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Auto Shipping Tips

In the age of Amazon, online buying can extend even to vehicles. For example, you might buy a used car from Ebay. The only catch is that, like any other online purchase, you’ll likely need to have your vehicle shipped to you. You also might need to ship a vehicle if you’re relocating, or you might ship from an out-of-state dealership if you’re looking for a specific vehicle model. These are the top tips for making the shipping process smooth.

Choosing a shipping company

Because even a used vehicle is worth thousands of dollars, it’s critical to pick a shipping company you feel you can trust with delivery. You have two main options for doing this.

  • Review companies yourself. In many cases, cars on sites like Ebay might have a shipping option included. Transport companies also sell their services on these sites. Once you have a few quotes that look promising, check online reviews, see how the company fares with the Better Business Bureau. You also can call (888) 368-7238—this is a hotline from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that lets you check a shipper’s license, moving insurance record and complaint history.

  • Use a broker. Brokers can do all your company research for you, saving you time. They also often can negotiate better rates and find transports with quicker delivery schedules. They do charge fees, however.


    The cost of shipping a vehicle can range anywhere from $600 to $3,000. With this range in mind, there are a few key ways to whittle down the expense.

  • Check the delivery route. It can be more convenient to have a car shipped right to your door, but it’s often cheaper to deliver to a transport center near you and then pick it up. Zoning also might mean to-the-door delivery won’t work due to the size of the transport trailer. Shipping to a larger city also can be cheaper, as more carriers cover them in their routes. If you have to drive, consider the cost of a rental car and gas.

  • Go for an open trailer. New or expensive vehicles should be shipped in closed containers to protect your investment. If your vehicle is low-cost and used, however, open trailers can suffice. If you go for enclosed, expect to pay up to 60 percent more or $500-$1,000 more.
  • Ship in the off season. As with home movers, winter is a slower time for vehicle transport companies. Again, though, keep the elements in mind and be sure the container choice is appropriate.

  • Be flexible about the delivery date. Typically, shipping companies simply will contact you when they have a free trailer slot. You’ll pay more if you need the vehicle delivered on a precise date, as the company has to prioritize you.

    In general, ask the company to spell out all fees - some don’t disclose everything. A good rule is that you’ll pay more the longer the shipping distance and bigger the size/weight of the vehicle are.


    Most national vehicle deliveries take up to a month- international deliveries can take double that. You can get the ball rolling faster, however, if you’re quick about your deposit and faxing, scanning or emailing paperwork, such as the authorization for the shipping company to pick up the vehicle.


    Most shipping companies provide liability coverage up to $50,000-$100,000. Not every business does, however. Verify the amount and cost of the coverage if it’s available, as it might be included by default in your quote. If it’s not offered, look at your auto insurance. If you already have comprehensive coverage, it might cover damage to a vehicle in transport. If you don’t have sufficient coverage, you might want to purchase more.


    The shipping company is responsible for providing you with an inspection checklist for before and after the shipping. They’ll do a basic walk-around, but it’s wise to do a full inspection yourself (or hire someone) both before and after shipping. Take photos as visual evidence of the vehicle’s condition.

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