Shipping Cars

How To Ship A Car Across The Country

7-minute readJanuary 03, 2022

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You may be able to find your dream vehicle if you’re open to expanding your search outside your local area. But how much does it cost to ship a car? This guide reviews everything you need to know to get the best price when working with a delivery company to arrange the shipment of a vehicle.

How Much Does It Cost To Ship A Car?

The average car transport cost door to door with a car shipping company is $500 – $1,600. There are many factors to consider when trying to find the best deal, such as the distance you’re shipping the vehicle, when you ship it, the type of service you’d prefer and the weight of the vehicle. You can also save a lot of money if you’re willing to wait to have your vehicle shipped at the right time of year and if you ask the shipping company the right questions. 

If you purchase a car from a reputable online marketplace like Vroom, shipping costs may be significantly lower. Be sure to consider all your options when looking for the best deal.

Factors That Affect Car Shipping Costs

COVID-19 has had a large impact on the auto transport industry, so keep in mind when you’re looking at shipping quotes that your costs may be more than they’ve been traditionally. Impacts on the global supply chain have increased the cost of moving every type of product, but some industries have been hit harder than others. How COVID-19 has impacted car delivery companies varies across the industry.

According to a study performed by the American Transportation Research Institute, roughly 80% of smaller trucking companies lacked a disaster plan prior to the first outbreak of COVID-19. Larger companies were more prepared, however, and about 70% of large truck fleets had planned in advance for how to handle a widespread disaster that could harm the supply chain.

When you’re looking to transport a vehicle a long distance (for example, ship a car across the country), the cost depends on the level of service you expect, how long you’re willing to wait to receive delivery, whether you choose door-to-door or terminal-to-terminal service and if the company you’re working with has a shortage of truck drivers. The following factors have the most impact on your cost of transportation:  

Distance

The cost of shipping a car can vary greatly depending on where it’s coming from. Trucking companies prefer long-distance routes because it reduces the cost of their operations. Trucks caught in large metropolitan areas congested with traffic waste a lot of fuel, but if they’re able to avoid large cities by traveling over the open road, they can pass on some of their savings to customers. While the end cost is usually higher when you ship cross-country, the cost per mile is much lower across longer distances.

Terminal-to-terminal shipping is also much more cost-effective for the transportation company. This means that your vehicle needs to be picked up at a specific terminal and then dropped off at another one before you arrive and take delivery. Door-to-door delivery sends the driver to your preferred location, such as a dealership, to pick up your vehicle. It’s then delivered directly to your home or office.

Door-to-door shipping takes the truck driver out of their way, so they’re not able to deliver as many vehicles in the same time period as when dropping an entire trailer off at a terminal. It may also cost more in fuel to have a vehicle delivered door to door. These costs are passed on to the customer.

This table provides an idea of how much it may cost to ship your car based on distance:

Distance

Cost Per Mile

Average Auto Ship Cost

<500 miles 

$1+  

$500 – $780

500 – 1,000 miles 

$0.75 – $0.79 

$750 – $960

1,000 – 1,500 miles 

$0.72 – $0.74

$1,100 – $1,290 

1,500 – 2,000 miles 

$0.50 – $0.66

$1,000 – $1,530 

>2,000 miles 

$0.40 – $0.54 

$1,300 – $1,590 

The above estimates were sourced from Consumer Affairs and move.org at the time of publication, and the shipping quote you receive may vary based on service availability, time of shipment and the type of service you purchase. 

Weight

A compact coupe might cost much less to ship than a large SUV or pickup truck. Transportation companies load vehicles onto car carriers for transit, and your car may be on a carrier with an average of nine additional vehicles. The weight of a truck’s load impacts fuel economy, so if you load a carrier with 10 large trucks, the driver needs to refuel more often than a carrier loaded with lighter vehicles. 

There are two primary types of car carriers that car shipping companies use. An open carrier has two levels. The vehicles are loaded onto the carrier using hydraulic ramps and then secured into place so they don’t shift during the trip. Enclosed carriers hold fewer vehicles, but have four walls that keep the load protected from wind, rain and road debris. 

When you’re looking at shipping quotes, keep in mind that the weight of vehicle you’re shipping has a significant impact on cost. If you’re shipping a heavier vehicle, expect to pay more, but don’t allow a shipping company to overcharge you if you’re shipping a lighter car.

For example, it costs about $710 on average to ship a car up to 1,000 miles, while an SUV costs $800 and a truck costs $880 for the same distance. 

Type Of Transport

Because closed carriers carry fewer vehicles, car shipping companies charge a premium for enclosed transport. The primary reason for using an enclosed transport service is to ship a vehicle that you want to keep in pristine condition, such as a luxury or classic car. If you decide that you do want to purchase enclosed transport, expect to pay an average of 37% – 48% more than you would with open transport.

Time Of Year

The time of year can have a great impact on car transport costs. Car manufacturers and dealers move vehicles around the country most frequently during the summer, and this increases the demand for vehicle transportation services. It’s a good idea to find out when the industry is at its slowest before arranging to ship a vehicle.

The spring and fall are usually the most ideal times to ship a vehicle but consider upcoming holidays. The holiday season increases the demand for truck drivers, who must transport parcels and other goods. If you’re transporting a vehicle around a work holiday, you’re less likely to get a good deal because many truck drivers have taken time off and aren’t available. 

Another way to save money is to avoid shipping your vehicle during travel holidays when rising fuel prices are passed on to customers. If you choose a time when gas prices usually decline, you may be able to save a little money. When reviewing quotes for shipping services, anticipate higher costs than usual due to the pressures the transportation industry is currently facing.

As of 2018, there were over 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States. Prior to COVID-19, there was a significant shortage of drivers compared with demand. The pandemic shut down many businesses and forced many truck drivers to opt for early retirement or to seek work in different sectors. Now that demand has returned, there are not enough drivers to keep up. With this in mind, it may still be worth it to ship a vehicle if you find the right deal.

Average Cost To Ship A Car

The average cost to ship a car across the country depends on many factors, some of which are completely out of your control. The process for shipping a vehicle is as follows:

  • You contact shipping brokers to look for a reasonable cost and receive estimates. These estimates aren’t the actual price you’ll pay, but a guess based on demand, distance, the route your truck driver will take and other factors.
  • After you receive estimates, car shipping companies bid on your business. If transportation companies are busy, they’re not looking for new business and might not compete to take your order. When demand is lower, however, carriers may bid down the price, saving you some money.
  • The car shipping company that's willing to ship your vehicle for the lowest cost wins the bid. This is when you know the exact price you’ll pay.
  • The winning bidder sends a carrier out to pick up your vehicle and transport it to your location.

If someone was shipping a compact SUV from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles, California, the vehicle would be transported over a distance of around 1,380 miles. Here's what they might pay based on the current average cost of shipping:

Transport Type

Timeline

Average Cost

Open Air

No Rush

$1,070

Enclosed

Expedited

$1,490

If they wanted to ship a car to a different state, the price could be much different. For example, if they shipped the car to New Mexico instead of California, the distance might be around 650 – 800 miles instead. Assuming a distance of 670 miles, here's what they might pay:

Transport Type

Timeline

Average Cost

Open Air

No Rush

$800

Enclosed

Expedited

$1,220

The cost of shipping varies greatly based on distance and timeline, but it might be worth it to pay a little more for shipping if you find an incredible deal on a new or used vehicle. If you’re able to save several thousand dollars, that makes up for the cost of transporting the vehicle to another state.

How quickly you want your vehicle delivered can greatly impact your shipping cost. It costs an average of $200 – $500 extra for expedited shipping. In most cases, this isn’t worth the extra expense. You may also choose to ship a vehicle from overseas. The cost of doing so varies, but the average cost for overseas shipping to the United States is $1,000 – $5,000.

The Bottom Line

If you find the right deal on a vehicle, it may be worth it to pay for shipping over a great distance. If you’re going to do this, make sure you get multiple quotes and read customer reviews about each auto transport company you’re considering. You should look for a company that provides competitive shipping rates and includes the cost of insurance in the quote you receive. 

If you want to take advantage of cheap car shipping, don’t pay extra premiums for options you don’t need. The cheapest option is often to use an open-air carrier without expedited shipping. If you want to save more money, you can opt for terminal-to-terminal service, but you’ll need to arrange to get your vehicle to the starting terminal and pick it up at its destination. 

Online car buying makes it much easier to get a deal than shopping locally. If you expand your search across a greater distance, you may be able to find a vehicle with the specific options you want and at a better price because you’re not limited to a single dealer’s available inventory. Check out the nationwide auto inventory at Rocket AutoSM today to find the perfect vehicle.

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