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A Complete Guide to Automobile Shipping


Car shipping is not a very common process which is perhaps why most people never get to consider how much it costs to ship a vehicle. However, for those who have decided to ship, it takes work to sift through the changing rates of shipping services and logistics providers on the market.

Typically, the cost to ship a car range from about $500 to as much as $1,500. Variations in car shipping rates depend on several factors, from car size to distance and shipping options, to mention a few. With so many price fluctuations and considerations regarding car shipping rates, we have put together a guide to walk you through how much it costs to ship a vehicle.

Cars carrier truck at the highway asphalt road in Poland. Truck transporter

Car Shipping Costs

Although the rates for shipping a vehicle vary significantly, it’s normal for shipping services to charge between 40 cents and $2 per mile. Some carriers might charge slightly higher.

These prices depend on several factors, but distance primarily influences the rate. Typically, significantly long distances result in lower costs per mile; however, when considering the entirety of the trip, it leads to a higher overall price. We highlight the variations in prices based on distance below;

  • 500 miles or less: $1 to $2 per mile
  • 500 to 1,500 miles: 60 cents to $1 per mile
  • 1,500 miles or more: 40 cents to 60 cents per mile

These prices represent the possible rate for standard car shipping. Cars with specific requirements and needs would incur significantly higher rates to ship. That said, aside from the shipping distance, several other factors can influence the cost of a car shipment.

What Affects Car Shipping Rates

Similar to other aspects of the supply chain, the auto transport industry has also suffered significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, the current costs for shipping are higher than they were prior to the outbreak.

That said, the cost of shipping a car can vary significantly depending on the distance, origin, destination cities, shipping options, and timing. Here are the factors that could either reduce or increase the price you may pay to ship your car

  • Distance

The rate for shipping a car can fluctuate significantly depending on the distance between its pickup and delivery locations. Shipping services typically prefer long-distance routes as it substantially reduces their cost of operation, especially trucking companies. For one, they mostly avoid large cities by traveling over the open road, thereby saving high operational costs. The total price for long-distance trips are usually high; however, the cost per mile is much lower than for shorter distance.

Another cost-effective option is terminal-to-terminal shipping. This means the transportation service must pick up the car at a general terminal and drop it off at another before you arrive to take delivery. On the other hand, door-to-door delivery factors in the cost of pickup and delivery from specific locations.

  • Size

The size and weight also significantly influence a car’s shipping rate. As you would expect, shipping a regular salon car costs less than large SUVs or pickup trucks. According to specifications from the United States Department of Transportation, commercial car carriers should carry a maximum freight weight of about 80,000 pounds, which equates to about nine cars. Hence, if a vehicle takes up a significant portion of the maximum weight, the rate on that car would be significantly higher. The weight also impacts fuel economy.

For instance, considering the variations in prices due to distance, it would cost about $700 to ship a car up to 1000 miles, while an SUV might cost over $800 for the same distance. As such, you should always consider the weight and size when assessing shipping quotes. Shipping a bigger, heavier vehicle would always incur a higher price.

  • Season

Season refers to the time of the year, which can also significantly influence transport rates. Typically, the most prolific season for auto shipping is during the summer, increasing the demand and, concurrently, the price. Hence, it might be a good idea to recognize when the industry is slow before planning a shipment.

Specific periods in the spring and fall are ideal for shipping. However, you might be less likely to get a good quote during holiday periods. Booking a shipment during winter in areas prone to inclement weather can also increase the cost. If a carrier has to deal with delays and harsh weather conditions, the extra challenge would likely reflect on the rate.

Additionally, you can ship when gas prices are at their lowest. Overall, quotes from shipping services depend on the transport industry’s current state.

  • Carrier Type

Shipping companies employ two primary types of car carriers; open and enclosed carriers. An open carrier has two levels; shippers load vehicles onto the carrier using hydraulic ramps. The cars are then secured, so they don’t shift during the trip. Enclosed carriers hold fewer vehicles but have protective barriers that protect the load from wind, rain, and road debris.

Shipping a car on an open car carrier is cheaper, as these carriers typically hold more vehicles than enclosed ones; hence, the cost per vehicle is reduced. However, people looking to ship high-end cars would want to protect them from external factors. In this case, paying more for an enclosed carrier would be the best option due to its extra protection.

  • Timing

Much like other shipping services, the time frame influences the shipping rate. Most shipping companies offer a “rush and standard shipping” option, depending on the customer’s delivery time frame. If you opt for the rush shipping option, you can expect to pay as much as $200 to $500.

For the rush shipping option, you will be given a timeframe for pickup and a pretty accurate date for delivery. If you default on the delivery date, the shipping service will store the car for an additional fee.

  • Import And Exports

International shipping would involve trade charges as part of the international shipping cost. This may incorporate customs clearance fees, trade duties, local handling, and other expenses related to import and export.

These are just some influences that affect a car’s shipping rate. Of all the options available to customers, terminal-to-terminal shipping service remains the cheapest way to ship a vehicle. Consider shipping your car during the offseason, from late fall to early spring, and on open carriers to save the extra cost. Other ways to explore cheap shipping rates include:

  • Early booking.
  • A flexible delivery timeframe.
  • Accessing multiple quotes and discounts.
  • Considering guaranteed pricing.

However, there is no standard process for shipping a car. Whichever option you opt for would depend on your shipping requirements and the car’s value.

transportation of car on semi-trailer on country highway

Explore The Best Shipping Options With Total Connection

If you find the right deal on a car, it may be worth ignoring the distance and paying for shipping. However, finding the right deal for shipping the vehicle is just as important. At Total Connection, we aim to provide customers with a pleasant and seamless shipping experience every step of the way. We estimate your quotes based on the best shipping rates for routes and requirements.

Get your vehicle safely and securely shipped to any destination with Total Connection’s expert car shipping services. Contact us now to request a few quotes and take the first step in stress-free vehicle transportation.


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