The most common way to ship a vehicle is to place it in the care of a carrier that transports it by truck to the destination of your choice. These vehicle carrier rigs can carry up to nine or 10 vehicles at a time and can make a trip of several thousand miles in only a few days.
The cost to ship a vehicle ranges anywhere from 53 cents per mile to more than $2.30 per mile, depending on several factors, including the:
- Distance involved
- Type of carrier (open or enclosed)
- Delivery location
- Time of year
- Time frame (rush or standard)
- Size of your vehicle
To help you understand the cost of auto transport, we’ve gathered quotes from some of the leading auto carrier companies in the United States and provided a full rundown of how to ship your car like a pro.
Average cost to ship a car
Although car shipping costs depend on a number of factors, you can expect car transport rates to vary from about $500 for short, cross-state transports to more than $1,700 for cross-country transports.
We created these estimates based on the price of shipping a Toyota Camry between major cities on an open carrier (the most common method of transport). You can see the quotes that informed our research in the table below.
Cost to ship a Toyota Camry in an open carrier
|Boston to LA||$1,599||$1,700||$1,650|
|Chicago to Boston||$789||$679||$849|
|Chicago to LA||$979||$1,140||$800|
|Miami to Boston||$649||$750||$825|
All prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
Just bear in mind that average prices are even higher if you have a larger vehicle, opt for more expensive shipping options or want to ship a car internationally.
How to calculate the cost to ship a car per mile
If you want a rough estimate of how much it costs to ship a car, just multiply the distance your vehicle will travel by the approximate cost per mile in the chart below. This should give you a good number on which to base your budgeting.
What affects car shipping costs?
While we’ve provided some guidelines above, it’s hard to accurately estimate what shipping a car should cost because multiple factors can influence the final price. Check out the factors that affect car shipping costs below to see where you stand in relation to our average rates.
- The size of your vehicle affects the average car shipping costs. For instance, our quotes above show a cost of $650 to $825 to transport a sedan between Massachusetts and Florida, but the same companies may charge $850 to $1,200 to transport an SUV, van or pickup truck an equal distance.
These larger vehicles cost more to transport because they take up more space on a carrier and weigh more. The more vehicles the truck can carry, the lower the rate per vehicle will be.
- Expect to pay more during peak months when companies are busier and space on shipping trucks is more limited. Prices for shipping a vehicle in the summer months can increase as much as $200 to $300 per trip.
However, booking a shipment during the winter in areas that experience inclement weather can also increase vehicle transport costs. If a carrier has to deal with snowstorms and other potential weather delays, that extra hassle will likely be reflected in the price.
If you’re in the early stages of planning your vehicle transport, ask about peak rates and find out if the shipping carrier or broker offers discounts during the offseason that lower the average vehicle shipping cost. These discounts can add up to significant overall savings if you can time your shipment accordingly.
- It shouldn’t be a surprise that the further your vehicle needs to travel, the more it’s going to cost you. Mileage rates might fluctuate depending on the company you choose, so research several companies to find out how much they charge you based on distance.
Carriers also often charge less money for long-distance transport over open highways. For example, going between Miami and Boston forces the carrier to go through several metropolitan areas where they may experience heavy traffic or other similar delays.
Traveling from Boston to Los Angeles, however, the vast majority of the travel takes place at high speeds and free of city traffic. The more ground a carrier can cover during the course of a day, the cheaper the per-mile rate will be.
Shipping your vehicle on an open car carrier is cheaper because open carriers can generally hold more vehicles than enclosed carriers, lowering the shipping company’s cost per vehicle.
However, if you’re shipping a classic or high-end vehicle and want it protected during transport, you should consider paying more for transport in an enclosed carrier. These trucks carry fewer vehicles but have extra protection for expensive or rare automobiles.
- Much like other shipping services, you’ll end up paying more overall if you want your vehicle transport rushed. Expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $500 more for rushed shipping. On the other hand, you’ll pay less if you are flexible about when your vehicle can show up at its final destination.
Generally, you will be given a three-day window for pickup, followed by a reasonably accurate date for delivery. If you need your vehicle picked up by a specific date, most companies can store your vehicle in their facility for an additional fee.
- Having your vehicle delivered from door to door (from its current location to your exact destination) is convenient, but terminal-to-terminal delivery (where your car is shipped between nearby pickup and drop-off locations) is generally more affordable.
- Inoperable vehicles cost more to ship because they’re harder to get on and off the carrier. This extra charge might not outweigh the cost of getting your car running again, but it’s something you should keep in mind if your vehicle can no longer move under its own power.
- Because carriers bid on how much it costs to ship your car, prices can vary depending on how many carriers are available. This is usually neither good nor bad, just something to be aware of.
So, what’s the cheapest way to ship a car?
Open carrier transport with terminal-to-terminal service is typically the cheapest way to ship a car. Open auto transporters can accommodate up to 10 vehicles, which allows operators to save on fuel, oil and transport costs.
Terminal-to-terminal service is generally cheaper than door-to-door service since the driver doesn’t need to deliver the car to your home or office. Occasionally, though, due to storage fees, door-to-door service might be the cheaper option.
If you want to save more money, try to ship your vehicle during the offseason (late fall to late spring). The most popular time to ship a car is during the summer and early fall, and prices generally rise to reflect the increased demand.
Find out if you’re approved for discounts
If you’re looking for cheap car shipping, be sure to check to see if you qualify for any savings or promotions. Common auto transport discounts include:
- Military discounts: Many auto transport companies offer discounts to military personnel to help with frequent moves and to recognize their service.
- Student discounts: Some auto transport companies offer discounts in the summer and fall if you are a student moving to or from college.
- Senior discounts: Because many older people live on fixed incomes and have to abide by strict budgets, some auto transport companies offer them discounts.
- First-timer discounts: Some auto transport companies offer a discount if it’s your first time shipping a vehicle with them.
- Return customers: In contrast to first-time shipping discounts, some auto transport companies offer discounts for shipping with them a second or third time.
- Multicar shipment discounts: Most companies offer a discount if you’re shipping multiple vehicles at once.
- First responder discounts: Many auto transport companies offer first responders discounted prices.
- Early bird discounts: Some companies will reward you with a discount for signing up with them within 48 hours of receiving a quote.
- Fleet discounts: If you’re a cab company or any other business that needs to ship a fleet of vehicles, you might be able to get a discount from your shipping company for shipping in bulk. Be sure to ask your broker or carrier about a bulk discount for shipping cars — it might not be openly advertised online or in brochures.
Check payment method fees
While most shipping companies accept all forms of payment (including cash, checks and credit cards), some employ a 2% to 3% surcharge when you use a credit card. Be sure to find out what payment methods your shipping carrier accepts and whether you’ll be charged extra to pay with a credit card.
How to ship a car
Whether you’re shipping your car cross-country or across the state, how you go about this process will affect your final cost.
1. Determine how you want your car delivered
Your drop-off/pickup method often affects the cost of shipping your car. Opting for terminal-to-terminal car shipping will usually be cheaper, but door-to-door service is more convenient and could be worth the extra cost.
Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each car shipping option:
- Terminal-to-terminal car shipping: This type of transport requires you to take your car to a designated drop-off location and pick it up from a predetermined pickup location near your destination. While this is often the less expensive option, you’ll need to make arrangements to get to and from each terminal location.
Terminal-to-terminal shipping lets car transport companies deliver entire shipments from one location to another, lowering their overall costs. However, this means your vehicle could spend extra time sitting in a terminal parking lot (exposed to all the elements) until a full load is ready to ship.
- Door-to-door car transport: Probably the most convenient option, door-to-door shipping means the carrier picks your vehicle up from your preferred location (usually your home or place of work) and delivers it to your final destination. Because it involves extra time on the road for the driver, this method of shipping tends to cost slightly more than terminal-to-terminal shipping.
Keep in mind that some home or work locations are inaccessible for carriers that cannot navigate narrow roads with their equipment, so you may need to compromise and set up a delivery point close to your final destination.
2. Decide what type of carrier you need
Most auto car shipping companies let you choose between open transport and enclosed transport. Both options have benefits and drawbacks, but the choice becomes easier if you consider the value of the car you’re shipping.
- Open car transport services: Most people choose open car transport carriers to take advantage of cheaper rates and more flexible shipping dates. While open carrier shipping does expose your vehicle to damage from debris or the elements, the risk of damage during transport is very low, and any paint chips or dings that occur are usually covered by insurance.
- Enclosed car transport services: If your car is highly valuable, like if you’re shipping a classic car, enclosed car shipping is a better option because your car will be protected from the elements. However, enclosed car transport trucks can usually carry only a few vehicles at a time, which can raise the overall cost of shipping a vehicle up to 50% more than the cost of open car transport.
3. Gather multiple car shipping quotes
Pricing is a crucial part of the car shipping equation, so securing a written car shipping estimate is critical. Here are some considerations when looking at quotes:
4. Schedule your car transport pickup and delivery
Scheduling your car transport service around eight weeks in advance lets you be more flexible and can lower your shipping costs. It also lets you wait for the right car transport carrier at the best price for your budget.
5. Prepare the car for transport
There are a few things you need to do before your car is ready to get shipped.
- How does a car shipping company determine my price?
A shipping company determines the cost to transport your car based on the size of the vehicle being shipped, the distance involved, the type of carrier you want, the time of year and how quickly you need your vehicle at its destination.
- What is the cost for in-state vs. out-of-state car shipping?
State-to-state shipping costs usually don’t vary from in-state shipping costs. For variances in shipping costs, factors like distance and time of year have more of an effect on your shipping cost than crossing state lines.
- Is it worth it to ship my car?
While you can often save money driving your car on a shorter move, you’ll need to consider everything from wear and tear to fuel costs and lodging when considering driving a vehicle cross-country. Cost aside, the greatest advantage of shipping your car is often the time savings it will provide.
- Can you put stuff in a car when you ship it?
The short answer is that it depends on the auto transport company you work with.
Most shipping carriers strongly prefer that you do not ship a vehicle with items inside or in the trunk due to the possibility of theft while the carrier is stopped. Those that do allow personal items in your vehicle often have a weight limit for them and charge extra for the convenience.
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