Learn The Ins And Outs Of How To Ship A Car

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Using a Car Transporter

With a maximum freight weight limit of 80,000 pounds per the U.S. Department of Transportation, commercial car carriers haul an average of five to nine vehicles at a time. That capacity translates to better rates for people looking to ship their car than drive-away services. However, there are some additional factors to keep in mind.

With car transporters, both open or enclosed carriers are available. You’ve likely seen the open rack car transporters on the interstate dozens of times. An enclosed carrier is similar but comes with the added benefit of protecting the cars from the elements.

According to recent research from Move.org, average rates for open car transporters are 40% less than average rates for enclosed car transporters. However, an enclosed carrier may make sense for luxury or rare cars, or if adverse weather is a concern during transit.

There are many options for fully licensed carriers nationwide, which can add to your peace of mind when shipping a car. Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration keeps public records for shippers’ licenses, insurance records and complaints.


  • No added miles or wear on the vehicle
  • Drivers are qualified and insured
  • Less expensive than a private driver


  • Narrow or low-clearance cars may not fit open transporters
  • Timeline may be longer and harder to control
  • Personal items cannot be moved with the car

Using a Private Driver

If putting miles on your car isn’t a concern, private driving options are available. These drive-away services are generally more expensive than using a car transporter but may allow for more control over the timeline because the driver doesn’t have to make additional stops for loading or unloading other vehicles.

If you have a willing friend or family member to enlist, that may be the cheapest avenue for getting a vehicle from Point A to Point B. But with the rise of the internet marketplace, it’s easier than ever to find people willing to transport your car for a fee. On one end of the spectrum, there are professional drive-away services that manage qualified drivers for these gigs. On the other end of the spectrum, some people may offer their driving services independently—and without any real qualifications.

For this reason, it’s important to exercise caution when hiring a private driver. Make sure they are covered by insurance to drive your vehicle, they have a clean driving record, they know what to do in case of a mechanical problem and so on. When getting quotes, also make sure every expense is discussed upfront so you don’t get blindsided by hotel bills or food costs later.

Friends or family members can also make good candidates for these jobs, especially if you would benefit from having their help on either side of the journey (like if you’re moving and would also appreciate help unpacking).

There may be more negotiating power with a private driver, which can help if you’re on a tight deadline or want to haul additional items in the vehicle. Because your car gets all the driver’s attention, you can ask about specific, unique requests.


  • More control over the timeline
  • Your car gets one-on-one attention
  • You can pack items in the car


  • Wear and tear on the vehicle
  • Driver may not be appropriately familiar with the vehicle
  • Valet-style service comes at a premium cost

Using Another Car Shipment Method

Other options for shipping a car across the country include:

  • Cargo train: Very limited routes are available through Amtrak and require passenger tickets, too. Otherwise, cargo trains are almost exclusively reserved for commercial car dealerships.
  • Airplane: Not surprisingly, this method is the most expensive option and is likely only a fit for very specific circumstances and big budgets.
  • Ship: If you need to move a car to or from the non-continental United States, cargo ships have relatively affordable options.

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