Auto Shipping Timeline

The auto shipping process is fairly predictable when everything goes according to plan. There are several factors that influence pickup, shipping, and delivery times.

Here at "A-1 Auto Transport" we pride ourselves on providing a high-quality service that you can count on. When we provide you with a timeframe, you can rest assured that we will do our best to meet it.

In most cases, you can expect your shipment to follow the timeframe we are going to list here. However, if your auto shipment experiences delays, these times are subject to change.

Key Delivery Timeline Factors

The four factors that influence delivery speed and time are as follows:

01

Location

This has to do with the overall location of your vehicle and where you want it delivered. You can expect a relatively speedy auto shipment process if the pickup and delivery locations are along major transportation hubs. Any contracts involving remove locations and smaller towns will take longer to complete as that results in addition transportation time.

02

Price

The speed of your auto shipment is dictated by the price you paid. Higher priced priority shipments are usually taken care of first. While shopping around for quotes is a good choice, paying the market rate ensures that your shipment gets picked up and shipped on time.

03

Vehicle Size

A standard trailer is capable of fitting around four large trucks or SUVs. Larger vehicles typically take longer to ship than a standard small card. If you are shipping heavy equipment, or oddly shaped vehicles, expect your lead times to take longer as specialized transportation may be needed.

04

Season

Auto shipping frequency tends to peak during seasons where elderly individuals head south in the winter, or when people go on vacation. When volume spikes, shipment times can take longer as it will be challenging to pair your shipment up with a transport.

Average Transit Time by Distance

The type of transport used for your auto shipment will depend on what kind of vehicle you are shipping.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Small car haulers are used for single vehicle shipments, while large car haulers are used for multiple vehicles.
  • Your transport may spend a few days in a target city picking up several vehicles for a shipment.
  • Keep in mind: By law, a transport driver cannot drive for more than 11-hours in a day as mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations. Breaches of this regulation can lead to major fines and even delays in your shipment.
  • Teams of drivers are sometimes available to speed up the delivery process, but this will lead to additional costs.
  • Travel time is heavily dictated by the type of transport you are using. The two most popular types include open air and enclosed transportation.
Distance (Miles)Time (Days)
0-2001
200-5002
500-10002-3
1000-17504-6
1750-25006-8
25007-11

How to Improve Your Vehicle Shipping Timeline

The four factors that influence delivery speed and time are as follows:

  • The average pickup window is 3-5 days. Your vehicle will need to be ready if you want your pickup to go smoothly.
  • Location will impact your pickup speed. Remote locations take longer to travel to than those that are connected to major highways or located within cities. Major cities like New York City and Los Angeles will always have more shipment volume than a smaller city like Cleveland.
  • If you can use open-air transport, use it. While certain vehicles may need the additional protection afforded by enclosed transports, the average car doesn’t. Open-air transport is the most common and cheapest choice.
  • Be flexible. If you are willing to be flexible, you’ll likely get a better pickup date and shipping timeline. Most auto shipping companies are dealing with hundreds, if not thousands of shipments, and scheduling all of them can be difficult.
  • Pay the premium rate if you need a guaranteed shipment time. If you are trying to reach your destination by a set date, you shouldn’t leave your shipment up to chance.
  • Premium rates put you high on the priority list and are designed to get your vehicle shipped as quickly as possible.

Preparing Your Vehicle for Shipment

The four factors that influence delivery speed and time are as follows:

A large part of the auto shipment process involves preparing your vehicle for the eventual shipment. Some companies will not accept your vehicle unless a specific set of guidelines are followed.

Chapter 15 - Automobiles of the Foreign Service Assignment Notebook created by the U.S. Department of State details what steps you need to take when it comes to preparing your vehicle. Here are a few of its findings:

  • Import Restrictions: Check that your vehicle meets all import restrictions. Compare your findings with any regulations in your destination country. Every country approaches vehicle import and export laws differently. You need to be aware of these differences.
  • Title / Certificate of Origin: Have your vehicle title and Certificate of Origin ready. You will need this to prove ownership and the eligibility of your vehicle for shipping.
  • Vehicle Insurance: Your vehicle will need valid insurance before you can ship it. It’s also recommended that you take the time to see if your coverage will be adequate for any damage that may occur during shipment.
  • Driver’s License:
    If you plan to pick up and drive your vehicle, you’ll need a valid driver’s license.

Besides these important government requirements, there are several other things you need to do to satisfy your auto shipping company’s policies. It is important to check that your vehicle is in the right condition before it’s transported. If you want a smooth shipping experience, you’ll need to follow these guidelines.

In order to carefully assess the condition of your car, you need to do a thorough wash of its exterior and interior. Dust can easily cover up scratches and dents on the vehicle. A thorough cleaning will help reveal damaged areas to the body, chipped paint, scratches, and other problems. This allows you to accurately detail your vehicle’s condition.

Once you have completed the exterior wash, move on to cleaning the interior of the vehicle. Vacuum your seats, floor mats, windows, and clean the dashboard, cup holders and other accessories. If you are not comfortable doing the task yourself, it’s always a good idea to outsource it to a professional. There are numerous auto detailing companies that can provide these services for a reasonable fee.

It is in your best interest to remove any personal items like chargers, GPS devices, dash cams, and spare change from your car.

Any alarm system that you have should either be removed from the vehicle or disabled completely. Your vehicle will be loaded, unloaded, and inspected multiple times during the trip. It will also be moved around and any loose parts in the vehicle could become dislodged and cause damage.

If your car has a sunroof, or is a convertible, the top needs to be properly secured and tight.

When it comes to your shipment, you tend to pay for the weight of your vehicle. Any extra items you leave in, no matter how small they may be, add to the weight of your vehicle and can add to the cost of shipping.

It is important to note that your insurance will not cover any personal items that you choose to leave in your car. Loss of these items due to theft or damage will be solely your responsibility and will not be taken by the transport company, or your insurance company. You are advised to ship all personal belongings separately and empty your vehicle for a hassle-free experience.

After you have cleaned the vehicle, carefully inspect every inch of it for dents, scratches, paint chips, or any other minor issues. Write down a detailed description of all damages and take dated pictures of the vehicle from every angle. Support these records with zoomed in shots of any damage you notice.

Use these notes to ensure the bill of lading is accurately described. Once your vehicle is unloaded, you can compare the state of your vehicle with the pictures to find any discrepancies. It will be easier to support your claims if you have dated proof along with your statement.

Your vehicle needs to be operable in order to be transported. Unless you have a specific agreement and accomodations lined up to ship an inoperable vehicle. It will be loaded and unloaded several times throughout the shipping process. A careful inspection needs to be carried out and any issues found must be fixed before the date of pick up.

Pay close attention to the following:
  • Tire pressure. Tires need to be properly inflated.
  • Battery charge.Your vehicle’s battery needs to be charged and functional.
  • No leaks. Your vehicle cannot have any minor leaks.
  • Fluids are full. All fluids must be topped off adequately.
  • Empty your gas tank. Your gas tank is empty or less than one-fourth full.
  • Functional. The ignition, transmission, brakes and emergency brakes are in working condition
  • Odometer reading. Check your mileage and odometer reading before handing your vehicle.
  • Lock it.Ensure that your vehicle is locked before loading.

Any mechanical problems that were found and could not be fixed before the pickup date need to be documented by your auto shipping company as well. No one wants to be liable for damage they didn’t cause and it protects you from any new damage that may occur.

Accidents happen from time to time. Your auto shipping company will require a set of keys because the vehicle will have to be driven from one point to the other several times during the shipping process. In order to avoid any unforeseen circumstances, carry a set of backup keys with you. This will prevent costly things like delays, needing a new key to be crafted by your manufacturer, or your vehicle getting stranded somewhere.

Most insurance plans will cover standard damage. However, if you are shipping a rare or exotic car, you will want to purchase additional insurance. Keeping your vehicle properly covered will protect you from additional stress and costs should something go wrong.

Auto shipping companies work hard to ensure that the majority of shipments go according to plan. In most cases, your vehicle will arrive safely. Additional insurance is nice to have if you want to reduce the overall anxiety you may feel as your vehicle is shipped.

If your vehicle has quirks, tell your auto shipping company. Every vehicle is different. While many run fine, some have specific characteristics that your shipping company will need to know.

For example, you’ll want to tell your shipping company if your alignment is off, if the brakes require a few pumps to get working, or your car makes a strange noise when it’s started. As mentioned above, they will have to drive your car on and off the transport trailer and boat.

Domestic Shipping Methods

There are a few options available to you when it comes to domestically shipping your vehicle or heavy equipment. These options may change based on the overall size, weight, and if your vehicle has an irregular shape.

Open trailer shipping involves a transport hauling your vehicle from one location to another. This is the most popular and cost-effective method for domestic routes. Car dealerships tend to use this method when transporting their vehicle fleets from the manufacturer to their lot.

Heavy equipment can also be shipped using this method. Instead of a traditional car rack trailer, a flat bed may be used. For bulkier, irregular heavy equipment, disassembly may be required.

    Advantages:
  • Cheapest method available for domestic routes
  • Readily available throughout the country and world as every company typically should offer this method
  • Predictable routes
    Disadvantages:
  • More expensive than open trailer shipping
  • Less availability
  • Larger vehicles may not fit

Closed trailer shipping is similar to open trailer shipping. The major difference is that vehicles are protected inside of a closed trailer, shielding them from the elements and debris. While this method does provide extra protection to your vehicles, it does cost more.

    Advantages:
  • Extra protection for your vehicle
  • Trailers can be shared to cut down on costs
  • Same access to popular travel routes
    Disadvantages:
  • Vehicles can get damaged from other vehicles during transit
  • Less protection than container shipping
  • No personal belongings can be left in your vehicle

International Shipping Options

International shipping is typically completed using cargo boats. While air transport is an option, it isn’t usually offered because of how epensive it is. International shipping involves two main methods, roll on, roll off (RORO) and container shipping.

Roll on, roll off shipping is exactly how its name sounds. Your vehicle is loaded onto a container ship by driving it on. In order for this method to be viable, your vehicle has to be operational. Inoperable vehicles can be loaded, but it will require additional heavy machinery.

    Advantages:
  • Common international shipping method offered by many companies worldwide
  • Cheaper option
  • Predictable routes
    Disadvantages:
  • Vehicles can get damaged from other vehicles during transit
  • Less protection than container shipping
  • No personal belongings can be left in your vehicle

Container shipping involves transporting your vehicle using large metal containers. This method will protect your vehicle. In some cases, you can even ship other furniture with your vehicle, so long as it all fits in the container you have rented.

    Advantages:
  • Full protection for your vehicle
  • Ship other personal belongings with your car
    Disadvantages:
  • More expensive
  • Larger vehicles may not fit

Methods of Payment

Every auto shipping company has its own methods for taking payment. These methods include:

  • Cash or debit payments are still popular choices and a company may discount your price if you decide to pay in cash because they won’t incur any transaction fees from credit card providers, PayPal, and other payment processing middlemen.
  • Credit cards are readily accepted throughout the industry. A company may ask you to verify your identity in order to ensure that the card is legitimate and not being used for fraudulent purposes.
  • PayPal is used by some companies. While it’s not the preferred method due to its reputation, some companies will accept it.
  • Wire transfers is used by some companies. While it’s not the preferred method due to its reputation, some companies will accept
    it.

International shipping is typically completed using cargo boats. While air transport is an option, it isn’t usually offered because of how epensive it is. International shipping involves two main methods, roll on, roll off (RORO) and container shipping.

Don’t be afraid to ask if you have any questions about what type

of payments your auto shipping company takes.

Do not pay for a service if a company asks you to use a payment system that you are uncomfortable using.

We have prepared the following list of general tips to help you prepare for your auto shipment. Remember to do your own research and determine if these tips apply to your specific auto shipment.

  • Ask your auto shipping company to provide you proof of insurance. If your vehicle is worth a lot, you’re going to want to protect it and to make sure its protected by both your auto shipping company’s insurance and your own.
  • Get all agreements in writing. When things go wrong, you want all agreements to be clear and established. Get everything in writing so you can properly defend yourself should something go wrong.
  • Check personal insurance coverage. Your personal auto insurance plan may cover your vehicle while it’s being shipped. Don’t assume it will, check.
  • Perform a thorough pre- and post-shipment inspection. These inspections will help you spot damage that occured before and after shipment. You’ll need to have this data listed in the Bill of Lading if you want to make an insurance claim.
  • Remove all personal items. You have to remove all personal items from your vehicle as they are considered an additional liability. In most cases, your insurance will demand it as well and will not cover them.
  • Fold your mirrors in. Your vehicle may be loaded into tight spaces. Fold your mirrors in, remove your atenana if you have one, and secure any loose parts of your vehicle to prevent them from breaking.
  • Keep your gas tank low. Every company will have its own maximum gas level. Typically, you should leave your gas tank between 1/8 and 1/4.
  • Disable your car alarm. Your driver will require that you disable your car alarm. If this is impossible, you will have to provide detailed instructions on how they can disable it.
  • Give yourself enough time. Don’t leave everything until the last minute. Not only will this lead to delays, but it may cause your shipment to get canceled.
  • Familiarize yourself with international shipping laws. Shipping a vehicle to another country can be stressful. Your vehicle will need to be compliant with U.S. export laws and any import laws your destination country has. Take the time to familiarize yourself with these laws if you want to avoid delays, extra costs, and even jail time.
  • Prepare to pay duties, taxes, and other fees. The exact numbers will vary based on your country. You should prepare to pay a flat percentage of your vehicle’s value when importing a car into another country. In select Asian countries, those fees can exceed the value of the car.
  • Know your forms. There are many forms involved in the international auto shipping process. If you are having trouble understanding them, you should seek the help of an experienced international auto shipping company.
  • Know where to look for information. Every country has a dedicated government agency for imports and exports. Here are a few examples:
  • Give yourself enough time. Don’t leave everything until the last minute. Not only will this lead to delays, but it may cause your shipment to get canceled.

What to Expect During Pickup and Delivery

Auto shipping companies are not specific with the pickup and delivery times. Customers have high expectations about the services that they pay for. And this is how it should be. But take note that the problems like traffic, vehicle breakdowns, bad weather, and other problems can cause potential delays. And that is why the transport companies rarely guarantee delivery times.

The chosen shipping method also affects the delivery time. As the saying goes, ‘You get what you pay for.’ Therefore, it is advisable to choose carefully and wisely.

Communication with your vehicle shipper will highly affect your experience. Make sure that you set a meeting point that you and your carrier can access easily. You can also assign the task of releasing your vehicle into the auto shipper’s care to a trusted representative if there is someplace else you need to be.

Be clear about the payment for the service. And when you and your shipping courier meet, confirm the payment information, insurance terms, terms of the contract, and the contact information. Feel free to ask questions about shipping if you have any.

Your car should be fully prepared when the transport truck arrives. Your vehicle should not have any issues in transit. Make sure you inform your auto shipping company in advance if there are any issues with your vehicle. This will help them prepare for it in advance, and they will provide you with an accurate price.

  • Your driver must conduct a thorough inspection of your vehicle.
  • Review the shipping company’s Bill of Lading. This must be signed at both pickup point and the destination.
  • You should note the odometer reading before the car is loaded. Your car may be driven a little to store or load your vehicle.
  • Your auto shipping company will provide you with an estimated delivery time. Transit time depends on the distance.
  • Notify the transporter about any special instructions he needs to know.

Keep the things important to you close. You do not want to leave any valuable item in your car. It is tempting to use your car for shipping other items to the destination, but it’s never a good practice. We strongly advise against using your car as a container for shipping the items.

Most transport companies allow items in the trunk weighing less than 100 pounds. However, insurance companies cover the car, not the items contained in it. Never store anything valuable in your trunk as it will not be covered.

The driver will drive your car on and off the trailer quite often. Chances are your important items will get lost while doing so. Therefore, do not risk your valuable items. Same goes for any household items if you are planning on moving.

It is highly unlikely that your items will get damaged, but it is always worthwhile to take extra precautions. This will help bring you peace of mind, and you do not need to worry about your items getting damaged.

What to Expect at Delivery

For a smooth vehicle delivery, it is advised that you meet your driver on time. Once your vehicle has arrived at the destination, the driver will conduct another thorough inspection of the vehicle for the current state of the vehicle. This record will help you better analyze the damage done to your car during the transit.

Be available at the time of inspection to make sure that no one is trying to fool you. If you cannot be present at the time of inspection, assign this task to a trustworthy representative. He can handle the things for you. Keep in mind that your vehicle will have faced road debris, dust, and, rain.

  • Inspect the vehicle yourself to record any potential damages.
  • If the driver is meeting you at night, make sure you bring a flashlight for the vehicle inspection on site.
  • Be sure to look at the car’s undercarriage.
  • Check the odometer reading again.
  • Start up the car to check for other mechanical problems. Report if there are any.

Take note that the payment is due upon delivery. After the inspection is complete, you will be asked to sign a Bill of Lading. This ensures that the transaction is final.

What Happens After the Delivery?

It is highly unlikely that your car gets damaged during the process. Make sure you note the new damages on the Bill of Lading before accepting the car. This is very important since it is the only time where you can inspect and report damages caused by the driver. The driver should sign the Bill of Lading and accepts your reported damages. Now, follow the instructions and file a claim for the damages immediately. If you fail to report the damages, any claim for the damages will not be accepted.

Documents Needed to Ship the Vehicle

You must provide the auto transport company with all the documents to verify that the vehicle belongs to you. You will also have to provide the insurance.

Shipping within the Continental United States

If you are planning to transport your car within the continental United States, you will be asked to provide information including documents like Original Title and Registration, Photo Identification, and proof of Insurance.

  • Original Title and Registration: You must be in possession of the original title and registration if you want to ship a vehicle. Get these documents ready. Make sure you have a letter of permission from the Lien Holder if there is any.
  • Insurance: You must provide the proof insurance to the transport company for the vehicle being shipped. This proof insurance must be valid, and it must not be expired.
  • Photo Identification: You must provide photo identification. A driver’s license or ID, or an unexpired Passport of the country where you are a legal resident will do the job for you.
  • Special Considerations: If you do not own the vehicle, you will have to provide a notarized letter containing specific information. This information will include the auto transport company, the name of the person acting on your behalf, and the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
Shipping to Another Country

If you are shipping your vehicle to another country, you will need the following information and documents.

  • Original Title or Registration: You will have to verify that there is no Lien Holder and you are the only title holder of the vehicle. If the title has a Lien Holder, they must give you permission. Lien Holder must provide you an Original Letter, with three certified copies of the Title.
  • Insurance: The proof of insurance is required for the vehicle being shipped. This proof must be active with a valid date. It must not be expired.
  • Photo Identification: Provide a valid state issued driver’s license or a Passport of the country where you are a legal resident. The passport must not be expired.
  • Bill of Sale: You will have to provide a Bill of Sale to prove that you are the owner of the vehicle. Vehicle transport companies are unable to ship a vehicle to another country without the consent of the owner.
  • Sales Tax proof: You must verify that you paid the state sales tax on your vehicle when you bought it. This is to ensure that your car is up to date on sales taxes before shipment.
  • Import Duty: You will also need to provide the proof of tax levied on your vehicle, depending on the country your vehicle is shipped to.
  • Original Power of Attorney: Original Power of Attorney document is required if you are importing or exporting the vehicle on behalf of another person. The Original Power of Attorney document gives you a legal right to import or export the vehicle even if you do not own it.
  • Military: If you are a military contractor overseas or you are serving the military, we recommend you check out the following military auto shipping checklist.

Insurance Requirements For Auto Shipping

The chances of your car getting damaged while being transported are very rare. Less than five percent of vehicles report damages from the process. Prevention is better than cure. Therefore, you should protect yourself against all the potential issues. Your vehicle may not be driven while being transported but that doesn’t mean you should not consider coverage for the trip. You must arrange insurance for your vehicle.

Minimum Auto Shipping Insurance Requirements

Auto Shipping companies should have liability insurance. Make sure that your auto shipping company offers cargo insurance as well. Should anything happen to your car, your auto transporter will cover the damage caused to the vehicle during the shipping process. If they don’t offer cargo insurance, you should walk away and find one that does. Always ask for written proof.

The amount of coverage varies depending on the company. Therefore, you should carefully inspect the transporter’s coverage.

Ask your auto shipping company for a copy of their insurance certificate. The shipping companies are required to provide you with this information. You should verify the information provided on the certificate with the insurance company. It’s also recommended that you verify it with the Department of Transportation’s regulations.

You can also get additional insurance if your vehicle is expensive, or you are making a long distance move.

Understanding Minimum Coverage Offered

Make sure that you completely understand the amount of coverage you have. It’s true that you will get some protection with the amount of insurance required by law. But the minimum coverage may fall short of the true value of the vehicle. Consider it your responsibility for finding out the terms of the shipping company’s insurance policy.

You should ask the following questions about insurance:
  • What kind of damage is covered?
  • Is your car fully insured or only the specific parts are covered?
  • Is there an option to buy expanded coverage?
  • What is the limit of the coverage?
  • Are spoilers or ground effects covered?

Contact your own auto insurance company to see how much your personal insurance covers. Your insurance may not cover the vehicle in transit. But it is a nice idea to notify your insurance company about the vehicle being transported.

For added protection, you can buy additional insurance for your vehicle.

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