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Cheapest Way to Ship A Car

Cheapest Way to Ship A Car
Cars ready to be shipped at the port

What is the cheapest way to ship a car? Open car transport is the cheapest way to ship a car. This is because auto transport carriers have 10 cars on one truck with one driver. Also, since there are more open car movers on the road than any other, they can handle almost any vehicle. If the vehicle you need car shipping services for is one you drive daily, open car transportation is the way to go and is always the cheapest way to ship a car. The cheapest way to ship a car, however, can also depend on what type of auto transport truck you will need for your specific vehicle. Are you looking to ship a car that is exotic, or perhaps is a collectible? If so, the cheapest way to ship a car like that would likely be enclosed auto transport. While more expensive than open car transport, it protects your vehicle from the elements, which is great if your car is rare or valuable.

That breaks down the car transport trucks, but what other methods of shipping a car are available?

Cheapest Way to Ship A Car: Terminal-to-Terminal Car Shipping

No matter which way you look at it, the cheapest way to ship a car is terminal-to-terminal auto transportation. This is even cheaper than door-to-door car shipping! We do not, however, recommend this cheap auto transport option unless it is absolutely necessary. Car shippers providing these services are often slower and less convenient compared to door-to-door car transport services. Nevertheless, it remains a handy way to transport vehicles, especially considering that almost all major cities have at least one (relatively secure) car transportation terminal where you can drop your vehicle off. This means that you have to leave your car there for days or even weeks, waiting for your car mover to show. This always comes with a risk. We recommend you ship your car across the country via door-to-door car shipping on an open auto transport truck. We should also point out that all transporters are insured for at least $750,000, which is the lowest amount of truck insurance required by federal law.

For more details and information about the best ways of shipping cars depending on your individual budget, use our online car shipping calculator and get an instant price quote. We bet you will be excited about the quote you will receive for our auto transportation services. we have managed to provide the most competitive vehicle shipping prices for our top-rated vehicle shipping services. Or you may call us at (800)-930-7417 for your cheap auto transport quote. Rest assured, our friendly operators will do their best to answer your questions and address your concerns.

Cheapest Way to Ship My Car: Door-To-Door

Door-to-door shipping on an open transport truck is the standard method of shipping a vehicle in the industry today. It is the best way to find cheap car shipping services and will be the lowest you pay to ship a car. We recommend door-to-door auto transport for anyone shipping a vehicle they drive daily. All transporters are insured at a federally-mandated minimum of $750,000, with many simply going up to $1 million worth of insurance on their truck. Open transport car shipping is the cheapest way to ship a car safely and securely, and we stand behind that statement.

If you are interested in shipping your vehicle, whether you need terminal shipping or door-to-door transportation services, fill out our free car shipping cost calculator. It shouldn’t take you more than a minute or two from start to finish and will get you a free, no-obligation, cheap auto transport quote from American Auto Shipping. We are fully licensed and bonded and only work with top-rated carrier companies. We will be the cheapest car shipping company that moves your vehicle in a reasonable period. This way, you know you’ll be in good hands no matter what. If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time at 800-930-7417.

Cheapest Way to Ship a Luxury or Vintage Car

The most cost-effective solution to ship a vintage or luxury car is via open car transportation services. However, open shipping is not the safest method of shipping cars. Enclosed car movers protect vehicles much better than open car movers. If you’re shipping from the port, roll-on/roll-off auto transport services with an enclosed car transport trailer are recommended.

Most customers would probably prefer enclosed auto shipping rather than open auto transport. Why? It’s simple: enclosed car movers provide their vehicle with the most security and the most protection from the elements. Enclosed auto transport is more expensive than open car transport by about 60%, but it protects vehicles much better and is highly recommended for luxury or vintage vehicles. While it may not be the cheapest method of transporting cars available, it is a lot safer.

One of the benefits of enclosed car shipping services in comparison to open auto transport is the different ways enclosed auto transport trucks can load vehicles. Most have extra-long ramps or lift gates, which means your driver won’t have to drive your vehicle onto the truck (as they do with open auto transport trucks). Depending on which vehicle shipping company you choose, you may get to choose enclosed auto transport services that have a specific type of configuration (i.e., extra-long ramps, soft side, lift gate, hard side, etc.).

Modern enclosed auto shipping trailers also come with luxuries such as air-cushioned suspension and smooth ride suspension for the least disturbance to the luxury or vintage cars they carry. These extras also help protect vehicles in their care from damage, considering that it is far less likely for a vintage or luxury car to get dents or scratches when using liftgate elevators than ramps. 

If you are after full protection for your luxury vehicle from pick up to drop off, you will probably like door-to-door car shipping services on an enclosed vehicle shipping truck. It may be more expensive than open transportation options, but it can save you from serious headaches later on.  

Cheapest Way to Ship a Car That Does Not Run

Cars that are nonoperational cannot be driven onto the car shipping carrier. This means that your auto shipper is required to use other means to load your vehicle onto the car transport truck. Depending on the type of car transport carrier you have chosen, these methods will vary. For example:

  • Open auto transport – A winch (hand-cranked or manual) is used to load the car onto an open carrier. Then, the carrier uses the attached chain to pull the car onto it. Some open car shipping carriers may be able to load and unload non-operational vehicles so long as there is a forklift at both pickup and delivery. As cheap auto transport services are typically provided by open car transportation carriers, the vast majority of non-operational vehicles are shipped via open car transport trucks.  
  • Enclosed auto transport – Enclosed car shipping carriers usually use a liftgate to load nonoperational cars onto the carrier. Some enclosed car shipping carriers may have a winch, but they are not as common on enclosed car transport trucks as they are on open car transport trucks. A liftgate, however, is better for most vehicles, especially running ones and they are particularly handy for low clearance cars as they protect them from damage during loading and unloading. 

Of the two methods, open auto transport services are significantly cheaper than enclosed auto transport. If you’re interested in cheap car transport services, open car transport is typically the way to go.

How to Save Money When You Ship a Car

First and foremost, shipping cars is all about timing your car shipping services. If you are not in a hurry to have your vehicle shipped and can wait for the busy car shipping season to pass, you can save some money on your car shipping services. Auto transport carriers that operate coast to coast are busiest between May and September. On the other hand, fall and spring are when car transport carriers running north-south routes have the most workload. 

Other ways to make your car transport services as cost-effective as possible include:

  • Select terminal-to-terminal car shipping services – Nearly all car transporters will come and get your car from its current location and deliver it to the end destination. This is door-to-door service, and so far – at least, as far as cheap auto transport services go – it’s pretty cheap. It’s not as cheap as terminal-to-terminal car shipping, but cheap auto transport services are relative. If you do opt for cheap terminal-to-terminal car shipping services, be aware that leaving a vehicle at a car shipping terminal for too long can result in daily charges.  Terminal car transportation services, however, are not as common as they used to be, so make sure to speak to one of our car shipping representatives to learn more.
  • Be flexible with car shipping drop-off and pick-up dates – Most car transport carriers will let you select the dates that work best for you (both regarding the pickup and drop-off of the car). Do not hesitate to ask for less expensive options, especially if you are not eager to get the car picked up and delivered on particular dates. You may also qualify for a discount. Some auto transport carriers offer price discounts for allowing them to schedule the pickup and drop-off in a way that makes more sense to them logistically. 
  • Go with open car transport – As already discussed, open car shipping on a door-to-door auto transport route is cheaper than enclosed shipping by around 50%-60%. 
  • Compare price with reputation – While it may be tempting to go with the lowest car shipping price you find, that auto transport company will not always be your best shot. Cheap auto transport services are rarely the best, as the car shipping industry is a “you get what you pay for” type of industry. This is why it is best to do as much research as possible before choosing your car shipping company. In addition to avoiding “cheap” auto transport prices, you should also read online reviews of the different car shipping companies you’re looking at. What are other customers saying about them? Did their vehicle get moved on time? How was the price? Do they have a lot of good auto transport reviews? Some car shipping companies give off a “too good to be true” vibe, so if you feel that, then your gut feeling is probably right. We recommend choosing an auto transport company with a long-standing reputation first and then discussing any discounts or offers you could benefit from. 

Use our free online auto shipping price calculator or call us at (800) 930-7417 to go through your options and see how you can gain significant savings on your next car shipping services! 

Factors that Determine Car Shipping Costs

Some of the factors that affect the total cost of your car shipping services are:

  • The location – How much to ship a car is partly based on the distance that has to be covered. Longer distances mean the price of moving your vehicle goes up. Shipping your vehicle along popular auto transport routes to and from major cities such as Boston, Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles is generally more cost-effective. In fact, this is where cheap auto transport services are found most often. Transporting a car to rural areas and smaller towns requires a car shipping truck driver off their main route. This means car shippers have to drive additional miles, so they spend more time and fuel to pick up and deliver vehicles. A cheap car transportation alternative is to move pickup and delivery locations out of rural areas and meet the car transport driver in a location that is still on the beaten path.
  • The car shipping season – Car transportation services during the summer are more expensive than during the winter. In the summertime, east-west vehicle transport routes are more common, and there is more demand from customers to ship a car in general. Winter months tend to see fewer people shipping vehicles. Usually, however, there is an increase in north-south routes, particularly along the east coast, thanks to snowbirds. Some routes might see prices go up during the winter due to wintry weather; these are mostly seen in the far northern parts of the country where snow and ice are more common. Overall though, cheap car transport services are easier to find in the fall and winter, though we can help you find cheap car shipping regardless of the time of year.
  • Type of shipping – Typically, enclosed car transportation services are more expensive than open vehicle shipping services. If you’re trying to keep to the idea of cheap car shipping, open car shippers are typically best. This is also true for terminal-to-terminal shipping, though terminals can be hard to find and are only located in major cities. 
  • The delivery time frame – The more urgent your need to ship your car is, the most costly it will be. Like all other express shipping services, it requires proper planning and execution. Car transportation companies need to have full trucks before embarking on long-distance journeys, which can leave the shipping company with little time to organize everything. They need to be efficient; vehicle transport companies want to be efficient (i.e., having a fully loaded trailer). Priority or expedited vehicle transport services are available, however, which can usually get your vehicle moved much more quickly than more standard prices. Priority and expedited services do not make for cheap car transport services, so we recommend them only to people who absolutely need their vehicles moved quickly.  
  • Vehicle modifications – Modified vehicles need special shipping and handling. This requires extra attention and work on behalf of car movers, which will affect the shipping cost. Not only that, modified vehicles, particularly those that are larger or heavier, may result in the car transporter being unable to take other loads. If the vehicle shipper has to forego a load to get your vehicle on their truck, they’re going to have to charge you more. 
  • Vehicle specs – The larger and heavier the vehicle you are shipping, the costlier the shipping service will be. This, again, is because of the hoops that these car shippers have to jump through to ensure your vehicle is transported safely.
  • Loading the car with personal items – Personal items in a vehicle increases the weight of the car. Vehicle shipping carriers have weight limits placed on them by the federal government (and some state governments may have weight restrictions as well). Weight restrictions on heavy vehicles are put in place to protect infrastructures, such as bridges and highways. Not only that but auto transport carriers are not licensed to carry household items of any kind – just vehicles. Many, however, allow some items in the trunk or storage area of vehicles. Most will have a maximum of 100lbs of items or less, but you should read more about that in our FAQ section below.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Car to Another State? 

When you’re looking at how much does it cost to ship a car, averages come into play. Each auto transport company prices routes a bit differently, so prices will vary based on which company you’re speaking to. However, the average vehicle shipping costs range between $500-$1,100 for a 4-door sedan and from around $750 to $1,400 for small SUVs, pickups, and vans (based on a California to New York move). Larger vehicles will cost more to ship, and these rates will vary depending on the specific route. Take note that car shipping services during the off-season months will often result in lower prices, resulting in more cheap car transport services.

Note that the prices above are only for car shipping services within the contiguous United States. A vehicle that is being shipped overseas to Hawaii usually runs between $800-$1,350, while car transport between Alaska (Juneau), Washington, and Seattle costs around $1,300. You will also pay extra for vehicle shipping services if you do not live near a vehicle transport terminal, or if the car is not operational. 

If you are in need of car transport services for an exotic or vintage car, it can cost as little as $800 – but, it can go all the way up to over $3,000, depending on the type of car transportation trailer you choose and the loading/unloading requirements of your vehicle. 

Generally speaking, it costs $0.60 per mile (on average) to ship a car long distance. This applies to trips over 1,000 miles. For shorter car transport routes, the cost per mile is higher. For instance, it costs about $1 per mile for trips 500 miles or less but can be as low as $0.30 per mile for shipments coast-to-coast.

To get a more accurate cost to ship a car, use our free Auto Shipping Rates Calculator.

How to make sure you get the cheapest price and the best value for your auto transport and car shipping dollars.

1) The first thing is making sure you are getting a binding price quote.

Only about 1 in 5 car shipping companies will give you a binding car shipping price quote that does not go up. The other four car shipping companies will provide a non-binding quote or estimate that can and usually does go up later. At American Auto Shipping, we give a binding price estimate for every car shipping quote we give!

The problem is that the vehicle transport companies that give low, non-binding quotes do not tell you upfront. As a result, the only way to find out for sure is to Google that company and look up customer reviews. You want to look for car transport reviews that complain about getting one price, and then end up having to pay more for the service. For example, the vehicle transport company gives a total price of $800. But then, they call the customer and tell them that, while they’ve found a few car shipping carriers to move their vehicle, they want $300 more! Many customers will admit in reviews that they were out of time and had no choice but to pay the extra money to get their vehicles picked up. The customers retaliate by writing negative reviews to warn others like you!

You may be wondering why you are getting car transport prices that vary quite a bit. We just explained why many quotes are lower than ours. There are many quotes higher than ours too! Those are the companies that give binding price quotes, too; however, they do not have the experience or the employees to maintain the absolute cheapest binding car shipping prices. As a result, those vehicle shippers quote high to be safe. At American Auto Shipping, we have our auto transport rates calculator that tracks over 500 points of car shipping data, in real-time, to ensure our prices are always built to move while also being competitive. Our calculator stays up-to-date on current shipments as well as supply and demand on various routes. This is how we can provide a cheap auto transport price quote that is binding!

2) Make sure you are visiting a website owned by a federally licensed car shipping company located in the United States.

The United States Department of Transportation regulates our industry, and they require a valid Federal license and a $75,000 bond. They also require that all companies transporting cars display their Motor Carrier (MC) number on their website. You will find ours at the bottom of every single page on our website. If you do not see an MC number on a car shipper’s website, they are likely a lead-generating website. Lead generation sites farm your data, sending it off to car shipping companies that usually provide non-binding price quotes. Some of those companies are not even located in the United States!

This is why it’s important to do a bit of research when determining which car transport company is best for you. Companies based in the United States that give binding car shipping quotes are immeasurably more reliable than companies based overseas that tell you one thing only to deliver another.

3) Make sure the auto transport company provides you with a free car rental for any excessive delays.

If the vehicle transport carrier transporting your vehicle is not accountable for prompt delivery, they have no financial incentive to deliver your vehicle on a timely basis. American Auto Shipping provides a free car rental for any excessive delays, and we have built-in protocols to deter car transport carriers from delaying the delivery of our customers’ vehicles. This is part of why our quotes are binding as well.

4) Make sure the car transport company provides you with a damage-free guarantee, or they help pay if you must use your insurance for a claim.

American Auto Shipping has a damage-free guarantee, or we help pay! Damage during transit is rare, but it happens. If the following happens, we can help:

  • If your vehicle sustained damage in transit, and;
  • You are forced to make an insurance claim on the carriers’ insurance, and;
  • They turn it down for any reason, and;
  • You have to file a claim on your auto insurance policy, and;
  • That claim is approved;

You may have to pay a deductible. If you do, we will pay up to $500 of that for you! This is our “damage-free or we help pay” guarantee.

5) Make sure the vehicle shipping company you select is open seven days a week.

The auto transportation industry runs seven days a week as vehicles are picked up and delivered on Saturday and Sunday just as much as Monday and Tuesday or any other day.

If there are issues with your car shipping services, it’s important to be able to reach someone. Being unable to reach your auto shipping company could cost you time and money. If they do not advertise on their website or Google listings that they are open seven days a week, we highly recommend you do not hire them.

Car Shipping Cost FAQ

How much will it cost to ship my car?

Knowing how much to ship a car will be and getting the cheapest car shipping price to transport your car depends on several key factors. These include where you’re shipping from and to, what kind of vehicle you’re shipping, and when you need it shipped. The further the distance between origin and destination, the less the price per mile will be, but the higher the total cost. Vehicle size also plays a role: the larger the vehicle, the more expensive it is for a car transportation carrier to ship it. Any modifications to stock vehicles will add to the price. Lastly, seasons play a factor, as car shipping during the winter tends to be cheaper than summer due to lower demand.

When will my car get picked up for transport?

This depends heavily on the level of service that you choose. We offer three different levels of car shipping services that you can choose from:

  • Standard: Recommended for people not in a hurry.
  • Priority: Priority adds $200 to the standard price, but is designed for people who need to get their vehicles picked up more quickly than the standard level of shipping. This is recommended for people with tight pickup timeframes.
  • Expedited: Expedited shipments add $500 to the standard price (or $300 to the priority price) for pick up within 1 weekday. This is recommended for people that need their vehicle moved ASAP or on a specific day.

Which car shipping method you choose will depend on your budget and your time frame, but typically, customers that need their vehicles moved quickly should opt for priority or expedited car shipping services to ensure they get on the next truck.

How do I pay for my auto transport?

You pay a small down payment to lock in a price. When we schedule and dispatch you to a carrier, we will provide you with the truck driver’s name, phone number, pickup, and delivery dates. The remaining balance is paid to the truck driver on delivery via certified funds.

Can I put stuff in my car when shipping it?

Usually, you can put up to 100 pounds of personal belongings in the trunk or storage area of your car, truck, or SUV. Your vehicle must be empty otherwise. The reason for this is that those auto transport carriers have don’t have a license or insurance to transport household goods across state lines.

How does auto transport insurance work?

The Department of Transportation’s Motor Carrier Division regulates the vehicle shipping industry, and they require insurance coverage for all carriers transporting vehicles. They need a minimum of $250,000 cargo and $750,000 in liability insurance coverage for every carrier on the road. There will be an inspection at pickup where the driver will have a form with a picture of a car, and he will note every ding, dent, and scratch on the vehicle. Both your pickup person and the driver will sign it, and then you and your driver will get a copy of the form. Upon delivery, the same form will be presented to the person receiving the auto transport. Any new dents, dings, or scratches must be placed on a damage claim and must be notated on that form at delivery, and signed by both parties.

Dave Armstrong
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