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Five Tips for Auto Shipping During the Holidays

Auto Shipping During the Holidays

It’s getting close to winter, which means it’s time we talk about auto shipping during the holidays. While we may only be talking about two major ones the holiday season is rife with changes to the auto transportation industry. The season also extends to New Year’s Day, with the winter season running through March.

The winter shipping season is already slower than spring and summer. But, when they throw the holidays into the mix, there are even more deviations from the norm that we need to keep in mind.

It’s crucial to understand how winter weather and the holiday season might affect available car transport services – and prices. To get the most out of your shipment this holiday season, read our five tips for auto shipping during the holidays below and make sure to speak to a representative for more information.

A brief overview of auto shipping during the holidays

Shipping a vehicle during the holidays isn’t tricky – we do it every day, after all. But, with the holidays being smack in the middle of winter, it can be a bit more challenging in terms of finding a carrier at a reasonable price.

During the winter months, prices tend to drop on most routes. The main exception to this is New England to Florida and the Great Lakes to the Southwest, as these are called “snowbird routes.” Snowbirds, as we’ve discussed before, are people who move south during the winter months to escape the colder winter weather. These routes have excessive demand, so most significant carriers shift to those north-south routes because that’s where the majority of customers are. This results in carriers being able to choose the highest-paying loads first, which means price hikes.

When the holidays roll around, things get more complicated, especially in terms of scheduling. Carriers don’t want to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Many don’t want to work the day before or after those as well. So we tend to see the amount of dispatched cars (cars assigned for pickup) go down during times close to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We also tend to see delays in terms of transit time. If a carrier can run their regular route in seven days, it may take ten days if they are moving during Thanksgiving week. They’ll want to stop and enjoy the holiday as well, and then get back on the road the next day or the day after. It isn’t surprising – most people don’t want to work through the holidays, after all.

Because of this, transit times may be increased by a day or two during the holidays.

Urban vs. rural transportation and how it could affect you

Did you know that large urban areas tend to see less snow accumulation than smaller suburban or rural areas? The reason for this is a phenomenon called the Urban Heat Island Effect. An urban heat island, or UHI, is an area that is significantly warmer than other surrounding areas due to human activity. You see this most often in dense downtown areas – think Manhattan or Los Angeles. These areas have many tall buildings and lots of people. During the day, the sun shines and heats the concrete and other building materials, which then take longer to dissipate said heat.

That’s a lot of words to say that urban areas might be easier to ship to or from because they won’t have as much snow covering them.

We’re not saying downtown areas that experience UHI will never have snow, of course. We’re merely letting you know that urban areas may be easier than rural ones for carriers to access. Ease of access can save you money, too. An excellent example of this is Washington, D.C. The District of Columbia has ordinances restricting large logistics trucks from driving on certain surface streets, which decreases a carrier’s ease of access. They will often charge less to meet customers outside of the D.C. area because it’s easier for them.

The same goes for urban vs. rural auto transport. Rural areas, especially in the north, see more snow, which means carriers will have a harder time accessing those areas. Lower ease of access can lead to price increases to or from regions that are already higher-priced than their urban counterparts.

Understanding how prices and services might change

Typically, prices during the winter season – and the holiday season – are lower than during the spring and summer. We touched on this earlier as well – minus snowbird routes, prices for auto transport services plummet across the nation. There is less freight, as there are fewer people shipping vehicles, so it’s not surprising. When the demand for transportation is low, prices drop, as carriers have to take what they can get.

During the holiday season, car shipping prices don’t fluctuate too much. That is to say; prices don’t go up or down because of certain holidays. Instead, the availability of carriers tend to go down during the holidays.

Availability is something we touched on earlier, but the nature of it demands more discussion. Carriers don’t want to work if they don’t have to (that’s true for most people it seems). That desire is expressed much more so during the holidays.

During the days before Thanksgiving and Christmas, for instance, carrier availability tends to be high. They are trying to fill out their trucks so they can either empty them before the holiday or immediately afterward. They do this for several reasons, but mostly it comes down to convenience. It’s a lot easier for a carrier to build a load before the holiday so they can then spend a day or two enjoying it with their family.

As we mentioned above as well, carriers will tack on any additional time they take off the road to your estimated delivery date. So carriers won’t pick up a vehicle on the Monday before Thanksgiving, tell you it’ll take three days, and not show up until Saturday. They will include any planned time off in your transit time estimate.

This same mindset also applies to price. Your price will never change once the driver loads your vehicle onto their truck.

Always be prepared for anything

When you’re traveling long distances all day every day, delays will happen. It’s inevitable. Carriers must prepare themselves for anything that might occur, and the same goes for you.

When you’re transporting a vehicle, it’s essential to prepare for anything. Yes, most cars that customers need transported will move within seven days. No, damage does not happen often, and of the thousands of vehicles we have shipped, we have had to deal with just two or three damage claims.

But none of that means that you shouldn’t prepare for things to go wrong, which is especially true when it comes to auto shipping during the holidays. You need to prep yourself for possible delays in pickup, transit times, or delivery. There is always a possibility during the holidays that your vehicle may not be picked up or delivered on time. Most of the time it is due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

These delays almost always come from inclement weather and traffic conditions, and, like damage or long wait times for dispatch, it’s relatively rare. But it does happen, so you need to have a backup plan.

Have a backup plan

Plan B is always essential, no matter what you’re planning on doing. Whether you’re planning a trip to the beach, a shopping trip on Black Friday, or anything else, it’s crucial to have a plan for when your plans go south. The same holds for auto shipping during the holidays.

Expecting your vehicle to arrive the day after a holiday? If so, you need to prepare for the possibility it will not be there until the next day. Is it common? No. Does it happen? Yes. So make sure you arrange some alternative means of getting around while you wait for delivery.

It’s essential to always have your ducks in a row, especially during such a volatile time as the winter holidays.

If you’re interested in shipping a vehicle, give us a call! We have quality auto transport experts standing by who can answer your questions. They can also give a quote over the phone, and explain what you can expect with auto shipping during the holidays. No matter what or when you’re shipping, American Auto Shipping is here to help.

Dave Armstrong
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