Vehicle Shipping: Fast, Reliable, Cheap – Pick Any Two


Thanks to the internet, people looking to buy a new or used automobile or motorcycle have a ton more options than they did even 10 years ago. The marketplace is no longer your local dealers, used car lots and classifieds. Today you can choose from inventory all over the country, and even the world! You can shop a dealer who has a great offer on the exact model you want even though the dealership is 1,000 miles away. You can buy a car on eBay, auctions that used to be for dealers only are now open to the public and if you have a high risk addiction you can even buy a car on CraigsList. That’s just a few of the resources available to consumers looking for a great deal on a new ride.

There’s just one little issue that can get kind of tricky; you’ve got to get that distant purchase to your driveway. Most likely that means you have to ship the car although there is an option to that route.

It All Depends…

When you are buying a car long distance you obviously need to take into account the cost of shipping and calculating the price of vehicle shipping can be a challenge for transportation pros much less the average consumer. The whole transportation industry from moving vans to airplanes to taxi cabs to Uber drivers deal in a perishable product…space. When the airplane takes off with 5 empty seats that’s 5 fares the airline will never sell. The same holds true of a rental car that sits on the lot all day, a cab that only has a paying fare half the time or a car carrier that has two empty slots.

The net result is there simply isn’t a fixed price like those of volume transporters such as Fed-X or the USPS. If your expectation is fast, reliable and cheap you’re going to be in for a disappointment unless UPS starts shipping cars. You can get quotes from three different transporters and get three widely different prices and different conditions. Just like planning a vacation, the more flexible you are with timing the better deal you can make.

Your Shipping Options

  1. DIY. If you limit your search to a couple of hundred miles your best bet just might be driving to the seller’s place with a buddy (or spouse) and driving your new car home yourself. If you don’t have any buddies or a spouse who doesn’t want to waste the day driving, you can rent a car trailer and make the trip your lonesome. Even if you have to spend a night at Motel 6 you probably will end up saving substantially over having a car transporter do the job. Just make sure your seller is available the day you plan to arrive.
  2. DIY – Flying. This is a popular option because it offers two major advantages. First it gives you an opportunity to meet the seller in person and inspect the car. Secondly, even with airfare, gas and other travel expenses it’s probably cheaper than hiring a transporter. The downside of course is the time it takes. If you have the time to spare and you really enjoy road trips this might be your best option.
  3. Use a Broker. There are very few pure car transport companies that have their own equipment, drivers and that control the dispatch of trucks. Most car transport companies are brokers who have relationships with carriers, companies and owner operators, who market the service and then match up the sale with available trucks. This can result in uneven service and big swings in price. For example a car shipped from Southwest FL to Los Angeles via a broker cost $1400 and took 2 weeks. That same car shipped back to FL from Los Angeles using a different broker for $900 and it got there in 5 days. Do your homework if you are going to use a broker. On the plus side, you’re a lot savvier about transporting cars the second time you do it.

Other Important Considerations

Because you probably have never arranged a transport yourself before, here are a few things to keep in mind when you start distance shopping.

  • The heavier the car is the more it will cost to ship regardless who you use. If your choices are down to a couple of cars, the lighter one will cost less to ship.
  • Location, location, location. Most transporters have regular routes and they travel major interstates and highways. If you are in a small town you can save significant dollars if you take delivery in a nearby large town. Conversely, if your seller is in a small town, it’s going to cost more to ship than the same car located in a metro area.
  • Timing is everything. Weather and traffic can have a significant impact on when you actually get your vehicle. Most transporters want at least a two day window for both pick-up and delivery schedules. Seasonal business also comes into play for some parts of the country. For example snowbirds ship their cars to Florida and Arizona in October-November. If you are a buyer in Florida good luck trying to get a timely transport during that time. However, if your seller is in Florida those transports will be looking to fill up their rigs after delivering their loads and will be willing to offer bargains.
  • Insure the car. Regardless of the method of transport, DIY or broker, make sure the car is insured before it rolls off the seller’s lot. If your using a broker find one that offers real insurance for damage done to your car other than their next to no value insurance required by government regulations.

The internet is having a dramatic impact on how people buy cars but it’s also requiring that consumers learn a new skill in the car buying experience and that’s how to get the car home without blowing the sale price bargain. Just keep in mind that vehicle shipping is going to require some additional work on your part and calculate that into the cost of your car.