When it becomes necessary to ship a vehicle, the first place you will take to is the internet. Unfortunately, the internet doesn’t just have professional car transport companies, and they have scammers too. These scammers often lurk on the internet, pretending to have legitimate businesses. The reality is that they will keep you invested in their product or service until you release your banking information to them, and then they will disappear. How do you protect yourself from these types of businesses?
Tips for Investigating Legitimacy in the Auto Transport Business
There are a lot of different ways for you to check into a company to see if they are real or not. The methods described will take a lot of detective work on your own, but doing it will ensure you aren’t the victim of a scam that could cost you hundreds of dollars in the long run.
Start with a Google Search
The chances are high that when you were looking for an auto transport company, you did a Google search to see what businesses were available. Within the searches, you may have filled out generic quote forms or just jotted down the name and number of a few places. No matter how you came across the names of the companies you are thinking about using to transport your automobile, you will want to do a little in-depth searching on the business.
There is a great deal of information that can be found on the internet about a business if you know where to search. Customers often go online to various platforms to leave reviews about companies they have used. These reviews can offer a lot of insight into how the auto transport company does business and how they treat their customers. There will be a lot of other information you can gain from these online searches like phone number, address, and the owner or their managerial staff.
Think of searching the internet as the fact-finding mission part of the investigation. You have to know what you are looking for in order to try and find it.
Look at the Company’s Website
For the most part, you should be able to find a website for the auto transport company you are looking into. If you cannot find a company website, it could mean that they just don’t have one, or the company doesn’t exist. Some of the businesses that are considered a “mom and pop” type of company may not consider having a website in their repertoire a necessity.
To look into a company that doesn’t have a website, you may need to do some actual legwork. If the business exists in your town, you may have to physically visit the business or ask around to see what people say about their satisfaction rate. Either way, you need to find out if the business exists.
Most auto transport companies will put their information about their licensing right on their site. If not, you can call and ask for it. These are other pieces of information you can look up to ensure you are speaking with a reputable company.
Check Website for Discrepancies
When reviewing a companies website, you will want to look at how it is put together. If there are a lot of spelling and grammar errors, you may want to dive a little deeper into their legitimacy. Another area to spend some time on is looking to see if the images they use on the website are royalty-free or stolen images. It is not professional for a company to use illegal means on their websites. You would not want to trust a company that does this.
Keeping a close eye on how the website is laid out might give some insight into how much the company cares about what they are doing. If the website looks like a two-year-old put it together, you may be dealing with a company that is creating the site as a means of getting rich quick.
Look for a Legal Page
If an auto transport company has a website, they should have a legal page attached to it. If a business is not legitimate, there will most likely not be one. If a business has a legal page that is not legitimate, you may be able to tell by the verbiage used. Nobody likes to sit and read legal disclaimers. Knowing the terms and conditions of a company can help you stay out of a sticky situation in the long run.
Finding more than one legal page is even better proof of validity. Most websites are going to put these legal terms or term and conditions under the following headers:
- About us
- Contact us
Looking through and reading the terms of a company will allow you to get to know them better.
Check for Licensing and Other Credentials
For auto transport companies to be legitimate, they must have an active Department of Transportation (DOT) number and a number from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA). These will provide some proof that an auto transport company is certified to move your vehicle.
You will also want to ask the company about their insurance coverage. If they do not offer the minimum amount required by state and federal law for the transport of an automobile, you may want to question them. The last thing you want is to trust your vehicle to someone who isn’t correctly covering it.
Secure Methods of Payment
At some point in your relationship with an auto transport company, you will be required to pay for the services they offer. Every company is going to have its terms and conditions for their accepted methods of payment. Truly legitimate auto transport companies are only going to take secure payment methods. Pay Pal, Google Checkout, and Stripe are among some of the more common methods used. You will have to seek out the payment terms and conditions in your contract with a company to determine if they will accept additional forms of payment for services rendered.
You are always able to look into the payment methods accepted by the auto transport company to see which one you would prefer to use. All legitimate and secure payment sites will have their own terms and conditions pages. These legal pages will tell you how refunds work and what you will need to do to ensure you are protected in the event a scammer dupes you.
Check Out the Company on the BBB (Better Business Bureau)
The Better Business Bureau, better known by the acronym BBB, was found in 1912 to increase trust-based marketing. They are a non-profit organization, and they are highly reputable for their information on various businesses nationwide. Businesses who obtain the BBB accredited seal are listed on the BBB website. These businesses are issued a grade based on their trustworthiness and how they handle customer disputes. The higher the graded score, the better the business is in the eyes of the Better Business Bureau.
On the BBB website, you can also get some inside information on the company you are looking into. They offer the date of when the company sought out and received the BBB accreditation. The BBB also lists the rating of the company you are searching for.
As an example, look at A-1 Auto Transport on the Better Business Bureau site. There you will find that they are and have been accredited since October of 2018. Next to their accreditation, you see that they have an A- rating with the BBB. You can also find all the information about the business on this website, including phone numbers, fax numbers, and addresses.
Keep in mind that the BBB site doesn’t just show businesses that are legitimate and accredited. You can use the site to read reviews on companies that aren’t included in the rating system. This is because users have reported the business. Here you may be able to find out if the company is a scam.
Check with the Local Chamber of Commerce
It is not hard for a company to fake a telephone number or address, so just because these exist on a company website, don’t assume they are real. To verify the information given on the website, you can call the local Chamber of Commerce for the address listed on the site. The area Chamber of Commerce will be able to verify if the existence of the company from Authority Websites which are run by the government.
Visit the Company in Person
Probably one of the most reliable methods you can use to determine legitimacy in an auto transport company is to visit their office in person. The chances are high that if you are looking for an auto transport company to ship your vehicle, they will have a service in your area that you can physically see with your own eyes. Keep in mind that some auto transport companies use brokers for transport, you will want to get the name of the carrier to make sure it is legitimate.
You are also going to get a unique opportunity by going to the location of the company. You will be able to interact with members of the team and their management first hand instead of through email or over the telephone. Building a relationship with the company that is going to transport your automobile is going to be essential since they are handling one of your most expensive pieces of merchandise.
Obtain the Company’s Credit Report
A Company Credit Report (CCR) is a meticulously kept record of the company’s credit history. You can find the following information on the CCR:
- Financial performance
- Credit score
- Contact information
- Years in operation
- Management structure
- Legal judgments
A Company’s Credit Report is different than a Company’s Credit Rating. The Credit Report comes from information that has been obtained directly from banks. The Credit Ratings are obtained from a careful examination of company documents. Since the information on the CCR is obtained from their credit institutions, you can rest assured that it is complete, accurate, and reliable.
Seek Word of Mouth
One of the biggest compliments that an auto transport company can receive is the referral of a new customer from a previous customer. Networks are formed by this type of interaction between previous and potential clients. Most companies that put their customers first will have a devoted following. Reaching out to family and friends to find out their opinions on if the business is legitimate or not also weighs heavily on views. You will want to find people who have used the company and know that they are legitimate.
Trust Your Gut
Most of the auto transport companies that are operating under compliance and are legitimately there to ship your vehicle and not just take your money will have no problem providing you with all the proof you need. They will want you to be comfortable working with them and their shipping team. They won’t want to do anything that might be misleading.
For most of us, we have this internal gut feeling when it comes to certain things. If you are talking to a company and they are hesitant to be transparent with you about operations or licensing and are only pushing for your money, you should feel the need to move on. Don’t trust an auto transport company who won’t answer all of your questions.
A-1 Auto Transport
The example used above was our own Better Business Bureau page. We did this because we are transparent and have nothing to hide from our potential customers. We make sure that all of our customers know who we are and how we can serve you from the moment you call in. For a free quote on vehicle transport, call A-1 Auto Transport today.
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.