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The Pros and Cons of Shipping a Car by Air (And How to Find a Good Shipping Company)

What's in this article?
  1. The Pros And Cons Of Shipping A Car By Air (And How To Find A Good Shipping Company)
  2. Pros Of Cargo Plane Car Transport
  3. Speed
  4. Safety
  5. High-End Services
  6. Accurate Shipping Dates
  7. Safer For Expensive Vehicles
  8. Disadvantages Of Car Air Freight Shipping
  9. High Cost
  10. Delays Are Still Possible
  11. Cargo Size Limitations
  12. Finding Good Car And Motorcycle Air Freight Companies
  13. International Shipping Experience
  14. Airport Connections
  15. Ask For Detailed Loading And Unloading Procedures
  16. Learn About The Network Of Contacts
  17. Go Through The Reviews
  18. Real-Time Tracking
  19. Delivery Customization
  20. Quote Breakdown
  21. When To Choose Car Air Freight Shipping
The Pros and Cons of Shipping a Car by Air (And How to Find a Good Shipping Company)

The Pros and Cons of Shipping a Car by Air (And How to Find a Good Shipping Company)

In a world where traffic accidents happen every day and road conditions aren’t always great, people consider shipping their vehicles using alternate transport methods. Shipping a car by air is an interesting and often the best option.

But is it good for every customer? As with any other form of vehicle shipping, air transport comes with pros and cons. Some companies do it better than others, and some vehicles need it more than others.

The more you learn about how it works, the easier it should be to make an informed decision that’s best for your car and your wallet.

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Pros of Cargo Plane Car Transport

Air freight vehicle shipping is arguably the least used method to move a car from point A to B. Most people ship vehicles via trucks and enclosed trailers. Manufacturing companies may use trucks, railway shipping, and ocean freight to move their cars around the world.

But that doesn’t mean that shipping a car by air isn’t a good option. It offers many advantages to some customers and particular vehicles.

Speed

Shipping a car by trailer or ocean freight can take weeks. The longer the distance, the longer it takes and the more expensive the delivery. However, shipping a car by air means you benefit from the fastest means of transport.

Even international shipping can be accomplished in a few days. That’s what makes car air transport great when going on an extended vacation, moving overseas, and in any other situation that demands a short delivery time.

Safety

Airplanes are the safest form of travel. That makes car air freight shipping the safest way to ship anything from personal goods to vehicles. Planes that move cars worldwide always have highly experienced teams available to handle vehicles.

In addition, air freight vehicle shipping involves less actual driving and hauling than road and ocean freight transport. Besides, airports have better security than most ports. You know your car will get the royal treatment on the ground and in the air.

High-End Services

Sometimes people aren’t clear on what makes the cost to air freight a car typically higher than other forms of transport. Usually, car and motorcycle air freight companies charge extra because they offer more services.

Think of it in terms of a concierge service. Car air transport can include many features and services based on the customer’s unique needs and requests:

  • Door-to-door delivery
  • Safe transport in an enclosed carrier to and from the airport
  • Fluid draining and other pre-transport prep work
  • Flight scheduling
  • Customs clearing
  • Managing paperwork
  • Insurance and registration
  • International storage options
  • Crating and pallet loading

You can often customize the delivery to fit your needs and budget and ensure you get the best car air freight experience.

Accurate Shipping Dates

Airlines often have strict departure and arrival times. At least compared to cargo shipping companies, cargo plane car transport should be on time. One reason for this is that ocean freight shipping companies may have to wait longer to fill their containers and justify making a haul.

On the other hand, airplanes have limited cargo space and make frequent deliveries. Thus, it’s easier to get an accurate date of shipping. Car by air transport can also be much more reliable than traditional trailer shipping, given how much traffic conditions can influence the delivery time.

Safer for Expensive Vehicles

No form of vehicle shipping is safer than an airplane, especially when shipping expensive or unique vehicles. Vintage cars, classics, sports cars, or luxury automobiles and motorcycles can benefit a lot from car air transport.

Consider that not all shipping companies have the insurance necessary to cover extensive damages or total loss for vehicles worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. But with airplane accidents being so uncommon, it’s almost impossible for your vehicle not to be safe during transport.

Likewise, the special pallets used to secure the cars during flight ensure little to no movement. Add to that the expertise of people handling these vehicles, and you can’t really find a safer option.

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Disadvantages of Car Air Freight Shipping

While there are certainly many benefits to car air freight shipping, there are also some disadvantages you need to know. The system isn’t perfect, or at least it isn’t for everyone.

High Cost

National car air freight costs at least twice as much as shipping a car on the road in an enclosed trailer. International shipping can cost three times the amount you would pay for ocean freight. That’s why not everyone uses it.

For instance, wanting to keep your personal vehicle with you when relocating isn’t always a good enough reason to use airline shipping. The actual shipping cost might be higher than the cost of a standard passenger vehicle.

That’s why most people who use shipping car by air service do so for rare and expensive cars and motorcycles.

Likewise, a lot can affect the cost of car air freight transport:

  • Weight
  • Size
  • Airport locations (regional airports are more costly)
  • Season
  • Special handling needs

Delays are Still Possible

Normally, airlines stick to strict schedules. But much like any other form of transport, air freight depends on good weather. Bad weather conditions can shut down entire airports and lead to flight delays and cancellations.

Granted, this doesn’t tend to happen a lot outside winter months. And unlike delayed ocean freight shipments, it may not take more than a few days to get back on track. But it’s still something to consider, especially when scheduling an urgent delivery.

Cargo Size Limitations

Airplanes can only take so much cargo, and vehicles add a lot of weight. Moreover, cars come in many sizes; some can be too big to haul on certain flights. Some air freight shipping companies may refuse to make a delivery because your car is too big to accommodate the rest of the cargo.

This can cause issues when you rely on quick turnaround times and schedule a last-minute delivery.

Finding Good Car and Motorcycle Air Freight Companies

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There are a couple of considerations to keep in mind when researching shipping companies specializing in vehicle transportation. It’s perhaps even more important to be thorough when considering air freight shipping due to the complex logistics and higher shipping costs.

International Shipping Experience

Finding a company with solid international shipping experience is pretty much mandatory to ensure you can get high-quality car air transport. That’s because most cargo plane car transport handles international deliveries.

But what does an experienced freight shipping company look like? First, you want a company with plenty of years in the industry. More years means more experience with air freight logistics, dealing with customs agencies, managing paperwork, handling vehicles, etc.

Secondly, the more years a company spends operating in the auto transport industry, the more orders it likely fulfills. As a result, you have more data to look at, like testimonials, reviews, and potential complaints. You can learn a lot about a shipping company’s timing, international connections, policies, costs, and so on.

Airport Connections

Not every shipping company will be a good fit for you. Usually, they have a handful of national and international airports, ports, and railway connections. Therefore, you may have to make a choice.

You can choose a company that can deliver to the exact airport you want, or you can choose a company that delivers to a close enough city or a shipping hub that offers door-to-door delivery. That means the shippers will deliver your car via an enclosed trailer after it lands.

But here’s something you must remember. It’s cheaper to ship a car to a central airport hub. Regional airport shipping can cost more.

Ask for Detailed Loading and Unloading Procedures

Car air transport is about as safe as shipping a vehicle can get. But that doesn’t mean all shipping companies use the best practices. When researching and comparing different shipping companies, you should get the details on how they do things:

  • Pickups
  • Loading
  • Strapping
  • Crating
  • Prep work
  • Palleting
  • Unloading
  • Temporary storage

There are two reasons for requesting this information. First, you’ll want to know if you should prepare the car for air transport yourself or if the shippers can do it for you. If the latter applies, then you won’t have to do much but pull it in the driveway.

Secondly, you’ll want to compare techniques, extra safety measures, and the equipment used to handle your vehicle. Otherwise, you could end up paying more for what a service is worth.

Learn About the Network of Contacts

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All shipping companies have developed local, national, and international connections over the years. As they expand, they grow these networks, change partners, etc. But companies that spend most of their time shipping cars to and from Asia will probably have less experience shipping a car to Europe.

If you want the best shipping experience, choose a car air freight shipping company that does a lot of business in your destination country. This will make it easier to find reliable temporary storage if needed, quick enclosed trailer delivery, and, most notably, easy customs clearance.

Dealing with customs regulations can be a nightmare for someone without shipping experience. It can still be tough on shipping companies unfamiliar with specific laws, paperwork requirements, vehicle prep work, etc. Your best shipping partner will be a company with many fulfilled orders in your destination country.

Go Through the Reviews

There probably isn’t a single shipping company without one complaint lodged against it. Customers can have different expectations. Sometimes issues out of the company’s control can delay shipments and lead to a less-than-satisfying experience.

But it’s essential to read the good and the bad. When looking at negative reviews, try to find out how the company resolved the situation. The best shipping companies listen to their customers and care about the feedback. They will try to come up with solutions and please the customers.

Bad shipping companies don’t care about the customer’s experience and move on to the next customer once a job is done.

Real-Time Tracking

You might be surprised to learn that not all shipping companies offer quality shipment tracking. Granted, anyone with an internet connection can monitor flight paths these days.

But there are many benefits to an active support desk or a customer dashboard with shipment tracking. Good auto shipping companies will update you with the car’s location, status, customs clearance issues, and anything else you need to know.

Delivery Customization

It’s always great to have the option to choose your delivery service package. For example, maybe you can drop the vehicle off for delivery personally to avoid paying for the extra prep work. Alternatively, perhaps you can arrange for a pickup on the other side of the border and don’t want to pay for storage.

Some companies will let you customize the service package. That way, you only pay for the services you require and can save some money.

Quote Breakdown

No shipping company can give you an accurate estimate or quote unless they inspect your vehicle and learn all the delivery details. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a quote breakdown.

Learning the base rates for certain vehicle weights, sizes, and destinations is essential. Remember that it will still be more expensive than sending your car by ship. Car by air transport is pricier over any distance but a great solution for urgent deliveries and expensive or irreplaceable vehicles.

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When to Choose Car Air Freight Shipping

Consider shipping your vehicle via air when trying to get it to hard-to-reach destinations. Other common reasons include shipping priceless vehicles, vintage cars, expensive racing motorcycles and cars, etc.

Of course, urgent deliveries may also qualify given the impressive speed of car air transport. But always weigh your options carefully and coordinate with your top shippers to find the best solution. A-1 Auto Transport can help you find the best shipping route and method for your vehicle, locally, state-wide, and internationally.

Feel free to reach out for more information, a quote, or to schedule a delivery.

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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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