What to Expect When Shipping your Car

Every year, about 31 million people move across the country each year. Aside from this, people also need reliable car shipping when buying and selling their vehicles or even participating in car shows in different states. This means auto transport companies are responsible for shipping at least 58 million vehicles annually.

It’s always easier to have your vehicle shipped by a car shipping company when you need to take it long distances — not to mention saving your car from the wear and tear of driving cross-country. 

However, leaving your vehicle in someone else’s hands is an experience that calls for transparency and trust as much as the logistics of coordinating and scheduling car shipment deliveries — especially if you’re shipping a car across the country or state lines.

Of course, choosing the right auto shipping carrier with a track record of customer service can help alleviate much of the uncertainty you may feel. But knowing what to expect when shipping your car with a reliable auto transport service can go the extra mile in helping to prepare your vehicle and book with confidence.

The 6 Steps You Can Expect During the Car Shipping Process

Step #1: Get a Free Quote On The Cost of Shipping Your Car

Auto transport companies should offer you a no-commitment, free quote for shipping a car. Whether you decide to call an agent or fill out a form online, the car shipping company will ask you questions about your shipping needs, such as: 

Picture of the Instant Quote Form

  • The vehicle’s make, model, and year
  • Where you’re shipping to and from
  • Vehicle condition
  • First available pickup date 
  • Car transport type
  • Your contact information

Once your quote is calculated, you’ll be able to save the quote or book immediately. If you book online, an agent will likely give you a call to confirm all the details and help you prepare to ship a car.

Step #2: Prepare Your Car for Shipment

Ensuring your car is prepared for pickup is essential and will require some planning, so be sure to get started well ahead of the scheduled date. Some companies will require relevant documents to ship your car while others won’t, so it’s best to have everything ready to go. 

Here’s what you’ll need to do before your car’s scheduled to be picked up 

  • Gather important documents like the bill of lading, registration, insurance, title, and driver’s information.
  • Wash your vehicle inside and out so that you can identify any potential damages.
  • Document the car’s condition and take plenty of pictures.
  • Remove personal items and exterior items from the vehicle, like bike racks, GPS devices, and any other belongings in or outside. 
  • Perform general vehicle maintenance like getting your oil changed, tires filled up, battery charged, and fluids topped off. 
  • Leave no more than a fourth of your gas tank filled to avoid adding extra weight and unnecessary spending.
  • Make a copy of your keys for the transporter and yourself which will be helpful in case a set is lost.

Once your vehicle is ready to go, all you have to do is wait for the agreed-upon pickup date to arrive.

Step #3: The Auto Transporter Picks Up Your Car

When the transporter is on his way, he’ll give you a call to let you know his estimated arrival time so that you can have your car prepared and be on-site. 

When the transporter arrives, he’ll do an inspection that may involve a document checklist and some photographs. This ensures that the vehicle is in the same shape upon dropoff as it was upon pickup. 

Then, he will load your vehicle onto the truck. Depending on the method of car transport you choose, the truck may be an open-air carrier or an enclosed trailer. 

After the car is secure on the carrier, the transporter will begin his trip to your requested destination. 

Step #4: Your Car Is Shipped (To Just About Anywhere) 

While your vehicle is on the road and throughout the shipping process, you’ll be in constant communication with your vehicle’s transporter and an agent of the car shipping company. This way, you can track the truck and receive estimates on what time and day the driver will drop off your car. 

Step #5: Your Car Is Delivered to Your Front Doorstep 

Before your car is delivered, the driver should call you with an estimated arrival time so that you can be prepared for your car’s delivery. You’ll be in constant contact with the auto transport company as your vehicle makes its way to the destination. 

You don’t have to be on-site if you’re not physically able, like if you’re selling your car to a private buyer in another state. In instances like this, you’ll want to have arrangements made to verify that the vehicle is delivered safely. 

Step #6: Your Car Is Inspected Upon Drop Off 

After the driver unloads your car, he’ll do another checklist inspection and take photographs. At this point, you should have both copies of the before and after inspection list so that you can check if any damages occurred during transportation. 

If you observe any damages, then be sure to contact an agent right away. If everything is in good shape, then the driver will leave your car unloaded and dropped off wherever you prefer.

Frequently Asked Questions about Shipping Cars

What Do I Need to Know about Shipping My Car?

Tip #1: Research the Company 

Your experience shipping a car is only as good as the shipping company.

Service providers like auto transport companies are there to ensure you as the customer is satisfied throughout the whole shipment process. Take time to compare reputable companies and the cost, read reviews, chat with customer service representatives, and ask plenty of questions. 

Don’t forget to gather information about insurance coverage, too. Even if the auto transport company has a perfect driving record, accidents happen all the time, and you want to be sure your car is protected just in case. Also double-check whether the insurance is included in the overall quote you received so that nothing is left out. 

Tip #2: Choose the Right Shipping Method

There are two main types of shipping methods when it comes to transporting cars: 

Open vs Closed Car Transport image

Image Source

  • Open: Open transport is when your car is placed on a trailer that is not covered. It’s one of the most popular ways to ship a car and it’s also more budget-friendly than enclosed transport. However, the trade-off is that open transport leaves your car vulnerable to changing weather conditions while being delivered.
  • Enclosed: Enclosed transport is when your car is placed inside an enclosed, covered trailer with four walls. Although enclosed transport is more expensive than open carriers, many people opt for it since it provides total protection. 

Additionally, you can choose expedited shipping. Expedited shipping offers perks and benefits that regular transport doesn’t, such as minimum wait times, less paperwork needed, guaranteed first-choice pickup dates, and storage options.

Tip #3: Read Between the Lines Before Booking

If something seems too good to be true, then most of the time, it probably is. Fraud is all too popular in this industry, and it’s crucial that you look for red flags and avoid any scams. For example, never give a deposit before your car is picked up. Auto transport companies also won’t ask you for personal information, like social security numbers. 

Also, be sure to become familiar with what is included in your agreement. Some things you’ll want to read thoroughly are the type of insurance that is included, the estimated time of duration, and whether or not they are appropriately licensed and insured by the FMCSA. 

Tip #4: Prepare the Vehicle Properly

Start getting your car ready for pick up a few days before the actual day. This requires gathering the appropriate documents, removing everything inside and outside, getting maintenance done, and making a copy of your keys. 

Can I Put Stuff in My Car When I Ship It?

There is currently no law against shipping items while your car is being transported. In fact, many individuals think that it’s a good back-up for storing extra items that won’t fit in a moving truck.

However, this adds to your car’s overall weight and specific auto shipping companies may have rules against it. Finally, even if the auto transport company permits personal items in your car during transport, insurance won’t cover any personal items, and any extra weight will affect your total cost. 

Is Shipping Your Car Safe?

The fact is that the car shipping industry would not be as booming as it is if it wasn’t a safe choice. Still, it’s natural to have worries and concerns when it’s time to leave your car in someone else’s hands, even if they’re a trusted auto transport company. 

While shipping your car is generally a very safe and uneventful process, there are some things that you may want to consider, such as: 

  • The type of transport. If you choose enclosed transport, then the trailer will protect your car from all elements. However, an enclosed carrier is more expensive, so take time to weigh your options. 
  • Theft. Truck drivers need to sleep, too, leaving an unattended load for a few hours a day. If you’re worried about any type of theft, then be sure to take a look at the FMCSA’s list of recommendations to keep your vehicle safe. 
  • Accidents. Every year, there are approximately 100 to 200 thousand large truck-related accidents. Ask the car transport company you’re working with about their accident statistics and what kind of insurance they offer in the event of an unforeseen incident. 

The best thing you can do is work with a reputable auto transport company. This means reading reviews, avoiding fraud companies, avoiding “too good to be true” prices and promises, preparing your car before pick up, and performing an inspection. You’ll also be in communication with the driver during the trip, so you’ll know exactly where your car is throughout the delivery.  


It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it’s time to ship your car. Working with a shipping company is a big task that can run expensive depending on your car, location, and transport method. Luckily, most car shipping companies follow the same general formula so that you know what to expect: 

  1. Receive your shipping quote 
  2. Prepare your car for shipment according to the car transport company’s standards
  3. The car shipping driver will pick up your car on the agreed-upon date
  4. Your car is shipped, but you’re in contact with the driver the whole time
  5. The car is dropped off, where a final inspection is conducted 

As long as you choose to work with a trustful and reputable car transport company and prepare for shipping by gathering important information and removing any personal items, then you can rest easy as your car makes its way back to you.