Auto Transport Carriers and Auto Transport Brokers – What’s the Difference?

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Auto Transport Carriers and Auto Transport Brokers – What’s the Difference?

Hiring an auto transport company requires some due diligence and understanding of how the industry works before making a decision. The process can be daunting if you don’t know where to start or where to get accurate information. This article will cover the basics and the role that shippers, carriers, and brokers play in the process of transporting a vehicle.

One of the most important distinctions to understand is the difference (and occasionally, the overlap) between an auto transport broker and a carrier.  The customer or person having a vehicle transported is also known as a shipper.

What Is An Auto Transport Broker?

Auto transport brokers don’t have their own transport carriers and typically are not the companies that will transport vehicles. Brokers facilitate auto transportation by connecting customers (shippers) with the carriers that offer the specific services requested. Brokers are also known as non-asset based carriers, intermediaries or third-party logistics providers.

The advantage of using a broker instead of a carrier is that you have more options because of their existing network of auto carriers. If you deal directly with an auto transport carrier, they may not have the necessary equipment when you need it, or may not have licensing in all the states required to move your vehicle where it needs to go. A broker does the leg work of finding a carrier that meets these criteria and can sometimes get a more competitive rate by creating competition between carriers on behalf of the shipper.

The downside to dealing with a broker is that there are some questionable companies in the industry. Auto transport is a multi-billion dollar industry and technology–specifically, the Internet–has created a low barrier to entry into the business, which has led to some unethical practices.The Consumer Advisory about Auto Transporters has indicated a drastic increase in complaints against auto transport companies in recent years as a result of these practices.

What Is An Auto Transport Carrier?

An auto transport carrier is the company that owns the trucks and employs the movers that do the labor of transporting a vehicle.

One benefit of using a carrier is that you are dealing directly with the company (and maybe even the person) who will be transporting your vehicle, essentially eliminating the “middle man.”

It’s important to keep in mind that some carriers may not be able to transport an auto since licensing and legal requirements differ from state to state. Dealing strictly with a carrier can sometimes limit you in terms of availability, method of transport and time of delivery. Dealing directly with a carrier can sometimes mean a higher cost because of the lack of competing bids for the service.


A-1 Auto Transport, Inc. ships vehicles worldwide. Click here or call 1-800-452-2880 to get a free, no obligation to buy price quote to ship your car.


Auto Transport Companies That Are Brokers and Carriers

Some auto transport companies are both brokers and carriers. These companies can transport vehicles, as well as broker a deal between a shipper and a carrier if there’s not a carrier available to handle the job.

How To Determine If A Company Is a Broker or Carrier

The Protect Your Move website offers information about brokers and carriers directly from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. At the FMCSA site, you can research specific companies by state, motor carrier license number and U.S. Department of Transportation number.

You can also see if a company is a broker, carrier, or both and whether they have active or inactive status, which indicates if a company is in compliance with current insurance regulations.

Joe Webster

Written by Joe Webster

Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, Inc., including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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