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Ship Your Car – Top 5 Things to Know Beforehand

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Ship Your Car – Top 5 Things to Know Beforehand
Ship Your Car – Top 5 Things to Know Beforehand

Planning a big move or buying a car in a different place? When it comes to shipping a car from one site to another, driving it yourself might seem like the most obvious solution. Upon a closer look, however, it often requires an inordinate amount of time, effort, and expense. Additionally, potential damages or mechanical problems can occur as a result of the rigors of a long trip. Considering how much mileage, gas, wear and tear is conserved, shipping companies can actually make the ordeal a whole lot cheaper and more manageable.

With years of specialized expertise and experience behind their backs, professional shippers can provide proper, hassle-free service. Plenty of companies offer their assistance, but not all may have suitable and necessary qualifications. That is why it is crucial to understand the process and pick the right carrier in advance. Additionally, doing plenty of research, contacting haulers directly and asking questions, and thoroughly preparing your vehicle for the trip can facilitate a smooth and cost-efficient transfer. Below, we compiled a list of top five things you need to know before transport.


Do Your Homework 

To ensure safe and smooth delivery, make sure you give yourself plenty of time and do your homework. You should research and jot down a list of different companies as well as shipping methods. Carefully review all of the options and determine which of them suits you and your vehicle. Are you looking for open-air or enclosed transport, terminal or door-to-door shipping? Below are some factors to consider. Review and specify each of these items to companies so they can help you pick an optimal approach and determine an accurate quote. 

  • Delivery schedule: set a time frame for delivery. If you have specific dates in mind, scheduled day-to-day shipment may be the best option for you, though it will cost more.
  • Distance: the length of the trip can help you decide on the shipping method. Generally, longer trips may require more protection from external elements while open trailers can suffice for shorter distances.
  • Car type: some options are much cheaper than others and, as a result, may look more appealing to you, but be sure to focus on the type of your vehicle. If you own an exceptionally fragile or vintage car, then door-to-door enclosed transport may be a more appropriate choice. If your auto is not exceptionally valuable and is only expected to travel a short distance, then terminal open air shipment may be just fine.
  • Weather: inclement weather like storms can increase the risk of damage from rain, snow, and rocks and may require extra protection. This will add an additional fee but can be compensated by off-season discounts.


Ask Questions 

It is difficult to underestimate the importance of choosing a hauler carefully. With dozens of carriers on the market, finding the one that fits your requirements and holds legitimacy is a time-consuming process, so be patient. Allocate enough time to research and contact companies, ask them the necessary questions, and receive quotes. While auto transport cost is a crucial factor, it is worth remembering that cheaper does not necessarily mean best. Below is a list of basic questions that you can address:

  1. What shipping methods and services do you provide? Once you decide which approach you are looking for, ask carriers if they provide the shipping method you are interested in or any close alternatives. Do not hesitate to ask for specific details. How many cars do they usually transport per flatbed trailer? How do they secure vehicles for shipment? Are there terminals near your locations? Carriers should be able to provide such information. These answers will help determine whether the company suits you, correctly understand its shipping procedures, and know what to expect.
  2. How long will it take to ship my car? The answer to this question will vary from one shipping carrier to another. Your particular preferences and specifications can also add to the shipping time. In general, if you are transporting your vehicle coast to coast via open transport, you might be looking at one to three weeks. Bear in mind that provided time frames are approximate as companies try to account for unforeseen events. Some allow scheduling of exact pick-up and drop-off dates for an additional cost.
  3. What documents are required? Just like you would need to ask shipping carriers for their proof of insurance and license registration, they will request your car registration and insurance paperwork, too, to make sure you have the full and legal right to transport your car.
  4. What are the payment arrangements and methods? It is vital that you fully comprehend payment arrangements prior to booking a shipment. Some carriers ask for a full payment upfront, while others require submitting an initial deposit prior to collection and the rest of the balance upon delivery. Confirming available payment methods beforehand can also prove to be useful, especially if you prefer checks or cash.
  5. What should I do to get my car for shipment? While you can research preparation procedures or find them further down in this article, bear in mind that each company is different, and it is a good idea to check with carriers if they require any special steps.


Check for Insurance Coverage and License Registration 

It is important that you choose a company that is licensed and insured against any damage or accidents that might incur on the road. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration automobile shipping carriers must have liability insurance. While there is a required minimum, the amount of insurance coverage varies from one business to another, with reputable companies only working with shippers who hold between $50,000 and $100,000 of insurance coverage. Furthermore, carriers need to obtain proper legal documentation. Make sure you ask for copies of license registration and insurance proofs when speaking to a representative. Alternatively, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration maintains a hotline where customers can check on each company’s paperwork and any filed complaints.

Prep Your Car

Though professional carriers will inspect the car and ensure its safe delivery, it is crucial that customers prepare their vehicles for the shipping process. Taking the necessary preparation measures prior to pick-up can minimize the risks of damage. Here are some basic steps:

  • Wash your vehicle. Many transportation carriers will request a thorough wash prior to collection. A clean surface will bring out any scratches and dents and make it much easier to accurately inspect the car.
  • Clean the interior. A crucial step is to clean the interior and remove any belongings. This includes anything from cables, charges, air fresheners, and change to valuable items. There are several reasons for this. First, any of the items might be stolen without the possibility of recovery. Second, your car may be jostled while on the road which can cause the items to toss around and damage the interior. Additionally, shipping companies set a weight limit to protect their drivers and all other vehicles during transport. Should you wish to leave any items inside your car, make sure to notify the carrier beforehand as many of them may refuse.
  • Don’t fill up. A full tank can add significant weight to your vehicle, so do not gas up fully prior to shipment. You need only about a quarter tank of fuel which is just enough for the road from the destination terminal.
  • Check for leaks. Inspect the undercarriage for any leaks and if you notice any, repair them before the pick-up. A significant leak spotted by the car shipping company can lead to their nonacceptance to take on the vehicle.
  • Check tire pressure. Improperly inflated tires can cause damage, especially during loading and unloading.
  • Lock the doors to reduce the risks of theft during transportation.

Inspect Your Vehicle 

Upon collection, shipping carriers will inspect your vehicle meticulously and note any visible scratches, dents or any other marks of wear and tear. You will be asked to sign the inspection report. Make sure you review it closely prior to signing so you can expect to receive the car in the exact condition as you submitted it and can file a damage claim, if necessary. It is also advisable to take several detailed photos of your car before and after the shipment in case documentation is needed.


Hiring a professional automobile shipping company to transport your car from point A to point B is a common and convenient procedure that can spare you lots of stress. Set aside time to do research and address any questions you may have; this will clear away any potential misunderstandings and ensure a seamless, satisfactory service. Request a copy of license registration and proof of insurance to verify that you are dealing with trusted and authorized professionals. Prepare and inspect your vehicle before it hits the road. Once all of this is done, sit back and relax while the shippers do the rest.

Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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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.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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