The cost to ship a vehicle ranges anywhere from 53 cents per mile to more than $2.30 per mile depending on several factors, including the:
- Time of year
- Type of service requested (open or closed)
- Delivery time frame (rush or standard)
- Size of the vehicle being shipped (larger vehicles take up more room on the carrier and cost more)
To help you understand the cost of auto transport, we’ve gathered quotes from some of the leading auto carrier companies in the United States and provided a full rundown of how to ship your car like a pro.
The most common way to ship a vehicle is to place it in the care of a carrier that transports it by truck to the destination of your choice. These vehicle carrier rigs can carry up to nine or 10 vehicles at a time and can make a trip of several thousand miles in only a few days.
Average cost to ship a car
Although car shipping costs depend on a number of factors, you can expect car transport rates to vary from about $500 for short, cross-state transports to more than $1,700 for cross-country transports. The average cost of shipping a car internationally is higher.
Cost to ship a Toyota Camry in an open carrier
|Boston to LA||$1,599||$1,700||$1,650|
|Chicago to Boston||$789||$679||$849|
|Chicago to LA||$979||$1,140||$800|
|Miami to Boston||$649||$750||$825|
All prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
How to calculate the cost to ship a car per mile
If you want a rough estimate of how much to ship a car, just multiply the distance your vehicle will travel by the approximate cost per mile. This gives you a good number on which to base your budgeting.
To find these average costs, reference auto shipping rates in the car shipping calculator chart below, which also includes the cost of coast-to-coast auto transport.
What affects car shipping costs?
It’s often hard to find accurate estimates for what shipping a car should cost because multiple factors influence the final price.
- The size of your vehicle affects the average car shipping costs. For instance, our quotes above show a cost of $650 to $825 to transport a sedan between Massachusetts and Florida, but the same companies may charge $850 to $1,200 to transport an SUV, van or pickup truck an equal distance.
These larger vehicles cost more to transport because they take up more space on a carrier. The more vehicles the truck can carry, the lower the rate per vehicle will be.
- Expect to pay more during peak months when companies are busier and space on a shipping truck is more limited. Prices for shipping a vehicle in the summer months can increase as much as $200 to $300 per trip.
However, booking a shipment during the winter in areas that experience inclement weather can also increase vehicle transport costs. If a carrier has to deal with snowstorms and other potential weather delays, that extra hassle will likely be reflected in the price.
If you’re in the early stages of planning your vehicle transport, ask about peak rates and find out if the carrier or broker offers discounts during the offseason that lower the average vehicle shipping cost. Shop around for one that does if you can — this can add up to significant overall savings.
- It shouldn’t be a surprise that the further your vehicle needs to travel, the more it’s going to cost you. Mileage rates might fluctuate depending on the company you choose, so research several companies to find out how much they charge you based on distance.
Carriers also often charge less money for long-distance transport over open highways. For example, going between Miami and Boston forces the carrier to go through several metropolitan areas where they may experience heavy traffic or other similar delays.
Traveling from Boston to Los Angeles, however, the vast majority of the travel takes place at high speeds and free of city traffic. The more ground a carrier can cover during the course of a day, the cheaper the per-mile rate will be.
- Shipping your vehicle on an open car carrier is cheaper because there is less the carrier needs to do to protect your vehicle from the elements.
If you’re shipping a classic or high-end vehicle and want the vehicle protected during transport, you should consider paying more for transport in an enclosed carrier. These trucks carry fewer vehicles and have extra protection for expensive or rare automobiles.
- Much like other shipping services, you’ll end up paying more overall if you want your vehicle transport rushed. Expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $500 more for rushed shipping. On the other hand, you’ll pay less if you are flexible about when your vehicle can show up at its final destination.
Generally, you will be given a three-day window for pickup, followed by a reasonably accurate date for delivery. If you need your vehicle picked up by a specific date, most companies can store your vehicle in their facility for an additional fee.
- Because carriers bid on how much it costs to ship your car, prices can vary depending on how many carriers are available. This is usually neither good nor bad, just something to be aware of.
How to ship a car
Whether you’re shipping your car cross-country or across the state, the decisions you make in these five steps will affect your final car shipping cost:
1. Determine how you want your car delivered
There are two drop-off/pickup methods that affect the cost of shipping your car. Opting for terminal-to-terminal car shipping will usually be cheaper, but door-to-door service is more convenient and could be worth the extra cost.
Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each car shipping option:
- Terminal-to-terminal car shipping: This type of transport requires you to take your car to a designated drop-off location and pick it up from a predetermined pickup location near your destination. While this is often the less expensive option, you’ll need to make arrangements to get to and from each terminal location.
Terminal-to-terminal shipping lets car transport companies deliver entire shipments from one location to another, lowering their overall costs. However, this means your vehicle could spend extra time sitting in a terminal parking lot (exposed to all the elements) until a full load is ready to ship.
- Door-to-door car transport: Probably the most convenient option, door-to-door shipping means the carrier picks your vehicle up from your preferred location (usually your home or place of work) and delivers it to your final destination. Because it involves extra time on the road for the driver, this method of shipping tends to cost slightly more than terminal-to-terminal shipping.
Keep in mind that some home or work locations are inaccessible for carriers who cannot navigate narrow roads with their equipment, so you may need to compromise and set up a delivery point close to your final destination.
2. Choose the type of car transport truck you need
Most auto car shipping companies let you choose between open car transport and enclosed car transport. Both options have benefits and drawbacks, but the choice becomes more clear if you consider the value of the car you’re shipping.
- Open car transport services: Most people choose open car transport carriers to take advantage of cheaper rates and more flexible shipping dates due to an overall higher volume of car shipments.
Open car shipping exposes your car to damage from debris or other natural elements, but the risk of damage during transport is very low, and any paint chips or dings that occur are usually covered by insurance.
- Enclosed car transport services: If your car is highly valuable, like if you’re shipping a classic car, enclosed car shipping is a better option because your car will be protected from the elements.
However, enclosed car transport trucks can usually carry only a few vehicles at a time, which can raise the overall cost to ship a vehicle up to 50% more than the cost of open car transport.
3. Gather multiple car shipping quotes
Pricing is a crucial part of the car shipping equation, so securing a written car shipping estimate is critical. Here are some considerations when looking at quotes:
- Insurance: A reputable shipping company typically includes insurance in its quote. Make sure you know whether the company’s insurance is primary or secondary to yours and check with your personal insurance company to see if your policy covers any damage that might happen during shipping.
Keep personal items and valuables out of your vehicle — these are not covered under car insurance policies if they’re damaged or stolen. Ask the company if their insurance has a damage deductible and keep written copies of everything related to insurance.
- Shipping rates and fees: It’s crucial to know how rates and fees are determined. Some companies charge by the mile, and your rate is often lower if there are multiple cars going to and from the same cities.
- Delay policy: Ask whether the company refunds some or all of the shipping cost if the automobile is delivered late.
4. Schedule your car transport pickup and delivery
Scheduling your car transport service around eight weeks in advance lets you be more flexible and can lower your shipping costs. It also lets you wait for the right car transport carrier at the best price for your budget.
The earlier you schedule your car transport service, the more flexible you can be, which lets you wait for the right car transport carrier at the best price for your budget.
5. Prepare the car for transport
There are a few things you need to do before your car is ready to get shipped.
- Clean out the car: Auto transport carriers generally aren’t licensed to transport household goods from state to state. In fact, the Department of Transportation may fine a carrier if they see a car full of personal items on their truck. While many auto transport companies still let you have some personal items in your vehicle (usually about 100 pounds worth) for an extra fee, it’s a good idea to clean out your car anyway to help avoid theft and other issues.
Some car transport companies even recommend getting your gas tank down to a quarter or an eighth of a tank to reduce shipping costs while keeping enough gas in your car to make it home once it’s delivered.
- Inspect your car for damage: Take a few photos before and after your car is shipped in case you need to file a claim for any damages that occur during transport.
In the unlikely event that your car is damaged, you should note it on your final bill of lading report. Failure to do so could leave you responsible for covering the cost of any repairs.
The cheapest way to ship a car
Open carrier transport with terminal-to-terminal service is typically the cheapest way to ship a car. Open auto transporters can accommodate up to 10 vehicles, which allows operators to save on fuel, oil and transport costs.
Open carrier transport with terminal-to-terminal service is typically the cheapest way to ship a car.
Terminal-to-terminal service is generally cheaper than door-to-door service since the driver doesn’t need to deliver the car to your home or office. Occasionally, though, due to storage fees, door-to-door service might be the cheaper option.
If you want to save more money, try to ship your vehicle during the offseason (late fall to late spring). The most popular time to ship a car is during the summer and early fall, and prices generally rise to reflect the increased demand.
Find out if you’re approved for discounts
Most auto transport companies offer a wide array of discounts. If you’re looking for cheap car shipping, be sure to check beforehand to see if you qualify for any savings. These auto transport company discounts include:
- Military discounts: Many auto transport companies offer discounts to military personnel to help with frequent moves and to recognize their service.
- Student discounts: Some auto transport companies offer discounts in the summer and fall if you are a student moving to or from college.
- Senior discounts: Because many older people live on fixed incomes and have to abide by a strict budget, some auto transport companies offer them discounts.
- First-time shippers: Some auto transport companies offer a discount if it’s your first time shipping a vehicle with them.
- Return customers: In contrast to the first-time shipping discount, some auto transport companies offer you discounts for shipping a car with them a second or third time.
- Multicar shipments: Most companies offer a discount if you’re shipping multiple vehicles at once.
- First responders: Many auto transport companies offer first responders a discount.
- Early bird: Some companies will reward you with a discount for signing up with them within 48 hours of receiving a quote.
- Vehicle fleets: If you’re a cab company or any other business that needs to ship a fleet of vehicles, you might be able to get a discount from your shipping company for shipping in bulk. Be sure to ask your broker or carrier about a bulk discount for shipping cars — it might not be openly advertised online or in brochures.
Check payment method fees
While most shipping companies accept all forms of payment (including cash, check and credit cards), some employ a 2% to 3% surcharge when you use a credit card. Be sure to find out what payment method your shipping carrier takes and if you’ll be charged extra to pay with a credit card.
Most transport companies charge a deposit before they pick up your vehicle — this amount is applied to your total upon delivery. Some carriers offer a 100% refundable deposit. If you’re concerned about getting a refund for any reason, this might make going with a carrier a better option for you.
Frequently asked questions about car shipping
- A shipping company determines the cost to transport your car based on the size of the vehicle being shipped, the distance, the type of service requested and how quickly you need your vehicle at its destination.
- State-to-state shipping costs don’t specifically vary from in-state shipping costs. For variances in shipping costs, factors like distance and time of year have more of an effect on your shipping cost than crossing state lines.
- While you can often save money driving your car on a shorter move, you’ll need to consider everything from wear and tear to fuel costs and lodging when considering driving a vehicle cross-country. Cost aside, the greatest advantage of shipping your car is often the time savings it will provide.
- The short answer is that it depends on the auto transport company you work with.
Most shipping carriers strongly prefer that you do not ship a vehicle with items in the vehicle or in the trunk because of the possibility of theft while the carrier is stopped. Those that do allow personal items in your vehicle often have a weight limit for them and charge extra for the convenience.
Bottom line: What is the cheapest way to ship a car?
The price of shipping a car inside the U.S. typically ranges from $500 to more than $1,700. Terminal-to-terminal transport with open-air shipping is typically the cheapest option.
It’s natural to be wary of a price that seems too good to be true or is significantly less expensive than other quotes — companies that do this can often have hidden fees or do business with the cheapest trucking companies available. This can lead to a lack of care for your vehicle.
Be sure to ask each company about any deals they offer so you can take advantage of any potential price drops. With the right mindset, affordable car shipping is a real possibility.
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