Are you curious about car shipping but unsure of where to start? In this guide, we’ll show you how the car shipping process works, from getting quotes to getting your car delivered. We’ll go over what car shipping is, the types of car transport services, car shipping costs, and more.

What Is Car Shipping?

Car shipping, also known as auto transport or vehicle transport, is a service that moves your car from one location to another. It’s especially useful in situations where driving a car yourself is inconvenient or impossible. People use car shipping for many scenarios, including getting used vehicles they bought online and making cross-country moves to new homes.

In general, two types of providers offer car shipping services:

  • Car carriers: Car carriers, also known as car haulers, have their own trucks or fleets of trucks. They do the actual shipping of a customer’s vehicle.
  • Auto transport brokers: A car transport broker acts as the middleman between the customer and the car carrier. Brokers don’t own their own transport trucks, so rather than directly handling vehicle shipping, they help find carriers to pick up and drop off customers’ cars.

There are some hybrid companies that act as both shipping broker and carrier, but for the most part, you’ll deal with one type of company or the other when booking car shipping services.

Types of Auto Transport Services

When figuring out the details for your car shipment, there are a few choices you’ll have to make.

Delivery Method

Door-to-Door Delivery
With door-to-door transport, a carrier picks a vehicle up and delivers it to a specific location that’s safely and legally accessible. Most commonly, that location is the customer’s house. Depending on truck weight and size limits in the area, though, the delivery location may be a major road or a parking lot.

Sherpa Auto Transport exclusively offers door-to-door shipping, as most of our clients prefer its convenience.

Terminal-to-Terminal Delivery
Rather than delivering a vehicle to the customer’s chosen address, terminal-to-terminal shipping uses centralized pickup and drop-off points. These terminals are usually an auto shipping company’s operating base or warehouses in cities. Terminal-to-terminal delivery is usually cheaper than door-to-door shipping, but it can be a lot less convenient for a customer’s schedule.

Transport Type

Open Auto Transport
Also known as open carrier shipping, this is the best option for cheap car shipping. Open transport carriers can fit between eight and 10 vehicles, allowing them to make multiple pickups and deliveries along a shipping route. This is especially helpful when gas prices are high, as carriers can split any additional fuel costs among several clients.

Keep in mind, however, that open-air carriers leave your car exposed to the elements and vulnerable to damage from bad weather or road debris.

Enclosed Auto Transport
Enclosed car shipping is a great option for customers who want more protection for their vehicles. An enclosed trailer, either hard-sided or soft-sided, keeps your vehicle protected from road hazards or damaging weather conditions such as hail or sleet.
While it’s an excellent choice for classic cars or luxury vehicles, enclosed auto transport is often up to 50% more expensive than open auto shipping.

Typical Auto Transport Costs

Because shipping prices can be affected by many variables, you won’t find many auto transport companies advertising exact rates. The best car shipping companies offer car shipping calculators or other tools to give you free quotes. Getting car shipping quotes online will help you get a more accurate picture of the cost for your shipment.

To get a baseline estimate of what your transport price might be with Sherpa, use the tables below. These are cost ranges for an operable vehicle on an open carrier. Shipment details and market conditions could make your actual quote look different.

Shipment MileagePrice per Mile
0 to 500 miles$1.32 to $2.75
501 to 1,000 miles$0.88 to $1.55
1,001 to 1,500 miles$0.70 to $1.23
1,501 to 2,000 miles$0.60 to $1
2,001 to 2,500 miles$0.53 to $0.84
2,500+ miles$0.48 to $0.74

Popular Auto Transport Routes

If you’re transporting your car across the country, say from Florida to California, here’s what it may cost per mile for a long-distance shipment with Sherpa. Again, using a car shipping calculator could get you a more accurate idea of the cost for your transport, but these range estimates can be a good starting point.

RoutesPrice per Mile
New York City to Los Angeles$0.56 to $0.72
New York City to Miami$0.98 to $1.20
Los Angeles to Miami$0.48 to $0.66
Los Angeles to New York City$0.48 to $0.71
Miami to New York City$0.65 to $1.20
Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles$0.49 to $0.69
Chicago to Los Angeles$0.61 to $0.88
New York City to Houston$0.80 to $1
Los Angeles to Atlanta$0.48 to $0.74
Chicago to Phoenix$0.68 to $0.92

When using a quote tool on a car transport company’s website, you’ll likely need to provide the following information:

  • Type of vehicle (make, model, year, and mileage)
  • Vehicle condition (operable vs. inoperable)
  • Timeframe for your shipment
  • Pickup and delivery locations (cities or ZIP codes)
  • Type of transport (open vs. enclosed)
  • Your email address and phone number

Once you enter that information, you’ll either receive an instant quote or be contacted by a representative from the shipping company.

Factors that Affect Car Shipping Costs

The details of your shipment and the current market conditions will affect the cost of your auto transport. With that in mind, these are the factors you should consider when looking at car shipping rates.

Shipping Distance

The biggest cost factor in auto shipping is distance. The price you pay per mile decreases as the distance increases, but you’ll pay more overall for longer-distance transports. Cross-country shipments are more expensive, but they may be a lot more convenient than driving your car to the destination yourself.

Shipping Route

Roads with a lot of traffic, especially those in major cities, could cause delays that add to car shipping costs. Less-traveled roads and interstate highways can help speed up your transport and save you money. Unforeseen delays caused by accidents or roadway construction are possibilities, and delays or detours can create extra costs.

Pickup and Drop-Off Locations

Shipping to and from more urban areas is generally cheaper than shipping to more rural locations. Rural drop-off points require extra mileage and fuel for the car carrier and increase the price of your shipment.

Time of Year

The busiest times in the auto transport industry are typically the summer and January. People tend to relocate to new homes more in the summer, which drives up demand for auto shipping. In January, some folks like to move to warmer climates and take their vehicles with them. If you need car shipping services during these times of year, you’re likely to pay more.

Shipping Dates

In general, it’s recommended that you book your transport as far in advance as possible, or at least two weeks in advance. This helps ensure you’ll be able to secure a car carrier for your transport at a reasonable cost. Some vehicle shipping companies offer expedited shipping, but the cost for last-minute auto transports is significantly higher.

Vehicle Size

A good rule of thumb to follow is that the larger the car, the costlier it will be to ship. Bigger vehicles, such as pickup trucks and SUVs, are heavier than standard sedans. Some require more clearance space than others, which could limit the amount of space on a carrier truck. Standard sedans and compact cars are much less expensive to transport.

Vehicle Condition

If your car is inoperable, it will be more expensive to ship. Cars that aren’t driveable often need extra equipment, such as a winch or a forklift, to get loaded onto the carrier truck. Any extra time and labor it takes to load and unload a vehicle will increase the cost of a shipment.

Auto Transport Insurance

All auto transport companies are required to hold liability insurance, but additional insurance coverage isn’t required by law. If a company doesn’t carry cargo insurance, you may want to consider purchasing extra insurance for your shipment.

Sherpa’s car shipping quotes are all-inclusive, meaning any insurance costs are folded into your quote. All carriers in our network are required to hold a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance and $100,000 in cargo insurance.

Gas Prices

If the cost of fuel rises, you can bet the cost to ship a car will also increase. Car shipping companies need to recoup the money spent on fuel, so gas and diesel prices are factored into the amount you’ll pay for transport.

How to Prepare Your Car to be Shipped

After you choose a car transport company, you’ll need to prepare for your upcoming shipment. Here’s how to get your car ready to be shipped without hassle.

Gather Documents

Make sure any documents, such as your title and registration, are available to you at pickup or drop-off if you need them for shipment. This is especially important if you’re selling your vehicle or shipping it internationally.

Clean Your Car

Washing your car will help you identify any existing damage. Document scratches, dings, or dents you see after cleaning your car to present to the shipping company if any damage occurs during the shipping process.

Perform Routine Maintenance

Take care of routine maintenance before shipping your car. This includes:

  • Topping off all fluids
  • Making sure your battery has charge
  • Checking your tire pressure and filling the tires as needed

You should also alert the truck driver about any leaks your vehicle may have. This ensures your car is ready for pickup.

Remove Personal Items

Don’t ship your car with any belongings left inside. Some car shippers allow up to 100 pounds of personal items in your car’s trunk, but the heavier the car, the costlier it is to ship. Sherpa doesn’t allow personal items to be shipped with the vehicle as neither we nor the carrier can be responsible in the rare event of theft.

Don’t Fill Your Gas Tank

Your gas tank should only be a quarter full when you’re shipping your car. A full tank of gas adds to your car’s weight, which adds to the price of your transport. Your car won’t be driven except when it’s loaded onto and removed from the carrier truck.

Secure Loose Parts

Removable or loose parts, such as spoilers, hood ornaments, and antennas, should be removed and stored in the trunk. Additionally, you should fold in your side mirrors if they’re able to do so. This protects loose parts from possible damage during shipping.

Make an Extra Set of Keys

The truck driver will need to have a set of keys to drive your car on and off the carrier bed. It’s unlikely that they’ll lose the keys, but should that happen, it helps your peace of mind to have an extra set.

Why You Should Choose Sherpa Auto Transport

Sherpa Auto Transport has built an excellent reputation over the years. We specialize in door-to-door transport to the Lower 48 states, offering convenient and reliable car shipping services to our customers. We’re accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and the organization gives us an A+ rating. Customer reviews on the BBB’s website give us an average star rating of 4.9 out of 5.

Price Lock Promise

With our Price Lock Promise, the car shipping quote you receive is the final price you’ll pay. If the quoted price isn’t enough to confirm a carrier for your shipment, we’ll pay up to $300 of the difference to make your transport happen.

Clean Car Guarantee

If your car is dirty when it’s delivered, we’ll reimburse you up to $20 for a car wash. Just submit your car wash receipt and bill of lading and we’ll issue a reimbursement to your payment method.

Frequently Asked Questions