It’s not the kind of thing you’re used to shipping. To be fair, you’re probably not used to shipping much — when’s the last time anyone sent a letter? — but in particular, we’re sure you don’t just up and send cars around. Sound like you? Thought so. If needs to get vehicle from point A to point B also sounds like you, you might feel like you’re at a loss for ideas. Moving from one state to another, overseas, or even a long distance in the same region (from Sacramento to LA, for instance) can be greatly complicated by the need to transport a vehicle. While it might be viable to move your car or motorcycle from Atlanta to Memphis by just, you know, driving it, trips from Memphis to Denver might be a little less viable. And that’s precisely why we’ve compiled this primer on what to look for in a car shipping service, what to do, who to see, and how to go about the process of getting your vehicle from point A to point B without driving it.
What’s Involved with Car Shipping?
Given how rare it is for us to ship much of anything, let alone a car or motorcycle, it’s worth reviewing what it even means to transport a vehicle over long distances without driving it. These are pretty general steps that just about every service goes through — the difference is primarily in how much care they take in going about them, so pay more attention to this than anything else.
And naturally, we start from the beginning — the very beginning. The first step is just to schedule a time for pick-up — this is pretty easy, and just about everyone does it about as well as anyone else. Just make a phone call and drop a time — done. Needless to say, if they miss the appointment, you want someone else.
The second step is pick-up, which usually involves towing the car to its destination (if it’s a truck) or, on occasion, transportation in a dedicated, trailer-style vehicle. Either way, they should spend a good amount of time with an initial examination of your vehicle (unless they did this when you made the appointment, which isn’t uncommon), and about as much time securing it.
After this, they’ll hold your vehicle, for a period of time anywhere between a few hours (if they’re shipping the same day) to however long it takes you to call and ask for them to ship to you. Different services have different reputations here, but all the ones we’ve listed are well-rated in this area.
The final piece of the puzzle is delivery, which is perhaps the most delicate step of all of them, obviously enough. This is where the services on our list really shine; they guarantee that you’ll get your vehicle where you need it to go not only on time, but in tip-top shape.
Vehicle Transport and What You Own
First things first: Think about what kind of car you’ve got. Or at least, write it down for reference (presumably, you won’t need to think about it). Who you contact, how much they charge, and how quick the service will be are obviously dependent on the size and shape of your car. Big trucks cost more; small sedans cost less. It’s not strictly a big-small thing, though; sports cars and small exotics obviously cost a lot more to ship than even larger vehicles, because they require more care, more attention, and — ultimately — more time.
Typically, vehicle transport services will move just about anything for you, and just adjust their rates and delivery dates as a function of make and model. There are a few, however, that cater specifically to sedan-type vehicles, others that cater to truck owners, and a few services that specialize in motorcycle transport. Whether you hire a “specialist” over a generalized service doesn’t usually make a difference, but if you’ve got, say, a Ducati Streetfighter you want moved across the nation, you can’t go wrong employing people who deal exclusively with that kind of vehicle.
While we certainly acknowledge the potential benefits to a specialized service, we’ve included only nationwide, fully-featured ones here. This isn’t to slight smaller local business, but to ensure you’ll get a good list of business, all of which are applicable to you and your needs immediately, without any need to sift through the list to find the right local businesses for your needs specifically. If you find that none of the groups on this list meet precisely the needs you have for your car or bike, feel free to look at more specific providers — but we doubt you’ll need to: These are amongst the best of the best.
Car Transport Service Reliability
Just like you wouldn’t leave your kid with a babysitter you know nothing about, you probably don’t want to be leaving your car under the auspice of someone with no experience or history. While this exaggerates the significance of cars (well . . . maybe not, for some of us), the general idea holds: You want the guys taking care of your truck to have shown that they know how to take care of a truck.
Because of this, we recommend considering, if not exclusively, at least preferentially those services which have been in business for twenty years or more, a criterion every single service on our list meets. The length of time a business has been around isn’t always a great indicator of how good the job it does is, it’s usually a decent tell as to whether or not people trust it, so it certainly does mean something.
Similarly, you want to ensure the service you employ can actually get your car where you need it to go. While you’re not exactly in danger of hiring a company to take your vehicle somewhere they can’t and losing money that way, it’ll still save you quite a bit of frustration and time if the only people you talk to are those who are guaranteed to be able to get it where you need it to go. In the interest of making sure you don’t waste your time with purely local services, we distilled our list to include only nationwide one. So we’ve got at least two big things on mind in selecting services for our compendium: Nationwide service, and companies that have been in business for over 20 year. Reliability and breadth of service before all else.
Insurance on your Vehicle Transport
One last thing to mention before we get to the meat of this compendium: Insurance. Because it’s never a good idea to entrust anyone with anything of yours without some form of insurance. And it doesn’t matter if it’s mom, dad, your brother, or your sister — while you’d probably entrust them with your stuff, it’s still not a good idea (personal experience speaking here), which is why we’ve included in our list only services that offer an insurance policy of over a million dollars per driver. This ensures you can trust your stuff will get where it’s going, and if it doesn’t, that you’ll be buying better stuff with someone else’s money: Financial safety first.
Two of the services on our list of top three below are particularly well-known for the quality of their insurance as well as their transport services. Montway and All-Pro Transport both offer remarkable insurance, meaning you can not only rest easy knowing they’ll treat your vehicles with care, but also trust that, in the event something goes wrong that no one on either could have controlled, you’ll have a way out — that kind of security is crucial.
Local vs Nationwide Shipping Services
While we firmly believe that certain local services can have definite advantages over the national ones, such as better connected storage sites, more dedicated customer service, and better individual attention, we’ve focused on nationwide services in the interest of relevance. That said, however, we do think you should ask those nationwide services about their local subsidiaries, so you can reap the benefits of dealing with a smaller group without losing the security of dealing with a large, established organization.
Despite the name “local”, these services are typically regional, and serve, say, the southeast, northwest, or Midwest, rather than areas so tight as Chicago or Illinois, for instance. Depending on how far you’re going, these can often be better options, but for trips across the country you might preferentially consider dealing with the larger service directly.
Montway transport, listed below, is unique amongst transport services because, while it operates on the national level, the services themselves are executed by local subsidiaries, meaning you’ll get the best of both worlds, with all the safety that comes with employing a large-scale, national organization and the pleasure that accompanies dealing with people who are genuinely concerned with getting your car where it needs to be.
Doing Your Part in Auto Transport
While it’s not really your job to make sure everything goes well with the vehicle transport process (that’s why you’re hiring someone, after all), there are certain things you should be sure to do before you leave your car or bike in someone else’s hands. The first of these is obvious, and likely something you’d do anyway: Clear it of your personal belongings. While it’s unlikely anyone would steal any of them, you’re not going to want them to shuffle around during the transport process, and you certainly won’t want to miss whatever you had in there while you’re away.
Something else to consider is how much gas you’re leaving in the tank. For purposes of transportation, it usually makes sense to keep as little as possible, but practically speaking, it’s not a bad idea to keep it at least a quarter full — you’ll have to drive it home, after all, unless they deliver your car directly to its final destination. But then, even in that case, you’ll want to drive it out, so a little bit of gas isn’t a bad idea.
Some Myths About Auto Transport
Just as with anything that involves money, there is the potential to save in the realm of vehicle transport. And, where there’s the possibility of saving, there’s bound to be rumors as to how. Here, we’ll dispel a few of the ones that are notorious for costing people far more than they save.
The Hubcap Myth
A lot of people seem to be under the impression that shipping cars without hubcaps saves a lot of money. This myth is probably borne of the fact that you’re told to remove everything you can before you ship your cars overseas, but for domestic shipments, it’s irrelevant; and unless you’re expressly told to do so, it’s not even necessary in overseas transport, either.
Of course, if your car transport service has a special policy with hubcaps, by all means, abide by it. But taking them off of your own accord means you’ll have to ship them separately, which costs a fair amount since they’re so heavy; and you don’t save anything from the transport service, so in the end, you end up spending more. Bottom line: Keep the caps on.
Auto Shipping Service Prices Depend on Distance Alone
While cost of shipment certainly increases as a function of distance, it’s not a direct relation with no other factors. The make and value of your car, length of time it’s stored, and attention to any special needs you might note regarding your axles or engine can all influence the prices. Bottom line: Don’t trust an internet quote, so take the time to call your selected service and talk over everything with them so you both know exactly what’s up, and no one will get surprised.