Cheapest Way To Ship A Car

Cheapest Way to Ship A CarWhat is the cheapest way to ship a car? Open car transport is the cheapest way to ship a car. This is because open auto transport carriers have 10 cars on one truck with one driver. Also, since there are more open auto transport carriers 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 shipping 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 trucks, but what methods 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 via terminal-to-terminal when compared to other methods. However, we do not particularly recommend this cheap auto transport option as it is often slower and significantly less convenient compared to door-to-door car shipping. Nevertheless, it remains a handy way to transport your car, especially considering that almost all major cities have at least one (relatively secure) terminal where you can drop off your vehicle at. This, of course, entails that you leave your car there for days or even weeks, which comes with a risk. So, the most recommended option to ship your car across the country is door-to-door shipping on an open transport truck. But 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 to ship your car per your individual budget, you can use our online car shipping calculator and get an instant price quote. We bet you will be excited about the quote you will receive as we have managed to provide the most competitive 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 A 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 usually. We recommend door-to-door auto transport for anyone shipping a standard 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 and 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 shipping services. However, it is not the safest. Enclosed car shipping protects vehicles much better than open auto transport services. If you’re shipping from the port, Roll-on/Roll-off car shipping service is recommended, also with an enclosed car transport trailer.

Most customers prefer enclosed auto shipping rather than open auto transport as a means to provide their asset with the most security and the most protection from the elements. Enclosed auto transport is more expensive than open car transport by about 60% on average. However, it protects vehicles much better and is highly recommended for luxury or vintage vehicles. While it may not be the most cheap auto transport method 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 that ensure precisely that. They may come at a higher cost than terminal-to-terminal services, but it can save you from serious headaches. 

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 the selected auto shipper is called 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 shipping 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 Shipping a Car

First and foremost, timing your car shipping services is everything. 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 shipping services as cost-effective as possible include:

  • Select terminal-to-terminal car shipping services – Nearly all auto transport carriers will come and get your car from its current location and deliver it to the end destination. This is door-to-door services, and so 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 auto shipping 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 discuss 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 – The distance that has to be covered can determine the price of moving your vehicle. Shipping your vehicle along popular auto transport routes to and from major cities such as Boston, Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles is 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 they end up having to drive additional miles, which means they have to spend more time and fuel to pickup and delivery vehicles. This adds to the cost. A cheap car shipping alternative is to move pickup and delivery locations out of rural areas and being willing to meet the car transport driver in a location that is still on the beaten path, as it were.
  • The car shipping season – Car shipping services during the summer months are more expensive than during the winter months. During the summer, east-west routes are more common, and there is more demand for car transport services in general. Winter months tend to see fewer people shipping vehicles, though there is an increase on 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 transport services are more expensive than open car transport services. If you’re trying to keep to the idea of cheap car shipping, open car transport is typically best.  
  • The delivery time frame – The more urgent the car shipping service you ask for, the most costly it will be, just like all other express shipping services, as it requires proper route planning. This leaves the car shipping company with little time to organize the delivery using the vehicle transport practices that would have been most efficient (i.e., having a fully loaded trailer). Priority or expedited shipping 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 the car transport driver, which will affect the shipping cost. Not only that, modified vehicles, particularly those that are larger or heavier, may result in the car transport carrier being unable to take other, more standard loads. This, too, can increase the car shipping price. 
  • Vehicle specs – The larger and heavier the car that is to be shipped, the costlier the shipping service will be, again because of the hoops that carriers have to jump through to ensure they are transported safely.
  • Loading the car with personal items – Personal items in a vehicle increases the weight of the car. Car 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 often put in place to protect infrastructure, such as bridges. Not only that but car shipping carriers are not licensed to carry household items, though many will allow 100lbs of items or less in the trunk or storage area of the vehicle. Read more about that in our FAQ section below.

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

The average car 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 U.S. 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 your car shipping services if you do not live near a terminal or the car is not operational. 

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

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 car shipping cost for your particular vehicle, 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 goes up later. At American Auto Shipping, we give a binding price estimate for every car shipping quote we give!

The problem is that the car transport companies that give low, non-binding quotes do not tell you upfront, so the only way to find out for sure is to Google the company’s name with Google reviews after their name. Next, 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 car shipping company gives a total price of $800. But then, they call the customer and tell them that, while they’ve found a carrier to move their vehicle, the carrier wants $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 prices. As a result, they 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 federally licensed car shipping companies 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 shipping company’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 car shipping 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 car shipping 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 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 for you.

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

The auto transportation business 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?

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 to ship. Any modifications to stock vehicles can 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 four different levels of car shipping services that you can choose from:

  • Standard: Recommended for people not in a hurry.
  • Auction: Auction adds $100 more to the standard price and is an option anyone can use. We often recommend auction prices along routes that have demand, but not as much as the most popular ones.
  • 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?

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 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.

Recent Auto Transport Reviews

Read what some of our customers have to say about getting the cheapest price to ship their car

We had a recommendation from one of our relatives saying how happy they were with the quality of your service. We now are in agreement! Our driver Damion did a fantastic job!!!!!
David Cowan

Google Review

Rachel Middleton

Google Review

We had a great experience! We moved two cars from the Pacific NE to GA. Andrew was helpful, available for questions, had good communication and follow-up, and the process was pretty straightforward.
The price was in-line with other quotes, but we felt good bout the upfront pricing. The driver they contracted was nice and prompt, and got our cars safely to their destination! No extra charges! I would totally recommend them and use them again.

This was my first time using an auto transportation company. I'm a Deputy Sheriff in LA. I purchased a car online from a dealership in NC and needed the car shipped to my home in CA. The price was fair. There was no hidden fees, no games, no bait-and-switch. Rachel at AA shipping was helpful, courteous on the phone, good communication, and notified me with updates throughout the process. My car was delivered 3 days earlier than promised.!!! with no issues and no damage anywhere. The driver (Alex U.) was also pleasant to deal with. He texted and called me throughout the shipping process. Car arrived in perfect condition, 3 days ahead of promised date!!! I would definitely use this company again! I would recommend this company to anyone and I give American Auto Shipping a 10 out of 10 and an.... A+

NC -> CA

Transport Reviews

Dave Armstrong

Auto Transport Content Guru at American Auto Shipping


Dave has been a part of the auto transport industry since 2007. He has worked in every part of the industry except driving a transport truck itself. Withover a decade of experience shipping cars, Dave knows all the ins and outs of the industry.

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.


Dave Armstrong
Follow Me
Latest posts by Dave Armstrong (see all)