In the auto transport industry a little know-how goes a long way. The process can be quick and easy or long, drawn-out, and expensive. If you understand what is going on behind the scenes and what to avoid along the way then you will have a very pleasant experience.
The most important thing you need to know when shipping your car is what Brokers are and why they are necessary.
Basically they are a middleman between you and the Carrier, but without them the industry could not function. Customers need Brokers because of how difficult finding a Carrier is, especially at a fair price and a suitable time. Carriers need Brokers because of how difficult it is to find Customers at the right time and along their route. Without Brokers Carriers would have empty spots on their trailers and Customers would be searching for months for an expensive and inconvenient Carrier.
Someone needs to be in the middle to connect the right Customer to the right Carrier.
Finding a Broker is the first step you will need to take when shipping your car. Price, timing, and your overall satisfaction will be affected by this decision so choose carefully.
Most Brokers are based online nowadays so do a quick Google search and choose four or five companies that have good reviews and have been in business for a while.
Make sure to stay away from any sites that offer to give you ten quotes from ten different companies or something along those lines. These companies are called Lead Generators. They sell your information to as many Brokers as possible and you will be bombarded with phone calls and emails. People actually lose the use of their phones because of the constant calls. This is also why you want to limit yourself to five companies at most for quotes.
A few good companies are more than sufficient to give you an objective look at the price.
Your price will be based on distance, popularity of the route, type of vehicle, and time of year. Generally, shipping a larger, older, or inoperable vehicle a longer distance will be more costly. But, if a longer route is more popular with truckers or if the time of year is favorable then this might not be true.
For example, Houston to Los Angeles is typically a cheaper route to ship on than Houston to Omaha even though Los Angeles is 650 miles further away. This is because Houston to Los Angeles is a much more popular route than Houston to Omaha. But, at the beginning of winter, shipping to Omaha could be cheaper because of the winter price fluctuations. At the beginning of winter shipment from cold northern areas to warm southern areas becomes very expensive while shipment the other way around becomes very cheap. At the end of winter this reverses.
This price shift is caused by seasonal vacationers called snow birds. When it starts to get cold these people travel to warmer climates and return home when the weather warms up.
A good Broker will take all of these factors into account when giving you a price.
Call the companies that you have narrowed your search to and get quotes for your shipment. Try to talk with them on the phone because you will get a better idea of what working with that company will be like. It can be difficult to judge a company based solely on email.
Once you have received quotes from your preferred Brokers it is time to make a selection. Your main criteria when choosing a company should be good service and legitimacy, not cost. Getting multiple quotes just ensures you have an unbiased opinion on the rate.
The big secret in auto transport is that your circumstances decide your price not the Broker. You will get basically the same final price regardless of which Broker you choose, even if they quote you much lower initially.
A very low initial quote is actually a bad sign. Low estimates are a tactic used by unscrupulous Brokers to lure in Customers. They excite people with the low price, have them pay a deposit and sign a vague contract, and later tell you they couldn’t actually find a Carrier at that price.
When dealing with one of these companies the best thing that can happen is you pay the same amount you would with anyone else and deal with the bad service that they will inevitably have. The worst scenario is you end up paying a lot more than the average or you lose the money that you initially deposited because a deadline passes, the cost becomes too high, or incompetence on the company’s part. Save yourself the trouble and stay away from these companies.
When we provide you with an estimate our goal is to give you an honest idea of what you will pay. So, instead of giving you one price we will give you a price range for your route and where we think you will land on that range based on your situation; this way you have a very clear idea of what the cost is. And, of course, we don’t ask for a commitment until we have a Carrier arranged and know the exact price so you can be sure our prices are honest.
After you have made a decision your Broker will begin searching for a Carrier.
Depending on your situation this process can take a few hours or a few weeks. If you have a normal car on a popular route the search will be completed very quickly. More difficult vehicle types and less popular routes add time to the process so try to be flexible with your schedule if this applies to you.
Keep in mind that Carriers do not book shipments very far in advance. Even if you decide on a Broker a month before the car is ready, they will not be able to make any real progress with a Carrier until a week before the car can be picked up at most.
Shipments are typically booked 1-3 days before the Carrier wants to pick them up because Carriers cannot predict their schedules accurately before then and they do not want to be held liable for a missed appointment.
This can be difficult for people with strict deadlines who want to know that their vehicle will be picked up on time. The only way to have your shipment booked further in advance is to pay more than average. A Carrier may be willing to work his schedule around your vehicle but it has to be worth it for them. A good Broker will help you find the balance between pricing and timing.
An auto transport contract will review the details of the shipment and establish legal terms. It is important to read everything you sign, but pay close attention to sections about leaving items inside of your vehicle, insurance, and changing or canceling the shipment.
Auto transport contracts will prohibit leaving personal possessions inside of your car during the transport, but this is just a formality and is very frequently overlooked. Almost all Carriers allow up to 100 pounds of items inside the cars free of charge and some are willing to work out a fee to take more. These fees will be much lower than what you would pay for regular shipping; the downside is that, because it is technically unlawful, it is impossible to have these items insured.
Of course the same does not apply to the car itself. Vehicle shipments are legally required to be completely insured by the Carrier, but it is crucial that you handle the paperwork correctly so that your claim is approved.
The Bill of Lading is the primary document involved in the event of damage; its function is to protect the innocent party and incriminate the guilty one. When the driver arrives to pick up your car they will mark all of the existing dents and scratches on this form and the person releasing the car will be required to sign it verifying the inspection was accurate. If the car arrives without any new damage then the person receiving the car will be required to sign the Bill of Lading again verifying the car arrived in the same condition it was picked up in, thus releasing the Carrier from liability.
It is extremely important that you get a copy of this document at the point of pick up and do not sign at the destination if the car has new damage; this way the document cannot be altered and your claim cannot be disputed. You will still have to pay for the transport so that your car is released to you, but mention the issue to the driver and indicate the new damage on the Bill of Lading.
The driver will give you contact information for their insurance company and you will have to call in and file a claim. If you did everything right a check for your repair costs will arrive in the mail after a while. Accidents are rare in auto transport but make sure you are protected.
Cancelling or changing your shipment can be problematic depending on your Broker and how far along in the process you are. If a Carrier has not been assigned yet then cancelling and making changes should be as simple as a phone call. We don’t ask you to sign or pay anything until we have a Carrier ready so you are under no commitment at this point with us, but other Brokers are different.
If a Carrier has been assigned but hasn’t picked up the car yet then cancelling or changing details begins getting complicated. Small changes, like a different address in the same zip code or a different contact person, will be fine. But, if the Carrier wastes their resources on a car that they can not move because of a significant change, like a car not running when it was supposed to be or a cancellation, then they can request your initial deposit and this money will be lost.
If the Carrier has already picked up the car it is too late to cancel and changes must be approved. Again, small changes are fine but they do not want to waste time or resources, especially if it creates an issue with the other cars they are moving. Try to make sure your plans are set before signing or paying anything and you will avoid any issues.
Once a Carrier has been found and the paperwork has been signed the hard part is over. Most Brokers consider their work done at this point but we will keep you updated to ensure everything goes smoothly. Drivers have a lot of work to do and calling ahead can slip their mind so we will call them to check on pick up and drop off times and inform you.
If you have read this guide you are prepared to ship your car. Aside from learning how auto transport works finding a reliable Broker is the most invaluable thing you can do for yourself, especially if you are shipping for the first time. Call us at (904) 553-7367 or click here to get a quote.