The process of shipping a car is relatively straightforward, but you should be aware of your options before diving in and contacting a carrier. The first choice you will need to make is between an open or enclosed carrier
. Most customers opt for an open carrier since it is more affordable and by far the most common way of shipping a car. An open carrier hauls several vehicles at once--usually between six and 12--and drops them off at the appropriate point along the delivery route.
An enclosed carrier, by contrast, often moves only one or two cars at a time and the vehicle is completely enclosed and protected throughout the entirety of the trip. Enclosed carriers are a good choice if you have a luxury, exotic or high value car that requires an extra level of care and protection during transport. Classic, restored, and modified vehicles are also good candidates for an enclosed carrier since you won’t have to worry about the potential damage caused from road debris and weather conditions.
On the topic of damages, every auto carrier is required to carry insurance that covers damages and it should be included in the price you are quoted. Additional insurance may be purchased through most carriers, but is generally not required since the minimum coverage is more than enough for most vehicles, with the exception of those with a particularly high value.
Transporting a vehicle, whether you do it yourself or hire a company to handle the job, is not a small investment. Because this is the case, it can be helpful to understand the true cost of the do-it-yourself method to compare with the cost of shipping. AAA estimates
that the cost of driving your vehicle is between 45 cents and 65 cents per mile, depending on the size and type of vehicle. These numbers represent mileage that is accrued from daily driving, so a slight increase in cost is to be expected for long distance or cross country driving trips.
By contrast, hiring a shipper usually costs between 50 cents to $1 per mile. While the simple math seems to indicate that it’s more expensive to hire a company than drive the car yourself, there are some other things to factor into the cost. For instance, your driving time, fuel costs, potential time missed from work, food and lodging expenses, and of course, the unfortunate possibility of an accident or mechanical failure along the way.
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After you’ve come to an agreement with a company about pricing and services, you may be asked for a small deposit to hold your spot on the transport carrier. While this is not an uncommon practice, the deposit should be a very small portion of the total cost. Be cautious of companies that ask for a large deposit up front, especially if they request a money order or wire transfer, as those are generally a sign of a less-than-reputable company.
If you are simply contracting for a one time delivery of one car, you can most often get a transport truck to deliver it to the exact address if you let them know. The exceptions to this would be when the destination is on a road that does not allow large trucks. If this is the case, it is usually possible to arrange an alternate place for the person receiving the car to meet with the truck. Make sure to give both the person getting the truck and the delivery company all the information, including each others contact information, so they can avoid any possible complications that may pop up along the way.
Before your vehicle is picked up for delivery by the carrier, there a few things you’ll need to do in preparation. The list below will go over the most common requirements when working with an auto transport company.
Remove Personal Belongings
Most auto carriers will request that the vehicle be completely empty of any personal belongings before it is picked up and loaded onto the truck. The reason for this is that, much like an overhead compartment on an airplane, items can shift during transport. During long trips, this creates the potential for damage to the interior of the car.
Clean Inside & Out
Cleaning your car before it’s shipped is important because it allows the driver to more accurately assess the condition of the vehicle. (The condition of the car, both before and after shipping, will be documented on the bill of lading.)
It’s recommended that you keep your own records of your vehicle’s condition, including before and after photos if possible. This will also aid you in getting accurate documentation on the bill of lading concerning the condition of your car. For high value, luxury, vintage, classic and exotic cars, this is an especially recommended practice.
Remove Accessories & Electronics
Electronic components, both internal and external, should be removed from the vehicle. This includes items like GPS units, detachable stereos, electronic toll passes, and anything else that is not permanently attached to the vehicle. Storage compartments, bike racks and any type of add-on to the car should also be removed if possible to prevent damages during shipment. Car alarms should be disabled so that they don’t go off while the vehicle is being shipped.
A basic maintenance check should be done so that your vehicle is in good running condition before the carrier picks it up. Tire pressure and fluids are important to check and you should make sure there are no leaks. Since many open carriers have two decks, one on top and one on bottom, a leak can cause potential damage to other vehicles. Inoperable vehicles can be shipped by some companies, but generally carry a small additional charge.
Most long distance auto shippers maintain storage yards at various points along their delivery routes and can arrange for short-term storage if you’re unable to be present when your vehicle is delivered. If you know that you’ll need the use of short-term storage facilities, mention it when you’re inquiring about pricing so that the shippers you contact can factor it in to the overall price of the service. Most long distance auto shippers maintain storage yards at various points along their delivery routes and can arrange for short-term storage if you’re unable to be present when your vehicle is delivered. If you know that you’ll need the use of short-term storage facilities, mention it when you’re inquiring about pricing so that the shippers you contact can factor it in to the overall price of the service. Most long distance auto shippers maintain storage yards at various points along their delivery routes and can arrange for short-term storage if you’re unable to be present when your vehicle is delivered. If you know that you’ll need the use of short-term storage facilities, mention it when you’re inquiring about pricing so that the shippers you contact can factor it in to the overall price of the service.
Many shippers offer discount programs to customers that can help reduce the cost of transport. Some common examples of such programs include price breaks for members of the military, snowbirds, roundtrip booking, multiple vehicle shipments, AAA members, students, and senior citizens. These specials are not always advertised or clearly stated, so make sure you ask if there are any available discounts that you might qualify for when you call companies for a price estimate.
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