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Classic car transport


Factors that Determine Car Shipping Costs


Many people who ask “How much does it cost to ship a car” obtain 3 or 4 auto transport quotes from various car shipping companies. It’s common to see a couple of quotes clustered in the middle, and one or two that vary by several hundred dollars. Knowing how car transport costs are determined enables you to spot any deal that might be too-good-to-be-true, avoiding potential surprises. So, what elements drive car transport costs?


Miles are the starting point, of course – though they are not as proportional as you might imagine. That’s because shorter distances require the same effort in pick-up & drop-off by the driver, even though the Carrier spends less time actually on the road”. This is why long-distance car shipping can actually be cheaper per mile, just as an airline ticket may cost more per mile going halfway across the country versus going coast to coast.

Open vs Enclosed Carriers?

An open trailer is typically the double-decker type seen every few miles on America’s highways, loaded with 7-10 cars on long-haul trips. On shorter routes, 3-4 car trailers do a great job too. 75% of customers find open trailer transport with 3 – 10 cars the most cost-effective method, which is why it’s the most popular way to go. Think of it like flying “coach class” versus “first class”. Enclosed transport trailers are smaller, with a capacity of just 2-6 vehicles. Since it takes the same number of days and miles (labor cost and gasoline) for a Carrier to drive from point A to point B while getting paid for fewer vehicles.

 While enclosed transport typically offers a higher level of service, unless your car is a luxury vehicle, exotic car, or a classic valued at more than $70,000 you are likely to be just as satisfied with the more budget-conscious option of open transport.

Your Vehicle Type, Size & Modifications:

Trailers have maximum loads for safety. A heavier car, truck or SUV uses up more of that maximum-allowable weight load – which means the trailer may be limited on the number of other vehicles it could carry. Similarly, a longer-than-average vehicle takes up more than 1 space on a transport trailer. So, a Carrier transporting a 7000 pound Ford F-350 Crew Cab Long Bed would need to offset that with a shorter, light-weight VW Beetle or such, to optimize space on the trailer . . . if a smaller vehicle is readily available on that route at that exact time. Otherwise, the Carrier might need to depart on time with less than a full load: a factor that goes into the price of transporting a vehicle with above-average weight, height, length or other post-factory modifications.

Condition of Vehicle Running or Not?

A car that doesn’t run or start on its own is called “inoperable”, and requires extra time, effort and equipment from the Carrier. The transport driver needs additional incentive to accept a vehicle that he will need to push, pull, winch, jump-start or otherwise skillfully maneuver on and off the truck. He may even need to do so more than once during the course of a shipment, depending on the position of other vehicles already on the trailer ahead of it, which may need to be off-loaded in reverse order.

Popularity of the Route:

Pick-up and/or Drop-offs in rural locations cost more than to and from major metro areas. Larger cities simply have more Carriers that regularly service the area, and there are more major highways for easier access by drivers. Just as there are more flights each day than from NY to Los Angeles than there are from Atlanta to Reno, there are similarly more trucks available in urban areas. This is why it’s easier, and often faster, to get the best rates on widely-traveled routes.

Season of Year:

High demand during key seasons can cause prices to spike on some routes, since even Carrier drivers need holidays. For example, shipping a car before Thanksgiving or Christmas can be challenging to book, and costlier to arrange. Actually, this applies to all major holidays. In certain parts of the country, hurricane season or occasional floods as well as any increment weather conditions can affect the availability and cost as well.

Dates / Speed of Delivery:

Car transport quotes from different shippers are most likely to vary, even on the same route, based on the quality of the transport trailer and the driver – that is, the cost paid to the Carrier for your specific load. Assuming you’re definitely comparing apples-to-apples, especially in terms of "Open vs. Enclosed trailer", the biggest reason for cost differences is what your Transport Broker truly expects will happen behind the scenes about meeting your timeline – and the quality of the Carriers (the actual drivers and trucks) the company plans to dispatch for your pickup. Many companies offer a low quote without mentioning that you will actually be on a "standby" basis. And if you’ve ever flown standby, you know what that's like.In other words, to lock in your business, some Transport Brokers provide you with a car shipping quote that are quite low – in fact, too low to actually succeed in getting your vehicle picked up in the time-frame you requested by a fully-insured and well-qualified, highly-rated Transport Carrier. Some companies hold out to pay the lowest price possible to the Carrier, and as a result get lower-quality trucks and drivers willing to go to your pickup location. Alternatively, they may come back to you after a week of not being able to lock in a Carrier, and tell you they were unable to secure a spot at the price

Direction of Transport:

Did you know the “direction” of car shipments can impact quotes? Sometimes trailers are fully loaded in one direction, but less on their return route. For example, today there are many more families shipping a vehicle out of California, to Texas or Arizona, than into CA. Or consider that demand during “snowbird season” for car shipments from  northern states, down to Florida and other southern states, peaks in October-December. Similarly, booking car transport back home on specific dates during the months of March-May can be a challenge. During such peak times, Carriers are accustomed to getting incentive-pay to prioritize certain pickups, and prices are higher due to sheer demand – just as air travel costs more during peak travel seasons. So if you can be flexible on your pick-up or drop-off week, beyond the typical you will experience greater satisfaction levels as well as more affordable pricing.


Tips to Prepare Your Vehicle for Auto Transport


1. Wash your car

Dirt and dust can easily hide dings, scratches, and dents. Before you have the auto transport company pick up your vehicle, wash it thoroughly. With a clean car, you’ll be better able to notice any possible damage caused by the shipping process once it arrives at its destination.

2. Clean the inside of the car

During transport, your vehicle may be jostled a bit. In order to avoid things from being tossed around inside your car, clean the interior and remove everything not secured. 

3. Disable the alarm

Seems obvious, but to avoid making an enemy of the truck driver, be sure you disable any alarm systems your vehicle may have.

4. Don’t gas up

Your vehicle is being transported, not driven, so there’s no need to fill up prior to loading.

In addition, having a full tank of gasoline makes your car heavier. 

5. Check for leaks

Before your car or truck gets loaded onto the truck, check the undercarriage for any noticeable leaks. If your vehicle has an aggressive leak, the car shipping company may refuse service. After all, you wouldn’t want the vehicle above yours to be dripping oil or transmission fluid all over your car, would you?

6. Check tire pressure

Under-inflated or over-inflated tires are just as risky in transport as they are on the road. 

7. Inspect the Vehicle

A shipping company will always check a vehicle for damages such as scratches and dents during a walk-around evaluation before the car is loaded onto the truck. Make sure you inspect the car and agree with the carriers inspection report, called a Bill of Lading. If you agree with the assessment, you will both sign that form and you should receive a copy. A close inspection after the vehicle is unloaded on the delivery end should match the condition of the vehicle when it started its journey.

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