If you’ve ever had to ship a car before, you’ve likely asked how long it takes. That’s not surprising – travel time is a crucial part of the car shipping process and one that you should probably understand. Knowing what to expect when your vehicle is actually in transit can make a big difference in the overall efficacy of your shipment. But what if you’ve never shipped a car before? What should you expect if this is your first time?
Luckily for you, we have the answer! Well, answers, plural, because there are some caveats. It’s not easy to just ask a question like “how long does it take to ship a car” because there are a number of different answers. And while we could just go “it depends” and leave it at that, we feel we owe more to you than that. So, in this helpful article, we’ll be talking about how long it takes to ship a car, what you can expect when shipping a car, and additional things that you should know.
Transit Time Explained
“Transit time” refers to the amount of time it takes to actually transport your vehicle. So it starts once the vehicle is loaded onto the truck, and ends when your vehicle is offloaded from the truck. That’s it. That’s “transit time.”
So then why is it such a confusing topic? Well, it has less to do with the actual definition and more so the fact that it can change, even on the same route. One truck may only take two days to run a route, whereas other trucks may take 3-4 days. Those differences are often what trip up customers when it comes to figuring out transit time.
Something else to keep in mind – auto transport transit times are much different than your everyday drive times. For instance, it may only take you a day to drive from San Francisco, California, to Portland, Oregon. But that’s a long trip and carriers are bound by laws and regulations that limit how far or how long they can drive.
These rules and regulations are often what sets transit times on the many, many routes that carriers can drive. But there’s also more hoops that carriers have to jump through. For instance, weigh stations – they have to stop at them frequently, or avoid them altogether, which is a whole other issue in and of itself.
They also have other customers that they are shipping for (remember, cars are most often shipped on ten-car haulers). This means that there will be other stops along the way for additional pickups and deliveries. These will also cut into your transit time and increase them.
How to estimate your transit times
When you ship a car, you have a pickup and a delivery location. Those two locations – and the distance between the two – can give you a rough estimate of how long it will take your vehicle to be transported.
Carriers usually average about 300-400 miles per day. The reason why is pretty simple: they are required to take fatigue breaks after long bouts of driving. Simplified, interstate commercial truck drivers, no matter the industry, are required to take 10 hours off after driving for 14 hours. BUT, of those 14 hours, only 11 can actually be spent driving. In those 14 hours, they can only spend 10 hours driving straight without a break, and once they reach 11 total hours, they have to stop driving for at least 10 hours.
This may seem a bit harsh, but it helps keeps motorists safe on the road. These rules were put in place to limit unsafe driving from fatigued drivers. Have you ever been driving for a long time and felt yourself starting to nod off a bit? Imagine that but you’re hauling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cargo in a truck that costs six-figures to own and maintain!
So because of this, the 300-400 mile per day estimate is usually pretty accurate. This is often why you see transit times for cross-country shipments as 7-10 days.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that carriers can only go that far in that given amount of time. Some areas of the country, such as the Pacific Northwest, have higher speed limits on their highways. This can increase the distance that carriers can cover in a given time period, which can help reduce your transit time.
So typically, when you are estimating transit times, use 300 miles per day as the low end, and 400 as the high end.
Factors that can impact transit time
So, there are a number of factors that will change how long it’ll take to ship a car. And we’re not talking about mechanical issues – while yes, those would cause delays, we’re going to focus more on things that really are outside of anyone’s control.
The first major factor that can impact transit times is hours of service demands. Like we mentioned above, carriers having to take breaks – sometimes for as long as 34 hours! – can increase transit time. This isn’t too common, as routes are built with those HoS compliances in mind, and are often factored into your transit time when it’s given to you. But it is a factor to keep in mind.
Another major factor that can impact transit times is inclement weather, especially in areas prone to it. The northern U.S. during the winter months, for instance, can see delays due to snow and ice. During the fall, the southeast can see delays due to hurricanes. During the summer, the Pacific Northwest can see delays due to wildfires.
Typical weather won’t really do much in that regard. Rain, sunshine, fog, that all is normal. It’s the crazy weather that can really impact transit times for you.
Another major factor is simple popularity of a route. If there are a lot of people shipping along your route, your carrier will likely have more stops to make. This ties into what we said above, but it’s still true. Carriers that have to make multiple stops before getting your vehicle delivered will take longer to get to you than if you were the first off the truck.
Why transit time is important when you ship a car
Probably the most important reason why transit time is important is just scheduling purposes. Whether you’re shipping your vehicle because you’ve sold it, or you’re moving to a new city, or you’re giving it to a friend or relative, being able to definitively say how long it’ll take to get it to them is pretty cool.
But it also gives you some peace of mind. Let’s face it – auto transport, and household goods moving, and other types of logistics industries aren’t well-known for their integrity. It’s a cutthroat world, interstate trucking, no matter what you’re hauling.
Plenty of people worry about carriers taking off with their vehicles or taking them for joyrides. We’ve been around a long time and we’ve heard just about everything from stolen vehicles in all our to joyriding to totaled cars. But luckily, it’s not all that common, and usually only when you’re working with less-than-reputable shippers to begin with. We don’t work with less-than-reputable shippers.
Knowing and understanding transit times allows you to better understand what your carrier might be doing. “Where’s my car?!” is a legitimate question after 7 days into a 3-5 day trip. It’s not really legitimate if it’s 7 days into a 10-day trip. Now, of course it’s legitimate to ask where your vehicle is, and you’re always welcome to call and find out. But what we’re saying is that you can rest easier if you know how long it normally takes to ship. You’ll be left with fewer questions and less concern and things will be better overall.
Get quotes to ship your vehicle today
If you’re interested in shipping a vehicle, no matter where it’s coming from or going to, we can help. Just take a minute to fill out our free online quote request form. It really is free and only takes a minute or two from start to finish.
But more importantly, what it will do is it will get you free quotes from top-rated car transport companies. We make sure each company that sends you a quote is fully licensed and bonded and that they only work with top-rated carriers. How? By making sure they are all highly rated on sites like Transport Reviews and the Better Business Bureau.
We want you to have a good experience when you ship your vehicle, and you can’t have that if you’re working with less-than-stellar shippers. This is also why we have been working hard to put more information on the site as well. With so much information at your disposal right here on Automobile Shipping Quotes, there’s no reason whatsoever for your shipment not to be the best it can be.
We clear every company you’ll get a quote from for both dependability and reliability. This means we make sure they are fully licensed, bonded, and insured, and that they are all top-rated as we mentioned. So no matter what you’re shipping, where you’re shipping, or when you’re shipping, we can help you get it moved.