What Are The Differences Of Shipping A Small vs. Large Vehicle?

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What Are The Differences Of Shipping A Small vs. Large Vehicle?
What Are The Differences Of Shipping A Small vs. Large Vehicle?

Whether you are moving across the country or just planning a visit, hiring a professional shipping carrier to transport your vehicle can save you plenty of time, energy, and cash. The process of shipping a car is different in each case as it depends on several factors such as, and not limited to, distance, time of year, shipping method, and the kind of automobile you are shipping. In this article, we will take a look at the difference between shipping small and large cars. 

Shipping Costs For Different Sizes and Weights

Sedans, SUVs, vans, and pick-up trucks are some of the most common types of vehicles among consumers. If you wondering if the type will influence the transportation process and cost of shipping the answer is yes, absolutely. To be more precise, weight and length are considerable factors.


The weight of a vehicle influences the efficiency of the truck and of the attached trailer. The heavier the car, the more gas is needed for the freight to haul the automobile. In addition, increased heaviness exerts more pressure ensuing lower speeds for reasons of safety, meaning that bigger, weightier cars can take longer to ship. It also results in more wear and tear. Consequently, shipping costs are generally higher for heavy trucks with a regular fee increase at around 5,000 pounds and up. Auto hauling companies are strict with the weight as they are aware of weight scales at highway checkpoints.


Similarly to weight, the length of a vehicle also plays a significant role. Longer cars such as pick-up trucks occupy more space and are therefore more expensive to ship. As in the case of weight, freight trucks have limited resources, in this case – room – and long automobiles take up a lot of space which would otherwise be allocated to other cars, preferably more than one. This translates to fewer customers and less profit to the shipping carriers. Consequently, owners of sizeable automobiles are charged more to compensate for the loss. As a general rule (though there are always exceptions, of course), models longer than 200 inches require higher haul charges. If you own a sedan that is comparable to a Ford Mustang, Toyota Camry, or Honda Accord, you fall in the range of just below 200 inches. For automobiles bigger than those models, the transporter would need to find shorter models to balance the load on the freight truck. A failure to find a compact vehicle can result in extra charges. 

Want to know the exact cost of transporting your car? It will depend on the hauling company you hire, departure and destination locations, as well as the type of your automobile. To receive more information, find a reliable, professional company and ask for a quote. 

Shipping Methods

All professional auto transport carriers offer covered and uncovered shipping methods. 

Open Air

Uncovered shipping, also known as open air shipping, involves a trailer that does not have sides or a roof. Automobiles are attached to a flatbed truck or a tow trailer, secured within but exposed to weather and other exterior elements. This method is the most common due to the space-efficiency it allows for shipping carriers and, consequently, for the cost-efficiency and greater availability for customers. 


Covered shipping, also known as an enclosed trailer shipping, involves a container with sides and a roof. It offers protection from exterior elements, which is especially needed during inclement weather, long-distance trips, and for fragile vehicles. However, it can fit far fewer cars than open air transport and requires more fuel, all of which results in higher costs. 

The size and weight of your car do not determine the shipping method. What does play a role are value and fragility. If you own a luxury or vintage car, it is better to take the open air option off the table and opt for covered shipping. The added protection will keep the cars safe and give you some peace of mind.

Hauling regular cars, on the other hand, can be done on uncovered freight trucks. While risks of significant damage are present, they are rare and insurance from the owner and transport carrier should cover the costs (which is trickier with highly valuable automobiles for which some shipping companies are only able to provide limited insurance). The uncovered method leaves cars exposed so the owners may receive their vehicles dusty and, sometimes, muddy but a thorough wash will often do the trick.

Shipping Preparations

Although costs and suitable shipping methods vary depending on size and weight, one thing that stays pretty much the same for all car types is preparation. No matter the model, below are some standard steps to properly prepare the vehicle for the road trip:

  • Clean Your Car. One of the most important preparation steps is to clean your car before the journey, no matter what model or size. Clean surfaces will bring out any scratches and dents making it much easier to accurately inspect the car and spot any imperfections. Many transportation carriers will request a thorough exterior and interior wash. 
  • Remove All Belongings From Your Car. This includes cables, chargers, even air fresheners, and change. Make sure you take out everything. Shipping carriers are not liable for any items so if anything in the car goes missing, the chances of recovery are very slim. Furthermore, your vehicle may be jostled while on the road causing items to toss around and damage the interior. This is applicable to all models of cars, including pick-up trucks so drivers need to make sure they take everything out of truck beds. Additionally, shipping companies set a weight limit to protect drivers and all other cars during the trip. Should you wish to leave any items inside your car, make sure to notify the carrier beforehand as many of them may refuse or ask to pay extra.
  • Communicate Any Special Information About Your Car. Each car is different and little peculiarities such as sensitive pedals or loud noises need to be passed on to the shipping carrier and drivers. 
  • Charge Battery and Do Not Fill Up. A full tank adds significant weight to your car so leave only a quarter tank of fuel. A quarter tank is enough to drive the vehicle from the destination terminal to your new home. A fully charged battery will ensure it does not die during the shipping route.
  • Check For Leaks and Antifreeze Level. Inspect the undercarriage of your automobile for any leaks. Should you notice any, fix them before the journey. A significant leak spotted by the driver can lead to their refusal to take on the car. Vehicles traveling through freezing temperatures require antifreeze. Even if you are arranging transport for warmer seasons, it is still a good idea to add some antifreeze to your car. 
  • Check Tire Pressure. Improperly inflated tires pose damage, especially during loading and unloading. 
  • Take Photos and Inspect Your Car. When you drop off your vehicle, shipping company representatives will inspect it in detail and note any dents, scratches, and other wear and tear marks in an inspection report. Be sure to be present at this stage and carefully review the assessment prior to signing off and do the same upon retrieving your car. That way, you can file a damage claim, if necessary. Be sure to take detailed photos of your car, both of the exterior and interior, before and after the shipment as proof.

In conclusion, many factors go into considering the differences between shipping large and small vehicles. In most cases, shipping processes are very similar. Shipping method, distance, origin, destination, and availability all play a role in determining the cost and process regardless of the type of car. Preparation for the trip is also pretty much the same for all cars. 

However, when it comes to size and weight, the process begins to diverge. Bigger automobiles take up more room, requiring shipping carriers to rearrange the vehicles on freight trucks for balance and space-efficiency, while especially heavy cars cause slower shipping time, increase the need for fuel and, at times, for specialized machinery. Although the details depend on the car, a general rule is that shipping bigger cars will cost more than smaller ones.

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.

Email me - info@a1autotransport.com

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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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