When transporting a vehicle one of the most important legal documents is the Bill of Lading. The Bill of Lading is not only your receipt for the transportation of your vehicle, it is also an inspection report, a terms and conditions sheet and a dispatch report all at the same time.

Understanding what your Bill of Lading does and what protections it gives you – as well as what is not protected – is incredibly important to the success of your auto transport experience.

For those of you who are familiar with the Bill of Lading, or those of you who have shipped a vehicle before, this article can serve as a good refresher in what each part of the Bill of Lading is. Likely, though, there is nothing here you do not already know. This article is designed more for those of you who have never shipped a car before – please read this article carefully, as it will help tremendously when it comes to transporting your vehicle.

Please note that your Bill of Lading may be laid out differently than what we present here, but the information presented in this article is required to be on the Bill of Lading, regardless of where exactly it is located.

Understanding Your Bill of Lading
An example of a typical Bill of Lading. Note yours may look different depending on what company ships your vehicle.

This will give you the company’s name and information, as well as the order number, the date and the name of the driver.

Pickup and Delivery Information
This is where the Bill of Lading acts as a dispatch sheet. Your exact pickup and delivery addresses will be located here, as well as contact information for the pickup and delivery contacts (should they be different).

Vehicle Information
Under the vehicle information section will be the where all the information regarding the vehicle being shipped will go. This will usually include the year, make and model of the vehicle, as well as the color, license plate number, VIN (vehicle identification number), the current mileage (to make sure the carrier doesn’t go Ferris Bueller on your car), whether or not it’s oversize (and by how much), and any additional information regarding the vehicle.

Note that not all of these fields may be required by your carrier, but you should make sure he takes it all down anyway. This is in part to make sure that everything is accounted for with your vehicle, and that the vehicle you gave to the carrier is the one that you get (not that theft or car-swapping is common, but hey, gotta make sure all the covered, right?). Read more about important vehicle information for your auto transport company.

Vehicle Condition
This part is important. Typically located under the vehicle information, the vehicle condition section is where any current damages will be marked during the pickup inspection – and any new damages will be marked at the delivery inspection. As auto transport drivers are required to do an inspection with you per federal law at both pickup and delivery, this is the best method you have of making sure that your vehicle is properly accounted for.

When doing the inspection you want to note any minor dings, dents, scratches in addition to any major damage (if there is any). There are several different variations of this particular part of the Bill of Lading, but you should be able to quickly tell how the damage will be accounted for. Many Bill of Ladings are actually tailored to the specific type of vehicle – for instance, there are Bill of Ladings for pickup trucks, SUV’s, cargo and minivans, sedans, coupes, hot rods, etc. Make sure that your Bill of Lading accurately represents your vehicle.

Terms and Conditions
The penultimate part of the Bill of Lading that you should pay attention to are the carrier’s terms and conditions. If you booked your shipment through a brokerage, these terms and conditions will likely be different than the broker’s, so you should make sure to read both companies’ terms thoroughly so you understand exactly what you’re getting into.

The terms and conditions for auto carriers will likely vary in verbiage, length and content, so it’s imperative you read them. You don’t want to get into a situation that is covered by the terms and conditions, but because you didn’t read them you expected something different. These situations are quite common in the car shipping industry, so please, please make sure that you pay attention to all the legalities regarding your transport company.

Lastly, we come to the final part of the Bill of Lading – your actual signature (and that of the driver). Signatures are required at both pickup and delivery, and they are your acknowledgement that you read the Bill of Lading and understand its contents and that you agree with them.

If you don’t agree with what’s on the Bill of Lading, don’t sign it. Don’t sign if you have questions, don’t sign if you don’t do an inspection, because once you do it’s binding. You want to make sure you fully understand what the Bill of Lading is telling you before signing, and realize that once you do that’s your authorization for the carrier to load your vehicle and begin the transportation process. Until you sign, your vehicle will not be loaded onto the carrier’s truck.

If you have questions or concerns about the content in this article, feel free to call us directly at 800-930-7417 to speak to one of our live auto transport agents, who can explain in greater detail the information presented in this or any article you encounter on our website.

If you need auto transport quotes, fill out our free online form and get a comprehensive, no-hassle quote to ship your vehicle right away. If you would prefer a more human approach, give us a call to speak to a live agent and get your quote right over the phone. You can also ask any representative questions, or even book your order if you’re ready.

Dave Armstrong
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