Last updated March 19, 2020 by Chris Teague
We reviewed the top car shipping companies to help you choose an affordable and safe option. We’ll explain how much car shipping costs and how to get a good deal.
There are dozens of car shipping companies and carriers in the U.S. Not only that, but there are multiple shipping types and options, and a stressful mix of pricing policies. But we’ll try to keep it simple here so you can choose a shipping option that makes sense. We will also answer some of the most common questions about how to ship a car.
Car Shipping Price Quotes
First, if you already know when and how you want to ship your car (e.g., covered vs. uncovered truck within the continental U.S., or by boat if overseas) then you may be ready to get a car shipping price quote. We recommend getting multiple quotes so you can compare shops.
You can find prices from multiple car shipping companies here: uShip price quotes
5 Best Car Shipping Companies
Here are Car Talk’s top recommended car shipping companies (in no particular order):
We selected these five companies based on their reputations, size and track record helping consumers ship cars. Several of these companies are aggregators that work across multiple car transporters and will help you price shop across them. The aggregators are responsible for vetting the individual carriers and often will show you the consumer ratings and individual price quotes so you understand exactly who will be moving your vehicle. They also tend to offer standardized insurance packages that work across their carrier network.
We’ve provided more details about these five leading car shipping companies below:
Sherpa specializes in relocations, snowbird moves, multi-car shipments, and late model transport. They’re also well-known for shipping classic autos, larger SUVs and trucks, and vehicles that are no longer operable. The average price to ship a car with Sherpa is around $900, but that number can vary greatly depending on the type of vehicle being shipped, how far it needs to be moved, the season, and other factors. If you decide to ship with Sherpa, you’ll have to pay an initial deposit, though canceling before a carrier has been assigned will only cost you a $25 dispatch fee. If you cancel after a carrier has been assigned, your deposit will not be returned.
The company offers local and long-haul transport and can ship door-to-door. Direct delivery is Sherpa’s most popular type of transport since the level of convenience for shippers is much greater. Sherpa also guarantees that the vehicles it ships will be clean after transport. Sherpa will reimburse owners up to $20 for a car wash visit after shipping.
Sherpa’s big selling point is what it calls its Price Lock Promise, which just means that the company will not charge you more than their original quote stated. The practice is an extra insurance policy, especially when some shipping charges can grow quickly with hidden charges.
eShip moves thousands of vehicles every year and offers services seven days a week. The company will shop its carriers to help you find the best rates for the time period you need and can ship everything from motorcycles to exotic cars and trucks. In a rare move, eShip doesn’t require a deposit before starting the process, but the company does not offer terminal-to-terminal shipping, which may be a non-starter for some shippers.
The company has one of the best insurance policies of any shipper, and you won’t have to pay extra for additional coverage. Like Sherpa, eShip will refund service fees if the job is canceled before a carrier has been assigned.
AmeriFreight works with the top five percent of over 11,000 carriers to negotiate the best rate on the shipper’s behalf, and won’t consider a carrier with less than a 95 percent quality rating for its customers. The company offers a money-back guarantee and ships almost anything motorized from coast to coast. Insurance is included with AFta gap insurance, so there’s no need to worry about damages.
AmeriFreight says their costs can range from around $500 to well over $1,000 for shipping a sedan on open transport. The upside is that several discounts are available for various reasons, such as for members of the military, students, and seniors.
Like the rest of these companies, uShip will ship just about anything legal that you can put in a crate, as well as cars. The only uShip isn’t really the shipper; it’s a clearinghouse for shipping quotes. Think of this as a Kayak or Priceline for shipping quotes. There’s good and bad about that.
The good news is, the web interface works really well. In order to see prices, you have to log in with your name, email address, and phone number. Once you do that, you’ll see quotes from a number of different shippers, and you’ll also see an instant average of shipping quotes, so you know right away whether you’re getting a good deal or not. The quotes also include ratings from each of the shippers.
We put in a quote request for shipping a 2003 Jeep Wrangler -- something not terribly large -- from Holliston, Massachusetts to Austin, Texas. We received nine different quotes, ranging from a low of $1,061 to $1,804. All of the quotes are subject to an additional service fee -- ranging from $79.59 on the low end to $100 on the high end -- and an additional nominal $67.25 fee for cargo insurance.
The bad news with a shipping price aggregator like uShip is the same as for a Kayak or a Priceline: If things go wrong, you’ll have to deal directly with the shipper, rather than the site where you made your reservation. It’s not the end of the world, mind you, but it’s something to be well aware of.
Montway, as opposed to uShip, is an actual shipper. And unlike the rest of these companies, the only items Montway ships are vehicles. When we ran the quote at uShip, Montway was one of the shippers that provided a quote, and the pricing ended up mid-pack, around $1,300.
We ran the same shipping quote we did for uShip -- a 2003 Jeep Wrangler -- to and from the same destination. Interestingly, the quote we got direct from Montway was significantly cheaper than the quote that showed up at uShip.
Montway provides two quotes: one for a cash price, and one for a credit or debit card. The credit card price was $1,149. Cash saved $60, with a price of $1,089. Insurance was included in the quote.
That’s in open car transporter. Montway also shows you a price if you’d like a closed transporter. For our trip from Massachusetts to Texas, we got an additional $410 fee for a closed transporter. Not a bad deal, really.
These are just five of the major shipping companies that offer vehicle transport. We chose them partially for their transparency, services offered, and customer feedback. Even so, there may be a local shipper with much better rates or service offerings that you can use, so it’s important to do your own research to find out what’s available to you. You should be comparing at least three companies’ pricing before making a decision.
How to Ship a Car
Before your car ends up on a flatbed, crossing the Mississippi, you’ll need to be absolutely sure that shipping is the best option for you. In some cases, making the drive or having someone drive the vehicle for you will be much more cost and time effective, but many people have jobs and other commitments that prevent them from taking a week off from work to head out on a road trip. There may also be situations where driving the vehicle is impossible, such as when moving older models or project cars.
Once you’ve decided that shipping is the way to go, you’ll need to determine the best way to actually transport your vehicle and find companies that offer that type of shipping. A few of the most popular vehicle shipping methods include:
- Open Car Transport: Truck transport is the most common way for individuals to ship a vehicle. Open-air transport, where the trailer or truck bed is uncovered, is one of the most cost-effective ways to move a vehicle by truck, but comes with risks of damage as the vehicle is completely exposed to the elements.
- Enclosed Car Transport: Vehicles that require a bit more care or discretion in shipping may need a closed truck transport. As the name suggests, the trailer or truck bed is enclosed, which both protects the vehicle from damage and keeps it out of sight.
- Air/Rail/Ship: International moves or those of the mainland will require a move by air or sea, but long-range continental transport can be achieved relatively easily with rail freight. You’ll have to deal with an inflexible schedule and do a lot of the legwork yourself, but the payoff might be worth it for longer routes.
How Much Does it Cost to Ship A Car?
Prices in the vehicle shipping world can vary wildly, depending on the shipper, the vehicle, the shipping distance, and even the weather. You can set yourself up to get the best price by shopping around to at least three different shipping agencies, trying to ship between major cities if possible, shipping during off-season times (winter), and choosing a cost-effective shipping method like open truck transport.
Car Talk researched prices to ship a car to different places across the U.S. and compiled a table of the information here: U.S. Car Shipping Prices
Unfortunately, there are no set rates for shipping distances or between cities. Amerifreight says that a car shipped from Los Angeles to Miami has a starting price of around $900, but other transport companies quote averages per mile. Montway Auto Transport says that short trips cost around $1.96/mile (<500 miles), while long trips (>1,500 miles) only cost $.58/mile.
How to Choose the Right Car Shipper
The “best” shipping company will be different for everyone. We listed just three of the dozens of companies, giving them a nod for high customer ratings, good insurance coverage, and for offering a wide variety of shipping methods. Of those three, there may be only one that offers the pricing and scheduling that you need, but the framework to look for other companies is in place:
- Shop the shipper, not the price: Determine who you feel most comfortable with moving your vehicle. No discount in the world will make you feel better if your vehicle arrives damaged or two months later than expected.
- Check the coverage: Does your shipper have a clearly defined insurance policy? Are they able to guarantee that your vehicle will reach its destination in the condition you left it? These are not just selling points or good marketing. They can make the difference between a successful move and a nightmare.
- Get multiple price quotes: As with anything in life, getting a second (or third) opinion is a good plan. Sometimes, shippers will have vastly different pricing for the same route or for additional services like insurance, so be sure you’re getting the pricing you need.
- Don’t hurry: It’s impossible to prepare for all of life’s emergencies, but you should give yourself as much time as possible to avoid unnecessary charges and to allow enough time to shop around. If you need to ship your car now - like today - you may have fewer options and need to pay a premium. Plan ahead and book ahead, if you can.
How to Get a Car Shipping Discount
There are many ways to look for discounts and price breaks when shipping a vehicle. Having prior or current military service on your resume may allow you to take advantage of many companies’ military discounts. Similarly, students, teachers, and school administrators are sometimes able to enjoy those discounts.
For everybody else, shipping a car can still be relatively affordable for a little bit of legwork ahead of time. Do your homework to find a shipper that offers the type of transport you need and that offers services in your area. Getting competing rates will help you trim down your list as well. Once you’ve chosen a shipper, selecting a shipping method is next. As we discussed, open-truck transport is the most cost-effective, but you may find better luck with rail transport.
It’s also important to not be in a hurry when you’re shopping around. It’s impossible to avoid every emergency, but needing a rush job won’t be cheap. If you’re able to ship your vehicle in the off-season, such as during winter, you may be able to secure a much better rate than choosing a high-traffic time of year. Lastly, shipping between major cities or terminals can net you the best pricing, as many shippers operate routes between large metro areas.
Q: How long does it take to ship a car?
A: Most companies quote a pickup time to actually receive your vehicle, which can range from two days to over a week. Once it’s on the truck, your vehicle can take anywhere from two days to four weeks. Shippers try to steer away from concrete deadlines because almost anything can cause a delay, but most use a “normal driving time” to make an estimate.
Q: Should I ship my car enclosed or uncovered?
A: How valuable is your car? If you’re shipping a Honda Civic from Chicago to Milwaukee, you would probably be best served with an open-air (uncovered) truck transport. On the other hand, if you’re moving a McLaren Senna from New York to South Beach, you might want to consider the extra protection offered by a covered transport.
Q: Can I ship a car by train?
A: Yes, you can. Many shipping companies are getting in on the rail game. You may need to travel to and from the pickup/dropoff locations, and rail transport is slower than truck shipping.
Q: Does Amtrak ship cars?
A: AmTrak offers Auto Train for some of its locations, which might allow you to move your vehicle from one location to another on their trains. Pricing, availability, and policies are different depending on location, so check the Amtrak website for more.
Q: Can I ship a car now (today)?
A: If you live very close to the shipper’s location and they happen to have a carrier available at that exact moment, maybe. Even if you did luck out, you’ll end up paying through the nose and may end up with a damaged vehicle. Take your time, if possible.
Q: What happens if my car gets damaged?
A: In general, the shipper assumes responsibility for the vehicle when it’s in their possession. Some shipping companies charge an additional fee for insurance, but shippers like Montway include it in the price.
Q: Does my car have to be running?
A: No, but if it’s not, you’ll have to pay an additional fee. When we got a quote from Montway, the price for a non-running version of the same 2003 Jeep Wrangler was $260 higher.
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