Understanding the car shipping process will make it easier for you to transport your vehicle. Our team has compiled this guide to help you better understand how to ship a car. We’ll take a look at the car shipping process, car shipping costs, and a few tips for how to prepare for auto transport.

How the Car Shipping Process Works

To help you with researching how to ship a car, we’ve broken down the steps you’ll need to follow.

Get Free Quotes

It’s a good idea to get car shipping quotes online from a few providers. This will help you find the best price for your shipment and let you compare the transport services each company offers.

When requesting a car shipping quote, you’ll need to provide the auto transport company with these details:

  • Your vehicle’s make, model, and age
  • Whether your car is operable
  • Pickup and delivery locations
  • Desired time frame for pickup and delivery
  • Preferred car shipping method (open or enclosed trailer transport)
  • Your name and contact information

After receiving this information, the provider will contact you with a quote for the auto transport services you’ve requested. Some companies offer instant quotes with a tool on their website, while others compile your information and have a representative reach out to you.

Depending on the provider, the price you’re quoted may only be an estimate. Sherpa Auto Transport offers locked-in pricing, which means you won’t pay more than your quoted rate.

Choose a Provider

Once you’ve received a number of quotes, compare the providers’ prices and services. To protect your peace of mind, make sure the auto shipping company you select works with transporters that carry cargo insurance and are licensed with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Once you choose an auto shipping provider, you’ll work with an agent from the company to determine when your vehicle will be shipped. You’ll provide a window for both pickup and delivery dates.

Depending on the company, you may need to put down a partial payment. In some cases, the auto shipper may provide a discount if you pay for your service in advance. With Sherpa Auto Transport, you’ll make an initial payment when a carrier is assigned to your shipment and pay the balance when your vehicle arrives.

Prepare Your Vehicle to Be Shipped

Once you have your pickup date, you’ll need to get your car ready to be shipped. Here’s a list of steps to take to ensure your car’s in prime shape for transport:

  1. Wash your car. Giving your car a thorough wash will help you find any dings, scratches, or other cosmetic issues. If you’re shipping internationally, some countries won’t let your car pass quarantine if it wasn’t washed before leaving port.
  2. Inspect your vehicle for existing damage. Once your car is clean, you’ll have a better chance of discovering any cosmetic damage. Take photos of any scratches or dents. This way, if any damage occurs during shipping, you can show the auto transport company what damage was already present.
  3. Remove valuables and personal items. Though theft during vehicle transports is rare, you should remove any valuables or personal items. It’s also good to remove toll tags. Also, a heavier car means a higher transport cost, so removing all nonessential items will save you money.
  4. Secure or remove loose parts. Any removable or loose parts (like a radio antenna, hood ornament, or spoiler) should be removed and placed in the trunk to avoid damage. You should also fold in your side mirrors if possible and make sure your sunroof or convertible top is fully closed.
  5. Do a routine maintenance check. Be aware of any mechanical issues or leaks, as these can delay your car shipment. Top off all fluids, fully inflate your tires, make sure your car’s battery has charge, and record your current mileage.
  6. Empty your gas tank. You don’t want more than a quarter tank of gas in the vehicle, as a full tank of gas adds weight to it.
  7. Make an extra set of keys. The trucker will need keys to drive your car on and off the carrier truck, so make sure you either give them an extra key or have a spare with you.

Take Your Car to the Pickup Location

If you’ve chosen terminal-to-terminal shipping, you’ll need to take your car to the terminal on or before the pickup date. If the trucker is picking your car up from your home or neighborhood, make sure it’s accessible.

Wait for Delivery

Many car shipping companies provide a way to track your vehicle during transport, whether through an app with GPS or 24/7 customer service. When selecting the company you’ll use for your car transport, make sure it has a way to communicate where your vehicle is along the shipping route.

Pick Your Vehicle Up and Pay the Remaining Balance

Whether you’ve opted for terminal-to-terminal delivery or are waiting at home, once your car arrives, you and the driver will check it for any new damage. You’ll then sign a bill of lading to complete the service and pay the carrier the remaining balance.

How Much Does Car Shipping Cost?

The auto shipping industry doesn’t have a standard car shipping cost, but you can expect to pay between 48 cents and $2.75 per mile. There are many factors that affect the cost of vehicle shipping, including the shipping options you choose. 

Below are estimates for auto transport. These cost ranges are influenced by many factors, including shipment details and market conditions, so your price could 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

To give you more insight into car shipping costs, the table below shows popular car shipping routes and a range of how much they may cost per mile. Same as above, these rate ranges depend on many factors, so your actual price could look different.

RoutePrice 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

Factors that Affect Car Shipping Costs

FactorHow It Affects Car Shipping Costs
Vehicle sizeVehicles that are bigger and heavier, like SUVs and trucks, cost more to ship.
Vehicle operabilityIf your car is inoperable, shipping it will be more expensive. It will take more labor and time to load it onto the carrier truck, and it may require a winch or lift gate to load.
Shipping distanceLong-distance transports cost less per mile but more overall.
Pickup and delivery locationsShipping to and from urban areas is less expensive. Pickup and delivery in more rural locations take more time and fuel, so these shipments are costlier.
Transport typeThe cheapest method for car shipping is open auto transport. This allows multiple cars to be shipped at once, but it does leave your vehicle exposed to road hazards and weather conditions. Enclosed auto transport offers more protection but can cost up to 50% more.
Door-to-door vs. Terminal-to-terminal deliveryShipping your car between terminals cuts down on the carrier’s travel time and saves you money. Door-to-door shipping can be more convenient but will cost more.
SeasonDemand for car shipping generally goes up in the summer and January. Shipping during these times of year is more expensive.
Fuel costsAs fuel costs fluctuate, so does the cost of shipping. When fuel is more expensive, shipping your vehicle will cost more.

How to Ship a Car for Less Money

To make sure you have an affordable, hassle-free transport, here are a few tips to keep in mind when shipping your car.

Be Flexible

The wider of a window you can provide for pickup and delivery dates, the more affordable your transport is likely to be. Most car haulers select jobs that fit into existing schedules, so the more adaptable you can be with shipping dates, the more accommodating the transport carrier can be. Many companies offer expedited shipping, but it typically costs more.

Book in Advance

Book your auto transport as far in advance as possible. The more lead time you give, the more likely you are to receive the best rate. In general, you should book your shipment at least two weeks before the move date.

Open Trailer Shipping

Open carrier shipping is the cheapest way to transport your vehicle. Most open transport trucks can fit eight to 10 vehicles, so shipping routes have multiple stops to drop off and load cargo. If you have a classic car or a vehicle with a low clearance, you may want to consider enclosed carrier shipping, as it protects your vehicle from road debris and hazardous weather conditions.

Terminal-to-Terminal Shipping

If it’s possible based on your location and the auto shipping provider you choose, have your car shipped to and from a terminal to save money.

Why You Should Choose Sherpa Auto Transport

Sherpa Auto Transport offers affordable car shipping services to the entire continental United States. We have excellent standing in the auto shipping industry, holding accreditation and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Customers on the BBB’s site also rate us highly, giving our company a near-perfect average star rating of 4.9 out of 5.

Through our top-notch customer support, Sherpa provides real-time updates of your car’s location during the shipping process. The carriers we work with provide door-to-transport, making shipping more convenient. Each carrier goes through an extensive vetting process. All Sherpa carriers are registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and maintain a solid safety rating with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In addition, each carrier that works with Sherpa must maintain no less than $100,000 in cargo insurance coverage per shipment.

Price Lock Promise

Through our Price Lock Promise, Sherpa ensures that the shipping price you’re quoted is the price you’ll pay. This means that should the price increase from the initial quote, we’ll cover up to $300 of the difference. Our company’s locked-in prices protect your wallet from hidden fees and sudden price hikes.

Clean Car Guarantee

If your car arrives dirty, Sherpa Auto Transport will reimburse you up to $20 for a car wash. Just mail us your car wash receipt and the bill of lading from your shipment to get the reimbursement issued to your card.

FAQ: How to Ship a Car