First of all, congratulations! It probably took some time, effort, and funds to find and acquire your new four-wheeled treasure. Vintage cars require special care and extra planning. Even the smallest details can make a difference. In the spirit of protecting your prized possession and ensuring its smooth shipment, we have compiled a list of tips and things to consider when shipping your classic automobile.
Do Your Homework
Before you contact auto transport brokers or shippers, do you background check. Make sure you survey their reviews and safety records. You can ask for a referral to be sure you are engaging with a reliable company. Local highway patrol and the Federal Department of Transportation offer customers to look up auto transport companies’ records.
You should also check if you are contacting a broker or a carrier. The former is an intermediary between customers and actual car shippers; brokers usually take a little longer to make arrangements and charge commission prior to finalizing orders. A carrier is a transportation company with their own trailers, trucks, and drivers. If you are arranging a shipment with them directly, you will pay less and have a better guarantee of receiving your automobile in good condition.
When choosing a carrier, ask and review the following materials. Avoid hiring companies that avoid do not present them upon request.
- Licensing and Registration. All automobiles and transporters are mandated to be registered with the Department of Transportation which issues them a DOT and MC numbers.
- Insurance. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration states that all carriers must possess liability insurance. While there is a required minimum, the amount of insurance coverage varies from company to company.
- Reviews. Feedback from old and existing clients can make it clear if the experience you are seeking aligns with that the company delivers.
You have two options: one is contacting a broker to get rates and shipping information from several carriers at once. You can compare the prices and services and choose what suits you. Another option is to conduct an independent search and contact auto transporters directly. As enticing as a low price may look, be mindful of quality. More often than not, you receive the service you pay for. If you are shipping an antique car you need to base your pick on knowledge, experience, and reliability of a transporter and never on price alone.
Yes, as a new owner of a classic vehicle you can expect to pay more for safety and convenience. For example, it will cost extra to arrange a pick-up from and delivery to your driveway instead of a designated terminal in an urban hub or port. A qualified and authorized transporter with specialized handling of classic cars will schedule a pick-up, secure loading and stowing, and delivery all with professional handlers, drivers, and proper insurance.
Give a Heads-up: If you have a specific amount allocated for the shipment, let the carrier know in advance so they can advise on optimal shipping ways and services that fit within your budget.
One thing to determine and communicate to a company agent upon booking is your pick up timeframe. If you are working with a broker, it may take several days for them to arrange a collection; direct communication with auto transporters, especially those that own trucks, can be much faster since the companies can check truck and date availability in your area right away. It is best if you can afford to be flexible. Shipping times are never precise and rigid. Heavy traffic, compulsory driver rest stops, inclement weather, and accidents on the road do happen and may delay your shipment. Usually, your agent will provide an approximate timeframe (plus-minus three days) when your car is expected to be ready for collection and give you a confirmation call within 24 hours.
Prepare to Wait: One thing to bear in mind that it may take a while to receive your car. Most auto haulers run their trucks and boats, if you are shipping internationally, on a prearranged schedule. Booking a shipment reserves a spot for your vehicle on the next available load. A good rule of thumb is to expect a month-long window from the collection to delivery for domestic shipments and up to two months for international ones.
Customers looking to ship their vintage automobiles domestically have two common options – open air and enclosed transport. For overseas shipments, you can choose between shipping by air or water.
- Open Transport is the most common and affordable. Several cars are shipped on a truck at once which is why the service is reasonably priced. There are significant downsides, however, which may make the open air method unsuitable for your classic car. The trailer is not covered leaving loaded vehicles exposed to external elements. Considering how unpredictable the road and weather can be, especially on cross-country journeys, vintage car owners are better off looking into enclosed trailer shipment.
- Enclosed Car Transport is the best option for valuable antique cars. It ensures complete protection from weather, dirt, road debris, and potential theft and vandalism. Admittedly, this white-glove service costs more but you can rest assured the value of your car will be preserved.
- Ocean Cargo is the most popular route for shipments across the oceans. It costs a third of a price compared to shipping by air. Roll-on/roll-off (ro/ro) floating parking decks are especially budget-friendly; though, if you just bought an expensive car, you may want to consider other options. Seas and oceans are unpredictable and pose greater risks for classic vehicles whose value greatly depends on their condition.
- Air Shipments is exponentially the safest option. It is also the most expensive. That is because, compared to sea shipments that can take up to eight weeks, transporting by plane only takes several hours and the likelihood of damage is not nearly as high as with sea containers.
If you are not sure which method to choose, speak to an agent and discuss your options. You know your car best and auto transport companies know their business, together you will be able to find an optimal solution. If there are any idiosyncrasies with your car, pass on detailed instructions to the shippers so they can inform their drivers.
Let’s Talk About Insurance
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, auto shipping carriers must possess liability insurance. You should always request proof of insurance from a transportation company. Call your provider and verify that their policy is active. Ask them for more details, what it includes, and the deductible amounts.
If your newly purchased vintage car is highly valuable, it may hit the insurance limit of a majority of carriers. A sensible thing to do would be finding a transporter than provides a specialized vintage and luxury car shipping service as they will likely hold coverage up to $5 million (cumulative per trailer load). You can ask if your provider is able to acquire special insurance for your vintage car (for an extra cost, of course).
For added security, you can purchase your own in-transit insurance coverage on the side. Statistically, it is quite rare for a car to be damaged during transport. Nevertheless, it is best to err on the side of caution. Keep in mind that compensation for any damages that occur and are not covered by the carrier’s insurance will come out of your own pocket.
How Do Prepare My Vintage Car For Shipment?
Once you book your transport and prepare all paperwork, it’s time to get your car ready. Since you purchased your car on the internet, you can ask the seller, a friend, or an agent to help you with the preparation steps.
Do a full inspection, preferably hire a mechanic, and check that the battery is charged, the breaks are working, and you have enough fuel to load and unload the car. Usually, carriers advise leaving about a quarter of a tank.
If your vehicle has a convertible top, make sure it’s secured down. Remove all items, including accessories, change, and paperwork, so they do not fall, go missing, or damage the interior.
Next, clear your car thoroughly so all surfaces are clean. Take overall and detailed photos and note any dents, scratches, and other types of damage. It is very useful to have visual evidence of the car’s condition at hand at the time of loading. Upon pick-up, the car will be carefully inspected by the carrier. Be present and attentive during the inspection and make sure everything is noted correctly on the Bill of Lading before signing.
Disable your car’s alarm. If an alarm sets off during the road, it can distract your driver and drain the battery. Prepare a spare set of keys and pass it on to the shipper. The Department of Transportation’s regulation states that the driver is required to have a key to access all doors, the trunk, and the ignition.
Once your car is loaded, you can relax and let the shippers do their job. Professional carriers always ensure maximum security during transport. Reputable companies like A-1 Auto Transport offer GPS tracking so you can always check the status of the shipment and be aware of your vehicle’s location at all times.
Shipping Your Classic Car Internationally
If you are moving your vintage automobile from abroad, your shipping carrier can absolutely arrange overseas transport and assist you in gathering the necessary paperwork. Below are a few overseas transportation tips to bear in mind.
Shipping modern cars internationally is fairly easy because regulatory boards know that they meet standardized guidelines. This is not always the case with old vehicles, especially with the models and components dating from the 1920s to the 1950s. To avoid unpleasant surprises, inspect your vintage car prior to transport to make sure it passes emission tests – local and that of destination, too.
Clean and Clear
You never know what may happen on the journey through the ocean. Though professional shippers will ensure safe and secure bracing, nonetheless, cargo can often shift during transport. To reduce damage, remove all items from your automobile. Vintage cars are especially fragile, so make sure nothing loose can be sent scurrying across the interior and damage it. Clean the exterior, too, so your vehicle’s surfaces are super clean and reflective. Not only will it facilitate a more accurate inspection, but it will also protect your model from any elements on the hull that could degrade the paint.
Vintage car aficionados are aware that salt air is harmful to the long-term health of antique automobiles since they often do not have a factory-grade rust-proof coating that modern models are built with. Exposure to salt air should be minimized; it is especially concerning in the event of delays. To prepare fully, treat your classic vehicle with rust-proof coating.
A custom-fitted cover made out of fabric that will not harm the paint job will provide an extra layer of protection during transport.
Professional Packing and Crating
As we mentioned, though accidents are rare, nothing is inevitable. Vintage cars need more special care and one way to ensure smooth and safe relocation is to book the services of an authorized, reputable, and knowledgeable packing and crating company, preferably near the port of departure. You can ask your auto hauling company for recommendations.
As you can see, the process is similar to shipping standard cars except that it calls for special care and considerations given antique cars’ fragility and value. Choosing a reputable auto transport company is your best guarantee of proper, smooth, and safe delivery.
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.