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Transporting Your Vehicle – Should You Ship, Tow, Haul, or Drive?

When you want to move your vehicle from point A to point B, you have quite a few available options to consider. The most common one is to drive it yourself to the intended destination. But, what happens when, say, you need to transport your car a long distance? Or your vehicle may not be reliable enough to drive it? This is where alternative solutions come into play, such as towing, shipping, and hauling (with the help of another vehicle).

In this guide, our American Auto Shipping experts highlight the differences between these options to help you decide whether shipping, towing, hauling, or driving your vehicle is your best bet.


Shipping Your Car

Car shipping is a handy solution that is specifically designed for long distances. Car shipping companies provide affordable options, such as open auto transport trailers and train transport, primarily due to the fact that they can ship many vehicles in one go. Car shipping is also an excellent choice if you are moving an expensive, luxury, antique, or custom-made car. Most carriers that respect themselves and their customers offer enclosed auto transport options on top of standard covered trailers, plus a plethora of features that ensure maximum safety during the transport of your vehicle.

That being said, note that vehicles are being transferred for days or even weeks at a time before they reach their final destination. This requires proper planning and scheduling car shipping in advance so the auto shipping company can make the necessary arrangements for the best, safest, and most convenient (also cost-effective) way to ship your car across country.

Auto Shipping – Pros:

  • The auto shipping company does everything for you. You only schedule the drop-off and pickup times.
  • You don’t have to drive the car yourself, which could involve being on the road for many hours or even days.
  • Auto shipping is often more cost-effective than car towing and hauling your car with another vehicle as you don’t need to think about things like the cost of gas mileage and vehicle maintenance once the hauling is done. Also, hiring a tow company to transfer your car to a different state is much more expensive than having it shipped.
  • You are free to drive or fly to your new place faster without having to haul another vehicle, especially when moving states.
  • Less (to no) wear and tear on your car.
  • Protection from unfavorable weather conditions.
  • Little to no risk of accidents or damage. 
  • Open-air and enclosed transport options available to suit your needs for car safety and protection.
  • Drivers with tens of thousands of driving experience shipping your vehicle.


Auto Shipping – Cons:

  • You might have to drive your car to the nearest drop-off or pickup location, which could be a few miles away or more.
  • It may take several days (even weeks) to have your car delivered to you. This is because it travels along with several other vehicles that also need to be picked up and dropped off.
  • Not always the best option for short-distance moving. The scheduling involved (you may need to make the necessary arrangements several weeks in advance) and the cost are probably not worth it for short routes.


Towing Your Car

Many people confuse towing with shipping. However, these two auto transport options have several differences. Car towing is a procedure that involves parking your vehicle on top of a platform or trailer that is towed by a tow truck (or fixed atop the truck). Now, the most used solution is car towing with a tow company, which requires no equipment (purchased or rented) on your behalf (as opposed to towing your car yourself – see below).

Most tow trucks come with handy features such as built-in platforms that help pull in and carry a vehicle to its new location, which is excellent for quick pickups. The downside is their availability. They are barely available to the general public for either purchase or rent. This means that you will need to call a tow company and use their services so you can have your car towed. In the majority of cases, tow companies respond within minutes (or hours, depending on the distance they need to cover to come to you) after your call.

Car Towing – Pros:

  • Most car towing companies are available 24/7 and will get to you on the same day – an ideal solution for individuals doing things at the last minute.
  • Car towing is a flexible and efficient choice as it does not require scheduling days or even months in advance.
  • The price is usually right, especially for non-working vehicles that need to be moved across town (and often to a different state).


Car Towing – Cons:

  • Could be an expensive option for out of state transfers.
  • There is a risk of damage due to the carrier’s rush (carriers are paid by the number of projects they handle every day, so they need to finish as many tasks per day as possible).
  • Car towing companies usually offer short-distance vehicle towing services.


Hauling or Pulling Your Vehicle

Hauling your car yourself (with the use of another vehicle) is probably a good and affordable way to transport your car, especially for short-distance travels. However, you will need the proper equipment to get the job done, which may increase the cost. First of all, you need a trailer to securely hitch the car to the vehicle you are driving, and then carry it. The good news is that you will find both uncovered and covered trailers for rent in most major cities, with uncovered trailers being the most cost-effective solution in both gas mileage and rental price. Covered trailers, on the other hand, provide more protection to the hauled vehicle.

Besides a trailer, you should make sure that the vehicle you will use to haul your car is capable of handling the task at hand. For example, if you are using a sedan to haul an SUV, chances are you won’t make it. In some cases, even using an SUV to tow a sedan won’t work. To determine whether the vehicle that will haul your car is capable of towing it, check the vehicle’s towing capacity and the combined weight of both the trailer and your car. If the latter number is equal to or greater than the first, you will probably be fine. In the opposite case, you will need a stronger vehicle to tow your car.

Hauling Your Vehicle – Pros:

  • You get to decide when you want to drive (haul) your car with another vehicle. You leave whenever you feel like it.
  • Hauling your car with another vehicle is the most inexpensive option for short distances.
  • If you already have the needed towing equipment and own a vehicle capable of towing, it will be super easy to transfer your car without spending lots of money, even at long distances.


Hauling Your Vehicle – Cons:

  • You need to find and rent the right equipment, including a trailer and/or a vehicle to haul your car.
  • You must do all the work yourself (i.e., lock the car into place on a trailer and tow it from Point A to Point B). This means more effort and time is required on our side.
  • There are several risks involved, including user error when you hitch your trailer, connect your car, and drive it, especially over long DIY routes.
  • The engine of the vehicle you will use to haul your car is put under enormous pressure, which increases the wear and tear risk.
  • Not the safest or most efficient option compared to car shipping or towing with a tow company.


Driving Your Car

Driving their own car from Point A to Point B is, for many people, the best option. And, it is, if you are ready to take the responsibility of transporting your vehicle in your own hands. However, you need to consider several factors before making up your mind about the optimal solution to transport your car to another location.

Factors to consider include the driving distance. You may also need to drive through heavy traffic, improper road infrastructure, and rough topography. Not to mention the number of days you will be driving if moving from coast to coast (thousands of miles to be covered). Calculating all that will give you an idea of the fuel you will need and how long it will take you to get to the desired destination. Weather considerations, additional costs, such as parking fees, lodging, meals, and road tolls, and the cost of wear and tear on your vehicle are also things to bear in mind.

Driving Your Car – Pros

  • You are in control of the situation.
  • Good option for short-distance moving.


Driving Your Car – Cons

  • Requires a lot of time, effort, and responsibility from you.
  • It may not be the safest option for cross-country travels (i.e., an accident may occur, you may fall asleep while driving, the car may break down in the middle of nowhere, etc.).
  • Lots of wear and tear on your car due to the extra mileage.
  • Harsh weather effects.
  • Requires a lot of planning on your end.


Still unsure as to which car transport option to choose? Give us a call or contact us via our online form and let our highly experienced team of auto shipping specialists offer expert advice. Or, you could start by using our Auto Transport Calculator to get a transparent and affordable price quote within 30 seconds!

Dave Armstrong
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