When the time comes for relocating your car to another state, the logistics might seem daunting. But fear not — this guide is designed:

  • To walk you through various auto transportation options to ensure your car arrives at its new destination
  • And help you find the best car shipping companies.

Let’s explore these long-distance shipping options together, so you can make an informed decision about car shipping services that suit both your needs and your wallet. By the way, we’re Bellhop Movers, experts at local and long-distance moves. We’d love to help make you move as affordable as possible. Let’s get started!

I’ve actually used vehicle shipping services twice for long-distance moves across state lines. I bought both cars on E-Bay and the sellers arranged door-to-door delivery. It was exciting like a big present arriving when the vehicle shipping transport arrived.

Before we start, some key points. Car transport services have all experienced higher car shipping costs since Covid. It costs more to fill their gas tanks. Drivers’ salaries have gone up. And the DOT now polices driving schedules. With some homework and lots of questions you can find the most cost-effective option.

Keep in mind that sometimes it’s worth paying more for peace of mind. Let someone else deal with the hassle of traffic in New York, for example.

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How to Ship a Car to Another State

Hire an Auto Transport Company

Utilizing the services of a professional auto transport company is often the most straightforward approach for vehicle transport over long distances. Vehicle transport companies specializing in car transport are equipped with the tools and expertise to ensure that your vehicle is handled safely and with great care cross country. Here’s what you need to know:

Selecting the auto transport company: Start by sourcing multiple car shipping quotes to find a car shipping service that offers both competitive pricing and reliable insurance coverage. Expect free quotes. Dig into FAQs for important details. Check their customer reviews. You may discover they may ship your motorcycle too.

Types of Transport: Decide between an open carrier — cost effective but less protected — and an enclosed carrier, which offers additional protection against the elements like gravel dents,  and is ideal for classic or high-value vehicles.

Shipping Prices: Expect big differences based on transport method, time of year seasonality, and type of car.

Transport Your Car with a Moving Company

If you’re already using a moving company for your belongings, why not ask if they can take your car too? This can be a highly convenient and cost-effective option, particularly if you’re looking for a simple, consolidated moving process. Here are some key points to consider:

Bundling Services: Often, moving companies can offer reduced rates if you bundle services like home moving and car transportation.

Door-to-Door Service: Many companies provide the convenience of picking up your car at your old home and delivering it directly to your new residence, eliminating the need for you to deal with multiple drop-offs and pick-ups.

Hitch Your Car to a Moving Truck You Drive Yourself

For those who prefer a DIY move, renting an auto transporter from U-Haul or similar companies and hitching your car as a tow-along to a moving truck could be your next adventure. This shipping option not only gives you control over your belongings but can also be a budget-friendly choice.

Points to consider:

  • Are you comfortable driving an open trailer? Let’s face it, towing isn’t for everyone.
  • Equipment and Security: Ensure that the moving truck rental company provides robust towing equipment that can handle your type of vehicle.
  • Navigating the Route: Plan your route carefully considering that driving a larger vehicle with an open trailer requires more caution and possibly different route planning compared to driving a car.
  • Safety First: Learn how to properly secure your car on the trailer to prevent any movement that could cause damage during transit.
  • Permits and Regulations: Check any necessary permits or highway regulations that might affect your ability to tow a vehicle across state lines.
  • Personal Belongings: Check to see if there are limitations about packing personal belongings in the towed car.

Hire a Professional Driver

If you prefer a more personalized option, hiring a professional driver to take your car long-distance to its new home can be ideal. This “concierge service” is perfect for those who want their car driven with care and expertise. Here’s what you should look into:

  • Choosing the Right Service: Look for well-reviewed concierge transportation companies known for their reliability and service.
  • Custom Route Planning: Some services allow you to specify the long-distance route or make stops along the way, which can be great for vehicle needs like electric cars requiring charging.

Hire a Non-Professional driver

Perhaps you want a more personal touch, door-to-door service, or simply the cheapest way. Hiring a college student or a family friend to drive your car with your personal items long-distance can be a cost-effective solution, say between New York and California or Florida. Consider these aspects:

  • Trust and Reliability: Ensure that the person you choose is reliable and has a good driving record.
  • Insurance Considerations: Double-check that your car’s insurance covers other drivers and potential liabilities.
  • Accepts GPS Tracking of their driving
  • Adheres to a long-distance route you define.
  • Vehicle Preparedness: Make sure your car has all necessary checks and maintenance done before.

Drive It Yourself – Road Trip!

Why not turn the necessity of long-distance moving your car into an opportunity for an adventure? Driving your car yourself not only gives you control over the transportation but also allows you to enjoy a scenic cross-country road trip. It may also be the cheapest way for door-to-door service with your personal items. Remember:

  • Plan Your Stops: Map out your long-distance route with stops at interesting places along the way.
  • Vehicle Preparedness: Make sure your car is in top condition with all necessary checks and maintenance done before you hit the road.
  • Enjoy it! Particularly if this is your classic car. It deserves a road trip. Don’t think twice about driving America’s two-lane ‘blue highways’, Route 66 and other inspiring routes.

Ship Your Car by Train

For a less conventional but very efficient option, consider shipping your car by train. If planning a trip to Florida, consider Amtrak’s AutoTrain service between Washington, D.C. and Orlando, Florida. You can ship with personal items in the car while you sit in comfortable train seating.

  • Costs and Availability: Book early as this is a popular and a cheap option compared to driving and hotel stays.
  • Preparation for Rail Transport: Your car will need to be prepared for rail transport, which might include limitations on personal items and fuel levels.

Ship Your Car by Boat

Auto transport services are limited for transporting your car to Hawaii. By boat is the cheapest option over air freighting it.

How to Find the Best Car Shipping Companies

The Internet has lots of sites that aggregate ‘best’ products and services. Most of these are not objective. They rank their recommendations based on a large commission they receive with a thin review added to justify the claim. Be mindful and careful. Your auto is one of your largest investments. Damage in route can deprive you of wheels when you may most need them. Here’s how to really do it.

  • In an ‘incognito mode’ look up start with a search of ‘auto shipping companies’ and scroll past the ‘aggregator’ sites like Forbes and US News. Note any auto shipping services that appear independently of these aggregator sites. The higher search page rank may be an indication of quality.
  • Check personal reviews. Any credible moving company will include them. Look particularly at the lower scores and ask pointed questions about them.
  • Check the BBB ratings.
  • Call the auto dealer where you purchased your car and ask them for recommendations. They send and receive thousands of vehicles each year. One of my Internet-purchased cars was shipped from a dealer.

How to Save When Car Shipping

  • Consider an off-season long-distance move if you have the option.
  • Ask for discounts based:
    • On time of year
    • Drop-off or pickup locations
    • Bundling (with your home move with your moving company)
    • Insurance coverage
    • Club memberships (AAA)
    • Military service or similar groups.
  • Sharing a car carrier rather than renting a private (single car) carrier.

Picking a Car Carrier Transport Type

Your choice will depend on a variety of factors including the value of your vehicle, your budget, and your preferred balance of speed versus exposure to the elements.

Open Carrier Car Shipping

Open carrier auto shipping is the most common method for transporting vehicles across the country.

  • Cost-Effectiveness: Open-air auto shippers are typically more cost effective than their enclosed transport counterparts. They can carry more vehicles at once and the cost is shared among more customers.
  • Availability: Finding an open carrier car shipping company is generally easier as most auto transport companies offer this option extensively across various routes.
  • Visibility and Inspection: With an open carrier, your car is visible during transport, which can make inspections upon pickup and delivery quick and straightforward.
  • Exposure to Elements: The major drawback is that your vehicle will be exposed to weather and road conditions. This might include dust, dirt, rain, and at worst, dent-causing road debris and other potential hazards.

Given its affordability and widespread availability, open carrier shipping is ideal for standard vehicles and short to medium transport distances where open-air weather conditions are mild.

Enclosed Carrier Shipping

Enclosed carriers shield vehicles from all external elements, providing protection against open-air weather conditions and road debris. This is crucial for protecting classic cars, high-value paint jobs and custom bodywork.

  • Security: The enclosed transport also offers greater security, reducing the risk of theft or vandalism of that classic car during transit.
  • Cost: While this enclosed transport option provides higher protection, it comes at a premium. Enclosed shipping can cost significantly more than open shipping, reflecting the additional security and reduced risk of damage.
  • Limited Capacity: Enclosed carriers typically transport fewer vehicles at a time, which can make scheduling less flexible and service slightly slower.
  • Enclosed car shipping is recommended for those with luxury, antique, or specialty classic cars that should not risk exposure to the elements.

Shipping a Car by Train – Amtrak Auto Train

An interesting alternative to traditional road transport is using Amtrak’s Auto Train service, which runs between Washington, D.C. and Orlando, Florida. This service allows you to travel with your car without having to drive it the distance yourself. Here’s what makes this option appealing:

  • Stress-free travel in Amtrak coach seating (or sleeper compartment)
  • Vehicle safety – Your vehicle is carried in closed carriers
  • Your personal belongings come too as you packed them
  • Cost and efficiency: it can be comparable to or cheaper than flying and renting a car.
  • Speed and convenience.

Choose Your Drop-Off and Pick-Up Locations

Selecting the right drop-off and pick-up locations is an important part of the car transportation process. You’ll typically encounter two options: door-to-door shipping and terminal-to-terminal shipping. Each has its benefits and drawbacks depending on your needs, availability, and budget.

Door-to-Door Shipping

Door-to-door shipping is exactly as convenient as it sounds. The transport company picks up your car from a designated location near your home and delivers it directly to your new residence or nearby. Here are the key advantages and considerations:

  • Scheduling flexibility: It often allows for more flexible scheduling, as you can coordinate directly with the driver about pickup and delivery times.
  • Cost: Typically, this option is more expensive than terminal-to-terminal shipping due to the personalized service it includes.
  • Accessibility: It’s important to consider that not all addresses are accessible for large car carriers. In cases where streets are too narrow or restricted by local regulations, you might have to meet the driver at a nearby accessible location.

Both times my cars were shipped, the cars were dropped off at my home. They traveled on open carriers: one a flatbed truck combined with other non-auto metal parts.

Terminal-to-Terminal Shipping

For those looking to save some money or who live near a convenient drop-off location, terminal-to-terminal shipping might be the better option:

  • Cost-Effectiveness: Generally, less expensive than door-to-door shipping, this service involves dropping off your vehicle at a designated terminal and picking it up from another terminal near your destination. You will most likely be charged if your auto is not picked up promptly.
  • Planning Required: You will need to plan for getting to and from these terminals, which may add a layer of logistics to your move.
  • Availability: This method is highly dependent on the location of the terminals, which can be inconveniently located far from your start or end points.

Questions to Ask Your Transport Provider

When choosing your car transport service, it’s important to ask the right questions:

Choosing between door-to-door and terminal-to-terminal shipping depends on your personal preferences, budget, and the specifics of your move. Sometimes peace of mind is worth the higher cost.

Approximate Time Given the Distance: How long will the transport take from pick-up to delivery?

GPS Tracking: Does the company offer GPS tracking so you can monitor your vehicle’s journey? This can be helpful and comforting.

Insurance Coverage: What level of insurance coverage is provided during transport? Ensure that it covers any potential damages from the time your vehicle is picked up to when it is delivered. Check your own insurance policy to see if it may cover the vehicle while in route.

Personal Items in the Vehicle: Can I store personal items in my car during transport? Some companies allow for a limited amount of personal belongings, which can be convenient but may not be covered by insurance.

Discounts on Shared Loads: Are there any discounts available for sharing a transport load with other vehicles? This can be a cost-effective option if you are flexible with your shipping needs and timing.

The Better Way to Move

What Information Is Needed for Car Shipping Quotes

Getting a car shipping quote is a necessary step in the process of moving your vehicle across state lines. To receive the most accurate estimate, you’ll need to provide comprehensive details about your car, the trip, and your personal contact information.

Prepare this information in advance, to streamline the car shipping quote process and avoid delays due to incomplete information.

Vehicle Details

Vehicle Make, Model, Year, and Operability: Knowing the make, model, and year of your vehicle helps the car shipping companies determine the size and weight of your car. Is your vehicle operational so it can be driven onto the carrier or does it require special equipment to be loaded and unloaded? All-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive are important considerations too.

Are there ‘Add-on’ which Add to Height or Length? Roof-racks, trailer hitches, wide mirrors can add crucial inches that may limit transport in some transport vehicles. If so, get a true measure.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN): The VIN is unique to your vehicle and provides specific information that is necessary for transport regulations and insurance purposes.

Proof of Ownership: Transport companies will require proof that you are the legitimate owner of the vehicle. This documentation includes the title and registration of your car.

Transportation Details

These are the logistics details regarding the pickup and delivery of your vehicle, which can impact the scope and cost of the job. The shipping method and shipping process will have a huge impact on overall shipping prices.

Pickup and Delivery Locations: Specify the exact locations for both pickup and delivery. The accessibility of these locations and the distance between them directly influence the transport options. If you live in the country, you may have to meet near an interstate.

Ideal Shipping Time Frame: Indicate your preferred pickup and delivery dates. Flexibility in your shipping dates can often lead to lower costs.

Desired Shipping Options: Decide whether you prefer open carrier (open-air) or enclosed transport, door-to-door service, or terminal-to-terminal service.

Personal Identification and Contact Information

Do the names and addresses on the vehicle registration and the owner’s driver license match? Include your email and cellular phone number. If the  car is be delivered to a third party, confirm their delivery address (on Google), email and cell phones.

Preparing your Car for Shipping

Wash and clean the vehicle before. This helps identify dings and dents the car shipping company will want to identify for insurance coverage requirements.

Determine in advance if you can pack personal items in the vehicle prior to the long-distance shipment. (Note pack only in the trunk or out of sight as the shipping vehicle may be left unattended overnight).

Most long-distance car shipping companies will ask you to almost empty the gas tank. Auto shippers need enough gas in the gas tank to load and unload, but not so much as to risk fire or added unnecessary weight during a long-distance move.

Car Shipping Logistics

What to Expect on Pickup

Here are the key steps involved in the pickup process:

Meet the Driver

You will meet the driver or transport coordinator at your agreed-upon location. This is a good time to ask any last-minute questions you may have about the journey or the process. It’s important to ensure that this meeting place is accessible for large transport vehicles, especially if you’ve opted for door-to-door service.

Inspect the Vehicle

Before your car is loaded onto the carrier, conduct a thorough inspection with the driver. Take photos and make notes of any existing damage such as scratches, dents, dings, or other issues. This will be important for verifying the condition of the car upon delivery.

Sign a Bill of Lading

The bill of lading is an essential document in the car shipping process. It serves as both a receipt of your vehicle and as a legal contract regarding the transport. Ensure all the details are correct — especially the condition of the car as noted during your inspection — and keep a copy of this document for your records. Take a photo too.

Watch Pickup for Accidental Dings

While your vehicle is being loaded, try to watch the process for any accidental damage that occurs during this stage.

What to Expect on Drop-off

Similar to pickup, there are several key things to pay attention to during drop-off:

Meet the Driver

Just as you met the driver during the pickup, you will need to meet them again at the drop-off point. Ensure that the drop-off location is pre-determined and suitable for safely unloading the vehicle.

Watch the Offload, If Possible

If it’s possible and safe, watching the vehicle being unloaded can be just as important as watching it being loaded.

Inspect the Vehicle

Once the vehicle is off the carrier, immediately perform a detailed inspection. Check for any new damages (dings) that might have occurred during transit. Use the photos and notes taken during the pickup for a thorough comparison with those taken at drop-off. Look closely. Once you sign and accept the vehicle, you lose all legal rights to claim damage during transport.

Sign the Acceptance

After inspecting the vehicle, you will be asked to sign an acceptance form. This document signifies that you have received your vehicle and that you accept its condition, barring any claims of damage you might have noted. Like the bill of lading, ensure all the information is accurate before you sign.

What to Do If You Notice Damage

  • Examine your pre-ship photos with the post shipment vehicle
  • Point out the damage to the driver; getting him to acknowledge the difference in photos.
  • Do not sign the ‘vanilla’ acceptance without noting the damage. Read carefully your lack of rights once you ‘accept’ the vehicle. Note the damage on the acceptance.
  • Immediately contact the shipping company 1-800 number and tell them the situation.
  • Be ready to file a claim.

Cost Factors That Can Affect Your Car Shipping

When arranging for your car to be shipped to another state, several factors can influence the overall cost.

  • Distance: Rates are often calculated per mile, so a clear understanding of the distance can provide a good base estimate.
  • Type / Weight of Vehicle: Shipping a large SUV will typically cost more than shipping a compact car.
  • Type of Shipping: Open-air and enclosed shipping
  • Additional Services:
    • Expedited Delivery
    • Door-to-Door Delivery over terminal-to-terminal
  • Insurance Coverage: Basic insurance is typically included in auto transport services, but for high-value and classic cars, additional coverage might be advisable.

Tips for a Hassle-free Auto Shipping

Ensuring a smooth and stress-free auto transport requires a bit of preparation and the right mindset. Here are some tips to help you make the process as enjoyable as possible:

  • Be flexible in terms of dates and expectations.
  • Check your insurance policy to see if it covers damages during the car shipping.
  • Be realistic and patient. Transporting a vehicle takes time, especially over long distances.
  • Ask for discounts. Many companies offer reduced rates for military personnel, returning customers, multiple vehicles, off-season shipping, and more.

Conclusion: Streamlining Your Car Shipping Experience

Moving your car across state lines is a big undertaking that can be made much easier with the right knowledge and preparation. We hope this overview of how to ship a car to another state was helpful.

At Bellhop, there’s nothing we want more than for our customers to have a smooth move. We hope this article helps and saves you some time and research. If you’re ready to get moving, or have more questions, our local and long-distance movers would love to help. 

Warren Sly