What Is Enclosed Auto Transport?

Enclosed auto transport is one of several methods used to ship vehicles across the country. Enclosed auto transporters use a covered, contained transport trailer to move vehicles safely and securely. This is in comparison to open car shipping, which sees cars loaded onto a trailer that is “open” to the elements. Enclosed trailers do not leave vehicles open to the elements.

Most open trailers can move ten vehicles at one time. In contrast, enclosed auto shipping trucks move between two and six vehicles at a single time, often in just one tier. This is in contrast to open trailers that move ten cars on two racks stacked one on top of the other.

With enclosed shipping services, your vehicle will be protected and isolated from the elements, bugs, other vehicles, random occurrences, and damage during loading and unloading. While enclosed transportation is best used for antique, exotic, or luxury vehicles, any vehicle can be shipped in an enclosed trailer. While it is more expensive than the standard open option, it does protect your vehicle more efficiently. We highly recommend discussing open vs enclosed auto transportation services with one of our representatives if you are interested.

An enclosed auto transport trailer with a hydraulic lift gate.

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Advantages of Enclosed Auto Transport

Perhaps the biggest advantage of shipping your vehicle with an enclosed transport truck is that your vehicle is protected from dirt, debris, inclement weather, and other potential hazards. But contrary to popular belief, most vehicles damaged during transport on an open trailer are actually damaged during the loading and unloading of other vehicles.

The reason why is that open trailers have ten total vehicles moving on them at a time. That’s ten vehicles that are loaded, one at a time, that are then subsequently unloaded one at a time. At each stop for pickup or delivery, there is an opportunity for damage to occur due to improper loading and unloading.

This is much less of a factor with an enclosed trailer, as they move fewer vehicles in a full load. That, and most enclosed auto transport drivers schedule pickups and deliveries to make them first-on, last-off. This means that your vehicle usually won’t be rearranged to fit other vehicles in an enclosed trailer, as they often are on open trailers.

Accidents are certainly not common. However, they are not unheard of, either. While enclosed transporters may be more expensive than open carriers, there are many vehicles on the road that demand additional protection. The biggest advantage when it comes to shipping your vehicle enclosed is, quite honestly, peace of mind.

Soft Enclosed Versus Hard Side Enclosed Auto Transport

While there are lots of different enclosed auto transport trailers on the road, they come in two main varieties: soft side, and hard side. 

Soft side trailers have canvas or some other thick, tear-resistant material that covers the trailer itself and protects the cargo. Think of a covered wagon from the time of the pioneers; that’s more what you can expect with a soft side trailer. 

While these trailers can protect any vehicle on the road, they are typically designed less for high-end and really expensive cars, and more for the middle-of-the-road kind of vehicles. The ones that are still expensive, but that you’re still comfortable driving on a daily basis. 

You may not want to ship a Rolls Royce with a soft side trailer, but a Mercedes bought off the lot should be just fine.

Hard side trailers, on the other hand, are built to endure. These are the ones that resemble the big semi-trucks you see on the road every day with the big, boxy trailers. These are made of metal and are much more resistant to damage while on the road. Whereas a soft side trailer might be damaged by high-velocity debris, a hard side trailer can take much more punishment.

Because of this, hard-side enclosed auto transport trailers are often the best for really high-end vehicles. We often recommend hard-side shipping services for people shipping expensive cars to and from auto shows, for instance, or classic cars that have retained their value despite their age.

Of course, you can choose enclosed auto shipping services regardless of the type of vehicle you are shipping. It depends on your budget, and we highly recommend speaking to a representative to learn more about enclosed transportation services and whether or not they are right for you and your needs.

Enclosed Stacking Versus Enclosed Non-Stacking Auto Transport Trailers

When you ship a car, there are two main types of trailers that you can choose regardless of open or enclosed, and that’s stacking vs non-stacking.

It’s pretty self-explanatory: an enclosed stacking trailer allows room for vehicles to be stacked on two different rows, one on top of another. A non-stacking transport trailer means there is only one row of vehicles, with nothing on top.

There shouldn’t be much of a difference in the price if any at all. However, some non-stacking trailers will charge a bit more because they can’t haul as many vehicles as a stacking trailer. Keep in mind, though, that even stacking trailers can rarely haul more than six vehicles at a time.

The main difference between the two is that, with a stacking trailer, oil and other vehicle fluids can leak down onto the vehicles on the bottom row. If that is something that concerns you with your shipment, speak to a representative about whether or not we can ensure top-load only.

Most carriers are happy to accommodate specific requests for top or bottom load, but it can increase the amount of time it takes to find an enclosed hauler for you.

enclosed stacking auto transport trailer

An example of a stacking enclosed auto shipping trailer

Should You Ship Your Vehicle Via Enclosed Transport?

You can ship any vehicle with an enclosed auto transport truck (so long as it can physically fit on the trailer). However, that doesn’t mean you always should

Typically, we recommend enclosed transport services for anyone with a vehicle that has some value to it. Vehicles depreciate in value over time, and start when you first drive it off the lot – even if it’s brand new! In fact, new vehicles can depreciate in value by upwards of 50% within the first two years. 

This is why we don’t generally recommend enclosed shipping for any kind of vehicle that is driven daily. A Toyota Prius or a Chevrolet Impala doesn’t need an enclosed truck because, on an open truck, they’ll be subjected to about the same amount of risk that you take when you drive it yourself. 

However, an enclosed truck mitigates much of that risk, which makes it optimal for vehicles that are not driven every day.

Vehicles such as show cars, garage cars, high-end sports cars, antiques, and high-end classic cars are the ones that you will typically want to ship via an enclosed transport truck. If this is something you are interested in, we recommend speaking to a representative.

How Much Does Enclosed Auto Transport Cost?

Now we get into the meat and potatoes of the open vs enclosed argument: how much it costs to ship your car.

Enclosed auto transport will almost always be more expensive than your typical open transport trailer. Open car transport trucks usually haul up to ten vehicles at a time. This allows the driver to spread the cost of the entire shipment over ten different vehicles, as opposed to 2-6 like with an enclosed truck.

This typically results in a 50-100% increase in cost for an enclosed truck over the cost of an open transporter on the same route. A shipment that costs say, $1000 for an open hauler, will usually cost anywhere from $1500-$2000 on the same route for an enclosed truck.

These differences might seem high, but the fact is that it’s not cheap to operate an auto transport truck. Most auto shippers make little profit when all is said and done as it is. With costs already low to compete with other shippers on the road, if enclosed trucks were to charge any less they would likely be operating at a loss.

There are definitely extra costs involved with using an enclosed car carrier. The extra attention the vehicle receives, and the time it takes to prepare to ship your car are two reasons why. If you have a vehicle that needs to be shipped, and it is an exotic, luxury, or antique, enclosed auto transport is your best bet.

How Long Does It Take to Ship a Car Using Enclosed Transport?

Like with any vehicle you transport, there are two main waiting periods: the wait time to find a carrier and get them to pick up the vehicle, and the actual transit time.

In terms of the wait time to get your vehicle picked up, enclosed transport services can take a bit longer to arrange than open shipping because there aren’t as many enclosed trucks on the road. There are more than enough, but it can still take a bit longer to actually get your vehicle booked and then picked up.

When it comes to transit time, though, those should be the same as they are with a standard open transport truck. Carriers can only drive so far and for so long before they have to take scheduled breaks per federal law, after all, and despite the differences in truck designs and trailers used, carriers offer the same transit times on the same routes regardless.

Why Use American’s Enclosed Auto Transport Service

American Auto Shipping offers comprehensive enclosed transportation services for all our clients regardless of what kind of vehicle they are transporting. We use only top-rated carriers that are known for quality service and we make sure that their trucks are fully enclosed before we dispatch to them. We have over 20 years of experience shipping cars via enclosed carriers and can ensure that you can ship your car quickly, easily, and efficiently.

If you would like to ship your vehicle, whether on an open or enclosed auto transport truck, give us a call! We can give you a quote right over the phone that is priced to move your vehicle when you need to move it.

Our representatives are more than reps; they are auto transport concierges that are with you from the moment you get a quote to after your vehicle is delivered. So give us a call today and see what American Auto Shipping can do for you.

3 More Reasons Why You Should Use Us to Ship Your Vehicle:

Direct Driver Contact

Throughout your entire auto transport experience with us, you can stay in contact with your enclosed carrier to find out what the status is.

Personal Concierge

On our end, we will give you a personal concierge to help answer any questions, help you check on your vehicle, and take care of anything that arises during the shipping process.

Best Prices In The Industry

With our vast network of carriers, we can offer the most competitive rates on the market. Not only will we take care of your vehicle, we'll get it where it's going for as cheap as possible.

Just need to ship your car?

Upwards of 95% of vehicles don’t need to be shipped via an enclosed carrier. Using an open auto transport carrier is more than acceptable for the vast majority of vehicles, and is likely to be easier to get arranged.

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