Rear view of a vehicle shipping carrier truck as it travels cross-country through a remote, forested part of the country.

Is Shipping a Car Easy? How To Ship a Car (Step By Step)

Relocation and Moving

by Easton Smith Posted on June 14, 2024
Cars are made to get us from place to place. But sometimes — like when you’re moving across the country — your vehicle is the one that needs a lift. If you’re looking for information on shipping a car, you’re not alone. The industry can be a bit confusing, and if you’re not careful, you might get stuck with a damaged vehicle or an inflated bill. 

That’s why we compiled this list of steps for shipping your car. If you follow this guide, you should have a smooth ride from start to finish. 

But before we jump in, here are some answers to a few commonly asked financial questions about shipping a car.

How Much Does It Cost To Ship a Car?

The cost of shipping a car can vary significantly, depending on the distance, timing, and origination and destination cities. For ballpark figures, Forbes says the average cost is around $1,150, but pricing can be as low as $550 or as high as $2,400. This comes out to an average of $1.15 per mile. Add on a few bucks (think $150 to $250) if you have a larger truck or SUV.

Want some more detailed pricing? Like how much does it cost to ship a car from Florida to Michigan? Or how much to ship a car from Florida to California? Here are some distance examples (minus specifics, like timing):

Starting destination

End destination






1,390 miles

$0.60-$1.70 per mile




2,700 miles

$0.60-$1.70 per mile



New York

1,100 miles

$0.60-$1.70 per mile


Source: Forbes

What Is the Cheapest Way of Shipping Cars? 

Usually, the cheapest way to ship your car is to book directly with a local or regional company. Going with an independent car shipping company may require more research and preparation than using a broker. If you do use a broker, though, be wary of deals that sound too good to be true. Sometimes, they’ll quote a very cheap price, and then you’ll end up stuck with a big bill when your car is actually delivered.

Is It Cheaper To Ship a Car Or Drive?

It may sound cheaper to drive your car to your new home rather than paying a car shipping company, but keep in mind that shipping a car yourself means paying for your own gas, food, hotel rooms, and more. Plus, you’re putting wear and tear on your vehicle.

9 Steps for Shipping Your Car

Shipping a car doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require some research to ensure you choose the right car shipping company and are covered for the road ahead — perhaps somewhat literally. These tips can help you figure out how to ship a car safely and get everything squared away before moving day.

    1. Determine Your Desired Vehicle Shipping Date Right Away.
    2. Research How To Ship a Car.
    3. Pick a Reliable Car Shipping Company.
    4. Choose the Right Vehicle Shipping Method.
    5. Get a Contract With Your Car Shipping Company.
    6. Check Your Auto Shipper’s Insurance Coverage.
    7. Clean and Document Your Vehicle’s Condition Before It’s Shipped.
    8. Disable Alarms and Remove Accessories Before Transporting a Vehicle.
    9. Inspect Your Car After the Vehicle Shipping Concludes.

1. Determine Your Desired Vehicle Shipping Date Right Away. 

Sometimes you need your car shipped right now. Maybe you just purchased a car from out of state, and you can’t wait a week to get it. Or maybe you need to haul your classic car across the country for a last-minute auto show. Or you need to make a last-minute move. Life happens.

But whenever possible, you should schedule your vehicle shipping as soon as you know it’s needed. Besides distance and location, the timing of shipping a car is probably the number one factor in determining its cost. 

So how early is early? It depends on the company you’re using, but generally, the best window for booking your auto shipment is 2-4 weeks before your desired ship date. If you try to book within less time than two weeks, auto shippers may not have availability or may charge a much higher fee.

A focused man researches his car shipping options on his laptop.

Shipping a car is easy when you do the right research.

2. Research How To Ship a Car. 

Let’s say you’re moving to L.A. in the fall and you need someone to schlep your vehicle across the country. How do you find the best company to do the job? 

If you Google “ship my car to L.A.,'' you're going to get a lot of hits. But you don’t necessarily want to go with the first company that appears on the list. In fact, many of the top hits may be brokers rather than actual carriers. What’s the difference? 

Auto Transport Broker

Using a broker is a convenient but indirect way of shipping a car. Brokers contact many different auto carriers and give you an estimate based on the quotes they get from the carriers. The broker adds certain fees on top of the actual price of shipment, which is how they make their money. 

Auto Transport Carrier

Carriers are the actual companies that do the shipping. They offer a smaller range of shipment options than a broker (some carriers just operate a few trucks) and can be harder to find online. But when you book with a carrier, you’re working directly with the individuals who do the shipping. 

So which is better? That depends on what you want. 

The biggest risk with using a broker is that you end up with a bill that’s higher than your quote (brokers often underquote to get your business). The biggest risk with going directly to a carrier is that it requires more research, and the company may have fewer scheduling options. 

3. Pick a Reliable Car Shipping Company.

You wouldn’t give the keys to your brand-new Corvette to your 16-year-old son. So why should you give them to random auto shippers? 

Once you’ve gotten quotes from various vehicle shipping companies or brokers, you’ll want to do some final vetting before signing a contract or putting down a deposit to prevent falling victim to a scam

Here are a few things to look for when picking out a reliable car shipping company. 

  • Read the reviews: Check reviews on Yelp and other online aggregators to see what other customers have to say about the company.
  • Get referrals: Check with your moving company or corporate relocation company. These companies often have relationships with reputable vehicle shipping companies.
  • Be wary of large deposits or strange payment methods (like wire transfers): Most legitimate companies will require a small deposit or no deposit at all. It is normal for a company to prefer cash payments upon receipt of the vehicle.
  • Make sure the company is registered: All direct carriers and brokers must be registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You can look up the company by name or its Motor Carrier (MC) number on the FMCSA website and check its status.

4. Choose the Right Vehicle Shipping Method.

There are two main ways of transporting a vehicle: open and enclosed. These methods are just what they sound like. 

Open Vehicle Shipping

Open vehicle shipping is the industry standard and involves putting your car on an open truck. You’ve definitely seen these open carriers on the road (huge semi-trucks hauling a two-level stack of cars). 

Enclosed Vehicle Shipping

Enclosed vehicle shipping means your car will be in a completely closed truck. Fewer cars fit into enclosed trucks, and it can cost significantly more than open transport. 

If you’re moving cross-country and just want to get your family vehicle to your new house, you should probably just save money and choose open transport. Your car will be exposed to a few risks (hail damage, rock chips, bird droppings, etc.), but it’s much cheaper, and damage is rare. Enclosed transport is mostly used by people shipping rare classic cars or expensive sports cars. 

A car shipping representative pointing out a clause in a contract to a customer as they prepare to sign it.

Read the fine print before you sign a vehicle shipping contract.

5. Get a Contract With Your Car Shipping Company.

All legitimate vehicle shipping companies will provide a contract when you book your car for shipment. These contracts can be lengthy and convoluted, but it’s important to understand some basic elements of the agreement before signing. 

Auto shipment contracts should state the: 

  • Quoted price
  • Estimated delivery date
  • Cancellation policies and fees
  • Claims procedures
  • Insurance information

If you don’t agree to what’s stated in the contract, contact the company and get clarification or request a change. 

6. Check Your Auto Shipper’s Insurance Coverage.

Thinking about insurance is probably the last thing you want to do while you’re in the middle of a move. But just like with moving insurance, it’s worth a few minutes of your time to double-check your auto shipper’s insurance coverage. 

Most companies will have somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 in coverage. While that may be enough to cover your 2015 Ford Escape, it might not be enough for newer and fancier vehicles. 

Another thing to look for in your auto carrier’s insurance policy is exemptions. Many policies explicitly do not cover “acts of god,” which is basically anything that happens in a disaster movie (earthquakes, volcanos, floods, hurricanes, giant green superheroes who “smash”).

If you do need additional coverage, check with your existing auto insurer or call the carrier to see what options they may have. 

 A man vacuuming out his car in preparation for having it shipped.

Having a messy car will make it much harder to do a pre-trip and post-trip inspection.

7. Clean and Document Your Vehicle’s Condition Before It’s Shipped.

We’re not here to be the tidy-up police. What empty soda bottles and greasy fast-food containers you have stuffed under your seat is your business. 

However, having a messy car will make it much harder to do a pre-trip and post-trip inspection. These inspections are when you and the carrier agree on the condition of the vehicle so that any damage that happens during transport can be tracked. 

You don’t have to detail your entire vehicle, but if things are too dirty, some carriers may refuse transport altogether. 

Also, take pictures of your vehicle before turning it over to a car shipping company. That way, if damage does occur — or if you have pre-existing damage — there will be evidence of your car’s state pre-transport.

Q: Can you put stuff in your car when you ship it? 
The short answer is no, your car is not a PODS shipping container. But some companies may allow you to put a very limited amount of stuff in your vehicle during transport (often there's a 100-pound limit), so you don’t have to worry about clearing out emergency equipment and other odds and ends that you may keep in your trunk. 

8. Disable Alarms and Remove Accessories Before Transporting a Vehicle.

Military families, snowbirds, car collectors, or anyone else who regularly ships vehicles across the country will know this one well. You definitely want to disable your car alarm before you ship your car. 

Why? Because if your alarm goes off during transport, the driver has permission to turn it off by any means necessary. Do you remember that scene in The Big Lebowski where Walter destroys the sports car with a baseball bat? That may be a bit extreme, but you get the picture.

You’ll also need to take off any spoiler kits, custom hoods, fender flares, side skirts, or other body modifications you’ve made on your ride. These extra parts can easily get damaged when shipping a car. 

9. Inspect Your Car After the Vehicle Shipping Concludes.

When the driver arrives to pick up your vehicle, you want to make sure that you inspect it and get a bill of loading. This document verifies that the driver has picked up your vehicle. 

You’ll need to be present when the vehicle is delivered, so you can do a post-trip inspection. This is when you’ll look for any damage that happened during the trip and finish up any payments you haven’t yet made. Be sure to document any damage thoroughly for any future insurance claims.

Q: How much should you tip for the delivery of a car? 
You’re not required to tip your car transport driver, but it’s a nice thing to do. If your car was delivered on time, the driver was communicative, and everything else looks in order, you may want to consider throwing in an extra $20 (or more!) for the driver. 

Now that you’ve got a clear idea about how to ship a car, you can get back to researching your moving options. Check out the PODS Blog for cross-country moving costs, packing advice from pros, top tips for moving out of state, and more. And if you’re ready to get a no-obligation moving quote, simply call PODS at 877-350-7637.

Easton Smith works as a freelance writer and researcher, reviewing technology trends and the moving industry. He moved all around the continent, from New York to California, before landing back in his hometown of Salt Lake City.
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Can I ship my car from Phoenix Az, to Calgary Alberta Canada
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