10 tips for shipping a car


Intercity Lines experts share 10 tips for shipping cars nationwide, including CaliforniaNew York, and locally. To ship a car, you need to know about different types of auto transport companies and how the process works. This applies to classic cars, luxury cars, and exotic cars. Make sure you understand your options before choosing a vehicle shipping company.

Our guide on shipping a car provides 10 essential tips to choose the best car transport services and simplify the process.

1. Shipping a car can be risky or easy, depending on your chosen company.

Enclosed Auto Transport Trailer?

Understanding the ins and outs of an auto transport company’s car shipping process is essential before booking your order. First, you must understand the different types of car shippers. To make the right choice, it is important to understand the pros and cons of various car shipping options.

Open car transport vs. enclosed car transport shipping services

You can ship your car in an open vehicle or enclosed trailer. Intercity Lines uses safe enclosed trailers with lift gates to transport vehicles.

Open car trailers can cause damage to cars, as debris can hit them or weather can affect them. Open auto transport is more risky during certain times of year, such as winter. This is because there is a higher chance of damage from weather, road debris, and road salt.

Typically, people secure cars on open trailers with chains.

Be wary of car shippers that use chains to secure their vehicles. People often put chains over a vehicle’s axle, which can strain that vehicle, especially if they over-tighten them. If the chains loosen, they will bang against the car for the rest of the journey- over every pothole and bump.

Enclosed car transport companies use different nylon straps to keep cars safe during transport, preventing damage to the vehicle. Enclosed trailers have lift gates and interior decks, allowing safe handling of low-clearance cars like exotic and race cars. Enclosed auto transport is the safest type of trailer to ship a car in.

We only use high-quality enclosed carriers with nylon straps to safely transport your car. Some car transport companies, like us, offer a door-to-door service. Door to door service ensures that the same driver will transport your car until they safely deliver it. Other shippers may user terminal to terminal shipping swapping your car between trucks and warehouses.

Some people consider long-distance towing an option, but it is only sometimes a practical option. You should reserve towing for emergencies and use flatbeds for short distances. Whether shipping a car from New Jersey to FloridaTexas, or California, it’s always worth going with a reputable car shipping company, like us, instead of towing or driveaway services.

Enclosed car shipping is worth the money, especially when you ship a car of value.

Enclosed car transport services are safer and better than open car transport for shipping vehicles. Although it may cost more, the added safety and peace of mind make it worth choosing over cheaper options.

Be sure to consider the pros and cons of open and enclosed car shipping before choosing a company. Pick the option that suits your needs and budget. Remember, cheaper is rarely better, especially when you ship a car.

2. How to research and find the best car shipping companies

transport reviews

You risk thousands of dollars and time when transporting a vehicle or motorcycle. It’s crucial to know how to find a shipper you can trust to ship your car. Our tips will make it easy to find the right shipper and identify auto transport companies to avoid.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

To check a car shipping company’s safety record and profile, visit the website of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. You can use the FMCSA’s website to get the facts on the shipper you’re working with.

Good car shipping companies should meet three criteria in their FMCSA profile.

  1. A good safety rating.
  2. Below average out-of-service %
  3. Authorized to transport motor vehicles.

It will also list if the company is a broker or a carrier.

If they fail to meet the above criteria it’s best to avoid shipping your car with them.

Ask friends, families, and local car businesses for auto transport recommendations.

A great start is to ask friends, family, and local dealerships for shippers they use and trust. You can also use car forums and review websites to ensure you pick a vehicle transport company offering quality service.

Read auto shipping companies’ online customer reviews.

Reading customer reviews online is a great way to check if a company is reputable. When looking at reviews, be wary that companies can buy positive and suppress negative customer reviews. Still, it’s a great starting point and indicator when finding an American auto shipping company and car shipping estimate. Some useful websites are:

Transport Reviews – An auto transport review website



Google Reviews

Facebook Reviews

Check car forums for auto transport recommendations.

Car forums are a good way to find top car shipping companies. They also provide an opportunity to hear from car enthusiasts about their experiences with shipping services. You can search for “auto transport” and similar terms to find many threads with car shipper recommendations and experiences.

Typically, you don’t need to be a member of these car forums to search for car shipping companies. To find car forums, just google car enthusiast car makes followed by “car forums.” a few should pop right up!

Check collector car magazines for auto transport services.

Another great source to find quality shippers is collector car magazines. A car transport company advertising in a popular car magazine with a great ad may indicate they’re more established.

Look for auto transport partners of reputable car museums, auto shows, and collector car businesses.

The nation’s top car shippers will likely have partnerships with respected car museums, auto shows, and collector car businesses. Intercity Lines works with top car-related events, museums, and businesses that trust our excellent service and reputation.

Need more tips on how to research an auto transport company? Check out our guide below:

We cover how to research a car shipping company more in How to Research an Auto Transport Company

3. Beware of auto transport brokers especially when shipping a car cross country

Back of Intercity Lines truck in front of Ferris Wheel

Beware of auto transport brokers.

Beware of auto transport brokers, especially when shipping a car cross country. Most people are not aware of auto transport brokers when they ship their first car. So what exactly is an auto transport broker, and why should you avoid their car transport services?

What is an auto transport broker?

These companies find a carrier, like us, to transport your car with trucks that can take your car across the country. They then broker your order to them, and you only learn which company they hired once they pick up your car. Regardless of the type of vehicle, it’s best to cut out the middleman and work directly with a carrier.

Know whether you’re dealing with a broker or motor carrier:

Often, customers realize the company is a car shipping broker when another company contacts them to collect the car. Car shipping brokers may display photos of trucks, open transport, and enclosed transport trailers on their website. However, these photos may not have their logo or may be generic images from the internet.

You can ask the company if they broker your order to 3rd parties or have a dedicated fleet themselves. You can also check their FMCSA profile to see if they are a broker or a carrier.

You don’t know who the broker chose to ship your car until they’re in your driveway.

The quality of auto transport equipment can vary significantly depending on the company they broker the car shipping order too. They may broker your order to a reputable carrier or a subpar company. You won’t know, which company they brokered your order too until pick up preventing you from doing proper research on them.

If you have an issue with your vehicle, you will go through two companies to receive help. Often, the broker may not be familiar with the auto transport company they brokered your car shipping order to. Usually, they put your order on a load board website, and random car shipping companies click to accept it.

Always ship your car directly with the carrier if possible. Not an auto transport broker.

When you ship directly with a carrier, you eliminate the middleman and can research the company you choose. This allows you to be confident in their services and reputation.

Read more about auto transport brokers at Be Wary of Auto Transport Brokers

4. Don‘t give a deposit when booking your car’s transport.

shipping a classic car

Red flags should go up if an American auto shipping company asks for a deposit when cross-country car shipping! No deposit means you can cancel if the company doesn’t meet your expectations, especially with scheduling.

Brokers require deposits, typically not motor carriers.

Car transport brokers earn money from the deposit you pay to book your car shipping order and their shipping services. Brokers then post your order on a website known as a “load board”. These load boards allow carriers to see the broker’s loads and click to accept to ship them.

If no carrier agrees to transport your car, the broker may have to increase the price. The increased shipping price could result in reducing their profit or passing the cost to you. They may refuse to refund your deposit if you try to cancel.

Either way the broker has made money from your deposit whether they ship your car or not.

Car shipping brokers have less motivation to provide good service compared to motor carriers who didn’t take a deposit. Customer reviews are their only driving force.

Auto shipping costs typically reflect an auto transporter quality. If they ask for a deposit and have low shipping cost, they are likely a broker, not a motor carrier.

We never require a deposit or have hidden fees.

We cover whether it’s a good idea give auto transport companies a deposit at Shipping a car? Should you pay a deposit?

5. Never base your decision on car shipping prices alone. The best auto transport companies may be worth the extra auto transport cost.

ferrari car shipping

In the car shipping industry, the saying “you get what you pay for” is relevant. Typically, the lower the cost the riskier the transport whether to your car or peace of mind.

Car shipping prices often reflect the quality of the car shipping service.

Regarding how much to ship a vehicle cross country, the cheapest is usually not the best or safest choice. Vehicle shipping companies’ pricing often reflects the quality of their car shipping services’ equipment.

To ensure your car arrives safely you want the best drivers and equipment. A new top of the line car carrier can cost around $750,000. Drivers who transport cars in enclosed carriers are among the highest-paid in the trucking industry.

The car shipping price may be low because you’re dealing with a broker or a company with poor equipment and drivers.

Door to Door vs Terminal to Terminal Shipping

Terminal to Terminal

Terminal to terminal shipping involves transporting cars from one terminal to another during transit. They unload cars shipped with terminal-to-terminal service, store them in a warehouse, and reload them onto a different truck. This increases the car’s handling, and the driver who picked up your car won’t be the one to deliver the vehicle.

Door to Door

Door to Door shipping involves transporting your car on the same truck throughout the entire transport. Car shippers like ourselves ship cars door to door on the same truck and driver with enclosed shipping. Our driver will carefully handle your car with white-glove care from pick up until they safely deliver it.

A low cross-country car shipping price should raise red flags! Read more about the Price of Shipping a Car here.

6. Insurance coverage when shipping a car

intercity lines auto transport services pebble beach

Not all car shippers have the same level of insurance coverage, and it can vary drastically. Always ask for a copy of their insurance certificate and review it closely before shipping your car.

Cargo Insurance covers your vehicle for damage.

Cargo insurance covers your vehicle during transport from damage. Cargo insurance covers all cars on the trailer. If one car on the trailer sustains damage out of the six, it can make use of the full insurance coverage.

If all six cars sustain damage in transit, then they split the coverage amongst the vehicles. Some car shipping companies only have $50,000 of cargo insurance. Some car shipping companies, like us, have at least $2 million of cargo insurance.

7. Make your scheduling needs known

Hot Rod Show at Intercity lines shop

Most auto shipping companies require flexible timing for scheduling when transporting a car cross country.

The trucks run different routes daily, and the variables are much higher, such as weather, traffic, and customer schedules. Once picked up It often takes 7-10 days because cross-country car shipping differs from the airlines.

Timing is important when shipping your car for a special occasion. This could include events such as a birthday, international shipping, selling a home, or a car show. You should inform both the car shipping company and your truck driver about this. This will help them meet the dates and ensure a smooth car shipping process.

Guaranteed scheduling may increase the car transport cost.

Having a strict schedule for shipping your car across the country can make it more expensive. This is because the truck drivers have to meet your specific pickup dates, regardless of any circumstances

Before shipping your car, inform the shipper if you require guaranteed timing. Tell the shipper your schedule ahead of time so they can give you the right price for shipping your vehicle.

Be aware of fuel surcharge fees.

Some car transport companies charge a fuel surcharge based on fuel prices. Understand this beforehand, especially if booking your vehicle’s transport service weeks early. If fuel prices increase, the cost of your car transport will also increase.

Whether a company will charge a fuel surcharge when they ship a car varies. We do not charge a fuel surcharge. This means that you know the total cost beforehand, regardless of our fuel costs during the car transport.

8. Preparing your car for auto transport

intercity lines shipping cars to luftgekuhlt

After choosing a car shipping company you trust, it’s time to get your car ready for shipping. Your vehicle must be car wash clean and mechanically sound before you send a car.

Be sure your vehicle is clean and mechanically sound before shipping.

A clean vehicle makes it easier to inspect for damage during pick up and delivery. A thorough inspection helps you check for damage during shipping and prevents claim denial. Dirty vehicles can also be dangerous to cover because the car cover may rub the dirt and scratch the vehicle’s paint. So, it’s important to take your vehicle to the car wash or wash it yourself before getting auto transport services.

Be sure the vehicle you’re shipping is running with working brakes. If your car doesn’t work, you might have to pay extra to ship it. If the car can’t move, turn, or stop, the shipping company might not be able to take it.

Check antifreeze levels .

Check the antifreeze level to make sure it’s enough for the different climates during transport. This prevents engine damage when shipping a car over long distances because of weather changes.

Remove personal items.

When shipping, avoid adding extra items in the car as the carrier is not responsible for them.

Remove your EZ pass and any transponders to avoid having them charged during transit.

9. Explain the oddities of your car

Before the driver transports your car across the country, make sure to inform them about any special features in your car. These features may include kill switches, alarms, cut-off switches, and brakes that require the motor to be running. The more your driver knows, the safer and cheaper it is to transport your car without any issues. Written instructions are helpful, especially when transporting classic cars with odd starting sequences or other oddities!

Door-to-door car shipping ensure that the driver you explained these oddities handles it throughout transit

This is one of the benefits of door-to-door auto transport services. The driver to whom you give your car will have sole responsibility for it until they safely deliver it.

10. Your car needs a thorough inspection at pick up and at the car’s delivery

Before picking up your car, the truck driver should inspect it and note any pre-existing damage, scratches, or marks. After the driver inspects the car, they should go over it with you. If you agree it’s correct, you sign it. Be sure to receive a signed copy of the inspection before the driver leaves.

Take photos of your car at pick up and delivery. This will give you another record of your car’s condition to review if needed.

Note any damage caused during auto transportation before signing the inspection. If you notice any damage at delivery, you should immediately submit a claim, ideally before the driver leaves.

Shippers use the car’s inspection to determine transport claims.

If the original inspection noted the damage, the claim will likely deny it as it’s not auto transport damage. Always verify that the car inspection is a real exact copy of the original done at pick up. Some less reputable auto transport companies may alter an inspection if they damaged your car to cover up a claim.

Once you file an auto transport claim, the auto shipper will ask that you obtain estimates to repair the vehicle. Once the the car shipper has reviewed and approved your estimates they will then pay to repair the car. The shipper is liable for damage up to their cargo insurance limits. You will likely still be responsible for the car shipping cost despite the claim.

If there’s a claim with our services, we will resolve it right away. We proudly have one of the lowest rates of claims in the industry, so you can rest easy.

Setting the standard for enclosed car transport since 1980

We are a family-owned company that transports cars and has been providing great customer service in the US since 1980! We only use our fleet of enclosed trailers with lift gates and expert drivers to ship your car. We will never broker your order out to other shippers. We specialize in classic, luxury, and exotic car transport with our door-to-door, reliable auto transport services.

For over 40 years we have taken pride in our enclosed car shipping services. With every car we ship, we strive to set the standard for service in the auto transport industry. Your vehicle is safe with us.

Receive an instant car shipping quote today!

Read more car shipping tips!

hemmings car shipping