Expert Tips on How to Save Money on Car Shipping

Car shipping
Image courtesy of Car Talk fan and experienced snowbird, Jane Goreham

Energy prices have surged in America. While motorists feel the pinch at the pump, truckers have been hit even harder. The cost of diesel fuel is one of trucking’s largest costs overall, and the hardest for trucking companies to respond to. Thus, the price for trucking has gone up. This means that those who are considering shipping a car today can use all the help they can get.

The good news is that there are four ways you can reduce the cost of shipping your vehicle.

Read our full review and recommendations for the Best Car Shipping Companies here.

What Do Shipping Companies Say? We Listen To The Experts

Car Talk always suggests two things to anyone looking to ship a car. First, shop around. Make more than one phone call, and get pricing that you can compare. Second, don’t shop strictly on price. While it is certainly an important criteria, make sure to also look at the shippers review ratings and inquire about insurance. On Car Talk’s review page you will find that Montway Auto Transport earned a 4.9 out of 5 star rating based on multiple criteria. Many of the shippers that Car Talk has evaluated don’t score nearly that well.

Car Talk reached out to one of the highly-rated car shipping companies from our long list of the best shipping companies, Montway Auto Transport. We asked Mark Scholl, Executive VP of Operations and Retail Sales, what a car owner can do to minimize the money they will spend to ship a car in today’s era of high energy prices. Mr. Scholl offered four suggestions, which we outline below.

Expert Advice to Save Money on Car Shipping

Timing

Seasonality in car shipping has a major impact on the overall cost. The closer one gets to peak car shipping season April-September, the higher the cost will be to ship a vehicle. Snowbirds on the East Coast are locked into a certain seasonality. However, if you know many months in advance when you will be making your migration, call your shipper sooner than usual. Ask if an early shipment might save a few bucks. The chances are good that it might help. This cost saving measure might work best for those who have multiple vehicles and plan to leave one behind that can be used temporarily to serve the family’s needs. Speaking of those with more than one vehicle…

Shipping Your Smaller Vehicle

If you have multiple vehicles, but only plan on shipping one, consider shipping the smaller vehicle rather than the larger one. In other words, leave the Suburban and ship the CR-V. Different sized vehicles vary in their cost to ship. The bigger and heavier vehicles typically will cost more to transport. Very large vehicles have the biggest price adders. When possible, opt for your smallest vehicle to ship. That said, don’t head out to the driveway with a tape measure. There is no meaningful difference in price between similar vehicles.

Be Flexible

Timing matters, but not everyone can push back or move up a shipping date by a month or more. However, if you can, being flexible with exact dates can help your pricing. On average, the time to pick up a vehicle is within 1-5 business days from the first available shipping date. However, being more flexible on timing, and being flexible on the dates when your vehicle can be picked up, will allow your shipper more time to arrange a carrier. That can help minimize your cost.

Select An Open Transport Trailer

You love your car. If you didn’t you would not be reading Car Talk right now. Many consumers want to transport their vehicle using an enclosed trailer. Enclosed trailer is the type of shipping with a box where you can not see the vehicles from the outside. However, for most daily drivers, the necessity to actually transport the vehicle via an enclosed trailer is not warranted. Enclosed trailers are usually reserved for motorcycles and classic or vintage cars. If you are shipping a pristine ‘63 split-window Corvette, don’t let us talk you out of an enclosed trailer.

Open transport is the most favored, and most cost-efficient method in the vehicle shipping market. The vast majority of consumers choose to transport their vehicles via an open car carrier most resulting in little to no effect on the overall customer experience. If you have a “regular” vehicle that you drive in normal daily chores, an open trailer is almost always the right choice.

The availability of carriers using open trailers will be much higher. More trucker availability means more flexibility in pricing. This can have a big impact on the overall cost and timing of the shipment. Plan for your vehicle to arrive dirty. Have the local car wash give it the full treatment to bring it back to glossy brilliance after it arrives at its destination.

Save Money On Car Shipping - Summary

The suggestions made by Mr. Scholl all have a common theme. Plan early, be flexible, and have a dialogue with your shipper. Ask what you can do to save some money. Be sure that you haven’t accidentally locked yourself into a high price by being too specific. Start with what vehicle you have to ship and when you would like it to arrive at your destination. Let your shipper help you to find the most cost-effective solution to make that happen.

Read more on the Best Car Shipping Companies in the industry here.

FAQ

What is the cheapest way to ship a car?

To save money when shipping a car, opt for an open trailer. Also, plan well in advance and be flexible with shipping dates. Read more on the Cheapest Way to Ship a Car here.

Is it worth it to ship a car?

Shipping is not cheap, but neither is fuel, food on the go, and hotels. If you can’t make the trip in under eight hours of driving, it is worth considering shipping a car. If an overnight stay would be needed, it is usually best to ship the vehicle. Read more on the Best Way to Ship a Car Across the Country here.

Why is car shipping so expensive?

One reason is fuel costs. The price of diesel spiked dramatically in early 2022.

How long does it take to ship a car?

Typically a week is the amount of time from pickup to drop off, but it is often quicker. Ask your shipper for details. If you can be flexible with your dates, you might be able to save some money on the deal.

Can I ship a car out of state?

Of course. You can ship a car anywhere in the U.S. including Alaska and Hawaii with no special forms required. Read more about Shipping a Car to Another State here.

Where can I get reviews and ratings for car shipping companies?

Car Talk has a review of every top shipping company in the American market. Read our full reviews and recommendations on the Best Car Shipping Companies here.

Editor's note and disclaimer: Car Talk is supported by our fans, readers and listeners. When you click on some of the links on our website, we may receive referral compensation. However, you should know that the recommendations we make are based on our independent editorial review and analyses.