Sending a car across the country can be complicated and expensive. Shipping a car to Alaska adds a layer of complexity and expense. But here at Car Talk we have some tips that might make the ordeal a little easier, and possibly even a little cheaper.
Car transport to Alaska is more complicated than regular shipping because it generally involves an ocean passage. Your car gets loaded onto a ship on the West Coast, often Seattle or Tacoma, then sails to Anchorage. Of course, unless your car is in one of those port cities, and its final destination is Anchorage, you’ll also have to deal with regular land transport for the vehicle as well. Depending on the company you ship it with, you’ll either have to drive it to and from the ports, or pay for it to be shipped over the ground as well.
Moving to Alaska? That’s a big job. Figuring out how to get all of your stuff up to the northernmost state is a daunting task, especially if you’ve got vehicles you want to keep.
That’s when it’s time to make a choice. Do you ship it, or do you drive it there yourself? There are advantages and disadvantages to both plans. Driving it there yourself might be more expensive once you factor in gas, food, mileage on the car itself, and lodging prices. On the other hand, the DIY route lets you pack the car with your belongings - something you often aren’t allowed to do if you have it shipped.
If you’re planning on shipping your car to Alaska, you have to transport it on a ship. If you live far away from ports in Washington state, many companies will ship your car from your house to the port, then load it on a ship bound for Alaska. Otherwise, you can save money if you’re able to drop it off at the departure port or pick it up at the arrival port. Better yet, doing both saves you even more cash.
Shipping a car is never cheap, but car transport to Alaska, which requires an ocean voyage, is going to add expense. While you can sometimes get a car shipped in the lower 48 for less than a grand if you choose an open transport trailer, that’s not an option when the destination is the Land of the Midnight Sun. Expect to pay upwards of $2,000 just port-to-port. If you need ground transport as well, that price can more than double. But the good news is that prices for the ground transportation leg often won’t fluctuate too much based on where in the lower 48 you’re shipping from. For example, you’ll only pay about $500 more to ship a car from Florida to Alaska than you will for car transport to Alaska from, say, Los Angeles.
Here’s a sample breakdown of estimated costs from one company to transport a 2021 Honda Accord to Alaska from various origins to the Port of Anchorage. We set our sample shipping date for a few months out, to avoid any last-minute rush charges. Of course, if you choose a different destination port, prices will change, but this should give you some idea of what you’ll pay.
How long it takes to ship a car to Alaska largely depends on where you’re shipping it from. If you’re shipping port to port, it’ll often be at its destination about a week after you drop it off at the port. If it’s first getting shipped to the port from somewhere in the lower 48 states, that can add over a week to the job. Of course, there are a number of factors that can delay shipping times, a big one being weather along the shipping route.
You’ll want to ask the company you choose to ship your car what you should do to get your car ready for transport to Alaska. Some companies advise you to clean the car out entirely - even remove anything in the glove box. Others will work with you if you want to pack your car full of other things you want to ship - but if you do that, it might cost you more because shipping prices are determined in part by weight.
One thing you’ll always have to do is get your fuel down below a quarter tank or 66 gallons, whichever is less. That’s a Coast Guard regulation, and it’s non-negotiable. The Coast Guard also requires an inspection of your car before it gets on the ship, to make sure anything that could leak - batteries, gas tanks, etc - isn’t. It’s a good idea to have your local mechanic inspect the car before you ship it, to minimize the risk that it might fail the Coast Guard’s mandated inspection.
It’s a good idea to give your car a bath before you ship it. A clean car makes it easier to find flaws and, more importantly, to document where flaws are not. Take lots of high quality pictures before the car gets picked up, and if you can, superimpose the date on them. That way if it gets damaged in shipment, there won’t be any doubt about when the damage occurred.
Don’t forget to remove automatic toll transponders like E-ZPass, especially if there’s a ground transportation leg to the shipment. Otherwise, that transponder will think you’re driving through toll points even though your car’s on the back of a semi, which will cost you unnecessary expense.
One frustrating aspect about many car shipping companies is that it’s hard to get an instant quote. Many want you to send them the details of what you’re shipping and when, and then they’ll get in contact with you to give you a quote. But Alaska Car Transport is different - you can get an instant quote in your web browser. They still want your contact information, but you don’t have to wait for them to use it to get your quote. That combined with generally positive online reviews, and most negative reviews trending toward complaints of long telephone hold times rather than actual service, means we suspect you’d have a good experience with this company.
Like Alaska Car Transport, Easy Auto Ship also makes it possible to get an instant quote without waiting for someone to contact you. They also have generally good online reviews and better yet, here at Car Talk we’ve already looked into their operation, which you can read our full review of the company here.
Another option instead of gathering quotes yourself is to use what’s called a shipping aggregator. You enter the details of what you’re shipping, where, and when, and can get quotes from several different companies automatically. One example of a shipping aggregator service is uShip, which we have also already reviewed in depth for your convenience. The short version is that it’s easier to find good prices using an aggregator to do the work for you, but because they’re not the actual shipping company, they’re not likely to take responsibility if something goes wrong with the shipment; you’ll have to deal with the company that actually ships the car.
Anywhere from around $2,000 if you drop it off and pick it up from the sea ports, to double that and possibly more if you also need ground transport.
The short version is, pick a company, and follow their instructions! Be sure to get your car inspected before you ship it so it doesn’t fail inspection at the port, which could cause delays.
If you can drop the car off at the departure port, and pick it up from the destination port, you’ll save a lot of money.
That route allows for port-to-port shipping, which means it’s less expensive than if the car were also transported to and from the sea ports. A rough estimate would be around $2,000.
Oftentimes less than a week! But weather and other factors can cause delays.
The best way to get a good price is to compare offers. We recommend reaching out to...