Moving sucks as it is. Moving across the country is even more complicated. If you’re planning a big move and need to get your car across a large distance (and an old-style road trip isn’t part of your plan), you need to know what options exist for shipping your car.
There are several methods to transport your vehicle, including shipping via truck or train, hiring a driver, and even hauling it yourself. We review four ways to ship your car as well as the factors you should consider to help you select the best method for your needs.
1. Shipping Your Car on a Truck: How-to
The most common way to transport personal vehicles in the U.S., according to USA Today, is to ship them by truck. Vehicles can be shipped on open or closed trucks. Open trucks expose vehicles to the elements, but closed trucks cost about 60% more. Interstate Car Transport says that shipping a car across the country usually takes between one and two weeks, with less time for shorter distances. What you need to know to ship your car by truck:
- Using a broker is a simple way to get multiple quotes for shipping from point A to B. USA Today recommends MoveCar.com. You can compare prices and shipping methods easily.
- USA Today advises finding a hauler that abides by the typical 500-pound weight limit for things inside the car (any more isn’t safe, so don’t plan on packing it to the gills).
- You’ll need to ask questions about payment as each company will vary, but you should expect to pay a small fee when your vehicle departs and the balance when your car arrives and has been inspected. Be wary of companies that try to pressure you to choose their service by offering random discounts and those that require payment before the vehicle is actually collected. Be sure you know what’s included (and what isn’t) in the price, and agree to a set price before handing over your vehicle.
- Make sure the company is registered with the Department of Transportation (DOT).
- Verify the company’s insurance. Don’t assume that if your vehicle is damaged during the trip that the company will pay for all repairs or replacements–you’ll need to look closely at what insurance each shipping company offers for your vehicle. Sometimes shipping companies offer minimal base insurance with the option of paying more for additional coverage. When you pick up your car, you and the driver should do a thorough inspection and document any damage on the delivery report. Have the driver sign it so you can make a claim with the company’s insurance if necessary.
2. Amtrak Has an Auto Train
If you’re moving on the east coast (between Washington D.C. and Orlando, FL), you can load your car onto Amtrak’s Auto Train and your vehicle can ride the rails. You can get all the way from D.C. to Orlando for under $100 if you plan ahead. The catch: the vehicle must be accompanied by a person, so you’ll have to go along, but you can upgrade to a room with a bunked bed if you like.
3. Consider Professional Driver Services Instead of Shipping Your Car
Driver services are a faster alternative to shipping and, driver companies claim, a safer one. Professional driver services are more expensive than shipping by truck or train, but they have their perks:
- They’re fully insured
- Many companies will let you pack up your car with belongings—some even allow dogs and cats
- Usually you can go along for the ride, too, if you like (but you certainly don’t have to)
You can also consider hiring an independent driver — perhaps someone you know or who is recommended to you. Local want ads can be another good resource for finding drivers. Be sure to check any potential driver’s references, though, and USA Today also recommends running a criminal background check. If a non-professional will be driving your vehicle, consider short-term insurance to cover them for the trip and to protect yourself in case of an incident. Your own insurance would cover damages (though perhaps at a reduced rate if you hadn’t added the driver to your policy), but any claim would have a long-term impact on your policy (in the form of increased rates). Plus, you’d be on the hook for deductibles and any expenses your policy doesn’t cover.
Keep in mind, of course, that having someone drive your car a long distance will add miles and wear and tear.
4. U-Haul it Yourself
If you’re already U-Hauling, you can also take your car without having to actually drive it. Most rental trucks have optional towing capacity, or you can rent a car trailer. One of the bonuses here is the extra space and security the inside of your car affords: USA Today notes that you can pack fragile items in the car and not worry about them banging around in the back of a moving truck. Plus, the car isn’t actually driving, so you’re not putting any miles on it.
Plus: How Does Insurance Factor in When Shipping Your Car Cross-Country?
You never want to rely on your regular insurance policy when having your vehicle transported–doing so would cost you money in deductibles, not to mention the increased premiums you would almost certainly pay. So whether you hire a shipping company or a driver to transport your vehicle, be sure to double-check their insurance coverage.