10 tips for shipping a car


The car shipping experts at Intercity Lines cover 10 tips and topics you need to know before shipping a car across the country to places like California, New York or locally. Whether you’re shipping a classic car, luxury car, or an exotic car it’s important to understand the different types of auto transport companies that offer car shipping services, and how the process work for all of your auto transport options before you ship a car with a vehicle shipping company.

The best car shipping companies like Intercity Lines have $2 million dollars of insurance to protect your vehicle other car shipping companies have much less. It’s important to understand these differences and more before deciding on an auto shipping company to ship your vehicle.

Our 10 tips for shipping a car will give you peace of mind when selecting a car transport service and getting a car shipping price.

1. Whether you’re shipping a car across country or locally, it can be risky and a headache or seamless depending on the service and car shipping company you choose

Enclosed Auto Transport Trailer?

It’s important to understand the ins and outs of an auto transport company’s car shipping process before booking your order. There are major differences in auto transport company types, service and equipment that can drastically vary in the level of customer service you receive and the level of care your car receives during car shipping.

Open car transport vs enclosed car transport shipping services

You can ship your car in an open car or enclosed trailer. Some car transport companies offer both services, some one or the other, and often brokers won’t tell you what they’re planning on shipping your car on. Intercity Lines only uses state of the art enclosed transport trailers with hydraulic lift gates as it’s the safest way to ship a car.

Open car transport trailers are typically cheaper, but the cars being shipped are prone to damage, theft, road debris, and the weather. Cars on open trailers are typically secured with chains, while reputable enclosed car transport companies use nylon straps or wheel nets to prevent damage to the vehicle, which is the safest way to secure a vehicle.

Be wary of car shipping companies that use chains to secure their vehicles. Chains are often put over a vehicle’s axle, which can put a lot of strain on that vehicle especially if they are over tightened. If the chains loosen, they will bang against the car for the remainder of the journey- over every pothole and bump.

Enclosed trailers have lift gates for low clearance cars and have a lesser chance of damage or theft. At Intercity Lines, we only have top of the line enclosed carriers that use nylon straps to ensure your car is transported safely. Some cross country auto transport companies, like us, also provide a door to door service, so your can stays with the same driver from each driveaway as opposed to be handed off with a terminal to terminal delivery.

Some people think of long distance towing as an option, but it’s rarely an effective option. Towing should be reserved for emergency situation and flatbeds for short distances. Whether you’re shipping a car from New Jersey to Florida, Texas, or California its always worth going with a reputable car shipping company like Intercity Lines instead of towing or driveaway services.

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

It’s clear that enclosed car transport services are the safer and better choice than open car transport for shipping vehicles. Enclosed trailers offer protection from the elements, debris, and theft, as well as a lower risk of accidents. The ease and peace of mind of having on driver transport the vehicle throughout transit with door to door shipping is well worth any added car shipping costs.

While it may be more expensive than open transport options, the cheapest way of shipping, the added protection and peace of mind are often worth the extra cost. If you’re considering shipping your car, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of both open car shipping and enclosed, and choose the option that best fits your needs and budget. Just remember cheaper is not always better especially in the auto transport industry.

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

transport reviews

When shipping a car you are risking thousands of dollars and time. You need to use a reputable car shipping company you can trust. Ideally you need to find the best car shipping companies, like Intercity Lines Auto Transport, when shipping a vehicle of high sentimental, fiscal, or historical value.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website to check auto transport carriers

Visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website to look up an auto transport company’s safety record, ensure they are authorized to ship vehicles, and see if they are a broker or a carrier: https://safer.fmcsa.dot.gov/CompanySnapshot.aspx.

The best car shipping companies will have a below average and satisfactory safety rating, out of service rating, will be a carrier not a broker, and will be authorized to transport motor vehicles. Subpar car shipping companies may have an unsatisfactory safety rating, a higher than average out of service %, a broker, and may not be authorized to transport motor vehicles.

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

You should ask friends, family, and local dealerships for recommendations. You can also use car forums and review websites to ensure that you are picking a vehicle transport company that will offer you quality service.

Read American auto shipping companies online customer reviews

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



Check car forums for auto transport recommendations

Car forums are also a great way to find the best car shipping companies and car enthusiasts’ 1st hand experience with their car shipping service. Often you can simply search for “auto transport”, “Car shipping”, and other auto transport related terms and find multiple threads filled with 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 for 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 reputable auto transport companies are collector car magazines. If an auto transport company can advertise in a classic car magazine with a nice advertisement they are at least established.

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

Car shipping companies that are the official partners of reputable car museums, auto shows, and collector car businesses then that is always a great start to your auto transport company search. Intercity Lines for example partners with the country’s top auto museum, car shows, auto auctions, and car businesses that instantly endorse our high level of service and reputation.

Need more tips on how to research an auto transport company? Check out our full 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

Auto transport brokers are something that most people are not aware of when they ship their first car. So what exactly is an auto transport broker and why should you avoid their car transport services? They are companies that broker or bid your car shipping shipment to actual car carrier, like us, who have trucks that ship your car cross country.

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

When doing business with an auto transport broker, like Montway Auto Transport or Sherpa Auto Transport, you do not know what car carrier or driver they are going to broker your order to. This prevents you from doing research on the car transport company and fully understanding their car shipping services. Unfortunately, customers often suffer at the hands of these auto transport brokers because the cars are shipped with sub-par truck drivers and vehicle transport company that lack customer service and vehicle shipping skills. Often times the customer doesn’t understand that the company is a car shipping broker until a different company contacts them to pick up the car. This is understandable because these car shipping brokers will have photos of trucks, open transport, and enclosed transport trailers on their website, but you’ll often notice the equipment never has their logo on them or they are just stock car shipping photos from the internet.

You don’t know who is actually going to ship your car until they’re in your driveway when shipping with a car shipping broker

The auto transport equipment used can vary significantly in quality depending on the company the car shipping order is brokered too. The auto shipping trailer may use ramps instead of hydraulic lift gates, which may damage low clearance vehicles. They may also lack oil drip pans, car covers, floor mats, etc. If you have an issue with your vehicle you will be going through two separate companies just to receive help. Often the broker may not be familiar with the auto transport company they brokered your car shipping order too as often your order is put on a load board website and random car shipping companies click to accept it. Therefore very little research if any is done by the broker on that company’s reputation and car transport services.

Brokers may be cheaper than shipping direct with an auto transport carrier, but it’s rarely worth it

Car shipping brokers may have the cheapest car shipping quotes and appear like the cheapest way to ship a car across country, but they often change the auto transport cost to ship at the last moment. Equipment like a enclosed carrier need to be properly maintained by specialized mechanics, which most independent car shipping companies don’t have unlike Intercity Lines. These added risks and headaches when utilizing a broker’s car transport services

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

Get to know the company and driver you are trusting your vehicle with ahead of time. Even if it costs extra money to ship directly with the car carrier who will ship a car for you, it is always worth it with a car of value instead of going with the cheapest car shipping broker. Do not be fooled by these brokerage companies when cross country vehicle shipping! Read more about auto transport brokers at: Be Wary of Auto Transport Brokers

4. Never give a deposit to car shipping companies

shipping a classic car

Red flags should go up if an American auto shipping company asks for a deposit when cross country car shipping! Exclusive and reputable cross country car transport motor carriers often do not require a deposit, but instead, ask for a payment when the car is picked up or dropped off. This allows you to ensure you are getting the car shipping service you expect and gives you a way to back out if they don’t live up to your expectations. Be sure to understand an American auto shipping company car shipping process, company type, and car shipping costs ahead of time.

Brokers require deposits typically not auto transport carriers

Vehicle transport brokers make most of their money from the initial deposit they require to book your open or enclosed car shipping order and their shipping services. Therefore, they may give you an enticing initial car shipping estimate or car shipping quote that is lower than what other auto transport companies charge for the same car shipment. After posting your auto transport order on a load board website that allows motor carriers to choose to ship your order the broker may be forced to raise their listed price that they are going to pay the carrier if no carrier is interested in shipping it at the original price. Therefore they may try to increase your original car shipping quotes after the fact and if you cancel they may try to keep your deposit.

Therefore outside of customer reviews, car shipping brokers have less incentives to provide good service than a reliable auto transport company that is a motor carrier. It’s always best to ship directly with a motor carrier where you can do the proper research and fully understand their vehicle shipping process and insurance coverage even if the auto transporter charges more than the car shipper broker. American auto shipping costs typically reflect an auto transporter quality. If they need a deposit and they’re American auto shipping cost is one of the cheapest it usually indicates they’re a broker not a car shipping carrier and one should proceed with caution.

We cover whether you should give auto transport companies a deposit for their standard car transport service 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

You will find that the old expression quality over quantity’ is relevant in the car shipping industry especially with the cost to ship a car and picking, which auto transport service type you’re going to go with. Auto transport providers who are willing to price match their car shipping cost to others is not always worth it. Multiple facts need to be considered before you ship a car cross country and choose the right auto transport service.

Car shipping prices typically reflect the quality of the car shipping service

When it comes to how much to ship a vehicle cross country, the cheapest is usually not the best or safest choice. Vehicle shipping companies’ pricing reflects the quality of the car shipping services’ equipment, experience, and level of service including auto brokers vs shipping a vehicle direct with an auto transport carrier, open vs enclosed car shipping, and door to door service vs terminal shipping.

A new enclosed car carrier with the highest quality safety equipment can cost about $750,000 new and enclosed car transport drivers are some of the highest paid truck drivers in the industry. Open auto transport equipment costs significantly less and older semi-trucks are cheaper than state of the art ones and state of the enclosed carrier car transporter. When a car shipping price is low you are most likely dealing with an auto transport broker transport service or an open carrier that has sub-par equipment or drivers with low experience.

They may also ship cars terminal to terminal in transit to decrease the cost when shipping a car instead of door to door service. When cars are shipped with a terminal to terminal service, they are being unloaded, stored, and then reloaded on a different truck in between the pick up and delivery locations. This increases the handling of the car and the driver that picked up your car won’t be the one to deliver the car.

Companies like Intercity Lines ship cars door to door on the same truck and driver with enclosed shipping.

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

6. Be aware of cross country car transport insurance coverage and policies

intercity lines auto transport services pebble beach

Not all car shipping companies have the same level of insurance coverage and coverage can range drastically. Cargo insurance is the insurance that covers your vehicle during transport from transport damage. Cargo insurance covers ALL of the cars on the trailer, so if there are 6 cars on the trailer and one gets damaged it can use the full amount of the cargo insurance. If all 6 vehicles are damaged that same cargo insurance is split up among the cars on that trailer by the insurance company. Some car shipping companies only have $50,000 of cargo insurance while more reputable enclosed car shipping companies like Intercity Lines may have upwards of $2 million of cargo insurance that cover each auto transport load.

Cargo Insurance coverage is the insurance coverage that will cover your vehicle of damage during auto transport

It is always best to have your car shipping transporter provide a Certificate of Insurance and review the insurance coverage ahead of the car shipping. This certificate should include coverage amounts for liability, workers comp, cargo limits, and deductible if applicable . Typically auto transport services brokers do not carry their own insurances; only the brokerage bond. Instead they rely on the cross country car shipping carrier they are brokering your car shipping order insurance. At Intercity Lines, we have $2,000,000 worth of cargo insurance that covers our enclosed transport shipping services.

7. Make your scheduling needs known

Hot Rod Show at Intercity lines shop

Most auto shipping companies require a certain window of time for scheduling a pickup and delivery when shipping a car cross country. Often at least 5-7 days because cross country car shipping is not like the airlines the trucks run different routes every day and the variables are a lot higher such as weather, traffic, and customer’s schedules. If the shipping of your car needs to coincide with a particular timed event such as a birthday, or dates when shipping a car internationally, or a car show you need to emphasize this to the car shipping company and your truck driver to ensure they can meet those dates and the car shipping process is hassle free.

Strict scheduling and guaranteed pickup dates will likely increase the auto transport services cost

Strict scheduling, especially with guaranteed pick up dates, may increase the cost to ship your car cross country as the truck drivers will have to meet your dates no matter the reason, even if the car is being shipped from the east coast to the west coast. Be sure to communicate all car shipping services timing needs and/or guaranteed pickup dates ahead of time to ensure the auto transport providers can meet your needs and price your car shipping quote accurately.

Be aware of any fuel surcharges fees when shipping a car and receiving car shipping quotes

Some cross country car transport companies charge a fuel surcharge that fluctuates based on fuel prices. Be sure to understand this ahead of time especially if you’re booking your vehicles transport service weeks ahead. If fuel prices go up significantly so will the price of your cross country car transport, which is amplified when shipping a car.

This applies to both open car shipping services and enclosed carriers. Whether a company will charge a fuel surcharge when they ship a car really varies company to company. Intercity Lines currently does not charge a fuel surcharge, so you know what you’re paying ahead of time regardless of fuel prices at the time of the car transport service.

8. Preparing your car for auto transport

intercity lines shipping cars to luftgekuhlt

Once you have picked an auto transport company to ship a car, you feel comfortable with shipping cars for you, it is time to prepare your car for transport. It’s important your car is car wash clean and mechanically sound before you ship a car. Car carriers typically charge a non-run fee if the vehicle cannot be driven on and off the trailer. Making sure there is gas in the tank and that your battery is fully charged helps prevent being charged with this fee.

Be sure your vehicle is clean and mechanically sound before shipping

A clean vehicle is much easier to do an accurate inspection on ensuring you and the auto transport company can easily tell if certain damage is transport damage at the car delivery. Dirty vehicles can also be dangerous to cover because the car cover may rub the dirt and scratch the paint of the vehicle. Therefore it’s important that you bring your vehicle to the car wash or wash it yourself beforehand for seamless auto transport services. Be sure the vehicle you’re shipping is running with working brakes. If you’re shipping a non running vehicle you may pay an additional non run fee or if the vehicle doesn’t roll, steer, and brake the car shipping company may not be able to transport the non running vehicle.

Check and ensure adequate antifreeze levels regardless of the climate.

Also, check the antifreeze level to ensure that it is adequate for the climates the car will endure during transport to avoid a cracked engine block or other problems especially when you ship a car long distances because of the weather changes.

Remove personal items from vehicles before shipping

It is also not recommended to ship additional items in the car because if not properly secured these items can cause damage when they ship a car across the country. Don’t forget to remove your EZ Pass from the car. Remove the EZ pass and any transponders whether it is in an open transport or an enclosed trailer. It is possible for the transponder to be read even inside of the enclosed transport trailer during auto transport.

9. Explain the oddities of your car

Explain those quirky things about your car to the driver such as kill switches, alarms, cut-off switches, and brakes only work with the motor running before they ship your car across country. The more information your auto transport driver has, the easier it will be for him to ship your car safely across the country and prevents you from getting charged an unnecessary non-run fee. Written instructions are very helpful especially when transporting classic cars with odd starting sequences or other oddities!

Door to door car shipping services ensure that the driver you explained these oddities too is handling it throughout transit until its safely delivered.

This is one of the benefits of door to door auto transport services because the same driver that you explain these instructions too will be the only driver handling the vehicle during the car shipment until it’s safely delivered. As opposed to terminal to terminal auto transport services where multiple drivers will be handling your vehicle and the auto transport drivers may never have the chance to speak as these vehicles are typically left in a warehouse creating problems for you and the company during auto transport.

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

Before your car is picked up, the truck driver should inspect it, and note any pre-existing damage, scratches, or marks. Once the driver finishes the inspection they should review it with you and once you agree its both accurate you sign it saying so. Be sure to receive a copy of this auto transport inspection of your car. Once unloaded at the car delivery location, you or a trusted representative should inspect your car and review it against the original auto transport inspection. Note any damage caused during auto transportation before signing the inspection. If any damage is noticed you should submit a claim with the auto transport company right away ideally before the driver leaves.

The vehicle inventory will decide car shipping claims and transport damage

If the damage was noted on the original inspection the claim will likely be denied as it’s not auto transport damage. Always be sure that the car inspection you’re reviewing is one of the copies from the original inspections and matches the copy that was handed to your contact at pick up. Less reputable auto transport companies may alter an inspection to try covering up a claim. Once an auto transport claim is filed, the car shipping company will ask you to get estimates to repair the vehicle, and then will pay to fix the repairs fully as long as it’s below their cargo insurance coverage limits. Typically you will still be responsible for the car shipping prices despite the claim.

When using Intercity Lines’ American auto shipping services you can rest assured that if a claim were to happen that one of our agents would work directly with you to rectify the damage right away with 0 deductible to you.

The Intercity Lines enclosed auto transport difference

Here at Intercity Lines, we take pride in our enclosed car shipping services and strive to take care of our auto transport customers. Your vehicle will always be safe with us because we have the best car shipping drivers and our team strives to be the best car shipping company in the auto transport industry.

Setting the standard for enclosed car transport since 1980

We are a family owned auto transport business and have been setting the standard for American auto shipping and excellent customer service since 1980! We only have enclosed trailers, never broker our orders to other auto shippers, and specialize in classic car transportluxury car transport, and exotic car transport with our door to door reliable auto transport services.

Receive an instant car shipping quote today!

Read more car shipping tips!

Buying a Car on Bring a Trailer and Shipping it with Intercity Lines Enclosed Auto Transport!
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