Auto Transport Prices By The Numbers – What Does It Cost To Ship A Car?
Shipping costs are the number one concern for most consumers looking to ship a vehicle. Car hauling rates are hard to predict since they depend on several factors. Things like distance, fuel prices, season, location, and other factors directly affect the overall shipping cost.
The average vehicle costs around $0.50-$1 per mile.
If you want to get the best price possible, you’re going to need to understand how auto shipping pricing works. Here’s what you really need to know.
The Main Factors Affecting Auto Shipping Prices
Distance heavily influences the price of your shipment. Think about it like this. The longer the distance you have to ship, the more it will cost. The rates may vary depending on the carrier you choose. We recommend that you shop around when looking for an auto shipping company. Take your time and do your homework before hiring anyone. Some companies charge you more than others for the same distance, based on other pricing factors.
Here are a few delivery time estimates for shipping your vehicle across the United States:
- East Coast to West Coast: 5-14 days
- South to North: 3-8 days
- Midwest to East Coast: 3-8 days
- Midwest to West Coast: 3-8 days
There are several shipping options you can choose from. Each of them have different prices and shipping speeds. When choosing, it’s important you consider how quickly you need a vehicle shipped and what your budget is.
- Door-to-door: Door-to-door auto delivery means a driver will pick up your vehicle from your preferred location (usually from your driveway) and deliver it to its final destination. It’s the most convenient shipping method. This option costs more than the other ones because of the added labor. Keep in mind, some locations are inaccessible and not valid for door-to-door service.
- Terminal-to-terminal: Terminal-to-terminal auto shipping requires you to drop your vehicle off at a specific shipping location. Your vehicle stays at the terminal until there are enough vehicles to fill a truck. The carrier transports the vehicle to another terminal which is close to your final destination. You are responsible for picking up your vehicle from the terminal. Auto shippers can offer better prices when they combine a shipment. That makes this method cheaper than traditional door-to-door shipping.
- Open Transport:Open transport is a method of transportation where your car is exposed to the elements and debris. While this may sound unappealing, it’s cheaper than enclosed transport.
- Enclosed Transport:Enclosed transport is a shipping method that completely encloses your vehicle in a trailer. Vehicles are protected from things like wind, snow, hail, dust, and other hazards. While enclosed transport is the pricier of the two options (around 60% more expensive), it does provide the most protection. This method is recommended for high-end, or expensive vehicles that need that extra protection.
Not sure which one to choose? Check out our open vs. enclosed transport guide.
Vehicle Condition Options
- Operable: An operable vehicle is cheaper to ship because it can be driven onto a truck and doesn’t require special equipment to load it
- Inoperable: Inoperable vehicles often need special equipment to load the vehicle onto the truck. Expect that your carrier will pass these extra costs on to you.
For more on this, check out our inoperable vehicle shipping guide
Location is another major factor that affects overall shipping costs. Transporting your vehicle to major cities like New York, Los Angeles, or Boston is less expensive because these are popular shipping routes. If you need to transport your vehicle to rural areas, the cost for shipping will be slightly higher. This is because your shipper has to change their main route to deliver your car. That means extra time, additional miles, and gas will be required to complete the delivery.
02 Fuel Cost
Fuel prices also influence auto shipping costs. This doesn’t mean you should actively watch gas prices, but it’s something to keep in mind. It’s hard for shipping companies to predict changing fuel prices. All you need to know is that changing fuel prices will affect the price of your shipment.
03 Vehicle Type
Every vehicle has a different shape, weight, and dimensions. These factors will affect your overall shipping cost. Shipping a sedan between New York and Florida costs around $650-$850 on average, While SUVs from the same company will cost between $800-$1100.
Larger pickup trucks are typically more expensive than cars. Be prepared to spend more if you have a bulky and heavy vehicle.
04 Delivery Time Frame Flexibility
You should expect to pay more if you want your vehicle delivered quickly. If you are flexible, you can save a lot of money on shipping. A typical shipment will have a three-day pickup window. These pick-up times are generally accurate. If you want your vehicle to be picked up on a certain date, you will have to pay an additional fee. Expect to pay between $200-$500 if you require a specific date for your shipment.
Seasonality is another factor that influences auto shipping prices. You should expect to pay more during peak season. In the summer months, vehicle shipping prices can increase by as much as $300 per trip. Before hiring a shipping company, ask about their peak rates. Look for shipping companies that offer great discounts during the offseason.
06 Vehicle Fleets
Most auto shipping companies can service larger shipments too. You can receive discounts from your carrier for shipping vehicles in bulk. This is the perfect option for car dealerships, auto enthusiasts shipping for festivals, or individuals that need to ship multiple vehicles while moving.
07 International Shipping
The cost of shipping a vehicle will increase if you are transporting it to a different country. This is because of the taxes involved in moving the vehicle between nations. Each country has its own laws and taxes on imports and exports. International shipping is quite expensive. Expect to pay between $2,000-$3,000 on a standard U.S.-Europe shipment. These prices will vary based on the target country and region. Shipping a car to an island country in the Pacific will be more expensive than mainland Europe.
We recommend you read up on specific regulations regarding vehicle imports to your destination country. Here are a few links to the different government agencies that oversee vehicle imports:
- United States: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Transportation
- Canada: Transport Canada
- England: HM Revenue and Customs
- European Union: European Commission
- Australia: Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities
Methods of Payment
Most shipping companies accept common forms of payment like credit cards, cash, wire transfers, and sometimes checks (if you’re reputable). Some companies may charge up to a three percent surcharge when you use credit cards for making payments. Always ask beforehand to see what kind of additional fees you will get charged. You should also expect to pay a deposit before any delivery is made. This is common practice in the industry. Some carriers may offer a refund on deposits, but brokers typically do not.
Basic insurance is often required by law for most shipments. However, basic insurance often won’t cover everything. Contact your insurance company to see if they will cover damages to your vehicle that may occur during transit. Keep in mind your insurance likely won’t cover any personal items left in the vehicle.
Auto transport companies provide standard and premium shipping services to handle the various auto shipping requests. Special handling is required for shipping a modified car which will affect the overall shipping cost. A modified vehicle differs from the manufacturer’s original factory specification. Things like a lowered body, spoilers, or other external parts can complicate the shipping process. These modifications may require your shipper to modify your vehicle to make it transportable.
Tips To Save Money On Auto Shipping
You can save a lot of money on your auto shipment if you familiarize yourself with the process. There are many ways you can reduce the overall shipping cost. We’ve created this list to help you better understand the process and to cut costs as well. Time Your Shipment
If you aren’t in a rush to have your car shipped, you may be able to save some money. Shipping your car during offseason is one of the easiest ways to save. Coast-to-coast auto shipping carriers are busiest between May and September. Shipping carriers offering north and south services tend to be busiest during fall and spring.
Choose Open Transport When You Can
Unless your car is a luxury vehicle, you should consider open transport for shipping your vehicle. Enclosed transport can cost you up to 60 percent more than open transport. There’s nothing wrong with open transport for everyday vehicles. Almost every car you see on the road was originally shipped using the open transport method.
Compare Multiple Companies
It’s always worth your time to shop around for several quotes. Take your time before hiring the carrier. Do not just go with the cheapest available option. Look up multiple carriers and check out their reviews online. Choose a company that has a good reputation and then ask for potential discounts.
Choose Terminal-to-Terminal Transporting
Door-to-door auto delivery is more expensive than terminal-to-terminal auto delivery. If you can drive your car to and from the designated terminals, you may be able to save a substantial amount of money on shipping. Take note that your vehicle will stay at a terminal until there are enough vehicles to transport.
Note: Do not leave your vehicle at a terminal for too long. Some terminals might charge daily storage fees that can increase the overall shipping cost.
Ship Multiple Vehicles
If you own more than one vehicle, do not ship them independently. You can get a discount when shipping more than one vehicle. The discount you get will be on each additional car you ship or at the bulk rate. The amount you save may not be very high, but savings are savings.
Understand Your Insurance
The insurance provided by the auto shipping companies provides an extensive range of benefits. It covers almost every part of your vehicle during transit. You should ask your auto shipping company for the items covered by the insurance policy. You may want to look into additional coverage if you want added protection for your vehicle.
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 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, 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.