The process of moving to a new home is always exhilarating, albeit stressful. This is especially true if you’re moving thousands of miles away. Nowadays, moving services have made the process more accessible, and you can now easily take your personal items and home furniture with you without worrying too much about it.
Although home relocations are now a regular part of people’s lives, shipping a car across the country is something people are not familiar with. While the goal is the same, the process is a little bit different.
Let’s go over the many ways you can ship your car across long distances and how you can go about the process without much hassle.
How to Ship a Car Across the Country
Cross country car shipping takes on many forms, and each one has its own pros and cons. If you’re shipping your car across the country for the first time, follow these steps to make sure your car shipping experience is a good one.
- Find the best car shipping method for you
- Get car shipping quotes from several shipping companies
- Book your car shipping date
- Wait for your car to be picked up
- Retrieve your car at the destination
Let’s break down each of the steps to show you the different options available to you as a car owner so you can decide for yourself which is the best one.
Find the best car shipping method for you
Most people are familiar with car trucks/trailers, but most car owners don’t know that there are more options available if they want to ship their car cross country.
You can ship your car across the country through these methods:
- Train (Amtrak)
- Open Trailer
- Enclosed Trailer
You may not know this, but you can actually ship your car across the country through Amtrak. Although there are several other railroad systems in the US, most of them only cater to commercial car shipping.
How to ship your car via Train
- Buy tickets online or at the stations
- Drive your car to the nearest train station
- The car will be loaded onto the cargo area.
- Go to the passenger area and take a seat.
- Once you arrive at the station nearest to your destination, the car will be unloaded onto the platform.
- Drive the car to your destination.
Advantages of shipping cars via Train
- Convenient (you can ride the train to your destination as well)
Disadvantages of shipping cars via Train
- No door-to-door pickup
- You can’t pick your own schedule (you have to go by the train’s regular schedule)
- Limited routes (Amtrak is only available between Washington DC and Orlando, FL)
How much does it cost to ship a car via train?
Depending on the month and the total mileage, the cost can go anywhere from $500 to $900.
Transporting a car across the country takes time, which is why some car owners consider flying their car cross country instead. Planes are more commonly used to fly exotic and sports cars.
Advantages of shipping cars via a plane
- Saves time. A trip that might take several days via truck only takes several hours for a plane.
- Convenient. You can purchase a ticket as a passenger to accompany the car to your destination.
- More secure. There’s less chance for wear and tear. You also prevent the risk of running into a road accident.
Disadvantages of shipping cars via a plane
- Very expensive
- You are subject to the plane’s takeoff and arrival times
- No door-to-door. You have to unload the car at the airport and drive it yourself.
How much does it cost to ship a car using a plane?
The average cost of shipping a car with a plane is around $2,000 to $4,000. This doesn’t include your ticket as a passenger should you choose to ride the same plane.
Trucks and Trailers
Shipping a car cross country using a truck or trailer is the most common method car owners use everywhere. A truck usually tows a trailer that is either enclosed or open to transport several cars simultaneously.
For the purpose of this guide, we will delve more into cross-country car shipping via truck as it is the most common mode of car shipping available.
Open versus Enclosed Trailers
If you want to ship your car using a truck, you have to choose if you want an open trailer or an enclosed one. Let’s compare the two options:
- Enclosed trailers are more secure against the elements
- Enclosed trailers have more storage space so you can move more than just your car
- Open trailers are cheaper and more readily available
- Open trailers are easier to maneuver and drive
Overall, the choice between open and enclosed trailers will depend on your budget. If you have money to spare, go for enclosed trailers as it offers more protection for your car.
Get car shipping quotes from several shipping companies
Once you’ve decided to go for a car shipping company, it’s time to collect quotes from several companies. Shipping companies offer consultations for free, so make the most of it. During the call, they will ask you questions to get a better idea of what your needs are. They will then give you a general estimate of costs. Use this chance to ask your own questions to determine if they are the best fit for you. Remember, it’s not just about the price, but the quality of service delivered.
Things to consider when scouting for car shipping companies:
- Are they registered with the FMCSA?
All car shipping companies that deal with long-distance shipping must be registered with the FMCSA.
- Are their estimates binding?
If not, this means that the final bill won’t be the same as your initial estimate.
- Have they been involved in any road accidents?
The FMCSA can give you a safety report, as well as a list of complaints against a company.
- What services do they offer with car shipping?
Do they offer door-to-door car shipping? After-hours customer support? Pre-shipping car evaluation?
- Do they offer complete insurance coverage?
How much does it cost to ship a car across the country via truck?
The standard cost for shipping a car across the country is $2.00 per mile. The cost per mile does go down the greater the total mileage. For example, if you go beyond 1,500 miles, the price goes down to $0.58 per mile. The average cost of east-to-west (or vice versa) car transport would be around $1,600 to $1,800.
Factors that may affect your car shipping cost
- Total mileage
- The declared value of your vehicle
- Type of transport (open or enclosed)
- The month or day of delivery
- The value of personal items stored in the vehicle
- Delivery time (car owners can opt for rush car shipping)
- Pickup site (door-to-door delivery versus terminal/depot pickup)
Book your car shipping date
Once you find a suitable car shipping company, it’s now time to book the date of the actual move. If you want to save money on your car shipping, or if you want the process to go smoothly, here are some tips for you when booking your shipping date:
- Book in advance. Advance notice of 4-6 weeks is recommended, especially for busy seasons.
- Off-season rates are lower. If you’re not in a hurry to ship your car, it’s better to ship it during the off-season, which is around December to February.
- Consider terminal pickup. Door-to-door service is not only more expensive, but you or a representative have to be there to receive the delivery. With the terminal pickup, you can save money and take your time in retrieving your car.
Wait for your car to be picked up
We recommend being there on the day when the car needs to be picked up by the shipping company. To prevent delays, you can start to prepare for the process a couple of days before the big day.
How to prepare your car for shipping:
- Ready your car’s documents
- Make sure your car is clean
- Clear your car of any valuables and personal effects
- Document your car’s condition before pickup
- Perform last-minute maintenance
- Empty the gas tank
Once the car shipping crew arrives, they will ask you to sign the bill of lading plus any other documents related to the process.
Retrieve your car at the destination
On average, cross-country car shipping takes around 5-7 days, barring delays and other unforeseen circumstances. Once your car has reached its destination, these are the two ways by which you can retrieve your car.
- Door-to-door delivery - Some moving companies offer door-to-door service, which means they will deliver the car straight to your doorstep. This option is more expensive, and you need to be there to receive your vehicle. If your schedule doesn’t permit you to receive your vehicle personally, you can ask someone else to do it for you.
- Terminal pickup - Moving companies that don’t offer door-to-door delivery often unload the vehicles at a terminal. The cars will be kept in storage until their owners pick them up. This is a better option if you’re on a budget. You can also pick your car up at your own convenience.