Your Guide to
Auto Transport Services

Whether you’re a first-time shipper or someone who has moved multiple vehicles before, it’s always good to have a guide to auto transport services. Being able to refresh yourself on the process and what you can expect when shipping a car, or having tips and tricks at your fingertips through a guide of some kind, can be invaluable no matter how many times you’ve shipped a car.

That’s why we’ve created this definitive guide to auto transport – for our customers, both current and future.

Your Guide to Auto Transport – Where to Start

Once you know for sure that you are shipping a vehicle, you need to find someone to actually move it. This is both easy and difficult, depending on what you’re shipping, when you’re shipping, and how you need to move it.

To start, find a broker, not a carrier. Brokers are auto transport companies that find carriers for customers. Carriers are the transportation company that physically move vehicles from point A to point B.

It’s important to find a broker because carriers rely on brokers for the vast, vast majority of the loads they ship. Finding a carrier company yourself is much more difficult, as they don’t advertise their services online. Most carriers don’t have websites or marketing teams or people to book those orders – they have dispatchers that work with brokers to keep their trucks full.

Some tips on finding the right broker for you

You want to find a company that has some or all of the following:

  • Quality, binding quotes
  • Experience 
  • Quality customer reviews

Quality, binding quotes

Each auto transport broker entices customers with their quotes. Whether it’s given over the phone, online through a form, or in an email, the quote is where every customer starts determining which company is best for them.


As such, finding a company with quality quotes is important. But what is a “quality” quote?


In the auto transport world, carriers set the prices most of the time. Brokers, therefore, have to walk a fine line – keep their quotes low enough to get customers, while also keeping them high enough for the carriers to move it.


This means it’s important to shop around. A quote that is lower than other quotes you get likely won’t move your vehicle as quickly. They can be great if you’re not pressed for time, but most customers are.


At the same time, you need to make sure that the quotes are binding – meaning that the price won’t change at the last minute. There are far more companies that do not offer binding quotes than those that do. This means that many brokers can and likely will change your price based on what prices the carriers are asking for.


Companies that do offer binding quotes, though, will put their own money on the line to make sure your vehicle gets moved. If their price is too low, they will add their own money instead of asking you for more. Your price doesn’t change – that’s what makes it binding.




Anyone can open an auto transport brokerage (though fewer than in years past). As most brokers operate primarily online, it’s not hard to get a license and start trying to find customers.


Of course, it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. Many brokers still pop up and then disappear within a year or two. They often make mistakes such as low prices or low deposits as a way of getting customers to book, but then they struggle to make ends meet because of how expensive it can be to run a brokerage.


Companies with experience, however – years under their belt – don’t make those mistakes. Their practices work – if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be in business. Brokers that have that kind of experience are better at customer service and have a reputation as a quality service provider for customers and carriers alike. They are more trusted, which earns them more business, which allows them to continue providing quality services.

Customer Reviews

Quality customer reviews – this ties in with our last point, but it’s important we touch on it anyway. Customer reviews are the lifeblood of many businesses nowadays, as the world transitions to more connectivity and interaction thanks to the internet. 


Auto shippers that have good reviews are good companies on the whole. And many legitimate, successful businesses will also have some bad reviews. Watch out for companies that have lots of bad reviews, of course – that’s a given.


What you really want to look for, when it comes to reviews, are responses by the business, to reviews both good and bad. It’s important to maintain a dialogue with customers, and companies that get lots of good reviews and also respond to their reviews are often the ones you want to book your shipment with.

Your Guide to Auto Transport – The Process

Now that you know why auto transport brokers are important and how to find the right one, let’s talk about how the process works from start to finish.
Step 1: Find a broker.

This is pretty simple – you find an auto shipping company to transport your vehicle. Book your shipment, making sure to give them all the pertinent information including the date your vehicle is ready to be picked up.

Step 3: Coordinate with your carrier.

Once a truck is assigned, and you have the dates for pickup and delivery, you will need to coordinate that pickup and delivery with the carrier. Most of the time, this is pretty simple. They give you a time and day when they’ll arrive, and you assure that you’ll be available – or, if you cannot be, someone else will be available on your behalf – to release the vehicle to the carrier.

Step 5: Wait.

Once your vehicle is physically on the truck, you’ll be waiting some more as they transport your vehicle to the destination. How long it will take depends on your route; you can read more about transit times below.

Step 7: Inspect the vehicle at delivery.

This is where you will inspect the vehicle for any new damage to the vehicle. Damage is rare during the transport of a vehicle, but it’s not a guarantee it won’t happen. This is why the pickup inspection is also important; it allows you and the driver both to compare the state of the vehicle against how it was at pickup. The more detailed the pickup inspection report, the better!

Step 2: Wait.

Once your order is booked, the broker will start looking for a carrier company to transport your vehicle. The broker will often give you a range in which they expect to find a carrier, but please note that no range given is 100% guaranteed to get your vehicle assigned to a truck or picked up.

Step 4: Inspect the vehicle at pickup.

Part of picking up a vehicle is the vehicle inspection, which is mandatory. This is where the carrier will mark any existing damage, such as scratches, dings, dents, or worse, if it’s there, on the Bill of Lading. We’ll talk more about your BoL further down, but please be sure you or the person releasing the vehicle does the inspection with the driver and signs the paperwork. Failure to do a proper inspection can leave you unable to file a damage claim, should damage occur during transport.

Step 6: Coordinate with your carrier (for delivery).

This step is much the same as Step 3 above, except this time it will be for the delivery of your vehicle instead of the pickup.

Step 8: Sign the paperwork, pay the driver, and take your car!

After the inspection is done and the paperwork is signed, all you need to do is pay your driver their portion of the total cost, and you’re set! Sometimes, payment is handled at pickup, or you pay the broker the entire cost and they pay the driver, so your shipment may not owe money at delivery. The vast majority of shipments, though, are done cash on delivery.

Finding the Right Auto Transport Carrier

You should understand the different types of auto transport trucks on the road, as there are different ones that serve different types of vehicles. Booking transport on the wrong type of carrier can lead to problems including longer wait times that are unnecessary, potential damage issues, and more.

Open auto transport carrier

Open auto transport trucks are the most popular vehicle shipping trucks on the road today. They are the most common and the cheapest on the road. They can ship as few as 1-3 cars on a trailer, or as many as ten at a time!

Open transport trucks move vehicles on the back of an open trailer. What does “open” mean, though? It means that the vehicles they ship are open to the elements. In other words, they are not covered in any way; if it rains, the cars on the trailer get rained on. If it’s snowing, or sunny, they bear the brunt of that, too.

Open transport trucks provide a similar level of protection as when you’re driving it yourself. Of course, because it’s being transported and not driven, you don’t get the wear and tear on the wheels, the engine, or the undercarriage. So open transport trucks protect the vehicle more than it is when it’s being driven.

This is why open carriers are the most popular – and the cheapest – on the road. Most people are transporting vehicles that they drive daily, so they’re used to seeing dirt and mud on their vehicles. You should expect the same when shipping on an open transport truck as well – vehicles get dirty when they’re moved overland, naturally. 

Not only that, but their ability to move up to ten vehicles at a time helps to keep costs lower for consumers. Carriers can still turn a profit despite offering low per-mile prices for vehicles as they have up to nine other customers on their trucks as well.

Open transport is safe and secure for most vehicles that you see on the road. They are also the cheapest, as there are more open trucks on the road than any other type of transport truck. But they’re not the only ones.

Enclosed auto transport carrier

Enclosed auto transport trucks differ from open transport trucks in three key areas: price, protection, and availability.

Let’s start with the first: price. Enclosed transportation services are more expensive than their open counterparts, often by 50-100% more. This is because enclosed transport trucks often haul 2-6 vehicles at a time, and there are few that can take more. This means that the costs have to go up on a per-vehicle basis in order to keep the truck fueled and operating. 

However, the trade-off for a higher price is increased protection for the vehicles. Unlike an open transport truck, enclosed haulers are just that – completely enclosed. This means that the elements do not affect vehicles, and they are further protected from other on-the-road hazards such as dirt, debris, and accidents. 

Damage is much less common – almost non-existent – when vehicles ship enclosed. However, damage on an open transport truck is very rare as well – damage occurs on less than 3% of all vehicles shipped. 

Enclosed transport trucks, in addition to hauling fewer vehicles, are not as common on the road. This isn’t surprising; there’s less overall demand for their services.

We highly recommend enclosed transport for anyone shipping a vehicle that is going up in value. However, we also recommend it for higher-end sports cars and luxury cars, as well as classic cars, show cars, and other vehicles that retain their value over the long run.

Flatbed auto transport carrier

Flatbed auto transport trucks are the least popular and least used transport trucks on the road. They’re often not available on-demand; that is, you can’t usually call an auto transport company and say you want to move a car on a flatbed truck.

You’ve probably seen a flatbed – they’re common as tow trucks, for instance, and they’re used mainly for vehicles that cannot fit on a standard open or enclosed trailer. 

This includes vehicles such as heavy equipment, severely lifted or extended trucks and SUVs, motorhomes, boats, and other non-road-legal vehicles. 

It’s the most expensive method of transporting a vehicle and it is not used for standard vehicles. If the vehicle you are shipping is large, overweight, a piece of machinery or heavy equipment, then yes, flatbed auto transport is probably right for you. But for everything else, open or enclosed should do the trick.

This is the type of truck you want to discuss with your auto transport broker if you think you may need it. They will likely also let you know if you need it based on the vehicle information you provide.

Your Guide to Auto Transport: Popular Routes

The auto transport industry is very much route-based in terms of prices and carrier availability. This is not a surprise; carriers want to go where their customers are, so they stay on routes that take them into and out of major metropolitan areas. This means that big cities, like Los Angeles and Dallas, tend to be more popular than smaller cities and metropolitan areas.

But city size is far from the only major metric that plays into your price and transit times. You also have to look at the regions that cities are in. For instance, the northeast is pretty popular up until Boston – go further north, though, into states like New Hampshire and Maine, and there are few carriers that go up there. 

The same holds true for areas like Minnesota, especially Minneapolis, as well as the southwest, like Albuquerque. Both are major cities with hundreds of thousands of people in them, but they aren’t popular among carriers due to a lack of anything nearby. Minneapolis is a long drive away from other major cities, as is Albuquerque. So these areas tend to take a bit longer to ship to or from and usually cost a bit more per-mile than other, more easily-accessible areas.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ship a car to or from those areas. It just means you need to prepare yourself for a longer wait or a higher price – or both, depending on the time of year.

This is the type of truck you want to discuss with your auto transport broker if you think you may need it. They will likely also let you know if you need it based on the vehicle information you provide.

Your Guide to Auto Transport: Transit Times

One of the biggest sources of confusion for many customers is the idea of transit time. Every route has a transit time associated with it, ranging from a few hours for local trips of only a hundred miles or so, to weeks for cross-country shipments.

Your transit time is going to depend on where you are shipping from and to as well as the physical route the carrier is taking. On average, though, carriers can drive 400-500 miles per day. You can use this to estimate the transit time on your shipment.

This of course is just an estimate. Transit times are affected by numerous factors as well, including inclement weather, traffic and reroutes along the highway, as well as delays in other pickups and deliveries. 

Note, too, that auto transport carriers have to abide by both state and federal laws and regulations that govern how long they can drive. After a point, carriers have to take a mandatory 34 hour rest period before resuming driving. This can push transit times back a bit depending on when that rest period occurs. 

Your Guide to Auto Transport: Shipping Seasons

Though auto transport services are available year-round, summer and winter tend to be extreme in terms of demand for services. While spring and autumn are usually fairly stable in terms of pricing and availability, summer and winter mark drastic changes, with the former seeing lots of demand and the latter seeing much less.

Summertime is the peak season for car transport services. Lots of people need to ship a car for a litany of different reasons. A lot of people, especially those with children, like to move during the summer so they don’t disrupt their kids’ schooling. More people are buying vehicles during the summer months, and with weather generally nice across the country, many people wait to ship until the spring or summer to avoid snow and ice.

This increase in demand can be both good and bad. On less popular routes, the increase in demand along most routes tends to result in faster pickup times and lower prices, so trucks can maintain full loads. 

However, on more popular routes, prices tend to increase. This has to do with how many carriers there are versus how many people are shipping. More people shipping means more demand for truck space, but only so many trucks. Carriers, therefore, can get the highest-paying loads first, leaving cheaper shipments behind. As such, out of major areas like Los Angeles and Miami, prices can skyrocket.

During the winter months, though, demand drops considerably. This results in lower prices along most routes, though along less popular routes – where there are fewer people shipping vehicles – prices can actually go up a fair bit, as carriers have a harder time keeping their trucks full. 

On more popular routes, though, prices decrease as there are plenty of carriers running those routes still, but much less demand. This means carriers have to take whatever they can usually, resulting in lower prices for most customers.

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