How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car?

When a driver needs to transport a vehicle, shipping is often the best option. But how much does it cost to ship a car? The typical range is between $700 and $2,000, with the average driver paying $1,150.

By Meghan Wentland | Updated Jan 27, 2023 3:31 PM

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How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car

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  • Typical Range: $700 to $2,000
  • National Average: $1,150

Sometimes driving a car for a long distance is a task that feels too onerous. Perhaps the driver is moving south for the winter and isn’t comfortable driving the long distance on their own. Or perhaps they’re moving across the country with a large trailer attached to their car, but they aren’t sure what to do if they have a second car. Those who own vintage or specimen vehicles know the worry of dings and scratches on their precious vehicle from small stones or sand on the road. Many people aren’t aware that if, for any reason, driving a long distance isn’t a good option, cars can be shipped from one place to another through reputable car shipping services.

Shipping a whole car is very different from shipping parts of a car. Searches for “How much does it cost to ship a car door?”, “How much does it cost to ship a car engine?”, “How much does it cost to ship a car hood?”, or “How much does it cost to ship a car seat?” show that shipping car parts isn’t terribly expensive, even though the shipping weight of the individual parts would be similar. The weight combined with the bulk and size of the vehicle is what helps create the basis for pricing the cost of shipping a whole car.

There are a few different methods of transport, and the type of transport has a significant impact on the cost. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to ship a car is $1,150, though it can range from as little as $700 to $2,000 and higher for overseas, very long-distance, or specialty shipments. There are quite a few different elements that determine the total car shipping cost, and the cost can help determine whether or not it’s worth the expense to ship a car rather than drive it.

Factors in Calculating the Cost to Ship a Car

Cars come in all shapes and sizes. Some are meant to be driven daily and are ready for hard use, while others, especially vintage or unique models, really aren’t built to handle long-distance driving. The cars themselves, along with the distance they’ll need to travel, make up the greatest factors in the cost of shipping a car. However, there are quite a few other decisions that can affect the total cost, and understanding those choices with plenty of time to plan and make arrangements can reduce the overall expense.

Shipping Distance

Cars can be shipped almost anywhere, and the cost can vary depending on the distance. A short shipment from one small state to another will fall at the lowest end of the price range, even though the cost per mile of those moves will be higher. As the distance increases, the overall price per mile decreases along with the cost of hiring one of the best long-distance moving companies, so while a move of over 1,000 miles will cost more overall than a move of only 500 miles, the cost per mile for the 500-mile move will be as high as $2, while the cost per mile for the longer move will average about $1.25 and could go as low as $0.75.

How much does it cost to ship a car overseas? The cost is significantly more than for an overland shipment. While overseas shipments to Hawaii and Puerto Rico won’t incur extra fees or taxes, international overseas shipments come with international taxes, customs, and other fees that are tacked on to those shipments, bumping up the charges.

Vehicle Size and Type

Part of the expense of shipping a car is the amount of space it takes up in the transport vehicle and the total weight, so the type and size of the vehicle will affect the shipping cost. A compact car weighs about 3,000 pounds and fills a minimal amount of space, while a large truck or SUV can weigh as much as 4,300 pounds and occupies more space. Larger, heavier vehicles cost more to transport—as much as $1,250 for 1,000 miles—while a compact may cost as little as $900.

Vehicle Condition

Those who are shipping a working vehicle will pay considerably less than those shipping a nonworking car. Why? Sometimes during shipping, vehicles on a carrier need to be shunted around or moved to accommodate another vehicle. Cars that can be driven or placed into neutral to be moved easily are less of a hassle for the shipping company than those that need to be pulled or towed. As a result, inoperable vehicles incur an extra charge.

Shipping Method

Cars can be shipped over land, by sea, or by air, for a wide range of charges. Shipping by rail is the least expensive method, although the potential destinations are limited. Cargo ships, on which cars are placed in shipping containers, can transport vehicles to other continents or islands in a reasonably cost-effective way. Air freight shipment is the most expensive option and is very uncommonly used because it is so costly.

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Drop-Off and Pickup Method

There are two ways that a car can be loaded onto a transport vehicle. The first is called a terminal-to-terminal shipment, which means the owner brings the car to a designated loading terminal to be loaded, then picks up the car at another terminal near the destination. This type of drop-off and pickup is somewhat less convenient, especially if the terminals aren’t quite nearby, but it can cost significantly less than door-to-door shipping, in which the shipping company comes directly to the home to collect the car and delivers it to the driveway at the destination. Those who have another vehicle and can drive to the terminal with another person to drop off and pick up can save considerably.

Shipping Provider

In some cases, a broker at a shipping company will take the customer’s information and “shop” the job around to several shipping carriers. A reputable shipping company will only shop around carriers that are well regarded and then choose the lowest bid from a trustworthy carrier. Rates can depend on the season, the day, and the demand, with higher rates during periods of high demand, and will also vary by carrier.

Time of Year

Summer is one of the busiest times of the year to ship cars: The weather is fortuitous, there’s less likely to be snow or ice damage to cars on open car carriers, and the driving is easy. Because it’s a busy time, there’s competition for the space on each transport, and the carriers can charge more because of the higher demand. There’s also high demand in early fall, when those who live in the northern part of the country want to flock to the warmth of the South for the winter and opt to ship their cars rather than drive them. The least expensive time to ship a car is in midwinter. The travel will likely be slower than at other times of the year, and there’s some risk of ice or snow damage, but winter shipping can offer a significant savings. If the budget is more important than convenience, this is a good option.

Fuel Prices

Car carriers are heavy vehicles that drink up fuel quickly when fully loaded. As a result, fuel prices directly affect the cost of shipping, and that cost is passed along from the shipper to the customer. There’s not much the customer can do about this budget line, but when gas prices are high, for shorter moves, at least, it might make more sense to drive a car rather than ship it.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car

Photo: depositphotos.com

Additional Costs and Considerations

Beyond the basic process of choosing a shipping type and evaluating the timing and methods, there are other decisions that will affect the cost of shipping a car. While some of these choices will be made for the car’s owner by circumstance, the owner can make others based on the cost differential. All of these elements can significantly affect the total cost, so customers will want to take them into consideration when budgeting.

In-State vs. Interstate and Cross-Country

How much does it cost to ship a car interstate? Often (but not always), an in-state move is a shorter distance than an interstate or cross-country move, and longer-distance shipments will always cost more than shorter ones. Interstate and cross-country moves are also likely to incur tolls, higher gas costs, and additional costs, including overnight lodging for the transport drivers.

Enclosed vs. Open Transportation

For most vehicles, open carrier vehicles will be the most cost-efficient way to ship a car. This does leave cars open to the elements, subject to occasional damage by road debris or severe weather. Enclosed shipping in a truck or container provides much better protection, especially for more expensive cars—but how much does it cost to ship a car enclosed? The cost of enclosed shipping is $300 to $800 more expensive than the cost of open shipping. This decision can be made based on the importance of protecting the car balanced against sticking to a smaller budget.

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Luxury or Vintage Cars

How much does it cost to ship a classic car, or a luxury or vintage car? Enclosed shipping usually makes more sense for valuable or collectible vintage vehicles, and in fact the auto insurance provider will likely require that valuable vehicles be protected in a container from the elements. In addition to that expense, owners of these valuable cars might choose to pay extra for liftgate elevators, which will prevent the vehicles from being scraped or damaged while being hoisted into the moving truck or train. Finally, while terminal-to-terminal service usually costs less than door-to-door, paying the extra cost to have the car collected at a home and delivered to a home reduces the chance that the car will be damaged too much or dinged while being moved or shunted around the terminal yard. Owners of luxury cars are advised to consider the extra costs and decide if they’re worth the additional protection they provide, while carefully checking any insurance policies to make sure any conditions for coverage are met.

Add-Ons and Fees

Most shipping companies offer a menu of options that are available to customers for extra charges—not necessities but add-on services for convenience or extra protection. Such options can include express service, which speeds up the shipment time for a cost of $200 to $500 more than the estimated cost, along with extra space to accommodate larger vehicles, additional insurance, and taxes and import charges.

A larger fee that’s important to consider is the failed delivery charge. At the time the contract is signed, customers will be given a delivery window during which they need to pick up their vehicle or contact the company to arrange delivery. If the customer fails to do this during the prescribed time, a failed delivery charge of up to several hundred dollars may be tacked on to the shipping charge to cover storage and protection of the vehicle during that time.

Delivery Time Frame

Those who need their car delivered in a narrow time frame, especially in long-distance moves, may need to pay an extra charge to ensure that the shipping vehicle prioritizes their car. This can mean transferring between shipping vehicles or traveling with less than a full load to accommodate the narrow delivery window, and so the shipping company will charge extra to recoup other lost income.

Cost to Ship a Car By Shipping Method

How, exactly, is a car shipped? There are several methods, and the method selected will directly affect the cost. That said, not all methods are appropriate for all types of vehicles.

Passenger Train

Passenger trains are one of the most convenient and inexpensive ways to ship a car—the owner drives the car to the station and hands it off, boards the train, and rides comfortably to the destination while the vehicle rides in another train car. The vehicle rides for $200 on average, while the owner’s train ticket can cost between $100 and $500 depending on the seating. It’s a very efficient approach. Unfortunately, at this time the only train line in the United States that accepts cars is the Amtrak Auto Train, which runs exclusively between Virginia and Florida, largely aimed at older customers who head south to avoid harsh winter weather and then return in the spring.

Truck

Most people are familiar with the open car carrier trucks that transport new vehicles from warehouses to dealerships, but those trucks are also used to ship cars from one place to another. The average cost for shipping by truck is between $700 and $1,600, depending on a number of other factors, but a short move on an open carrier, the least expensive method of truck shipping, can be as little as $450. This is a reasonable and convenient method of shipment, but it does require some flexibility on the part of the car’s owner: The shipper will want to maximize the number of vehicles on the transport for efficiency, so there may be a few days’ delay in pickup or drop-off to accommodate multiple vehicle owners on the same trip, especially for long-distance shipments. Enclosed trucks add $300 to $600 to the cost, but an enclosed transport is necessary for unique, valuable, or vintage vehicles in order to protect them from being damaged by road debris.

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Freight Train

While a passenger train is often more comfortable and convenient for the owner of a vehicle, the train’s route can be quite limited. Regular freight trains, on the other hand, travel all over the country. To ship a vehicle on a freight train will cost between $800 and $1,500, but unlike with the passenger train, the vehicle owners will have to travel separately. The freight industry doesn’t permit the general public to arrange for car transport on their own, so those wishing to ship vehicles this way will have to contract through a car shipping company, which can make the arrangements and handle the scheduling.

Cargo Ship

Overland shipping by train or truck makes sense and is quite cost-effective for shipping within the lower 48 states and Canada, but shipping to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and other continents requires travel via water or air and is therefore more expensive. Cargo ships use enclosed containers to protect the vehicles during the shipping process and will charge between $1,000 and $3,000 depending on the destination. This is a common way to ship vehicles to Hawaii and Alaska; shipping to Hawaii from the West Coast will cost between $1,500 and $2,000, while shipping to Alaska will run between $2,200 and $3,000. Shipping a car to Puerto Rico costs between $1,500 and $5,000 on average; the cost will be lower if shipping the car from Miami than it will from Seattle.

Air

Air transportation is the most expensive form of shipping. Inside the United States, the cost will average between $2,000 and $4,000, placing it at the higher end of the scale for shipping within the country, so it’s not particularly practical. For those shipping overseas, a cargo ship will be more cost-effective. How much does it cost to ship a car internationally by air? Those shipping a car overseas by air can expect to pay a minimum of $40,000, or up to $100,000.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car

Photo: depositphotos.com

Benefits of Shipping a Car

Why would someone want to ship a car? After all, cars are meant to be driven. But there are circumstances where shipping a car makes more financial or logical sense than driving.

Time Savings

In some cases, car owners can drive through the night, and go in any direction they want to reach their destination. That said, when car owners are planning a long-distance move with more than one vehicle and don’t want to deal with the logistics of one driver having to follow the other, shipping saves time and energy. It also saves time to hire one of the best moving companies when it’s a single-car move and the car owner would rather fly and meet the moving truck at its final destination.

Money Savings

Believe it or not, it is often cheaper to ship a car than drive it. There are several reasons. First, professional drivers can take turns driving for fewer stops, and they’re also spreading the costs of the hotels for overnight stays across a number of customers. Owners driving their own cars over long distances will need to cover the costs of food on the road and potentially multiple hotel stays. The wear and tear put on the car over long miles will reduce the value of the car, as will the additional miles. While the outlay of money might initially seem large, the costs that slowly add up with driving will likely equal or exceed that amount.

Safety

It’s not particularly likely that any individual driver will experience a car crash during a move, but the possibility is there. And it’s slightly more likely when a stressed driver is traveling in unfamiliar locations, especially on a long drive of several days. Shipping a car reduces the overall stress on the car’s owner, and, if the owners are driving their own moving truck, shipping the car ahead allows them to spell each other on the drive and reduces the likelihood of drowsy or distracted driving.

Vehicle Protection

Tires, engine, radiator, belts, brakes—all of the parts of a car are subject to wear. In addition, the road is tough on cars driving long distances, with tar, rocks, debris, and other materials flying up at a high rate of speed. Shipping a car may not be much different financially from replacing some of those items, and it keeps the mileage and wear and tear down on the vehicle, preserving its resale value.

Peace of Mind

Not everyone is comfortable driving long distances. For some, driving in unfamiliar cities with other drivers careening around is a nightmare scenario. Avoiding the drive by shipping the car and traveling through other means (or simply being able to drive with someone else in the car) can offset a great deal of the stress that comes with moving—often an already stressful situation.

Car Shipping: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional 

Several rental companies offer trailers so that customers can either rent a moving truck and a trailer on which to tow their cars or rent just the trailer and use one of their own vehicles to tow the other. This can certainly result in a cost savings, as the trailers are reasonably inexpensive. However, unless a driver is already familiar with driving a trailer, or a very large vehicle, doing so in the midst of a move might not be the ideal time to start, and driving a car pulling a trailer that’s trailing another vehicle isn’t the best option to start with.

Hiring professionals to ship a car removes the stress and strain from this process and protects the safety of both the car and its would-be driver. In addition, it relieves the car’s owner of having to find an extended parking spot in hotels, garages, and parking lots. If the move is a short one, it might be fine to rent a trailer or grab a friend to drive another car or give the main driver a break, but for longer-distance moves, hiring a professional car shipping company is the more sensible option.

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How to Save Money on the Cost to Ship a Car

Shipping a car isn’t inexpensive, and at a time when the stress of packing to move is ongoing, it can seem like another expense you can avoid. Even though the cost to ship a car is usually similar to the cost of driving to the destination, it’s always good to consider some tips for saving money on the job.

  • Choose a time of year when the demand for shipping isn’t high, if you can.
  • Have some flexibility in the shipping date so the shipper can help find the least expensive dates.
  • Choose open transport trailers rather than enclosed, as they cost significantly less.
  • If you have more than one car and will be driving one of them, opt to ship the smaller vehicle.
  • Get several car shipping quotes to find the best combination of rates and services.
How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car

Photo: depositphotos.com

Questions to Ask About Shipping a Car

There are questions people will want to ask any contractor before hiring them: experience, insurance options, references, and similar details. But the car shipping industry is complex, so customers will want to ask some additional questions, including the following.

  • What role does your company fill? Broker? Carrier? Management company?
  • What is included in the cost of the job? What extras might turn out to be necessary?
  • What are my timing options in terms of shipment and arrival dates? Are they affected by holidays, and if so, how?
  • How should I prepare my car to be shipped?
  • How long will it take my vehicle to arrive at its destination?
  • Do you offer door-to-door services, or will I need to drop off and pick up my vehicle from your facilities?
  • What kind of customer service do you offer?
  • Is there a grievance process if my car is damaged?
  • What payment options do you offer?

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FAQs

There are quite a few variables that affect the cost of shipping a car, and because the expense can be quite high depending on the owner’s decisions, it can be tricky to decide if the cost is worth it or not. Some wonder if it would be less expensive to ship car parts, rather than the entire assembled vehicle. What follows are some of the questions asked most frequently and their answers to help customers start thinking about the different factors that make up the cost of shipping a car.

Q. Is it worth it to ship my car?

For short moves, no. Economically, it makes more sense to drive the car to the new location. For moves over 500 miles, however, the hassle of driving and potential damage to the car on the road make it worth choosing a shipping company to transport the car. That’s the economic answer. There are, however, other factors to consider: Even if a move is only a few hundred miles, it could be worth the cost of shipping if the family has multiple cars, especially if they’re also driving their own moving truck.

Q. How long does it take to ship a car?

Within the United States, cars can be shipped anywhere within approximately 2 weeks. Times will vary based on the distance to be traveled, pickup timing, and departure dates of trains or group containers and carriers. Simple elements like traffic, road conditions, and weather can also affect the overall time frame.

Q. What is the most reliable car shipping company?

Some of the best car shipping companies known for their reliable service include Montway Auto Transport, Easy Auto Ship, and AmeriFreight.

Q. What is the average cost to ship a car per mile?

The average cost is about $2 per mile for short- to mid-distance moves, and it drops lower—to an average of $0.58 per mile—when the distance exceeds 1,500 miles.

Q. Is vehicle transport more expensive in the summer?

Yes, it is. Because the weather is favorable, the slots on car carriers and containers are in higher demand. Loading and unloading cars are easier in warm weather, and the travel is less treacherous and is usually faster. In addition, gas and lodging prices usually go up in the summer months, so the actual cost of travel is higher.

Q. Can I put stuff in a car when I ship it?

Technically, yes, but it’s not recommended for several reasons. Transporters can’t take responsibility for items stored inside the cars, so you’ll be taking a risk that packed items could be broken during transit. In addition, the carrier will likely make multiple stops along the way, parking in rest areas and large lots, and a car packed full of boxes will be very attractive to thieves. Finally, the pricing of the car transport is based on the estimated weight of the car and year, make, and model. If the car is heavier than anticipated because it’s full of other goods, the price of the transport could unexpectedly go up at the last minute—and if it’s really overloaded, the transporter could refuse to accept it for shipping, as the transport vehicles have total freight weight limits. If there are some lightweight materials the customer would prefer not to take up space in the moving van, they can place them in the vehicle below the window line or in the trunk, but otherwise, they’re taking a sizable risk.

Q. What’s the cheapest way to ship my car?

The cheapest method of shipping is on an open carrier. To ensure the least expensive rate, customers are advised to get several quotes and make their reservation early, before the demand is high, preferably during midsummer or midwinter, and to be flexible about their dates if possible.

Q. How much does it cost to ship a car from the U.S.?

The answer to this question depends on the starting point, the destination, and the costs and fees associated with that country’s shipping codes. Shipping to Canada, for example, can run anywhere from $700 to $2,500—both the U.S. and Canada are large countries, so there’s a wide range of distances the car might need to travel. Shipping overseas starts at about $1,000 to the United Kingdom but ramps up sharply as distances increase.

Q. What is the average price to ship a car on an open carrier?

A full, cross-country shipment (Boston to Los Angeles, for example) of a regular-sized sedan on an open carrier averages about $1,650, but there are many other factors that affect the cost; shorter distances will be less. The size and type of car being shipped will also affect the cost. Open carriers are nearly always more cost-effective than closed containers.

Q. How can I save money on my car shipping quote?

There are several ways customers can save money on a quote. First, they can choose an off-peak season. The timing of “off-peak” will depend on where they live, but generally midwinter is the least expensive time. Also, customers will want to consider using terminal-to terminal transport, where they drop off the car and pick it up at the shipping location, rather than the more costly home pickup and delivery. Finally, it’s recommended that customers be flexible about the dates; if the car can be bundled with several others that are making the same trip, car owners will pay less.

Sources: HomeAdvisor, Forbes

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