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Debunking Common Auto Transport Myths and Misconceptions

Common Auto Transport Myths

Ever since I started writing for American Auto Shipping, my goal has been to bring customers quality information. There’s enough misinformation and half-truths about the industry out there, and that’s not what we’re about. Everybody benefits if everyone’s on the same page. As such, debunking common auto transport myths and misconceptions is important. Customers get the real truth, and in turn, their shipping experiences are improved.

That’s the goal with today’s blog post. Of course, if you question anything presented here, give us a call and ask! Representatives can answer any questions that you have and dispel any notions that may not be accurate.

Common auto transport myths: an overview

Auto transport myths aren’t all that uncommon, but they’re still problematic. Customers get confused about how certain things work because they’re working on outdated or plain false information.

Sometimes, even people working in auto transport succumb to some of these myths, like how prices always go up in summer and go down in winter. While that’s the trend, it’s not true across  every route in the nation. This type of myth is more a half-myth in that they’re blanket statements that don’t necessarily apply to everywhere in the nation.

A good example of this is New York to California. On popular routes, like New York to Los Angeles, that trend is very accurate. Prices go up in summer because there’s a lot of people shipping and it’s a carrier’s market. But come winter, prices go down a bit because fewer people are shipping. However, a less popular route will likely not see those swings because there’s few cars on the route year-round.

If you’re trying to find the cheapest way to ship a car, seasons can play a factor. So can the demand of a route. But it’s not always feasible to just wait months on end for the best price, and you can’t control how many cars are on a route.

That’s just an example. Now, we’re going to tackle some of the most popular auto transport myths.

Myth: Open auto transport isn’t as safe as enclosed

This is one of the most common auto transport myths but it’s more a half-truth. And really, it’s technically kind of true. Kind of. An enclosed auto transport truck will protect vehicles from the elements and road debris better than an open transport truck. While enclosed shipping isn’t the cheapest car transport method, the myth is that it’s better to ship enclosed if you’re worried about damage.

However, is it safer? Not really. We’ve shipped thousands of cars in our time in the industry, and of those, we’ve only ever had a handful that have been damaged at delivery. In fact, if you look on Transport Reviews, you’ll find that, for any one company, damage in transit is really rare. Auto transport carriers really don’t like having to deal with damage claims. They’re a pain for everyone involved, they end up with carriers’ insurance rates going up, and they usually have to give the customer some sort of compensation on top of everything else.

As a result, car carriers make sure that they take good care of the vehicles they ship. UPS and FedEx can get away with handling packages in a less-than-optimal way, sure. They ship millions and millions every year. But for car transporters, the exact opposite is true.

Damaged vehicles result in bad reviews, and if a carrier gets enough negative reviews, we don’t use them. We work with carriers that have a 95%+ rating on the nationwide load boards. This means that we never work with a sub-par carrier, and most every broker is the same way.

But all that aside, open transport trucks, even if a carrier isn’t as careful as they should be, still protect the vehicles they ship far more than if you were to drive it yourself.

So while open auto transport may not be as safe as an enclosed carrier, it’s a matter of degrees. If your vehicle is a daily driver, an open truck is going to take care of it just as well as an enclosed one for literally half the price.

Myth: Booking with a carrier is better than with a broker

This is less a myth and more a downright lie, especially among common auto transport myths. Auto transport brokers exist for two reasons: to help carriers find loads, and to help customers find carriers. But they also serve another purpose: keeping prices lower.

It seems like it shouldn’t work that way, because with most other industries, cutting out the middleman saves a customer money. But the auto shipping industry isn’t like that. Carriers, if they have to take loads through brokers, have to really compete for loads. This isn’t always the case – sometimes it’s a carrier’s market, like when there are a lot of cars on a given route. When that’s the case, carriers can take the highest-paying loads first.

But even then, the highest-paying loads on that route are still cheaper than they’d be if brokers weren’t involved. Carriers – even on high-paying routes – usually make enough to cover expenses, and then a little bit extra as profit. Their margins are really thin most of the time. Bigger fleets have bigger margins, but independent owner-operators tend to operate on razor-thin profit margins.

If brokers weren’t involved in the auto transport process, carriers would be making a lot more money on every load. Why wouldn’t they? They would be able to set their own prices instead of having to negotiate with brokers. They’d be able to charge whatever they’d want, and it would likely prevent owner-operators from even getting into the marketplace. Big fleets would be able to charge less per load since they have wider profit margins, and the industry would likely suffer as a result.

Even with broker fees, you end up paying less to ship your vehicle than you would cutting the broker out of the equation. And that’s just a fact. If you’re looking for cheap auto transport prices, you should always book with a broker.

Myth: Driving a car is cheaper than shipping it

This is one of those common auto transport myths that’s actually a half-truth. And the reasons why are simple. Driving a car as opposed to shipping it takes into account a lot of factors that aren’t present when you ship. While you might be able to drive your car coast-to-coast for less than the going auto transport rate, you kind of can’t. Bear with me here.

Let’s total up the costs that come with shipping a car: you have the down payment, and you have the COD payment to the carrier. With our company, you pay the down payment upon dispatch, and you pay the rest of the balance to the carrier at delivery.

Now let’s look at all the things you have to pay when driving your vehicle:

  1. Fuel. Fuel costs are the number one costs for auto transport drivers, and they’ll probably be the largest cost for you as well. If you’re driving your car 3,000 miles, and you get 500 miles per tank of fuel, you’ll have to stop to fill the tank at least six times. Most cars get between 300-350 miles per tank (though this varies wildly depending on the vehicle). As such, you have to pay a lot in fuel.
  2. Lodging. If you’re not sleeping in your car on the drive, you have to sleep somewhere, right? Most people can average between 500-700 miles of driving per day. Sometimes 800 if you drive fast and don’t like sleep. But regardless, on a cross-country trek, that’s at least two days’ worth of lodging. Considering hotel costs, you could be spending anywhere from $100-400 total for lodging.
  3. Wear and tear. The last major cost is going to be how much wear and tear you put on your vehicle. Driving 3,000 miles? You’ll need an oil change before you leave and another when you arrive. Same with a tire rotation – sometimes, you may even need new tires. That much driving puts a lot of wear and tear on a vehicle that will incur costs down the road. Factor in those additional costs, and it’s pretty easy to see how you can eclipse the amount you’d pay to just ship it.

Myth: Lower quotes are better because they’re cheaper

The last of the common auto transport myths we tackle is laughably inaccurate. And it has a lot to do with what we talked about in the myth about shipping via a carrier instead of a broker. Specifically, the fact that carriers want to make as much money as possible.

So when you use that kind of logic and apply it here, it’s easy to see that, no, lower quotes are not better, because they won’t get carriers to bite.

Part of what a broker does is negotiate the price you pay for you. But, in order to find carriers willing to even discuss the price, the price has to be in the ballpark. If the going rate on a route is $800 to the carrier, and you choose a broker who’s coming in at $600 to the carrier, that’s a problem.

If you choose a rate that’s lower than any other, it’s not going to move your vehicle. There’s standby shipping, I suppose, but even then it’s a crap shoot and if you have to get it moved relatively quickly it’s not really an option.

You don’t need to choose the highest-priced quote you receive (yet another common auto transport myth). Sometimes, too high is too high. This may be an option if you need to get your vehicle picked up ASAP, as higher priced loads tend to go faster. But for the most part, a middle-of-the-road quote is usually priced high enough to move it in your time frame without having you break the bank. You can still get cheap auto shipping services without sacrificing time.

Don’t let common auto transport myths get you down

There’s a lot to know about shipping a car, and tacking some of the most common auto transport myths is only part of the equation. To get the most out of it, make sure to contact one of our representatives any time at 800-930-7417. They can answer questions, give you a quote, give advice, book your shipment, and much more.

If you’re comparing prices and services, great! We highly recommend you do so, as finding the right company means more than just talking to someone. Compare prices and services, look at review of each company to see how they worked for other customers. We pride ourselves on our prices and our good ratings.

An auto transport company like us has one goal: help as many customers as possible. In this industry, customer service is everything, and it includes so much more than a good price. You can read our reviews to find out more about our ethos and how we help our customers every single day.

Dave Armstrong
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