How to Ship a Car Across the Country

When you ship a car across the country, you quickly find that it’s less like using Fed-Ex, and more like…well, like shipping a car. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily; they’re just two completely different things. Yes, they are both considered “shipping” something. But one only takes a quick trip to the post office, and the other…well, the other is a bit more involved.

Shipping a car across the country is an involved task. It requires you to be on top of it, to make sure that you’re in contact with your shipper and your driver. This means that you need to be involved, much more so than when you mail something.

Luckily, we can help you make sure you know what’s expected of you. Not only that, but we’re going to explain what you can expect when you decide to ship a car across the country. So keep reading to find out what to expect, what will be needed, and how we can help you get started.

Beginning to ship a car across the country

Before you do anything, you’re going to need to find someone to actually ship your vehicle. This can be quick and painless, or it can be a long, grueling process. We prefer to make things as easy as possible, though, so we’re going to explain that way.

You want to start by finding some different shippers. We make that easy by providing reviews of the best in the industry, right here on our website. From there, you can contact them for quotes and information. The more quotes you can get, the better. When you ship a car across the country, you’re going to find different companies will charge different rates. This is due to a whole host of reasons, but mostly it comes down to how good they are at their job.

There’s no one price to move a vehicle from coast to coast, mind you. With thousands of carriers on the road, it’s hard to say exactly how much it will cost or how long it will take. Some carriers may only take a week. Some may take two.

This is due to the fact that their routes are different, and their schedules are different. So too are their drivers and their restrictions and requirements. So while one company can do it in seven days, it may take another ten.

That’s not something your shipper can control – that’s all transit time, and no one can really control that. But it’s something to keep in mind.

About who will be there at pickup and delivery

So, we mentioned how transit times can vary from carrier to carrier. Most of the time, though, they’ll still get your vehicle from one coast to the other within two weeks. Most take 7-10 days.

This is common, and it’s something you need to prepare for. Now, when you ship a car, there are a few ways you can go about it. Since someone needs to be there for both pickup and delivery, you have some choices. You can either set yourself up as the contact for both and then just make your way to the delivery location while your vehicle is being shipped. You can also have a friend, family member, or neighbor be there to receive the vehicle.

Sometimes, though, you just can’t find anyone. This is where things can get a bit tricky. Some carriers can actually store your vehicle for you (and some do it for free!). If this is something you might be interested in, make sure to tell your shipper. They may be able to help you with that.

Otherwise, you may need to find a terminal. Your shipper can help you with that as well. But you need to be careful – not all terminals are created equal. Many times, they’re little more than open lots, maybe with some sort of fence. Many are not secured. So it’s really up to you how long you want your vehicle to be there.

While there are options if you can’t be there for both pickup and delivery, it’s usually best to just have yourself or someone you trust available.

Who pays what?

Typically when you ship a car, there are two entities you need to pay: your broker, and your carrier. The broker is the shipping company you hire first and tends to be your first point of contact. This is the company that will end up finding your carrier for you. Typically, brokers will only take a small fee, and often not until they assign a driver to pick your car up. It is often around 20% of the total shipment cost, but that does vary from company to company.

You may be asking yourself why you need a so-called middleman. Well, to be frank, brokers are invaluable – they save you time and money, they put a buffer between you and carriers so you’re not being gouged on prices, and they help keep the industry healthy and competitive.

Not only that, but brokers are important because they allow carriers to quickly get freight without having to spend the majority of their time searching for loads. Carriers can quickly call up brokers and ask for loads and often get them dispatched within minutes. This allows carriers to drive, have minimal contact with customers, and puts the bulk of the customer service in the hands of the broker – who is built for that.

The carrier, though, is the one that actually moves your vehicle. This is the entity that will receive the bulk of the payment for your shipment and it is often payable at delivery. This can change depending on the specifics of your shipment, but typically, you pay your broker a small fee, and the carrier the rest at delivery.

If you want more information, make sure to read reviews of different shippers here on our website. We’ve done our homework and made sure they’re all fully licensed and bonded and that they’re in good standing with customers, carriers, and other shippers.

How brokers make shipments better

To ship a car across the country is to be trusting. You need to trust your broker, you need to trust your carrier. More importantly, you need to be able to trust those entities. They’re handing an expensive piece of property that is not easily – or cheaply – replaced or repaired. Safe to say, who you choose to handle your shipment is important.

This is a big reason why brokers make your shipment better. They’re well-versed in helping customers ship a car across the country. Perhaps even more important, though, is what they actually do to help make your shipment better.

For starters, they’re a source of accountability. Any broker worth their weight in salt will vet any carrier they find ahead of time for you. This means that they will only be working with well-known, reputable carriers that have a reputation for good customer service. It also means that you shouldn’t have carrier-caused issues during your shipment.

Brokers also help keep prices down. This is especially true on shipments across the country. Carriers only want the highest-paying loads, and they need to keep their routes profitable to keep their trucks running. As such, they tend to try to get as much as they can out of every single shipment. Brokers make sure that carriers can’t gouge customers directly. While carriers do have some control over the prices that customers pay, they can’t just drive up the price.

Brokers force carriers to basically bid for loads on most routes. This in turn helps keep prices lower and helps you get your vehicle shipped at a competitive rate.

How to prepare for a cross-country shipment

For the most part, preparing to ship a car across the country is about the same as preparing one to ship anywhere. You’re going to need to make sure that your vehicle is cleared of any household items, to start. You want to make sure that the vehicle is running and that it can go into gear. And you also want to make sure that there is only about a quarter of a tank of fuel in your vehicle. Fuel is heavy, and too much fuel in too many cars can actually push carriers overweight.

Of course, you need to make sure you explain to your representative the condition of your vehicle. It needs to be able to roll, brake, and steer, especially if it doesn’t run. If it’s not running, or has been modified in any way, you need to let your representative know as well.

These are crucial bits of information that will make for a smoother shipment overall, especially if it’s going long-distance.

Get a head start on your shipment today!

If you’re interested in shipping your car but don’t know where to start, let us help! We have been in the industry for years and we know what it takes to get a car moved across the country. That’s why we’ve made it easy to find the best auto transporters in the industry.

We make sure each company we’ve reviewed is reputable, reliable, licensed, and bonded, and only works with the top carriers on the road. These reviews are a great resource for you to be able to compare different shippers and find the right one for your needs. You can read about them, then visit their websites to get more information, get quotes, talk to them, and much more.