The most common question we get from first time shippers is how much does it cost to ship a car? In this post we will go over what factors decide your cost, how much shipping a car costs, and what you can do to keep your price as low as possible.
Location is the most important factor in deciding your cost. In most cases further distance will equal a higher cost but if your pick up or drop off location is in a difficult or rural area you could pay more for a shorter distance.
Truckers want to keep all of their stops as close together and as simple as possible to save time and money. If they have to drive an hour out of their way to pick up your car they will charge more. If they have to drive up steep mountains or through a crowded downtown they will also charge more.
Every state has some spots that are difficult to ship from but there are a handful of large regions that this is also true for.
The Canadian border is one such area. It is difficult to ship from except for Buffalo, Detroit, and Seattle. Besides these three cities anything within a few hours of the border is a dead zone including northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Even Seattle is not really that close to the border and you will be looking at an additional cost to ship close to Vancouver.
This is a big factor for Canadians who vacation in the US. Most of the time they do not ship their vehicles directly from their Canadian residence to their US residence because shipping internationally is very expensive. Most people choose to meet a carrier close the the border in the US in order to save money.
This is a simple option for people in Toronto because they can meet in Buffalo which is right across the border. People from Vancouver also don’t have a huge issue doing this because while Seattle is three hours away the area between Vancouver and Seattle is pretty densely populated so truckers don’t have a problem getting close the border because they know there will be other loads coming from the area. They are not driving three hours from Seattle for just one car. Shipping directly from Seattle will still be less expensive however if you want to save as much money as possible.
Every other Canadian city will not have this same luxury and the best advise for someone shipping from Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal, or Quebec City is to try to ship in a group. These cities are five hours or more from major US cities and carriers will not drive that far if they cannot locate more vehicles from the same area. If you do that work for them you can save money and find a carrier quicker. Even just pairing up with one other person shipping from the same location to the same location will be a major help. If you can assemble a group of four or more then you can really be in control of your shipment. Online forums are a great way to do this and many people are out there doing this already. You can join a group, drive to the border with them, and receive your car at the same time.
Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and Nebraska make up another “dead” area. Along the interstates you can certainly ship without a problem in certain directions but because of how sparsely populated this region is a lot of areas can be difficult to ship to. It isn’t quite as hard as shipping from the Canadian border but it certainly presents more of a challenge than other regions do.
And the last significant dead zone would be the Rocky Mountain range. Carriers will only drive on the interstate when passing through so if your car is not close to an interstate you will have to meet your driver or store it somewhere close. Interstate 70 in Colorado, however, is a particularly difficult road and carriers will change their whole route in order to avoid it. The entire western half of Colorado is difficult to ship from or to because of how mountainous it is. Be patient and look into towing companies that can hold the car in a lot in a easier to access city.
There are other, smaller areas that also present challenges but are too many to count. We have covered every state individually and if you want a more precise look at your state definitely check out those posts.
Time can mean shipping according to a specific schedule or shipping at a certain time of year. Both can be huge factors.
Having a very specific pick up or drop off window means not as many trucks are able to take your car. This means less competition between the carriers for your vehicle and therefore a higher price for you. Also, if there is no carrier that can ship according to your schedule, you may have to put the car in storage which, of course, will add to your cost.
For some routes the time of year is a big factor as well. This is especially true if you are shipping from a northern state to or from a southern state. When it starts to get cold, around October, people ship their cars to warmer states for the winter. This makes shipping south more expensive but shipping north very inexpensive. The reverse happens when winter is over around February. It becomes much more expensive to ship north and very inexpensive to ship south as people go back home. Shipping east to west can also be more expensive depending on the time of year but it is harder to predict these trends. Generally during summer shipping from coast to coast is more expensive because a lot of people are relocating at this time but spikes do occur throughout the year for various reasons.
The state particularly affected by seasonal changes are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Washington, and Oregon. The other northern states are also affected but these states have a large snowbird population and see very large price swings.
A mid-size SUV will be about $100 more to ship than a car. A half ton pick up will be about $150 more to ship than a car. Bigger or customized trucks and SUVs will have even higher additional costs. Cars with low ground clearance, modifications, or a convertible top will also have some additional costs but because they are still small it will usually not be that much unless the modifications are extreme. Non running vehicles also have additional costs though how much will depend on the pick up and drop off locations.
If you are transporting a classic or high end luxury vehicle then shipping enclosed will be your best option. This is the most expensive shipping option but also the safest. The drivers operating these trucks have experience with exotic cars and of course because the trailer is completely enclosed there is less risk. These trucks are more expensive to ship with because the trailers carry less cars than an open trailer would and because they usually carry more insurance coverage.
If you are shipping a normal car, even if it is in perfect condition, this is probably not necessary for you. Showroom condition vehicles are shipped using this method so if you drive your car everyday there is no need to ship enclosed.
If you live far from a metropolitan area or interstate try to meet the driver closer to one. If you let your broker know that you are willing to meet a driver then it increases the number of drivers that can move your car and the competition to move it as well. This gets you a better price and more options. If you live in a large city then this won’t really help you however.
If you live in a downtown meet the drive a little bit outside of it or at a nearby truck stop. Small, busy streets are very difficult for trucks to maneuver. When you consider that auto transport trucks are the biggest trucks on the road you can understand why they don’t want to go into these places. Some cities also have restrictions and low bridges that can also be very bothersome. A trucker won’t stay away from your car because it is in a downtown area but you may be able to negotiate a few dollars off once your order is booked.
Be more flexible with your shipping schedule. Having a very narrow pick up and drop off window decreases the amount of trucks that are eligible to ship your car. That means less competition and a higher price. Sometimes there may be only be one truck that is suitable for your needs. Obviously you don’t want to be stuck somewhere without a car but do your best to be as flexible as possible.
Try to ship outside of peak transport times. Pay attention to the above section that talks about Time. This won’t really be an option for most people because you may have to alter your shipping date by months to take advantage of the discount but if it is an option for you you could save a lot. At peak times from Florida to New York right around May you could be looking at $1200 to ship a car. If you were to ship the same car on the same route November you could ship for as low as $500. Ask your broker about when the best time of year is to ship on your route. This isn’t possible for some routes though as this is mostly for snowbird routes.
Get cars running before shipping them if possible. Again, having a non-running vehicle means the truck shipping your car will need a winch to be able to ship it and not all trailers do. This decreases the eligible trucks and decreases competition and increases price. If you cannot get the car running another thing you could do to save some money is to meet the trucker at a nearby auction where they can forklift the car onto the trailer. You will have to pay for this service but it will usually be cheaper than the extra fees you would be charged to ship a non running vehicle. At a minimum cars should be able to roll, brake, and steer. If this is not the case you will need to find someone to load the car onto the trailer and you will be looking at additional fees.
Undo any modifications you can like large spoilers and low suspension. Lifted vehicles will also incur additional fees but it probably isn’t worth the work. Low suspension can usually be raised to a high enough amount where it isn’t an issue and a huge spoiler can usually be removed and stored inside the vehicle. Most other modifications are not really an issue.
Book with carriers directly. If you will be shipping on the same route again save the carrier’s info to avoid broker fees next time. This is an especially useful tip for snowbirds. You can get your carrier’s schedule weeks in advance and plan a flight around it for maximum convenience and of course you will know the company and can trust them with your car. This can save a lot of hassle.
So how much does it cost to ship a car? The map below will help you get a rough idea of what your cost will be. Hover over the state you are shipping from and you will see a list of popular destinations and the cost to ship to those destinations. Keep in mind that these prices will change depending on your circumstances. To get a personalized quote use our quote request form.