how does timing work when shipping a car


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 across the country. Upon receiving the first available shipping date your vehicle is available for the auto shipper to pick up, 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.

Strict timing or expedited shipping will likely increase the car shipping costs when you ship a car across the country with a car shipping company

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

How long does it take for cross country vehicle shipping with an auto transport company?

The average transit time for shipping a car cross country with door to door service 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 with their route, other pick ups, and drop offs. Enclosed car carriers like Intercity Lines can hold 5-7 cars at a time and our enclosed auto transport drivers typically have numerous stops with cross country car transport in addition to your delivery location.

An enclosed transport carrier or open transport auto transporter will likely have numerous stops when shipping vehicles long distance auto transport

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.

Terminal to terminal service vs Door to Door transport when shippng a car across country with an American auto shipping company.

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 shipments. Intercity Lines does not offer terminal to terminal service and only offers door to door transport with our enclosed cross country vehicle shipping services. Door to door delivery is when your vehicle stays with the same truck drivers from pick up to delivery allowing you to have the shortest transit times and direct communication with the drivers throughout the vehicle transport.

Extra fees for strict pickup and delivery dates when shipping your car cross country with car shipping companies

Car shipping services in the auto transport industry are typically 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 auto transport services 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 cars and only have a small window that you will be at the pickup and delivery locations when the car arrives, there are a few ways to avoid getting charged the extra fee by car transport companies for exact timing on your car delivery service.

How to avoid timing-related cross country car shipping fees

The easiest and cheapest way to prevent additional timing fees when shipping a car with a car transport company 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. Whether you’re shipping the car with an open auto transport company or an enclosed carrier, the most important job in the shipping process of that person is to check that the inspection of the car or truck is accurate.

At pick up your representative most important job in the entire process is to ensure the car transport service inspection on your vehicle is done accurately

Once the truck driver does the auto shippers 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.

When having a representative receives a vehicle from the auto shipping company, whether enclosed shipping or open, they are looking for transport damage

For the vehicle transport delivery you can also have a trusted representative receive the vehicle from the car shipping company if you are unable to be there. The most important job at delivery is to review the copy of the original vehicle inspection done at pick up with the auto transporter after the car arrived. You are looking for fresh noticeable damage that is not noted on the inspection.

If an auto transport company misses damage that is old and clearly not done by the driver then the carrier may still deny the claim. Even the best car shipping company can’t expect their drivers to find every little nick and ding especially on higher mileage vehicles. Transport damage done by car shipping companies is typically significant and clearly fresh.

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 and should make for an easy auto ship.

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. That company will likely not be the best auto transport company and even if they say they can meet strict timing they will often abandon your order if they find a higher paying load elsewhere in the car shipping industry. The carriers they broker too also tend to have less reliable equipment make breakdowns more likely of jeopardizing your timing at the last moment. You are also not the carrier’s direct client, so if one of their regular vehicle shipping clients call they will likely bump your order for their car shipping.

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 and shipping a car, especially shipping a car across the country, 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!

Ship Your Car from NY to FL with Intercity Lines Enclosed Auto Transport