What Are The Differences Between Open And Enclosed Vehicle Shipping?

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What Are The Differences Between Open And Enclosed Vehicle Shipping?
What Are The Differences Between Open And Enclosed Vehicle Shipping?

The open air and the enclosed transport methods are the two most common transportation services offered by shipping companies. It is important to understand the two terms before selecting your best option. The two services vary in terms of prices and transport conditions. But first, let us define what they are.

Open vehicle shipping

As the name suggests, vehicles are transported in the open. Meaning, they are not covered from any side. Typically, a multi-carrier loads vehicles on its decks for transport. This option is more popular than the enclosed service.

Enclosed vehicle shipping

This is the opposite of the open air service. Here, the automobiles are covered to protect them during transit. There are two types of covers available:

  • Soft-sided enclosed transport: a canvas or vinyl is placed on the side of the trailer like curtains to protect your vehicle.
  • Hard-sided enclosed transport: a thin fiberglass is used to protect the automobiles. It is best for high-end cars.

So how do the open and enclosed services differ?

  1. The basic difference is the cover of the trailer. The open air does not have a cover, unlike the enclosed transport service.
  2. Price. As you may guess, the open transport is cheaper than the enclosed service due to the additional protection.

Which is the best transport system for my vehicle?

To answer this question you will need to think of several factors as listed below.

What type of a car am I transporting?

The two transporting services are suitable for different vehicles. Basically, if you are transporting a luxurious or a new car, you would want it protected. The open air transport service exposes your vehicle to the sun, rain, snow, and wind. More so, the vehicles are at a risk of being hit by road debris, flying objects, and tree branches. These could cause damage to your car.

On the other hand, the enclosed transport system protects your vehicle from outdoor interferences. And more than just protecting your car from environmental harm, covering your vehicle keeps away curious public eyes. This is especially so for high-end vehicles. The wrong set of eyes looking at your coveted SUV could attract evil thoughts! It is no surprise that your shipping company will favor enclosed transport for the luxurious vehicles.

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What is my budget?

The enclosed transport is expensive for four reasons:

  • The open air transport loads more vehicles than the enclosed carrier. For instance, an open trailer can load up to ten cars while an enclosed one will carry 5-7 vehicles. This implies that the shipper is able to spread transportation costs across more customers for open transport. This helps the transporter minimize the shipping cost per car.
  • The enclosed trailer is more expensive to purchase than the open air truck. The trailers may contain additional hydraulic ramps to help load low ground clearance vehicles. Other trailers are more advanced to accommodate luxurious vehicles.
  • As an implication of the higher purchasing cost of the enclosed trailer, less of them are bought. It is no surprise that only 10 per cent of trailers are enclosed. The scarcity element makes this mode of transportation more expensive.
  • Due to the type of cars transported through the enclosed system, the drivers also need to be more experienced. Thus, the transporter incurs an extra cost paying for manpower.  As a result, the cost is passed on to the consumer.

Typically the enclosed transport system is a premium service. In most cases, the difference in cost is double.

How soon do I need my vehicle?

This premium service is not as popular as the open air. It follows that more people book their shipment via the open transport. This means that shipping companies have more trailers delivering cars via this affordable method. In return, you are likely to get your car faster when transported via open air than by the enclosed transport.

What is my location?

If you need your car delivered to a specific location, it would be easier to do so with few other cars on board. Thus, an enclosed trailer is ideal for such shipment.


If you need the enclosed service but you cannot afford the high prices, you can book your shipment earlier. Usually, booking in advance is cheaper than emergency shipment. At A-1 Auto Transport, we offer discounts to our customers.

The bottom line is, customers who want the enclosed transport have invested more in the vehicles and wouldn’t mind going an extra mile. But generally, both systems are safe for your automobile.

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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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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