Car Shipping Cost: Breaking Down Auto Transport Pricing

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When it comes to shipping a car in the United States, the costs can vary significantly. On average, the cost of shipping a car ranges from $500 to $2,500, with the most common price falling around $1,000.

The two most common factors that determine the cost of shipping a car are the type of transport chosen: open transport and enclosed transport.

Open Transport: This is the more budget-friendly option, with costs ranging from $500 to $1,500, depending on the distance the vehicle is being shipped.

Enclosed Transport: Opting for enclosed shipping will cost between $1,000 to $2,500, translating to approximately $0.90 to $1.70 per mile.

Whether you’re moving to a new city or buying a car from a seller in a different state, understanding the costs involved in car transportation is essential.

In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through everything you need to know about car shipping costs, from the factors that affect the price to tips on how to save money.

Factors that affect car shipping costs

Explained car shipping cost factors

When it comes to car shipping, there are several factors that can influence the cost. Understanding these factors will give you a clearer picture of why prices can vary significantly. Here are the key factors to consider:

1. Vehicle Size (Height, Length, Weight)

The size of your vehicle plays a crucial role in determining the shipping cost. Larger vehicles, such as SUVs or trucks, take up more space on the carrier and may require special handling, which can add to the overall cost. Additionally, the weight of the vehicle can impact the fuel consumption of the carrier, affecting the price.

2. Vehicle Type

The type of vehicle you need to transport also affects the cost. Standard sedans or compact cars are usually more affordable to ship compared to luxury or exotic vehicles. This is because specialized carriers may be required for high-value cars, which can increase the shipping cost.

3. Vehicle Condition

The condition of your vehicle can impact the shipping cost as well. If your car is inoperable or requires special equipment to load and unload, additional fees may apply. It’s important to inform the car shipping company about the condition of your vehicle to get an accurate quote.

4. Shipping Type : Open or Enclosed

One of the most important factors that affects the cost is the type of shipping you choose. Open transport is the most common and affordable option, where your vehicle will be exposed to the elements during transit. On the other hand, enclosed transport provides protection from weather conditions and road debris but is more expensive.

5. Road Type

The route and road conditions can also impact the cost of car shipping. If you’re transporting your vehicle to a remote or less accessible location, the carrier may have to take a longer route or face challenging road conditions, which can lead to higher costs.

6. Time of Year

The time of year you plan to ship your car can affect the price. During peak seasons, such as summer or holiday periods, when many people are relocating or traveling, the demand for car shipping services increases. This surge in demand can lead to higher prices. If possible, consider shipping your car during off-peak seasons to save money.

7. Pick Up and Delivery Locations

The distance between the pick-up and delivery locations is a significant factor in determining the cost. Shipping a car over long distances will naturally be more expensive than shipping it locally. Additionally, the accessibility of the pick-up and delivery locations can also impact the cost. If you live in a remote area, the carrier may have to make additional arrangements, which can increase the price.

8. Fuel Price

Fuel prices can directly affect the cost of car shipping. Fluctuations in fuel costs can lead to adjustments in shipping rates. It’s important to keep in mind that carriers need to cover their fuel expenses, and these costs may be passed on to you in the form of higher shipping prices during periods of high fuel prices.

9. Express Shipping

If you’re in a hurry to transport your car, express shipping services are available. However, opting for express shipping can significantly increase the cost. Carriers may need to rearrange their schedules or make special arrangements to prioritize your shipment, resulting in higher fees.

Average car shipping costs in the United States

Now that we’ve covered the key factors that affect car shipping costs, let’s dive into the average prices you can expect to pay in the United States. It’s important to note that these figures are estimates, and the actual cost may vary depending on the factors mentioned earlier.

On average, the cost to ship a car in the United States ranges from $500 to $2,500. The most common price falls around $1,000. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that these figures are subject to change based on the specific details of your shipment.

Tips to save money on car transportation

While car shipping costs can add up, there are several ways you can save money on transportation. Here are some tips to help you reduce your expenses:

Plan ahead: Booking your car shipment in advance can give you access to better deals and lower prices.

Choose open transport: Unless you have a specific need for enclosed transport, opting for open transport can save you a significant amount of money.

Be flexible with pick-up and delivery dates: If you can be flexible with the dates, you may be able to secure a better price. Carriers often have more availability during non-peak periods.

Consolidate shipments: If you’re shipping multiple vehicles or have additional items to transport, consider consolidating your shipment. This can lead to cost savings as carriers can optimize their routes.

How to get an accurate car shipping quote

When it comes to getting an accurate car shipping quote, it’s important to provide detailed information about your vehicle and shipping requirements. Here are the steps you can follow to ensure you receive an accurate quote:

Gather essential information: Know the make, model, year, and condition of your vehicle. Also, determine the pick-up and delivery locations, as well as the desired shipping dates.

Provide accurate information: Be honest and accurate when providing information about your vehicle and shipping requirements. Any discrepancies can lead to higher costs down the line.

Ask about additional fees: Inquire about any potential additional fees or surcharges that may apply to your shipment. This will help you avoid unexpected expenses.

Understanding different car shipping methods

Car shipping companies offer different methods to transport your vehicle. Understanding these methods will help you choose the one that best suits your needs. Here are the most common car shipping methods:

Open Transport: As mentioned earlier, open transport is the most common method of car shipping. Your vehicle will be loaded onto an open trailer and transported alongside other vehicles. While it offers less protection, it is a cost-effective option for most car shipping needs.

Open car transport across country

Enclosed Transport: If you have a high-value or classic car that requires extra protection, enclosed transport is the way to go. Your vehicle will be placed in an enclosed trailer, providing protection from the elements and road debris. However, this method is more expensive than open transport.

enclosed shipping option for luxury car

Door-to-Door Transport: With door-to-door transport, the car shipping company will pick up your vehicle from your chosen location and deliver it directly to your destination. This method offers convenience but may come at a higher cost.


Terminal-to-Terminal Transport: Terminal-to-terminal transport involves dropping off your vehicle at a designated terminal and picking it up from another terminal at the destination. While it may be more affordable, it requires you to arrange transportation to and from the terminals.

How Does the Car Shipping Process Work?

Now that you have a good understanding of car shipping methods, it’s important to know how the process works. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the car shipping process:

  1. Request quotes: Reach out to car shipping companies and request quotes based on your specific requirements.
  2. Book your shipment: Once you’ve chosen a company, book your shipment by providing the necessary details and paying any required deposits.
  3. Prepare your vehicle: Clean your vehicle, remove personal belongings, and take note of any existing damage. Also, ensure that your vehicle has a quarter tank of gas or less.
  4. Vehicle inspection: The carrier will perform a thorough inspection of your vehicle before loading it onto the trailer. This inspection is crucial to document the condition of your vehicle before shipping.
  5. Transportation: Your vehicle will be loaded onto the chosen carrier, and the transportation process will begin. You can stay in touch with the car shipping company for updates on your shipment’s progress.
  6. Delivery: Once your vehicle arrives at the destination, it will be unloaded and inspected again. Make sure to carefully inspect your vehicle for any new damage or issues before accepting the delivery.

How to Prepare Your Car For Shipping

Before shipping your car, it’s important to take certain steps to ensure a smooth and hassle-free process. Here’s a checklist to help you prepare your car for shipping:

Clean your vehicle: Thoroughly wash your car, both inside and out, to make it easier to inspect for any existing damage.

Remove personal belongings: Remove all personal belongings from your car. This includes items in the trunk, glove compartment, and any other storage areas. Carriers are not responsible for any lost or damaged personal items.

Document existing damage: Take detailed photographs of your vehicle from various angles to document any existing damage. This will serve as evidence if any new damage occurs during transit.

Disable car alarms: If your vehicle has an active car alarm, make sure to disable it to avoid any unnecessary disturbances during transportation.

Check for leaks: Ensure that there are no fluid leaks from your vehicle. If you notice any leaks, have them repaired before shipping.

Secure loose parts: If there are any loose parts or accessories on your vehicle, such as spoilers or antennas, remove or secure them to prevent any damage during transportation.

Check tire pressure: Ensure that your tires are properly inflated to the recommended levels. This will help with the loading and unloading process.

Leave minimal fuel: Keep your fuel tank at a quarter tank or less. This reduces the weight of your vehicle and is a safety precaution during transportation.

The importance of insurance when transporting a car

When it comes to shipping your car, insurance is a crucial aspect that should not be overlooked. While reputable car shipping companies take every precaution to ensure the safe transportation of your vehicle, accidents can still happen. Having proper insurance coverage provides peace of mind and financial protection in case of any unforeseen events. Here are the key points to consider regarding car shipping insurance:

Verify insurance coverage: Before booking your car shipment, verify the insurance coverage provided by the car shipping company. Ensure that it is sufficient to cover the value of your vehicle.

Ask about additional coverage: If the base insurance coverage is not enough for your peace of mind, inquire about additional coverage options. Some companies offer higher coverage limits or supplemental insurance at an additional cost.

Read the fine print: Carefully review the insurance policy and understand the terms and conditions. Pay attention to any exclusions or limitations that may apply.

Document existing damage: As mentioned earlier, document any existing damage to your vehicle before shipping. This will help you file a claim if any new damage occurs during transit.

Report damage promptly: If your vehicle arrives with any new damage, report it to the car shipping company immediately. Take photographs and provide detailed documentation to support your claim.

Choosing a reliable car shipping company

Selecting a reliable and reputable car shipping company is crucial to ensure a smooth and stress-free experience. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a car shipping company:

Research and read reviews: Look for car shipping companies with positive reviews and a good reputation. Read feedback from previous customers to get an idea of their level of service.

Check credentials: Verify that the car shipping company is properly licensed, insured, and registered with the necessary authorities. This ensures that they meet the industry standards and regulations.

Get multiple quotes: Reach out to several car shipping companies and request quotes. This will help you compare prices and services to find the best fit for your needs.

Customer service: Pay attention to the responsiveness and professionalism of the car shipping company’s customer service team. They should be readily available to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Transparent pricing: Choose a car shipping company that provides clear and transparent pricing. Avoid companies that have hidden fees or ambiguous pricing structures.

Experience and expertise: Consider the experience and expertise of the car shipping company. Look for companies that have been in the industry for a significant amount of time and have a proven track record.

Insurance coverage: As mentioned earlier, verify the insurance coverage provided by the car shipping company. Ensure that it is sufficient to cover the value of your vehicle.


Transporting a car can be a significant expense, but by understanding the factors that affect the cost and following the tips mentioned in this guide, you can save money and ensure a smooth process. Remember to research car shipping companies, gather multiple quotes, and choose a reliable company with the necessary credentials and insurance coverage. By taking these steps, you can have peace of mind knowing that your vehicle will be transported safely and efficiently.

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