Answering Questions About Auto Transport Prices
Auto transport prices – at least, from a customer’s perspective – tend to be not only high, but all over the place. Getting quotes to ship a vehicle can yield quotes that can be hundreds of dollars apart.
Well, pricing cars to ship is hardly a science – it’s barely even an art, even. There are many, many factors that go into every single price that is given out, and even if a company checks all the pricing boxes and does their due diligence, outside factors can still screw things up!
It’s important to understand how auto transport prices work, especially if you’re trying to find cheap car shipping. Or, at the very least, to have an understanding of the process that goes into it.
Now, every company prices freight differently. So some of these factors may not apply to every company. Also, not every company’s methods may be included. But, as someone who has priced freight in the past, I understand a thing or two about how it works and what goes into it. And I think it’s important that customers do as well.
Honesty and transparency is important especially in an industry where the idea of a brick and mortar store isn’t really a thing. That’s why I like writing pieces like this – to tell you, the customer, how things are done. The more you know, the better your experience when shipping your vehicle. And we want you to have the best experience you can.
The basic structure of auto transport prices
At the most basic level, auto transport prices are calculated at a per-mile price. Typically, it’s more expensive per mile to ship shorter distances, but it’s cheaper overall than shipping longer distances.
Prices go up the further you ship. As such, prices tend to be the highest for cross-country auto transport, especially corner-to-corner. For instance, San Diego to Maine and Seattle to Miami are usually the most expensive routes. However, those same routes tend to have the lowest per-mile costs associated with them. So it’s a bit of a trade off.
The next major factor in the price you pay to ship a vehicle is what kind of vehicle you’re shipping. Smaller vehicles, like a Toyota Corolla or Ford Focus, are going to cost the “standard” rate. Most sedans and daily drivers are in the same category.
The issue comes with larger vehicles, in particular minivans, SUV’s, and pickup trucks. Minivans are the easiest of the three as they all tend to be the same basic size and weight. SUV’s and pickups, though, can vary greatly in size and weight.
Size and weight is important because it will impact how much space a carrier has for other vehicles on their truck. Weight works the same way – carriers can only weigh so much lest they end up being overweight, so they have to be careful when taking larger vehicles.
Pickup trucks can vary wildly. Smaller pickup trucks can be priced about the same as a large car and fit on a standard size truck. However, bigger pickups weigh more and are larger, and some are so large they need a flatbed truck in order to haul them.
Basically, the smaller the vehicle, the less it’ll cost to ship.
Why is the cost of shipping a car so high?
Well, the idea of the costs being high is kind of relative. Yes, shipping a car is expensive when you compare it to shopping at Walmart. But on the whole, shipping a vehicle really isn’t that expensive. And in order to understand why the cost of shipping a car is what it is, you have to understand two things: why brokers are important, and the costs the carriers have to conduct business.
Brokers – that’s companies like us – connect customers with carriers. We do that and we also keep prices competitive. That’s part of pricing, really: making sure customers don’t get gouged. Which, honestly, can happen if you’re just going straight with a carrier company.
This ties into the costs that carriers have when they are shipping cars. And there are a lot.
Most car shipping carriers operate in small fleets, though there are also plenty of independent carriers on the road. Regardless, they have leases to pay for the trucks they drive. It’s the same in any logistics industry, and it’s common to see leased trucks especially because of stricter emission controls.
At any given time a carrier will spend between $300-600 to fill their trucks. It’s a wide range because each truck is different and has different fuel capacity, but regardless, diesel fuel is expensive, and all the trucks run on diesel fuel.
Then of course there’s bills. Insurance, load board fees, license fees, and of course all the maintenance for the truck. Then you factor in all the day-to-day costs like room and board and food, and you have a recipe for lots of expenses.
This is why the cost to ship a car is what it is. While it may seem high compared to other services, it’s actually pretty cheap when you factor in all the costs everyone has to pay.
Is it cheaper to ship in the summer or the winter?
If you’re trying to find cheap auto shipping quotes, seasons will definitely factor in. As the industry is heavily based on supply and demand, when there’s more demand for services, the prices go up. When there’s more trucks than cars, prices tend to go down.
The summer is the busiest season for the industry. Summer is the best time for people to move, and moving is the number one reason people ship their cars. Other reasons include sending cars to campuses for kids, selling them to customers who bought online, and cars being shipped from auctions. All of these activities increase during the summer.
And this, too, isn’t surprising. In the summer kids are out of school, so moving is a lot easier on families. They have more free time which means schedules tend to be less strict. And the weather is a lot nicer, which means carriers don’t have to slog through rain or fog or sleet or snow nearly as often.
Summer means more people moving cars, which means more carriers on the road to meet the demand. This helps keep prices on many routes competitive, especially when you throw brokers into the mix as well. But this also means that prices go up because there’s more people shipping. Carriers can take the highest paying loads first and leave the rest for others.
In the winter, demand goes down. This means that, on all but the most popular routes, carriers have to take what they can get. Of course, if a price is too low a carrier won’t take it regardless – they have to at least make a little bit on the shipment.
Weather can play a factor, though, especially in the winter. Snowbound routes cost more because they’re more hazardous. For instance, prices tend to go down coast-to-coast, especially through the southern states, but go up in the northern states. Why? Snow.
So, it’s cheaper usually to ship in the winter, but summer tends to be the season where things happen more quickly.
Can I do anything to lower my transport cost?
Transport costs are what they are. Carriers want you to pay more typically, but our job is to make sure that your price is fair while still moving your vehicle when it needs to move. This is a big reason as to why prices are all over the place depending on which broker you talk to: everyone has a different idea of what a “fair” price is.
Typically, though, there’s not much you can do to lower your transport cost. There are some options, such as terminal shipping (which is slowly becoming not an option), and also standby shipping (which can take months to get a vehicle moved). But, if you need your vehicle moved ASAP, or within a certain time frame, chances are there’s nothing you can do to lower the cost.
Lowering the carrier pay means lowering how much you’re offering to the truck, which means they’ll take other cars before yours. So really, the only way you can save money on your shipment – aside from waiting for a carrier to take it at a lower price – is to get discounts from the broker.
Brokers provide a number of discounts for a number of reasons, which can seriously help with finding cheap auto transport. We offer everything from military car transport discounts to senior citizen and even student discounts. We offer discounts for AAA members and a whole host of others.
But those discounts come from our pay and not the pay that goes to the carrier. We don’t mind saving our customers a bit of money, but the number one rule is that the price to the carrier has to be on point. If it’s not, you end up paying for it with your time.
Regardless, you should get a quote from us if you’re interested in shipping a car. One call to our toll-free number is all it takes. You can also fill out our free quote form and get started that way. You can even book your shipment with us online if you’d like! But whether you’re shipping now or later, we can get you priced right and get your vehicle moved at a competitive rate.
Since 2007 Dave has written all the content and blogs for American Auto Shipping and during this time added the duties of customer support and transport logistics.
He currently resides in Washington with his three kids and their mom and cat. A fan of Marvel movies and good stories, when not shipping cars Dave can be found working on his novel, enjoying a good book or playing some tournament HALO.
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