How Does Car Shipping Work From Start to Finish?

The car shipping industry is growing. In fact, the global car carrier market is expected to reach over $1 trillion by the end of the decade, with a 2.7 percent annual growth rate.

Preparing your car to be shipped may be intimidating and stressful for individuals who haven't used an auto transport service before. If you choose the right provider and understand the process, though, using a car shipping service can be extremely beneficial.

How To Ship a Car From Start to Finish

  • Get your car ready to ship
  • Load your car onto the auto transport
  • Track your car’s status in transit
  • Arriving at the destination

In the event of a move — or even just an out-of-state car purchase — shipping an automobile across the nation is typically the most efficient alternative. There are several advantages to using vehicle transport services, most notably that they can save you time and money.

Once you’ve chosen an auto transport company, though, you might not know what’s next. You also might feel apprehensive at the prospect of entrusting your car to a complete stranger. Below, we’ll explain more about how things work and what measures need to be taken to ensure smooth, seamless car shipping.

How To Get Your Car Ready To Ship

First, you’ll want to make sure your car is shipment-ready by:

  1. Make sure that your gas tank is full.
  2. Completely charging your battery, particularly for longer moves. Auto carriers will typically charge a non-run fee for vehicles that cannot be driven on or off the trailer.
  3. Checking the coolant level to verify that it is appropriate for the temperatures the automobile will encounter during shipping to prevent a broken engine block.
  4. Removing all-important paperwork from your glove compartment. You’ll need to prepare information like your vehicle registration, title, and proof of insurance for the shipping company, so make sure you have it close to hand.
  5. Making sure to document and photograph the current condition of the car, including any prior damage, to ensure that your records are up to date.

How To Load Your Car Onto the Auto Transport

To load your car onto the vehicle transporter securely, you and/or the shipping service will follow these steps:

  • Make sure your vehicle transporter has rear stabilizers. If it doesn't, put blocks under the back of it. This will prevent the front of the car transporter from being raised by the vehicle weight you are loading.
  • To use ramps, fasten them to the back of the vehicle carrier’s trailer hitch.
  • Align the tires of the car you’re loading with the ramp and drive it onto the vehicle.
  • Apply the parking brake on your car. And that’s it!

Tracking Your Car’s Status in Transit

Yes, typically auto shipping services offer to track your car. This can help you plan your day and provides some much-needed calm.

Calling your carrier, however, might be time-consuming. In addition, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration prohibits drivers from answering phone calls while driving. Therefore, tracking your car is the most accurate method for determining delivery time.

The first step is to ensure that your transportation provider has a tracking system in place. Obtaining a tracking number is the next step. Luckily, many shipping firms have adopted GPS technology, making it very easy to track your car.

What To Do When Your Car Arrives at Its Destination

There are several important things you can do to ensure a good car delivery. For instance, you’ll want to:

  1. Be early to meet your carrier.
  2. Make a fresh assessment of your car when it arrives, comparing its present status to your records. In the unlikely event that the car is damaged during transit, having a record of its condition both before and after the shipment will be beneficial.
  3. Bring a flashlight with you if you're meeting the carrier at night so you can check the car.
  4. Note that cars transported by open carrier will be subjected to the same weather conditions as other vehicles on the road. Though care will be taken with your vehicle, your car may still be muddy, dented by hail, or scratched by road debris. For a safer, more secure option, consider enclosed car transport instead of open carriers.

How Much Does Shipping a Car Cost?

Forbes did the work and found it costs about $2.00 per mile for less than 200 miles and drops to an average of $0.58 per mile if your move is over 1500 miles.

When sending an automobile across the nation, mileage is the most important element. However, the type of transport you choose will also factor into the cost. An enclosed carrier will generally be more secure but more expensive than an open carrier.

Other factors that impact the cost of car shipping include:

  1. Size: Shipping a heavy minivan or SUV will generally cost more than shipping a small compact vehicle.
  2. Location: Door-to-door delivery services are more expensive in remote areas. Save money by shipping the vehicle to a primary transit site and then picking it up at a different hub.
  3. Season: During the winter months, shipping services are less in demand, which means that shippers may save money. Extreme temperatures might cause longer delivery delays, though, so make sure to plan ahead.
  4. Timeline: It may take weeks to ship an automobile across the nation via a transport service. If you're in a hurry, you may typically pay more for expedited services.

Finalizing Your Carrier Type: Open or Enclosed

Auto transport costs also vary depending on the kind of car that is being transported. Open or enclosed trailers are the two most prevalent methods of transport.

Using a covered or enclosed carrier provides the maximum degree of safety for premium and vintage automobiles. Enclosed automobile shipping means that the vehicle is protected from the elements. As a bonus, enclosed trailers generally include lift gates for low-clearance vehicles, and cars on them are less likely to be damaged or stolen.

The most common method of transporting automobiles, though, is to send them on open carriers. This method offers less protection and might result in your car arriving with some new dings and dents — but it is still generally safe and hassle-free.

How Long Does It Take To Ship a Car?

The time it takes to ship a car is anywhere from one day to nine days, depending on the distance you’re shipping. Here are other factors that affect the time:

Route Length

It should go without saying, but the longer the journey, the longer it will take to deliver a vehicle. Moving a car across the nation may take anywhere between 5-7 days while shipping it a few hundred miles can usually be done in a day or two.


When and where will the car be picked up and dropped off? The time it takes to transport an automobile will be affected by the route’s endpoint. If either the pickup or dropoff site or both are near a big city or highway, shipping your car will be simpler and faster.

Vehicle Type

If you own a valuable or rare automobile, such as a vintage car or a Lamborghini, you'll need the right trailer and a driver who’s experienced in transporting such valuables. Finding car transport services of this kind will require more research.

Time of Year

Summer is the busiest season for car carriers and relocation firms. From late spring to early autumn, transportation businesses around the nation are bustling.

You may choose to have your vehicle picked up sooner if you're transporting it during these dates. However, note that the limited truck travel during the winter months means that it may take longer to schedule your car’s pick-up and delivery.

What Papers Do You Sign When Shipping a Car?

The bill of lading and the insurance contract terms are two pieces of paperwork you'll have to deal with every time you ship your automobile. The bill of lading is essentially a legally binding contract between you and the carrier, and it will be needed for shipping receipts, inspections, and even insurance companies.

When you take your automobile through a port (i.e. on a boat), you'll need additional paperwork like a lienholder authorization letter and authorization from an absent owner. A lienholder authorization letter is a document that gives permission from the lienholder for the car to be shipped, and it is necessary if the car is being financed or leased.

It's not illegal to transport your automobile without this paperwork, but shipping companies may require them in order to expedite the process.

Is Shipping a Car Safe?

Yes, shipping your automobile is generally safe and risk-free. However, your car's safety is dependent on the transportation firm you choose. You should always conduct your homework on shipping businesses to be on the safe side.

The following steps will help you choose the best company for your needs:

  • Make sure the auto shipping service has a valid MC & DOT number.
  • Take a look at customer reviews to see what other people have to say.
  • Request quotes. The process should be free and relatively quick.
  • Check to see whether the company is covered by a liability policy.

At Carvaygo, we’ve partnered with RPM, a leading finished vehicle transportation provider that moves over 30,000 vehicles a month for some of the world's largest automotive companies. This ensures that we make use of the best equipment and deliver the best quality of services to our customers.

What To Do Next

If you’re looking to relocate or need to ship your car from one location to another, contact our team of experts. With years of experience, we’ll be able to guide you through the process from start to finish.

Global Car Carrier Market by Type |
How To Prepare Your Car for Shipment |
Mobile Phone Restrictions Fact Sheet | FMCSA
How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Car Across the Country? | Forbes Advisor

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