how does timing work when shipping a car

Shipping a Car Cross Country? Understand the timing involved

The majority of auto transport companies, whether they offer open car transport or enclosed transport, will require flexible and open timing when shipping a car or multiple vehicles. They will give you a rough estimate of the wait time they expect before being able to pick up your vehicle along with transit time. 

These car shipping time estimates are not a guarantee unless specifically discussed. Be sure to discuss your needs for timing transport before shipping your car especially with longer transports like cross country vehicle shipping.

Any guarantees with timing typically increase the cost and should be agreed upon in writing. The schedule of these auto transport trucks fluctuates based on weather, traffic, delays in their cross country pickups and drop off, drivers getting sick, and breakdowns making it difficult to predict their vehicle shipping schedule and pick up window weeks in advance accurately.

How long to ship a car cross country?

The average transit time for shipping a car cross country door to door in the United States is 7-10 days. This is an average that can vary due to weather, traffic, other customer’s schedules, and what their trip entails. Enclosed car carriers like Intercity Lines can hold 5-7 cars. 

That is often at least 5-7 pickup windows and delivery times the car shipping companies need to work around. Sometimes car haulers pick up 6 cars on one coast and all the car shipments are going to the other coast and he has no other stops besides delivering those 6 cars. Other times they may be picking and dropping cars across the country adding to the transit time.

Companies that use terminals to ship cars can have longer car shipping time frames. Terminals are warehouses that some companies utilize. Intercity Lines does not use terminals when shipping cars cross country. 

When using terminals companies hub cars at these warehouses and move them terminal to terminal using local and regional trucks until they are delivered. This can double the transit time because multiple trucks are shipping your car and the wait time in between shippings.

Extra fees for strict pickup and delivery dates when shipping your car

Auto shipping companies are able to commit to a small window for pick up or drop off, but often charge a premium to the cost to ship your car. I.E., 1-2 days. That extra fee is to cover the cost of running a truck out of route or missing other freight to ensure they make your time frame when shipping your vehicle.

If you are shipping your car and only have a small window that you will be at the pickup and delivery locations, there are a few ways to avoid getting charged the extra fee by car transport companies for exact timing on your car transport.

How to avoid timing-related auto transport fees

The easiest way to prevent additional timing fees when shipping a car is to have a friend, family member, or neighbor release or receive the vehicle to the car carrier when they arrive if you are not able too. The most important job of that person is to check that the inspection of the car or truck is accurate. 

Once the driver does the inspection, they will go over it with the individual. During this time you need to ensure that the person pays attention and checks to make sure it accurately reflects the condition of the vehicle especially with higher value cars like a classic car or an exotic.  

If you trust them to do that and to communicate with the driver, to facilitate the shipment of the car, then it should go smoothly despite you not being there. If this is a vehicle you purchased, at a local dealership, then you can ask them for the same help in shipping your car.

Be wary of auto transport brokers promising exact timing

Auto transport brokers have the advantage with timing and can often get a car picked up sooner than a car carrier because they are brokering your order out to ANY car hauler in their network. 

Despite this one advantage, brokers are not the best to rely on for timing because they get paid based on the deposit you give them. If the truck does not make the agreed-upon schedule, it doesn’t affect them financially because they already were paid. You can learn more in our transport article Be Wary of Auto Transport Brokers. 

Therefore when booking your car, being flexible or very clear about required dates with your carrier will help them quote your move appropriately and give you an honest answer about what they can do in regards to timing. To get more tips on shipping a car read Shipping a car? Should you pay a deposit? and 10 Things to Know When Shipping a Car

Read more car shipping tips

Tips for shipping an exotic car
cost to ship a car
Intercity Lines’ Standard for Auto Transport