Transporting a vehicle to a new location can be a nerve-wracking experience. Horror stories of fender benders, leaky trucks, and shady operators are enough to give any car owner significant anxiety. The good news is that with a reliable auto shipper, your car can arrive at its destination as flawlessly as when it left. No white knuckles are required.
What exactly is car transport? It’s hiring professional drivers to haul your vehicle door-to-door or terminal-to-terminal safely. Instead of racking up mileage by driving it yourself, your car gets loaded onto an enclosed trailer or open carrier.
However, with your precious cargo on the line, it’s crucial to find a transport company you can trust. A reputable provider will be transparent about licensing, insurance coverage, and fees. Taking time to vet potential transporters thoroughly provides peace of mind that your baby will arrive safe and sound. Red flags like vague quotes, lack of credentials, and bad reviews are signs of an unreliable or sketchy operator.
That’s why knowing what makes a trusted auto transport service the best. Read on for tips on choosing a trustworthy car transport company to ensure a smooth, damage-free move.
How to Identify a Reliable Car Transport Company
So, how do you pick an auto transport company you can trust with your baby? There are a few key factors to look for:
Proper licensing and insurance are a must
Any legitimate car carrier should have FMCSA operating authority and cargo insurance. Don’t hesitate to ask for proof upfront; any resistance is a red flag. You want to know they are authorized and that your vehicle is covered in case of an accident.
Online reviews are your friend here
Search for in-depth reviews on sites like TransportReviews.com and see what others say. Be wary of too-good-to-be-true 5-star reviews. Look for patterns in any bad experiences, like damages, delays, or billing issues. A few negatives among primarily positive feedback are normal, but consistent serious complaints spell trouble.
You also want to vet the services offered
Does the company offer enclosed trailers for high-end vehicles? There are a couple of options, such as door-to-door delivery, terminal drop-off, and expedited shipping. Ensure the transporter has experience with your type of vehicle – for example, classic cars may need specialty equipment.
Quick Response Time
A quick response to questions is another indicator of a reliable company. Do they answer the phone and reply to emails promptly? That shows they focus on customer service. Move along if they employ pushy sales tactics or dodge simple inquiries. Checking licensing, reviews, services offered, and responsiveness gives you a 360-degree view. Compare a few top-rated companies side-by-side to make an informed decision.
Preparing Your Car for Transport
You’ve found what looks like a trusted auto transport company—great! But your job isn’t done quite yet. Properly preparing your vehicle for the journey ahead is crucial for smooth, damage-free transport. Let’s walk through the critical steps of getting your car ready to ship.
Gather the necessary paperwork
Have the vehicle title, registration, and proof of insurance accessible, and make copies for the transport driver. You’ll also want to remove any toll tags so you don’t get billed for their travels.
Do a Pre-Transport Inspection
Walk around the vehicle and note any existing dents, chips, or scratches, and take dated photos to document the condition beforehand. This protects you in case of any shipping damage disputes. Ensure the tires are correctly inflated and fluids are topped off to avoid leaks.
Clean Out the Interior
Remove any personal items and electronics. Don’t leave anything behind that would be easy to replace. You’ll also want to turn off alarm systems that could accidentally go off during transport.
Adjust Seats and Roof Panels
For convertibles and SUVs, remove detachable sunroof panels and any third-row seating if possible. Fold down second-row seats to maximize open space inside the vehicle. This prevents cargo shifting, which could cause interior damage.
Prepare for Weather Extremes
If shipping in the winter, add extra antifreeze to prevent freezing. In summer, tint the windows for added interior protection from heat. Disconnecting the battery is also recommended to avoid draining during extended transport times. Just be sure to reconnect it upon delivery.
Do a Final walk-around
Ensure no alarm lights are left on and doors and gas caps are correctly closed and locked. Put the car in neutral gear with the parking brake released to be loaded onto the trailer quickly. Take thorough before-and-after photos, hang onto your documents, and then bon voyage! Your car is ready to hit the open road without a hitch.
Understanding Transport Options
Once your vehicle is prepped and ready to ship, it’s time to understand the transport options available so you can choose what’s best for your situation. Auto transport companies offer several ways to move your car from point A to point B.
Open vs. enclosed Auto Transport
The first decision is whether you need open or enclosed transport. Here’s the difference:
Open Carrier Transport
Open transport is the most common and affordable way to ship a car. Your vehicle is loaded onto a multi-car open trailer along with other vehicles. It is exposed to road elements like rain, debris, and weather shifts. Open shipping is fine for everyday cars but may not be ideal for vintage or high-end luxury vehicles.
Enclosed Carrier Transport
Enclosed transport offers more protection. Your car travels inside a covered trailer shielded from weather and road hazards. This prevents paint chips and provides climate control. Enclosed trailers have less capacity than open ones, so cost 50-100% more. But if your car is precious, enclosed shipping may be worth the premium price.
When choosing open versus enclosed transport, consider your budget and the level of protection needed. For brand-new cars or high-end rides, enclosed trailers are recommended. For older or more affordable vehicles, open shipping often suffices. Discuss options with your transport provider to decide what fits your car and budget.
Door-to-Door Vs. Terminal Shipping
The other critical decision is door-to-door delivery or terminal drop-off:
With door-to-door service, your car is picked up at your home and delivered to your new address for maximum convenience—no need to drive to a terminal location for pickup or drop-off. Door-to-door shipping simplifies the process but comes at a higher cost.
Terminal-to-terminal shipping means you drop your car at the origin terminal and pick it up at the destination. This saves money, but you must coordinate rides to both locations. Terminal pickup/drop-off is more complex but an intelligent budget move.
Evaluate your schedule, budget, and how hands-on you want to be. For total simplicity, door-to-door delivery may be preferable if the price fits. To save money with a more involved process, terminal shipping is an option.
Factors Affecting Car Transport Costs
What you’ll pay to ship your vehicle depends on several key factors:
Transport Distance: Longer transport distances mean higher base rates. Cross-country trips will be more expensive than local moves. Expect to pay more for routes spanning hundreds or thousands of miles.
Type of Transport: Enclosed trailers are 50-70% more expensive than open transport. You’re paying for added protection and limited capacity. High-end cars may warrant the cost, while budget vehicles can go open.
Extra Services: Door-to-door delivery, expedited shipping, extra insurance, and specialty equipment add convenience but increase costs. Determine which services are must-haves versus nice-to-haves for your situation.
Vehicle Type: Larger vehicles like SUVs, trucks, and vans cost more to ship than standard sedans and coupes. Oversized or specialty vehicles like RVs and motorcycles also bump up pricing.
Seasonal Demand: Peak moving seasons see price increases due to high demand. Book summer moves well in advance for the best rates. Seasons with lower demand offer more deals.
Current Fuel Prices: As a large operation, transport companies are impacted by fuel costs. Expect rates to rise when gas prices spike.
Getting Quotes from Transport Companies
To get an accurate price estimate, contact 3–4 top-rated transport companies and compare their quotes. Get specific quotes for:
- Open auto transport
- Enclosed auto transport
- Door-to-door delivery
- Terminal-to-terminal pickup/drop-off
Compare costs while considering your vehicle type, transport distance, and service needs. This lets you make the most informed decision on optimal transport options that match your car and budget.
Aim for quotes at $600-$2,000 for average sedan shipping, depending on the distance. Upcharges apply for large vehicles, enclosed trailers, door-to-door delivery, and peak-season moves. Discuss wiggle room for discounts on multiple cars or off-season moves.
Finalizing Your Choice
You’ve done your homework comparing auto transport companies. After weighing costs, service offerings, and reviews, one provider is the ideal choice to ship your vehicle safely. Before sealing the deal, there are a few final steps to complete the process with confidence.
Essential Questions to Ask Before Signing
Before signing a contract, get clarity on:
- Exact Pickup/Drop-off Logistics: Confirm the precise pickup/drop-off dates, locations, and time windows. Understand the driver coordination process and your responsibilities. Ensure the timeline works for your moving schedule.
- Payment Terms: Ask about deposit requirements and payment installments. Many companies require a deposit upfront and a balance upon delivery. Inquire about discounts for paying in full early. Never pay 100% until your car arrives safely.
- Insurance Coverage: Understand exactly how your car is insured in transit in case of damages or accidents. Ask for documentation of their cargo insurance policy limits and deductibles.
- Tracking Access: Request access to real-time GPS tracking of your vehicle so you can monitor transport status. Reputable companies provide this service.
- Contingency Planning: Consider contingency plans for delays due to mechanical issues, weather, or road closures. You want reassurance your car will still be delivered as quickly as possible, even if uncertainties arise.
Getting clear answers to these questions upfront ensures a mutual understanding of transport plans, costs, and contingencies.
Carefully Review Terms and Conditions
Never blindly sign a contract. Read the fine print thoroughly to understand:
- Liability: The carrier’s maximum liability for damages.
- Exclusions: Damage exclusions like pre-existing dents/chips.
- Claims Process: How to file a claim if needed.
- Dispute Resolution: How issues and disputes will be handled.
Look for unsatisfactory or ambiguous terms related to liability limits, damage claims, and dispute resolution procedures. Get clarification or request changes as needed.
Completing Delivery and Inspection after Vehicle Transport
The big day has arrived – your car has reached its destination! Before driving off into the sunset, there are a few final transport closure steps. Handling the delivery process properly ensures you can resolve any issues if they arise.
Thoroughly Inspect the Vehicle at Drop-off
Just as you did a walk around before pickup, meticulously examine your car at delivery. Look for any new scrapes, dings, or damage that may have occurred during transport. Check both exterior and interior and undercarriage. Document any further damage with dated photos.
Be sure to verify:
- Mileage matches transport documents
- No warning lights are left on
- All accessories and parts are still intact
- Fluids are still topped off
- The tires are still properly inflated
Don’t feel rushed by the driver; thoroughly inspect every inch before signing off.
Review Transport Documentation
Cross-check pickup/drop-off dates and reported mileage against transport documents. Ensure dates, mileage, and conditions match your records. Only sign the bill of lading and authorize payment if all looks accurate.
Act Quickly on Any New Damage
If you notice any new damage incorrectly recorded at pickup, notify the driver immediately and document it with photos. Minor damage can often be settled on the spot by agreeing on a repair reimbursement amount. This allows you to get issues resolved before the truck drives away.
Begin the Claims Process ASAP If Needed
For more severe damages, begin a claim with the transport company quickly. Submit dated photos highlighting the damage and demand fair compensation. If the company pushes back, file a complaint with the FMCSA.
Ideally, your vehicle arrives in perfect condition! But even with the most reputable company, some minor flaws can crop up. Handling inspection and issues promptly and professionally sets you up for a smooth claims and repayment process.
Picking the right car transport company to move your vehicle is an important decision. Follow the tips in this guide, and you can choose with confidence.
Checking licenses, reading reviews, comparing costs, inspecting your car, and reviewing contracts – doing all this homework means fewer worries. Choosing a trusted carrier means relaxing and knowing your vehicle will arrive safely.
You’re moving on to new adventures in your new town. Soon, your loyal ride will be cruising those same streets, shipped securely by your chosen transporter.
Wherever you end up, you can count on a top-notch auto shipper to move your car safely. With that assurance, you can hit the road to start this exciting new chapter. Your vehicle will join you soon, thanks to making an intelligent choice and picking a reliable transport partner.
Most Common Questions (PAA)
What are the signs of a reliable car transport company?
Look for a company that has all their licenses and insurance in order. Check online reviews and see what actual customers say – are there any worrying complaints about damage or poor service? Do they respond quickly if you have questions? Quotes and information should be transparent upfront, not vague or confusing. Just look for transparency from someone trusted to move vehicles like yours safely.
How do I prepare my car for transport?
Give the car a good clean inside and out so it’s road-ready. Take photos of any existing dents or scratches; that way, you have proof if any new damage shows up. Remove anything valuable, and check tires, fluids, and batteries to prevent issues en route. You want to hand over the car in solid shape and document its condition. It makes the whole process smoother!
What are the differences between open and enclosed transport?
Open transport is when your car gets loaded up with others on a regular multi-car trailer. So it’s exposed to the elements a bit, but cheaper. Enclosed is inside a covered trailer protected from weather and debris. It costs more, but I’d do it for an expensive or classic car. For a regular vehicle, open transport is fine.
How much does it typically cost to transport a car?
The average cost to transport a car can be around $600-$2,000+ depending on distance and options, like if you need door-to-door delivery or an enclosed trailer that ups the cost. Summer moves with high demand are pricier, too. Having flexibility on pickup/drop-off dates helps find deals. Shop around for the best rates!
What should I look for in a car transport contract?
Read the fine print thoroughly! See what’s covered if any damage happens – how does the claims process work, what are liability limits, and can disputes be resolved fairly? You trust them with your vehicle, so ensure the contract protects you and spells responsibilities on both sides. Get anything unclear addressed before signing.