What’s the Best Way to Ship a Car?
Nathan Stretch July 30, 2015

So you’ve found the perfect car using the AutoTempest car search engine, but it’s six states away from you and you have no idea how to get it from there to you. This article will cover the three main options for getting your car home, with a best way to ship a car for every individual and every budget!

  1. Have your car shipped by a professional car shipping company.
  2. Find someone to drive the car to your destination.
  3. Fly there and drive the car yourself!

We’ll finish off with some car shipping best practices, to ensure that your vehicle transport experience goes smoothly and you have all your bases covered in the event something does go wrong.

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1. Use a Professional Car Shipping Service

Car Shipping CarriersCar Shipping Carriers Logo

The most straightforward way to get a car shipped is to use a vehicle transport company. These companies generally act as brokers, handling of all the details of contracting with the actual carrier (the one with the truck), so you don’t have to. And they’ve done it many times before, so they should be well equipped to deal with any issues that might come up.

So, how do you choose which broker to use? This is where our partner, Car Shipping Carriers, can help. They have vetted a number of top auto transport companies, and will provide you with quotes from 3-5 that suit your needs, allowing you to choose the one that fits you best. Naturally, they are BBB Accredited and A+ rated for peace of mind. They are also entirely transparent about the car shipping process, and pride themselves in ensuring their customers understand the process from start to finish. If you have any questions before shipping your car or along the way, they will be happy to help. Click here to receive competing quotes from Car Shipping Carriers to ship your car.

AmeriFreightAmeriFreight "We Move America" Logo

Along with the options from Car Shipping Carriers, we also think you should check out Amerifreight, an auto transport company whose pricing and quoting strategy helps those seeking shipping at a discounted rate while still providing superior service. Since 2004, AmeriFreight has provided discounted car shipping rates and auto protection plans.

Trusting your car’s shipment to someone you do not know is a major concern for many. To make the process less stressful and lower the risk, it’s important to have coverage, even if one discovers damage after the vehicle has been delivered. AmeriFreight is an authorized Agent of the AFTA PLAN, which provides gap coverage on all their shipping options for peace of mind. This includes 48 hours after delivery damage coverage.

AmeriFreight promises not only to work hard to earn your business but also your trust. The carriers they use are among the top 5% in the industry. They also offer discounts to members of the military, police, and emergency services, as well as to seniors and students. Get a quote from Amerifreight here.

uShip.com

Now if the quotes you got from CSC and Amerifreight are a bit pricy for you, and you don’t mind handling more of the details yourself, there is another option: uShip.com. uShip could be described as the eBay of shipping. Basically, you post what you want shipped and then shipping providers who have extra space in their loads make bids on how cheaply they can ship your items for you. Their directory includes over 216,000 shipping providers, and it gives those shippers an opportunity to sell space that would otherwise go wasted, so you’re likely to get a very competitive rate on your shipment.

They even offer a Bid Price Evaluator that compares the bids you’ve received with ones that others have received on similar shipments, and lets you know if you can expect an even lower one to come in. To get an estimate of how much you would pay with uShip, you can use this form:

Now, uShip will definitely help you get a great quote on shipping your vehicle. After that though, it is important that you research the shipping provider who makes you an offer. Make sure you take a look at the shipper’s rating on uShip, their rating on TransportReviews.com, their BBB Rating, and their shipping insurance policy before accepting a bid.

The Bottom Line

As long as you do a bit of research before accepting a bid, uShip.com can be a great way to save money on quality vehicle shipping.

2. Have Someone Else Drive Your Car

While shipping is the most reliable option for moving your vehicle, sometimes the costs can be a little too much for your wallet to handle. In the right circumstances, it can be possible to transport a car for less than the cost of flying over and driving it yourself. Just as you need a way to get your car across the country, there are likely people out there who need to get themselves across, and could use a car to do it! Not only is this option much cheaper than shipping, it’s also generally faster than most car shipping services.

I myself actually moved my old Ford Contour from Waterloo, ON to Victoria, BC for free, using this method. Basically, I hopped on SearchTempest.com and searched all the Craigslists within reasonable driving distance. I looked in the services category for things like ‘drive cross country’ and eventually found a posting from a writer who was researching a book involving a cross-country drive. He wanted to do the trip, but didn’t have the money to rent a car or to drive both ways. I met him, and after a fair bit of research and planning on both our parts, we had a deal. Absolutely no cost on my part, save for mileage on the car.

Of course, this method isn’t for everyone. It’s important to work out a written contract detailing each party’s responsibilities, to arrange that the driver’s insurance will cover any accidents, and to check references to make sure you’re dealing with someone trustworthy and reliable. You’ll want your contract to clearly describe who is responsible for costs involved in mechanical failures, other delays, or damage to the car.

Regardless of how much preparation you do, you obviously won’t have the same degree of security as you would with a professional car shipper, so I wouldn’t try this on an expensive vehicle, or if I could afford a professional carrier like AmeriFreight. That said, there are some circumstances where it’s a perfect fit, and I’m proof that it can work!

Driveaway Services

If you like the idea of saving money by having someone drive your car for you, but want a bit more security or don’t want to deal with finding a driver yourself, you might consider driveaway services. A driveaway service finds a driver who is looking for cheap travel from point A to point B, and a customer who is looking for cheap vehicle transport from point A to point B, and hooks them up.

Here are some things to look for in a driveaway service:

  • Driver Criteria. The idea of a complete stranger driving your car can be a little unsettling: you don’t know what type of driver they are, you don’t know what might happen while they’re on the road, and you don’t even know if they will legitimately get the vehicle to you. To ease some of your concerns, every service has a set of criteria they use to choose which drivers they accept. The bare minimum they will screen for is clean driving records and an age requirement (generally 23). Chances are, the more they screen for, the better the driver will be, but that’s not a guarantee. Try to request a driver who has already driven a car for this service and received good reviews from the owners of the vehicles.
  • Professional vs Amateur. The criteria above is a way of screening amateur drivers, people who get paid not with cash, but with a cheap ride. There are driveaway services that offer professional drivers as well – people who frequently do driveaways and are actually paid for their services. Professional drivers will be a little more expensive than amateur drivers, but their reliability and experience can be worth it.
  • Liability Insurance. Most driveaway services will have some sort of liability insurance should something happen to your vehicle during transport, but the extent to which that insurance covers you will vary. If you are trying to choose between two potentially good services, compare their liability policies and choose the one that seems to have greater coverage. Again, there’s a good chance that choosing a professional driver will give you greater coverage, as the chances of an incident occurring are slimmer.

Regardless of whether you have a driveaway service or an individual drive your car, you will want to give them a signed letter describing the service they are performing for you (including the expected route and your phone number) that the driver can use at road checks or similar circumstances.

3. Fly Over and Drive the Car Back

Driving the car back yourself isn’t always the most practical of options, but it’s cheap and can be a lot of fun. Maybe go for a weekend trip somewhere near where the vehicle is, and use it to get home. Or, if you or someone you know has to go that direction for business or something, they can drive the vehicle back (much like the previous option without the disadvantage of a stranger driving your car).

The obvious downside to this car transportation method is that it takes up a fair bit of time, and it might be a little unnerving taking a vehicle you’re unfamiliar with out on a long trip. But, if you’re willing to brave these pitfalls, driving the car yourself can be one of the cheapest and most reliable methods to get your vehicle to where it needs to go.

Car Shipping Best Practices

Senders

  • Clean out your vehicle. This may be common sense, but there’s innumerable stories of people losing GPSs, MP3 players, or other valuable items during shipment.
  • Give the transporter all your contact information, and keep your phone on you. The transporter will usually call you only 12-24 hours prior to the drop off to set up the meeting, so its important that they can reach you as soon as possible.
  • Take pictures of the car prior to sending. Do this so the receiver can see if any damage happened during shipping. The transporter will also do an inspection for the Bill of Lading (BOL), a document that recognizes the vehicle has been picked up and delivered, but pictures always capture more than words. Get a copy of the BOL, and send copies of the pictures and the BOL to the receiver.
  • Keep the receiver in the loop. Let them know when the car has been picked up, and when they can expect it to be dropped off.
  • Consider getting “Gap Insurance”. This will cover you for anything not covered by the carrier’s insurance, including claims for less than the carrier’s deductible (which is often very high), and loss of use of the vehicle if delivery is delayed. The cost can be quite reasonable: AftaPlan offers a standard package for partner brokers (including AmeriFreight) for only $55.

Receivers

  • Ensure the sender follows the steps above.
  • Do a thorough inspection of the vehicle on pickup. If you see any damage done to the car that wasn’t noted in the BOL or in the photos, make sure the transporter notes it in the BOL before they give you a copy. You can not make a damage claim unless the damage has been noted in the BOL, and it is your responsibility to make note of any damage.
  • Keep the sender in the loop. Let them know when you’ve received the vehicle, and of any further issues that may arise.
  • Rate your transporter. We always recommend that people check reviews on services before they use them, so it’s only fair that we recommend you make reviews as well. Note any poor or excellent service so that others in the future can use that information when choosing a car shipping provider.

Car Shipping Recap

There’s no reason to let a few (thousand) miles keep you from your perfect car. Depending on your budget and risk tolerance, there are three great options to get your car home:

  • Pay a professional vehicle shipping company
  • Find a driver, either through SearchTempest / Craigslist or using a driveaway service.
  • Fly over and drive it back yourself!

If you’re considering using a shipping service, we recommend getting a quote from Amerifreight. You can also use uShip.com to get competing bids from multiple shipping companies to save some money. Just make sure to thoroughly research a company before accepting their bid. Compare them to Amerifreight using sites like bbb.org and transportreviews.com and decide whether they’re a good deal for the price.

However you get it home, enjoy your new car!

Header image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Nathan Stretch Founder & CEO

Founder of the AutoTempest used car search engine, as well as SearchTempest.com. I do a bit of everything around here now, and may even get a chance to write some blog posts! Oh, and I drive a 2003 Z4 3.0i, but working from home I don't get to drive it much; 12 years old and it's got under 70k miles on it. I'll have to get working on that too...