A Beginners Guide to Shipping a Car

So you need to ship a car, huh? Let’s face it – the prospect of shipping a car is a pretty daunting task. It’s something that takes time, and energy, and money – and that’s something that a lot of people kind of dread. But do not fear! The process is a lot easier than people think, but it does take some understanding of how it works. Let’s break it down.

It always starts with a quote

You always want to start your auto transport journey with a quote. If you want, you can get a quote direct from our office simply by filling out our free quote form or calling us toll-free. But there are a few things that you’ll want to look out for and keep in mind when you’re perusing your estimates, too, so keep reading.

1. Price
Of course you’re looking at price, that’s what quotes are! But more importantly, you’re wanting to find the right price. If you get a price that you don’t like, maybe you end up shopping around with different companies (which is not something we advocate against, by the way). Regardless, you may have one price in mind, but the industry may have another. This is why looking at price first is important – but it’s not the only facet to a good quote.

2. Services
What services a company provides should be included in their quote, so make sure to read them thoroughly. If you are in need of something other than open shipping services, it’s important to know if they’re offered. We here at Affordable Auto Transportation offer a variety of carrier options and methods, including open enclosed, and flatbed carriers; door to door shipping; terminal shipping; and auto transport by rail, among others.

3. Dependability
Dependability is often hard to determine from a quote. It takes doing some research, notably on websites like Transport Reviews. Looking up how other companies have fared – be that with us, or with someone else you’re thinking of booking with – is an important aspect of shipping your car and one you shouldn’t be taking lightly. Read reviews, look at services as well as how long a shipper has been in business. We’ve been shipping cars for a long time now, and we understand what it takes to move them reliably.

Time to book your shipment!

Once you find a company (hopefully us!), you book your shipment. Booking your shipment requires you giving specific details, notably pickup and delivery addresses and additional vehicle information such as the VIN number of the vehicle. Other information will include when you’re shipping and special requests, such as putting items in your vehicle or meeting your driver at an alternate location that is easier to access.

And now you wait…

After you book your shipment, you basically wait until your representative is able to find a carrier. Depending on the route and the pickup and delivery locations, this can take anywhere from a day to a week. Other factors include the time of year – winter tends to see slower pickup times on all but the most popular routes. We can tell you that most vehicles we ship are dispatched within five days, and the majority of those go within three. So the wait won’t be long.

When your vehicle is dispatched, your representative will tell you who your carrier company is and give you all their details. This will include the name of the company and the driver’s contact information. Also, they will give you your pickup window, which is a range – usually of one to two days – when the carrier will arrive. Note that the carrier will call you on the day of pickup to coordinate specific locations – they drive 80-ft transport trucks, and they can’t fit everywhere, afterall.

This is also when most companies will take your deposit. We will typically take your deposit either upon dispatch or upon pickup depending on the terms of your shipment, so talk to an agent to learn more if you’re at that stage of the shipment.

So, the carrier’s at your door…

Great! It’s time for your vehicle to be loaded. You and the driver will both do an inspection of your vehicle to note the vehicle’s current condition. This is important as it’s going to be the main basis of comparison for the delivery inspection, which will note any new damages. Note that damage is rare during transport, even on an open trailer.

After the inspection, you can do pretty much whatever you want. Once the driver takes your keys, they take possession of the vehicle and are responsible for it. This is where insurance kicks in, and if the driver does anything during pickup or while in transit to damage the vehicle, it will be covered. Of course, most everyone who does this for a living won’t let something like that happen, but it’s good to know that the carrier’s insurance not only will cover the vehicle during transit but also during loading and unloading.

And now you wait some more

Once your vehicle is on the truck, it’s on its way to the delivery location, wherever that may be. Transit times vary greatly depending on the route, though most shipments of under a thousand miles only take a couple of days to complete. Most cross-country shipments take just five to seven days. During this time, you should try  to get to your delivery location as quickly as possible, to prepare for the carrier’s arrival. If you cannot be there, make sure you have someone who can take possession of the vehicle and do the delivery inspection.

So, the carrier’s there with your car

Congrats! You’re in the home stretch! Once the carrier arrives with your vehicle, you simply have to wait for them to get the car off the truck and then do an inspection at delivery. As noted above, most vehicles are shipped without incident, but damage can happen. Remember, any damage sustained between pickup and delivery will be taken care of by the carrier’s insurance. However, you do need to make a claim, and the carrier can help you do so.

Note: this is also where you pay the driver their portion of the total cost. Drivers will take cash, cashier’s check or money order – none take personal checks. Your agent will tell you how much to pay the driver upon delivery, too.

And that’s how a car is shipped from start to finish! It’s not nearly as complicated as it seems – most everything will be done over the phone and the coordination is largely on the shoulders of your agent. Mostly, just make yourself available and you shouldn’t have any problems.


  • "Being a rather large SUV that needed shipped from California to Nebraska, there were a few challenges. The first truck that arrived refused to pickup the vehicle due to it's size. However, Mike worked diligently and within one week he had a hotshot lined up. The operators of the hotshot were incredibly communicative and accommodating. The vehicle arrived withing 3 days with no damage at all. Although there was the one hiccup, in the end the service received was top notch. I would be happy to ship with Mike in the future." - Miles/California
  • "Never needing to use an auto transport service, I was a bit nervous and overwhelmed with all of the different company/broker options. After reading tons of reviews and visiting the Better Business Bureau website, I contacted Affordable Auto Transportation. The stars aligned and Jared Z. was my main point of contact. He made this experience super easy and relaxed my anxieties. I would highly recommend this company for my family and friends. " - Jared Z/Washington