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What is an Auto Transport Broker | And Why To Use One


Do you use an auto transport broker or a carrier? Those looking to transport their cars cross-country or across borders can choose from two options: a broker and a carrier. Yet, the significant differences between both services could be more apparent to most shippers.

Which is better, and how do I know which suits my requirements? These are some of the questions that come up among inexperienced shippers. And like several other shipping options, the auto transport brokers vs. carriers debate has yet to have a correct answer. The best choice depends on your requirements, and understanding the differences between services will help you make the right decision.

Auto Transport Carrier

An auto transport broker is a logistics company that transports customers’ cars with their fleet of trucks, car carriers, and truck drivers. The company is responsible for significant aspects of auto transportation, including pickup and delivery in specific locations.

Auto transport carriers go by several names in the logistics industry, from car carriers to auto transporters, auto haulers, and sometimes simply auto carriers. They all refer to the same thing – a company operating with its fleet of trucks and drivers.

While most carriers have a fleet, it’s also possible for some services to adopt a smaller scale. These services are mostly referred to as single owner-operators and typically have one or two trucks they use for auto transport.

Most shippers mostly opt for carriers to eliminate the need for a middleman. Auto transport carriers provide a single point of contact, making it easier to work directly with them. For instance, if you wish to ship your car through an auto carrier, you can have direct contact with the dispatcher and, in some cases, deal directly with the driver responsible for pickup and delivery. This element of a carrier’s service allows for more comprehensive updates, making it easier to resolve any issue should one arise.

However, working directly with carriers also come with some downsides. First, finding an auto carrier as an individual shipper can be challenging. Most large-scale companies work directly with big companies and do not need to market themselves to the public. On the other hand, smaller-scale owner-operators may need more time or money for comprehensive marketing strategies.

For this reason, most carriers prefer to work with brokers or use national dispatch boards that are inaccessible to the public. Some large-scale auto carriers may market themselves directly, eliminating the need for brokers or dispatch boards.

Aside from the difficulty in finding a carrier, it’s also hard to see one that can ship your car, follow a specific route and meet your requirements and delivery timeframe. Finally, most carriers are single owner-operators; hence, their busy schedule severely impacts the quality of their customer service.

Auto Transport Brokers

A broker could also be a service company; however, rather than personally transport vehicles, they book orders for these shipments and broker them to a carrier. While carriers make money by shipping cars from one location to another, brokers tend to get a commission from the auto carrier in exchange for helping them provide an order.

Auto transport brokers do not handle direct shipping of any vehicle, but they have access to a comprehensive network of carriers. They are a middleman between customers and carriers. To effectively fulfill the middleman duties, brokers are responsible for finding and reviewing the best auto carriers for each shipment by considering each customer’s specific needs and managing all shipping processes on behalf of the customer.

The primary benefit of engaging an auto transport broker is its flexibility. Brokers are not responsible for direct shipments; therefore, they are not limited to certain factors, such as the type of carrier and specific routes. They work with several carriers operating through several routes, which makes their services relevant regardless of the requirements of a shipment.

Additionally, brokers save you a lot of time as they help you identify, vet, and research every carrier they broker to. They also verify licenses, insurance coverage, and other government requirements, such as the USDOT permits for U.S. carriers. Unlike carriers, brokers prioritize marketing, making them easy to find.

The only significant downside to working with a broker is the risk of engaging an inefficient company. Incompetent brokers that fail to perform their responsibilities make the shipping process difficult. They may also fail to do adequate research and engage unreliable carriers.

Difference Between Brokers And Carriers

Understanding the differences between an auto transport broker and a carrier is one of the most confusing aspects of shipping a car. Yet, it can significantly determine how good or bad your shipping experience would be. Therefore, we highlight the significant differences between both services.


Regarding car shipping rates, brokers typically offer a lower price than carriers. This is because they allow shippers to choose from quotes from multiple carriers. On the other hand, auto carriers provide only one shipping quote based on their shipping estimates.

That said, the flexibility in prices by brokers makes their quote vs. final cost accuracy less accurate. While brokers give low estimates to attract customers, they tend to charge more on the final bill. Typically, carriers should provide a more precise quote based on their familiarity with shipping requirements; however, this may only sometimes be the case. Whichever you choose, it’s best to research, check for carriers’ customer reviews, or ask questions about hidden charges in the case of brokers.


Brokers work with several carriers who are responsible for directly transporting vehicles to different locations. Hence, there are more carriers than brokers. Yet, brokers are much more available and easily reachable than carriers, most of whom do not even have a website.

A significant aspect of a broker’s business plan is investing in marketing to increase their availability. As such, they often have an effective online presence compared to carriers. While there may be more carrier companies, engaging a service you can find and reach out to is more effortless.

Customer Experience

The availability of brokers is apparent only when you are trying to engage them and get a quote. However, not all maintain a steady line of communication once a carrier is assigned. This can make for a bad customer experience, especially if you need an update on the status of your shipment.

On the other hand, carriers are challenging to reach initially, but once you get a quote, they are more likely to employ their single point of contact in maintaining communication the whole time. An active communication line makes it easy to keep track of the shipment when it’s in transit.

Minimizing Delays

Several factors can cause delays to a shipment, from bad weather to mechanical issues. Whatever the reason, customers bear the cost for these delays in most cases, as some carriers, especially single owner-operators, do not have a concrete backup plan for these delays.

Brokers have an advantage over auto carriers as they work with several companies. Hence, if an auto carrier shows signs of any delay, they can reassign customers to several other carriers. Brokers would solve delays that may take carriers a significant amount of time to manage in a fraction of the time.


It’s hard to identify any service with more reputation than the other. Some people prefer working directly with carriers as it provides a single point of blame in case of any damage. Engaging brokers adds an extra step to the process, which might make the whole shipping process slightly less transparent.

You can research the reputation of each company by checking for licenses. Additionally, you can use customer reviews to identify services that take their reputations seriously. This applies to both carriers and brokers.


Companies are only allowed to transport items if they have insurance. If you wish to engage a carrier, ensure the company is licensed to operate commercially. It must also have an insurance policy covering any damage to your vehicle. It’s your responsibility to verify the legitimacy of a carrier.

Brokers do not engage in direct shipment, so they don’t need insurance coverage. However, they must only engage licensed and insured carriers. Competent brokers save you time by verifying every relevant detail and ensuring the auto carrier is safe to use.

It’s common to encounter businesses that carry out the responsibilities of a carrier and broker. These service providers are called broker carriers and are licensed brokers that also own a fleet of trucks.

Explore The Best Auto Transport Carriers With Total Connection

Total Connection is a full-stack logistics management company specializing in some of the most complex freight transportation, including auto shipping.

We are staffed with some of the best professionals who understand the needs and requirements of every shipment. Our rich network of carriers also makes for some of the best rates and top-quality service in the industry.

Contact us today and get a list of some of the best quotes to ship your vehicle. When you start your shipment with Total Connection, there is no stress or obligation. We guarantee every process is done accurately and ensure you have a worthwhile shipping experience.


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