How Does Car Shipping Work - All the Things to Know

How Does Car Shipping Work – All the Things to Know

So, you want to move across the country, but driving all those miles feels like an impossible task. Not only it’s tough, but there aren’t many benefits there for you or your car. So, how does car shipping work? We’re here to explain all the moving parts of the process and tell you why it’s a good idea.

an open trailer truck carries cars for a long-distance moving company
What is the process of shipping a car? We explain all of it so you can understand it better.

You may have some other questions: Can you put things in your car when you ship it? Do I have to prepare my car in a certain way for it to get shipped? Does every type of transportation qualify for this kind of relocation? It’s normal to be curious about something as big as a move, and everything you’re curious about can be answered if you know where to look and who to ask. This is why the first part of any relocation is the research.

Before You Pick an Auto Transport Company to Ship Your Car, Read the Reviews

The base of any good move, especially when relocating for the first time, is to research every cross-country moving company you intend to hire, and that includes auto transport ones, too. The best way to make a choice is to see how many reviews those companies have about them and whether they’re mixed or overwhelmingly pulling to one side.

Of course, if all the reviews you read are saying the same thing – negative or positive, that’s a solid sign. Long-distance movers do provide auto transport services, but what’s the verdict on their quality? Do those cross-country movers provide mandatory vehicle insurance? Make sure you’ve got your bases covered before opting for a specific company.

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What Do I Need to Know Before Shipping a Car?

The basic things to know about transporting a vehicle are whether you can choose between trailer and delivery options, if there’s insurance coverage, and if the firm you pick delivers to your destination. Your list of relocation expenses should be based on this information. If you wonder how much to save for a move, most auto carriers provide free cost estimates on their websites. This is also how you know a firm is legit – they provide a quote and definitive pricing without asking for advance payments.

Another foolproof way to learn about a company’s legitimacy is to vet it through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, also known as FMCSA. Companies that use trucks are required to register on this website, and all their information is available to the public. Use the reviews and info from the FMCSA, and you won’t have any trouble finding a great firm.

a person off-screen researching a cross-country moving company for a quote
Getting a free quote from an auto carrier is a sign that they mean business

How Does Car Shipping Work, and What Are The Options?

When you want to learn how to move efficiently, you can see loads of tips online, like why relocation during the holidays is good or bad or whether your stuff can handle relocating to a cold climate. Still, they never really tell you that the cheapest way to move is actually hiring a long-distance moving company.

The answer to why that’s the case is simple – all the complications that arise with relocation are higher when you take some matters into your own hands than when you allow movers to do their thing. This is why considering movers for your vehicle is also a great idea. Suppose you’ve hired them. How does the car shipping process work in that case, and what can you expect?

You Have Auto Transport Options with These Companies

When you opt for an auto carrier to take your vehicle, you get to pick what sort of trailer it can be shipped in. There are two options, open and enclosed auto transport. They both have significant benefits and disadvantages, but they’re perfect for the job that needs to be done – transporting vehicles. Understandably, there’s some relocation anxiety in there about the safety of your car, but you can rest assured it stays completely safe during transport.

Pick Up and Delivery Options Vary, Too

Not only will you be able to pick how your vehicle will be transported, but you’ll also be able to choose the ‘to’ and ‘from’ of the relocation part. You have the chance to select door-to-door and terminal-to-terminal delivery, most of the time.

How does door-to-door car shipping work? It’s in the name – from the (garage) door of your old home, straight to the new one. It’s not as direct when it comes to the terminal-to-terminal option, but it’s often more affordable. You might want to have your car immediately shipped to your doorstep and not waste time trying to find sitters if you’re relocating with children. The same could go for relocating with pets.

However, terminal-to-terminal delivery works in some cases, like if you’re relocating for love, your partner could pick up the vehicle. Or, if relocating to a small town, the trip to the parking lot may not be that long in the end. The conditions of your relocation can heavily influence the delivery options, so that’s something to consider and add to the relocation binder once you start creating it.

The Best Part of Auto Carriers – Moving Insurance

You’re always free to choose an insurance plan of your liking, but with long-distance moving services, all those companies are required by law to provide relocation insurance. For example, they offer mandatory liability insurance (which is around 60 cents per pound of damaged goods) for the packing service, and there’s the option to go for full value replacement, too.

The same goes for vehicle transport. As with packing, you get different sums of mandatory insurance for both types of trailers. These things can usually all be a part of the relocation package, so hopefully, you now believe that hiring movers can actually save you money, too. You can always research relocation terms to see what else falls under mandatory coverage.

a close-up of cars in an open trailer, ready for long-distance moving
You have plenty of options for getting your vehicle shipped with a carrier

The Pros and Cons of Open Trailer Transportation

Whenever people ask is car shipping safe, they probably see open trailers and think about all the potential damage cars can sustain while being hauled this way. We’re here to say that vehicles typically don’t sustain damage while on these trailers. Their biggest advantage is that they cost less than enclosed ones, and if you have more vehicles to ship, they’re the way to go. You get to stay in touch with the driver throughout the process and always know where your cars are.

The disadvantages of open trailers are the possibility of cars getting dirty or sustaining slight damage. If you’re relocating from a small town to a big city, the car will undoubtedly go through the elements on its way there. So, when damage is mentioned, the harm is most of the time so minimal that you’d barely notice it. Another potential downside is that insuring vehicles on open carriers is lower than for the enclosed ones, but it can still be a hefty sum.

a cross-country moving vehicle transporting cars on an open trailer
Open trailers are really great and, despite what you may think, perfectly safe

The Pros and Cons of Enclosed Trailer Transportation

We’re pretty sure that enclosed trailers seem to be most people’s choice of carrier for their precious cars, and there’s a good reason for it. They’re reliable, safe, and protect each car from external damage. Most enclosed trailers have ramps and side doors, too, so there’s no need to constantly open and close the entire space, and the car can quickly load onto the truck. In this case, you’d be in touch with the driver, too, and know where your four-wheeler is at all times.

The obvious disadvantage to an enclosed trailer is the cost. If you’re relocating for a job, maybe you could ask your employer to cover part of the costs, but otherwise, unless your car is luxurious, it may not be worth it. The sum for insuring a car in enclosed trailers is higher than for the other option. That’s another reason why enclosed carriers tend to haul expensive models. You can watch the video below to see a model of a luxurious enclosed trailer and how they typically look.

How Long-Distance Movers Near Me Make Car Transportation Easier

We often choose to ship our precious four-wheelers when we decide to move out. That’s why getting the whole package of cross-country moving services is the best option for making the haul easier and safer. During the process of doing home inventory, you can chat with the company, ask them what they will and won’t ship, and get to know their way of working.

It’s OK to pick someone who boasts of being the best, but most relocation companies will get to know you before you leave, and nothing can replace the feeling of trusting your things to someone when you need to. The biggest problems arise when you don’t trust the driver, the movers, you read something bad about them, and so on. When these things start happening, it’s normal to have a two-way conversation with your movers to get everything you need.

This is why getting help from experts can change the way you see relocation and the entire process. Sure, a free quote is awesome, but defeating the fear of relocating by doing something big like trusting your car and other belongings to movers after getting to know them makes a big difference. That way, if you ever relocate again, you’ll know exactly what to do and where to look.

one of many long-distance movers sitting in the moving truck and smiling
The best movers will go out of their way to get to know you and have detailed conversations about every part of the move

Don’t Worry About Your Car If It’s In the Hands of Pros

Finally, there’s much to be said about how well you prepare for a move. If you do enough research and prepare on time, every aspect will go exactly as you want it to. However, that doesn’t mean a move is only successful if you have color-coded lists, binders, and calendars full of relocation tasks; it just means that it doesn’t take much to learn about your options on time.

In the end, everything you send with expert movers will arrive at your new destination. If there’s anything you don’t immediately require, leave it in a storage unit until it’s needed. If something breaks when you start to unpack, you’ll replace it with something better. Whatever happens, you’ll adjust to a new place very quickly, and when you do, you’ll have your car to drive around and soak in the lifestyle of your brand new home.

Eva Russell

Digital nomad born in New York but currently living online, Eva knows everything there is to know about packing and moving.


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