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Breaking Down Your Auto Shipping Costs

Auto Transport Costs

There’s an old saying – “money makes the world go ‘round.” There’s also another, something about how money doesn’t buy happiness. Both are true, but happiness doesn’t lower auto shipping costs. As such, understanding the prices of things – and why they cost what they cost – is a great way to ensure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Of course, most times, there’s not much you can do about the price you pay. Whether you’re comparing auto shipping costs, or new vehicle costs, or something else altogether, the prices are what they are.

At the same time, though, knowing why they are what they are can help you make sure that you’re getting a fair shake. Like at a car mechanic – if you know about how much it costs to fix your brakes, you’ll know when a mechanic is trying to overcharge you. 

Today we’re going to be breaking down your auto shipping costs, why things cost what they cost, and how you can get the most bang for your buck when you ship your vehicle with American Auto Shipping.

How distance affects auto shipping costs

You can’t talk about auto shipping costs without first talking about how distance affects the price you pay. 

Distance – mileage – accounts for the vast majority of the money you spend to ship a car. It costs a lot to operate an auto transport truck, after all, and one of the easiest ways that carriers have to make money is to just charge a per-mile rate.

These rates are higher for shorter trips and lower for longer trips, with cross-country shipments seeing the lowest price-per-mile. A good example is anything under 500 miles tends to cost around a dollar per mile, if not more. The further away your delivery location is from your pickup location, the lower the price per mile goes. Some long-distance shipments get as low as 25 cents per mile!

The pricing structure is set up this way for several reasons. For one, short-distance trips cost more because carriers just aren’t making much on those routes. On long-distance shipments, they have multiple stops for pickups and deliveries, especially the latter. This means they earn more on the trip, which helps reduce costs. Those short trips often don’t have those.

Not only that but if the price per mile were static, it’d cost thousands more to ship across the country. The price per mile drops the further you go in an effort for carriers to remain competitive and keep their trucks filled.

Why when you ship matters

If you’ve ever shipped a car before you likely know that the industry is a seasonal one. People tend to need transportation services more in the summer and less in the winter. And believe it or not, this can influence the prices that you pay, especially along popular routes.

During the summer months is when most people choose to relocate their vehicles. There are a number of reasons, too, but the bulk of the extra loads comes from people moving. Or snowbirds – those people that move to a winter home in Florida then go back north once winter has passed. 

The increase in demand during the summer months makes it a carrier’s market, especially on popular routes between major cities. Prices go up because loads go up; carriers can pick and choose which loads they want, of course, so they take the highest-paying ones first. This means that in the summer, prices go up if you want your vehicle moved in a timely fashion.

During the winter, though, demand drops, even on the most popular routes, so it turns into more of a shipper’s market. Fewer loads to take results in carriers taking pretty much what they can get. If they get desperate enough, some may move for rock-bottom prices that may not even net them a real profit!

What all this means is that when you ship your vehicle will matter when it comes to the price you pay. So if you have the time to wait, fall and winter will likely yield better prices than in the spring and summer. This does depend on your route so make sure to talk to one of our auto transport specialists before making a final decision.

Let’s talk vehicle size

There are two other major factors that will also affect your price: the weight of your vehicle, and how big it is. 

It’s no surprise that a typical car is the easiest for car transporters to ship. It’s their bread and butter, it’s what they handle most often, and it’s what their trucks are designed to haul. They can also fit a wide variety of other types of vehicles, including SUVs, pickup trucks, microbuses, golf carts, etc. That’s not a problem.

What is a problem, though, is how much extra weight those bigger vehicles add, as well as the extra size of them. On a ten-car hauler, it’s not surprising to see bigger pickup trucks take up two spaces. This means that, instead of ten cars, the carrier can only haul 8 plus a pickup truck. So the pickup truck is going to have to cost more to move because they can’t fit a ninth car.

The same goes for anything with a lot of weight, even if it’s a regular car! For instance, many people put aftermarket parts on their vehicles that end up weighing more. This means that carriers will have to work harder to balance their truck and keep it under federal weight limits. This in turn means figuring out how many other vehicles they can (or cannot) take. As with a big pickup truck, a heavy vehicle will ultimately take up more than its fair share of space on the truck, leading to higher prices.

Most of the time, the weight and size of your vehicle will be factored into the total price you pay, as will most everything we have covered and will cover in this post. But it’s important to keep in mind how size and weight will affect your price and to plan accordingly. 

The issue with household items

Many times, customers have personal items that they want to ship with their vehicles. And we can understand that – it’s already being shipped, and there’s plenty of room for some household items, so what’s the harm?

Well, the issue with household items is two-fold: one, carriers aren’t licensed to ship household goods, only vehicles, and two, household items add additional weight to the vehicle.

Let’s tackle these individually, and start with the fact carriers aren’t licensed to carry household items. This is an immediate reason as to why you can’t put household items in your vehicle. At the same time, most carriers won’t care if you have a few personal items in the trunk, like clothes.

The real problem with household items comes with extra weight. Clothes and blankets are fine, as they aren’t heavy. But when you start packing your vehicle full of items like furniture or electronics or even just moving boxes, you start running into issues.

Those issues are the same as the ones we talked about above, notably that carriers have weight limits they have to abide by. If you do have to put things in your vehicle, make sure they are under 50-100 pounds, they’re out of sight, and, most importantly, we know about it.

Household items may end up costing you a bit more to move with your vehicle, and for the same reasons we talked about above. So make sure your concierge knows about it so we can find the right carrier for you.

Miscellaneous expenses

Miscellaneous expenses are always covered by the total price you pay. These, however, are expenses that you don’t really think about. For instance, a major one is the price of fuel – diesel fuel in particular. 

As the price of fuel goes up – which it tends to do in the summer – prices go up. That’s just a natural consequence because carriers have to make sure their trucks stay filled. And carriers can easily drop hundreds of dollars to fill their tanks, sometimes even thousands! 

Another major expense is just general overhead. Carriers have to pay license fees, cover maintenance costs, general overhead…these are costs that force them to keep their prices above a certain threshold. Drivers also have to be paid, as do the dispatchers and other office workers.

Even for owner-operators there are expenses. Dispatchers have to work somewhere, right? So there’s rent. Rent also comes with other bills, like water, and power, and internet. 

These costs are all wrapped up in the price you see. This means you won’t be surprised by any of them. Really, most of the time they won’t be an issue at all. But they are things that get factored into the overall cost to ship your vehicle, and they should not be excluded.

Choose American Auto Shipping for your next shipment!

Make sure to give us a call if you’re looking for a great, competitive auto transport rate! We can help you ship your vehicle to or from anywhere in the United States. We are the only auto transport company with a dedicated transportation concierge! So give us a call and let us help you today.

Dave Armstrong
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