, and up-to-date insurance and registration documents. If you’re transporting a vehicle for another individual you’ll also need a notarized letter stating the VIN number of the vehicle and permission to transfer it. Vehicles under a lease or still being financed will require a notarized document from the bank showing they’re aware of the shipment.
Q: Can I put things in my car during shipping?
A: Some companies will allow a certain amount of items to be held in the car, usually determined by a weight limit. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t quite agree and any household items contained in a vehicle are potentially subject to seizure if the vehicle is stopped. It’s not worth it to save a little bit of room in a moving truck in our opinion.
Q: Does price go up with vehicle size?
A: In most cases, larger vehicles like SUV will have a higher moving cost due to the additional weight. Car shipping outfits are logistic specialists, which is great for the safety of your car but also means that many factors people don’t think about can raise the price.
Q: Does the customer need to be present at pickup and delivery?
A: In most cases, the customer will need to be present at both. The pickup usually entails a complete inspection of the vehicle so that people can’t backtrack later and try to claim damages that were already present. At delivery another inspection takes place in most cases, checking off any damage which may have occurred during transit.
Q: How safe is open carrier transporting?
A: Millions of cars in the US alone are transported via standard car carrying trailers each year. Top loading is definitely an option but the vast majority of these vehicles will reach their destination with less damage and wear than they would have taken during a drive of the same distance. It’s the least-secure option, to be sure, but the chances of something terrible happening are slim enough to be ignored for any standard vehicle.