Part 1: How To Calculate Cost (8 Tips)

This is the most detailed guide to calculate car shipping cost. Here you’ll learn all you need to know about costs forming and what depends on it.

Having almost 4 years' experience I can tell you choosing an auto transport company need to pay a bit more attention and responsibility from your side. I just want to make sure you choose the right way to ship your car and you won’t pay more.

The question is: which factors affect car shipping cost and what is the cheapest way to ship a car? Well, you are on the right way because this is the best guide you need to know before you’ll get in touch with the broker company.

Let's get started!

Car Shipping Cost (GetCarrier.com)

Average Shipping Costs Across Country

And now let’s talk about average shipping costs across the country. We won’t show here prices from every city of the United States but we will show prices between the most important states.

For example between California and New York:

  • Sedan – $1100
  • SUV – $1200
  • Pickup – $1350

And at this time from NY to CA will be:

  • Sedan – $900
  • SUV – $1000
  • Pickup – $1200

Let’s take a look at the south coast and see the prices from NW to SE.

To be certain from Washington to Florida and back:

  • Sedan – $950
  • SUV – $1000
  • Pickup – $1200

And from FL to WA:

  • Sedan – $1000
  • SUV – $1100
  • Pickup – $1200

What if we choose Illinois and Texas? From TX to IL:

  • Sedan – $450
  • SUV – $550
  • Pickup – $650

And from IL to TX:

  • Sedan – $375
  • SUV – $450
  • Pickup – $550

Or let’s say Florida – Ohio:

  • Sedan – $550
  • SUV – $600
  • Pickup – $800

And back:

  • Sedan – $400
  • SUV – $450
  • Pickup – $550

From Florida to New York:

  • Sedan – $700
  • SUV – $800
  • Pickup – $900

From NY to FL:

  • Sedan – $450
  • SUV – $500
  • Pickup – $550

From California to Florida:

  • Sedan – $900
  • SUV – $950
  • Pickup – $1100

From FL to CA:

  • Sedan – $750
  • SUV – $900
  • Pickup – $1000

Average Shipping cost across the U.S. infographic

As we see, the prices are different. The price depends on the distance, size and type of the vehicle, condition, the location of pickup and delivery, the time of the year, trailer, transport date, and even fuel pricing.

Once you decide to ship your vehicle, we will provide the cost based on all these factors and find the best driver and the lowest price for you.

Tip #1: Distance

Distance is an obvious factor in the cost of shipping a car across the country.

Auto transport companies usually charge a base price per mile, which is combined with other factors to determine a total bill.

Although the price per mile is often lower for long-distance routes still you will pay a higher total cost.

Shipping a car: Long-Distance Across Country

For example, a shipper may charge $1.00 per mile for a 500-mile trip, but only 50 cents per mile for a 2000-mile transport.

Pro Tip

It's easier to get a better rate when you are shipping your vehicle from Metro area to Metro area (aka from a big city to a big city). Most drivers use interstates to transport cars, which makes one thing obvious: if your car is far from the interstate carriers might charge a bit more just to get to your location. Most carriers try to pick vehicles situated in 25-35 miles radius from big cities, you can save 5-10% if you will be able to meet the driver not far away from the big city.

Tip #2: Vehicle Size and Condition

For the cost to ship a car across the country, an important factor is vehicle size. A larger vehicle weighs more and takes up more space in the truck.Shipping a Car: Big Truck

                (The source: wikimedia.org)

 

Like this…

It creates more work for the shipper when preparing the transport.

First example: if the shipper cannot find a smaller vehicle to offset the size and weight of the larger vehicle, you’ll likely pay a higher fee to compensate for empty space.

The second: a shipping company may charge between $600 and $1000 dollars to carry a small to the mid-size sedan from coast to coast.

A large pickup truck, on the other hand, can cost more than $1,300 for the same trip.

The condition of your car also affects the shipping price.

Car Shipping: Bad Condition

              (The source: forums.pelicanparts.com)

 

And sometimes it could be really hard…

If your vehicle does not start, the driver will have to take extra steps to load it onto the truck.

A car that does not run may cost you an average surcharge of $150.00.

Pro Tip

If you do not want to pay more try to leave your car almost empty because any added items could highly increase the total price because of the extra weight.

Tip #3: Location

Besides distance, the cross country auto transport route itself determines the price. A shipping company will charge a higher price for a route that it does not regularly use.

Price Per Mile is Higher for Unpopular Routes

Thus here is the higher price.

For example, it is less costly for a shipper to transport a vehicle from New York City to Los Angeles than between two rural locations.

Cheap Cost to Ship a Car

Not so expensive.

If the driver makes a special trip on an unpopular route, the company will have to cover its costs by charging a higher price. Similarly, travel on a road that is in poor condition will cost you more.

Pro Tip

If the destination is at the end of a winding mountain road, it may be worthwhile to meet the driver at a rest stop on the nearest interstate. Your extra driving time will save you money.

Tip #4: Season to Move

The time of year affects the cost to move a car across the country. Winter is the season the routes are not long in case of weather. It makes difficult for drivers.

Car Shipping in Winter

                   (The source: favim.com)

 

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, however, usually mean higher rates due to time off for drivers and difficulty scheduling.

If you schedule a move during the cheaper winter months, be prepared for inconvenient and potentially costly delays from winter storms.

Pro Tip

You should remember about so-called "snowbird season": mid-spring when rate skyrocket from Florida to New York, and mid-autumn when rates hit the limit in the opposite direction from NY to FL. During these periods you might need to pay a double price just to get a carrier willing to pick up your car. 

Tip #5: Scheduling

If you can, you should schedule to move your vehicle as far ahead as possible and allow up to a week for the trip. Last-minute scheduling and expedited shipping will result in higher fees.

The Cheapest Way to Ship a Car Transport is Scheduling

This is very expensive for this route because the price per mile is over $1,07!

Expedited shipping usually includes a choice of guaranteed pickup and delivery dates and transport within a specified number of days.

Pro Tip

In case you need an urgent pick up or you have only one day for your vehicle pick up or deliver - be prepared to pay an extra $150-$200 for expedited shipping. You should try to be as flexible as you possibly can when it comes to shipping, in this case, a transport company will be able to offer more options and pick the driver that matches the quoted price. 

Tip #6: Open or Enclosed Carrier

Open carriers are those double-decker trailers loaded with up to 10 cars that are a familiar sight on freeways.Open Truck for Car Shipping

And local trucks:

Tow Truck (Local) For Shipping a Car

Enclosed carriers take half as many cars and cost up to 60% more. With an enclosed carrier, the shipper gets paid for fewer cars but still has to recoup the same travel costs.

Enclosed Truck for Vehicle Shipping

(The source: mungil.kuy.access.ly)

 

Unless you have a classic car or luxury model, you may want to choose a lower-priced open trailer.

Pro Tip

Ask your broker to search for an open and enclosed trailer on your route. Sometimes drivers with enclosed trailers have empty spots and they can offer the same rate as for the open, or an extra charge of 10-15%, which totally worth it. 

Tip #7: Pick up and Delivery Locations

There are a few types of pick up and deliver your vehicle:

  • Terminal to terminal shipping
  • Door-to-door service

Terminal to terminal shipping

In this option, you drive your vehicle to a terminal to be picked up by the shipping company.

Car Shipping Dealership

                           (The source: mungil.kuy.access.ly)

 

Once it is delivered, you may also decide to pick it up from a terminal in your new location. This is the cheapest way to ship a car as you will be moving.

Door-to-door service

Here your vehicle is picked up from your seller’s location or your residence and delivered in your new location.

Door-To-Door Auto Shipping

This option is extremely convenient but rather expensive.

Just remember – 70% of all trailers are 8-9 cars car haulers, they are pretty huge and might not fit it into the street.

It might be a good decision to meet the driver at the nearby mall or parking lot, just to make things easier.

Pro Tip

Sometimes drivers can deliver cars during late hours, in this case, you should meet them not far away from the place with enough light to check your vehicle condition. Take your time, if it takes 30 minutes to inspect your car - that's totally fine. The majority of drivers accept only cash on delivery as a form of payment, so pay them only after you are 100% sure the car is in the same conditions as it was on the pickup location. If something is wrong- get in touch with your broker right away. Your vehicle is insured during the whole transportation process, so you are safe, but the driver needs to indicate all new scratches and dents into the Bill of Lading for the insurance company to step in.

Other factors

And there are some factors that could affect vehicle shipping price too:

  • The time frames
  • Personal items loaded in the vehicles
  • Current fuel prices
  • The number of vehicles

Now you know what depends on vehicle shipping cost and now it is a time to move to the next step:

Part 2: How the Vehicle Shipping Cost Forms

 

There are several points but we will start at a time:

Step #1: Submit Your Request

To ship your car the first thing you’ll need to do is to submit your request to companies that provide auto shipping services. The easiest way to do that is to simply google them by using keywords like “car shipping quotes“, “auto transport quotes“, etc.

Google Results for Shipping Companies

I guess you got the idea. You’ll get a bunch of companies that will provide you with instant quotes, but as always, there is a trick right next to the corner.

Most of the websites you will see are used to collect your data and sell it to auto transport brokers. We call such websites “lead generators”.

I’ll explain what they do in detail in a bit. There are a couple of companies that will show you the estimated quote right away, but most of the time you will be contacted by the sales agent over the phone or email.

Step #2: Lead Generators

Lead gen websites sell leads to auto transport brokers.

Safe Car Shipping: Avoid Lead Generators

It’s that simple…

Whenever you search for auto transport quotes online most probably you will end up filling your information on one of these websites.

They collect your information and then sell it to 5-10 brokers who will get in touch with you to win your business.

That’s when the magic begins: you will receive tons of phone calls and email the second you submit your contact information.

Car Shipping Companies: Tons of Phone Calls

If a broker is telling you that price is set in stone and will not change – it’s a signal for you that something might go wrong because all brokers will need to find a carrier to transport your car.

Shipping a Car: Board to Find a Carrier (Driver)

                      (Carrier’s board Central Dispatch)

Step #3: Brokers and Carriers

In 99% of all cases, you will be contacted by the broker company first. They work with incoming shipping requests, reach out to the customers and dispatch carriers to perform the transportation.

Auto Transport Companies Must Have FMCSA License

Companies should be registered with FMCSA – national registrar, that performs quality checks.

Carriers are the ones who perform the transportation. They own trucks and hire drivers. They do not work with incoming requests and work only with orders (confirmed loads that are ready to move). Carriers don’t have the license to broker loads, only to move them.

Step #4: Quotes

The main thing you have to remember is that all the prices you receive once the request is submitted are estimates.

To put it simply brokers can’t guarantee the exact price to transport a car until the car is assigned to the driver that will perform the job.

The whole process works like a marketplace. Brokers post loads to the national load board to find a carrier and carriers choose the best paying loads first (which is understandable). If a broker is offering too low price carriers might ask for more or simply pass on this load to grab something else.

Long-Time Vehicle Shipping

And no one has picked up this car yet.

Step #5: Booking Process

To assign the driver company will need to know the exact pickup address, phone and contact name of the person on pickup and the same information on the delivery location (address and contact information).

All companies will ask you to sign the contract and for your credit card information to have it in the file.

The Cheapest Way To Ship A Car

                       (GetCarrier form)

 

While we at GetСarrier don’t charge anything until the car is picked up by the carrier, some companies charge their fees upfront.

GetCarrier.com Reviews

Pay attention to read reviews before filling the quote to avoid not responsible companies as:

Vehicle Shipping: Lead Generators Reviews

The transportation price is a sum of two charges: so-called deposit, that will be charged after the vehicle is picked up, cand carrier pay – the amount that you will have to pay on delivery to the driver.

In most cases, the deposit is supposed to be charged via credit card and carrier pay is paid to the driver on delivery location via cash.

As an example: the total price for the shipping is $1150. The broker will charge the $150 deposit from your credit card and you will have to pay the remaining $1000 to the driver when the car is delivered.

Car Shipping Brokers - Best Way To Ship a Car

The full price is $425

Shipping a Car: Driver Payment (Cash on Delivery)

While the driver will receive $300

The average deposit is 10%-15% from the carrier pay and is already included in the final quote.

Step #6: Carrier Vetting Process

There are a couple of things broker should check before assigning the carrier:

  • Check his rating and work history
  • Check his insurance validity
  • Check carriers cargo limits and deductibles.

The broker company can’t assign the carrier to transport an auto if something is wrong with their insurance, because the transported car needs to be insured during the whole transportation process.

Conclusion

Having a business with car shipping companies is not as evil as you could think.

Mainly it is so simple if you know at least who is a broker company and who is a lead generator.

Anyway now you’ve got the knowledge that will not let you down!

Have a bad experience with a broker company?

Have you ever filled the quote in google search?

Got tons of phone calls?

Did you become a victim of the Lead Generator?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

 

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