Moving to a different city or state in a rush? Do you need to receive your car just in time for work or school? Having a vehicle transported swiftly is often a necessity. The fastest method is by air cargo but it is exorbitantly expensive. Fortunately, customers seeking rapid shipments can find other suitable and affordable options. Let’s take a look at the shipping methods and their speed potential as well as common mistakes to avoid to ensure smooth and efficient transport.
To better understand your options and pick what suits you best in terms of service, price, and speed, let’s take a look at different shipping methods.
- Cargo Plane. This is probably the fastest and safest way to ship a car but also the most expensive. In many cases, the fee may even exceed the value of the vehicle. It is hard to justify such a hefty price unless you are shipping an especially fragile, valuable, or vintage car. While air freight is thought to be the most efficient method, it is not always the case as, in reality, the efficiency depends on several factors such as distance and season.
- Open Trailers. Open trailers have several advantages which include availability and affordability. Even if your move is at the last minute, you will be able to find a trustworthy car transport company that can take on your vehicle. On another hand, exposure to outside elements during the journey leaves your car vulnerable to damage and theft. Speed is another drawback; since open air carriers haul multiple vehicles at a time it takes much longer, in comparison to enclosed shipment, to retrieve your automobile.
- Enclosed Trailers. Though more expensive than open air carriers, shipping your vehicle in an enclosed trailer offers protection from external damage and break-ins thanks to its shock-reducing soft-tie strapping system. It is also a much faster transport method since it can only fit up to six cars. Thus, you can collect your automobile a week or two earlier than you would with an open-air shipment.
- Amtrak’s Auto Train. Shipping a car cross-country by truck is common. What is less common and known, but possible, is to transport your vehicle by Amtrak’s trains. Amtrak moves along the East Coast between DC and Florida and carries different types of automobiles including sedans, SUVs, motorcycles, and even vans. Though routes and availability are limited, train transport can be an efficient and economical method for journeys along the East Coast.
- Driving Your Car. Among the most common decisions pertains to choosing between shipping an automobile via a transport company or driving it. If you opt for the latter, you have total control over your trip. If you are moving a short distance, this is certainly the cheapest and most convenient option. However, out-of-state or cross-country journeys are not that easy; they are significantly more time-consuming than other methods, and, at times, incur high expenses if you count costs of gas, fuel, lodging, and meals. Hiring a professional driver is also a possibility, though subject to availability. Customers considering this option should bear in mind that professional driving service is more expensive than transporting your vehicle via a traditional shipping carrier, especially if you have a deadline.
Things to Avoid
As in any process, the better prepared you are, the smoother and more efficient the procedure. Thorough preparation can facilitate faster shipping of your car from point A to point B. That is because you are reducing the chances of occurrence of an unforeseen delay or a hiccup, as long as they are within the scope of your control. Below is a list of thing to avoid when making shipping arrangements:
- Check out Your Shipping Carrier. It is important to choose a company that is licensed and insured against possible damages and accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, any business that transports automobiles must hold liability insurance that is above the required minimum amount. Reputable companies hold between $50,000 and $100,000 of insurance coverage. Furthermore, shipping companies must be registered with the Department of Transport and hold proper legal documentation that they should be able and willing to provide upon request. Shy away from companies that do not have or provide their DOT and MC numbers and avoid relying on verbal agreements. In the worst case scenario, having everything in writing will be valuable and, in the meantime, give you the necessary assurance of quality and professionalism. Make sure you ask shipping representatives for copies of license registration and insurance proofs before you make any solid arrangements. Alternatively, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration maintains a hotline where customers can check on each company’s paperwork and complaints filed by previous clients.
- Obtain Sufficient Insurance Coverage. As mentioned above, any auto transport company that offers interstate shipment is required to hold appropriate insurance coverage. Request to see a copy of the insurance certificate and review the coverage in detail so you understand what it includes and enumerates. If you deem the coverage insufficient, or you would like to increase it, talk to an agent and ask if they could expand it. You may be able to pay the transporter a fee for this. Alternatively, you can get additional insurance independently. It is better to be safe than sorry, and should anything happen to your vehicle while it is being moved, you will be financially and legally protected.
- Missing or Incorrect Paperwork. Prior to finalizing shipping arrangements, car transport companies will ask for certain documents. These include certificate of insurance, vehicle registration, and proof of ownership (or authorization to ship it). To prevent delays or problems, gather these papers, make sure they are all in order and ready to be presented.
Furthermore, shipping carriers will examine your car upon hand-off and record its condition in detail in an inspection report. The report will be the sole record of the vehicle’s shape prior to hitting the road and it is paramount for you to be present during the inspection, review written details, and agree to its accuracy prior to signing off. Upon delivery of your vehicle, check your car meticulously and note any damage caused during transportation. Make sure the driver signs the release document. Once both parties sign off, the shipment will be considered complete on both sides and it will be hard to file any claims on the carrier’s insurance unless damages are stated on the report.
- Prepare Your Car for Shipment. One tip that might not be as intuitive is to empty your car. While it might seem smart to fill up the vehicle with personal belongings to save a buck on moving costs, carriers will ask you to remove your stuff. That is because auto hauling companies are prohibited by law from transporting vehicles that contain household items. Additionally, surplus weight will most likely increase your shipping fee as weight and size are essential factors in determining a quote. Depending on the company, some may allow personal stuff in the car up to a certain weight (usually, 100 lb) but no business will agree to any responsibility for these items. Moreover, should the driver get inspected by the Department of Transportation along the way, all belongings found inside may be seized.
In conclusion, if you are looking for the fastest way to ship your car while avoiding astronomical invoices, unless you own a luxury car that would require and justify the costs, enclosed carrier might be the most suitable option. Surely, it is costlier than open air but, in addition to saved time, you are also receiving added level security. Of course, you should look into specifics and talk to a car transport agent to determine what would be most efficient and fitting for you. In some rare cases, open air might actually prove to be faster.
One thing to bear in mind is that the delivery timeframe is often determined by the pick-up period. Unless you are opting for air freight or train, transporters can only drive a certain distance per day so the road trip itself will not alter the speed of the shipment. As such, expedited service is truly the fastest easy to ship a vehicle.
You can ask for a guaranteed delivery date for an additional cost for expedited service. Most standard pick-up windows are one to two weeks. Though much harder and costlier for transporters to accommodate, many shipping carriers nevertheless agree to discharge a delivered vehicle within a two-day pick-up window. A-1 Auto Transport can provide same-day and same-week shipments for those in need of rapid service. If you are pressed for time and absolutely need expedited service, the money is worth the price as it will be truly the fastest way to ship your automobile.
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.