How to Ship Your Car: The Ultimate Guide
If you know how to ship your sofa, but you’re stumped on how to ship your car, this guide can help. Whether you need to know how to ship your car across state lines or across the country, staying organized is key. From understanding the different shipping options to finding the right shipping company, a timeline will help you to stay on track and give you peace of mind when shipping your car. This ultimate guide will help you remain organized, informed, and prepared to successfully ship your car. Are you ready?
Before You Ship Your Car
Set a budget and timeline for shipping your car.
Shipping a car can take anywhere from two days to three weeks, depending on how far your car is traveling. Just like your morning commute, shipping times can also fluctuate depending on the weather, road conditions, and traffic. With a quick Google search, you can find out just how long the drive will be. Always add two or three extra days to be safe, then build your timeline from there, being sure to book your shipment at least two weeks before you want your car picked up. Here are some average travel times to help you determine how long it will take to ship your car:
Midwest to East Coast - 3-8 days
Midwest to West Coast - 3-8 days
East Coast to West Coast - 1-2 weeks
North to South - 3-8 days
Keep in mind that these are just estimates and that they can change. You will want to double check the timing with your shipping company before you book.
Like travel time, the cost to ship your car can vary, and you will want to budget it into your moving costs. Knowing how to ship your car within your budget is key. The travel distance, time of year, size, and model of your vehicle, and the different shipping options you choose (we will get to those in a minute) all affect how much it will cost to ship your car. There is usually a base price, measured by the mile. In general, shipping your car 1-500 miles will cost you $1 per mile (e.g. 400 miles would cost $400). For more than 500 miles, the base price drops to 75 cents per mile. The base price is 60 cents for more than 1,000 miles, 50 cents for more than 2,000 miles and 40 cents per mile for a journey over 2,500 miles. So, if you’re shipping a car 2,200 miles, the base price will be about $1,100.
As a general rule, expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $1,400 to ship a car. You can use a quote calculator to get an estimate during your search, and you will want to get a specific quote from your car shipping company before booking with them.
Decide how you want to ship your car.
There are a number of different shipping options, and each one is priced differently. Ultimately you want to know how to ship your car safely and with ease. The first decision you want to make is whether you would rather ship your car in an uncovered or enclosed carrier. Here’s a little information on both shipping options.
Uncovered is the cheaper option for shipping your car and the best option for short distances. It can be faster since shipping companies tend to have more open carriers available than enclosed, but your car is exposed to the elements. Depending on the shipper’s insurance coverage, you could be charged for any damages to your car, which are more likely in an open trailer.
If you have to ship your car cross country or if it will travel through rugged terrain, with the risk of exposing it to dust, sand or snow damage, shipping your vehicle enclosed is the safer option. It could be at least 50% more expensive than uncovered transportation, but the risk of damaging your car is significantly lower.
Another important decision to make when you ship your car is whether you want door-to-door or terminal-to-terminal shipping. Here’s a little about each option.
Door-to-door shipping is more expensive, but the advantages could save you time and money in the long run. Your car is picked up and delivered to a specified address or location, so you can request that your car be picked up outside your old home and delivered, like magic, right to your new front door.
In contrast, terminal-to-terminal shipping forces you to take your car to a terminal, which could be miles from your home, and may not be monitored around the clock. If it fits your budget, door-to-door shipping is often the more convenient and the safest option for shipping your car.
Research reputable car shipping companies and their prices.
You should feel comfortable that your shipper knows how to ship your car with care. In the same way you would ask your moving company questions, you’ll want to get some important information from your shipping company before booking them. When you call for a quote, remember to ask how long it will take them to pick up your car, if any deposit is needed, and where the shipping vehicle will be stored overnight. Feel free to shop around for the best price, but make sure that the company shipping your car specializes in vehicle transportation, has stellar reviews from real customers, and a clean record. You can get a detailed report of the company’s shipping business license, complaint record, and crash history from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Check your insurance coverage and that of the shipping company.
Some car insurance companies will cover damage incurred when you ship your car. Whether your insurance plan covers shipping a car or not, you will want to ensure that your chosen shipping company is well insured. Most reputable companies have at least $50,000 in coverage, and you should definitely ask about it before booking a company to ship your car. When you do, make sure that their insurance will still kick in if your car is damaged while not actually in transit. You want to know that your car is protected when parked overnight, during pickup, and while it’s being dropped off.
The Day Before You Ship Your Car
Gather the required documents.
Knowing how to ship your car means being prepared. The company shipping your car will want proof that the vehicle is yours, and you don’t want to be rummaging through your desk or glove box the day of your shipment. So, to be prepared, make sure you have your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance handy the day before your car is shipped.
List any quirks your car may have.
Have to jimmy the door to open it? Does your parking brake give way on a hill? Take note of any operational problems, or quirks, that the company shipping your car needs to know. Try to be as specific as possible, so they know just what to do if your car does something unexpected.
Empty your car.
Using your car as an extra storage unit is not an option when shipping it. Be sure to empty your car completely before it is shipped. Remember to check the middle console, seat pockets, visors, trunk, and under all of the seats before handing your car over to the shipping company. The only thing left in your car should be a quarter tank of gas for when you pick it up, so avoid filling it up.
The Day You Ship Your Car
Wash, inspect, and photograph your car.
Depending on their insurance policy, shipping companies are generally liable for any damage incurred while they ship a car. The best way to catch a scratch or scuff is to take stock of your car before it is shipped. Give it a good wash so that you can clearly see the condition of your car, inspect it, and take pictures from all sides. The shipping company will also inspect your car and will ask you to sign off on their inspection. Make sure you have already taken a close look at your car so that you can be prepared to accept or deny their assessment.
Prepare your car to be shipped.
A few minutes before loading up your car and waving goodbye, you will want to take care of these final details:
Disable your car alarm
Fold in side view mirrors, if possible
Remove and secure antenna
Remove EZ pass
Leave keys with shipping company
Receive your tracking number.
Most car shipping companies allow you to track your car with a tracking number. Make sure you get this before you leave your car with the shipping company. You will be able to check your car’s status along the way and get a better sense of when it will be delivered.
After You Ship Your Car
Track your car.
It can be hard to wait in the dark, so feel free to check the shipment of your car periodically. That way, you will have a heads up if you need to arrange an earlier pickup time or prepare for any delays.
Be prepared for your car shipment to run off schedule.
Thunderstorms, wind, and traffic can all affect your car’s delivery schedule. Remember that these are all possibilities, and try to remain flexible while you decide to ship your car. It might arrive a day or two late, but you already planned for that, right? Keeping these factors in mind will help you carry on with the rest of your moving plans, without stressing too much.
Check your car for damage on pickup.
Though rare, accidents can happen. When you pick your car up, give it another inspection. If you find any damage, take a picture of it to compare with the photos you took before you shipped your car. If the damage is new, tell the shipping company immediately and show them your before and after pictures. Send any repair estimates to the shipping company, who should cover their costs.
Write a review of your shipper.
Whether your car arrived right on time, service was friendly, or you had to replace a tire, be sure to let other people know about it. Both good and bad reviews can help other people find the right car shipping company for them, while also keeping companies themselves accountable for their employees and business practices.
We hope this guide helps you feel like you now know how to ship your car. Long distance moves can be stressful, but with some preparation and flexibility, you can stay on track. Have any more tips or tricks? Let us know in the comments below.
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