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How much does it cost to ship a car?

Save money by learning how to find the best shipping carrier for your vehicle

Profile picture of Kate Williams, Ph.D.
by Kate Williams, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team
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Average cost to ship a car

Although car shipping costs depend on a number of factors, you can expect car transport rates to vary from about $500 for short cross-state transports to $1,500 for certain cross-country transports. The average cost of shipping a car internationally will be higher. The size of your vehicle will also make a difference in average car shipping costs. For instance, it will cost on average $650-$850 to transport sedans between New York and Florida. The same company will charge $800-$1,100 to transport SUVs, vans and pickup trucks the same distance.

Average cost to ship a car

  • East Coast to West Coast: $1,105
  • Midwest to East Coast: $685
  • Midwest to West Coast: $920
  • South to North: $710

Average cost to ship a truck or SUV

  • East Coast to West Coast: $1270
  • Midwest to East Coast: $785
  • Midwest to West Coast: $1,060
  • South to North: $815

How to calculate the cost to ship a car per mile

If you’re looking to get a rough estimate of how much it will cost to ship a car, just take the distance your car will travel multiplied by the approximate cost per mile. This will give you a good number on which to base your budgeting. To find these average costs, reference car shipping rates in the car shipping calculator chart below, which also includes the costs of a coast to coast auto transport.

How much does it cost to ship a car per mile?

Average cost to ship a car per milePricing examplesComparable lengths
Cost to ship a car 500 miles$1.00500-miles: $500510 miles from Chicago to Kansas City
Cost to ship a car 1,000 miles$0.751,000-miles: $7501,065 miles from Phoenix to Dallas
Cost to ship a car 2,000 miles$0.502,000-miles: $1,0002,062 miles from Pittsburgh to Phoenix
Cost to ship a car cross country$0.403,250-miles: $1,3003,298 miles from Seattle to Miami

How to ship a car

Whether you’re looking for how to ship a car across country or how to ship a car to another state, the decisions you make in these steps will affect your final car shipping cost:

  1. Determine how you want your car delivered
    There are two drop-off/pick-up methods that will affect the cost to ship your car. Opting for terminal-to-terminal car shipping will usually be less expensive, but door-to-door service comes with a convenience that could be worth the extra cost. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each car shipping option:
    • Terminal-to-terminal car shipping: This type of transport requires taking the car to a designated drop-off location and picking it up from another designated pick-up location. While this is often the less expensive option, you’ll need to make arrangements to get to and from each terminal location.

      Terminal-to-terminal shipping allows car transport companies to deliver entire shipments from one location to another, lowering their overall costs. However, this means your vehicle could spend extra time sitting in a terminal parking lot (exposed to all the elements) until a full load is ready to ship.
    • Door-to-door car transport: Probably the most convenient option, door-to-door shipping means the carrier picks your vehicle up from your preferred location (usually your home or place of work) and delivers it to your final destination. Because it involves extra time on the road for the driver, this method of shipping tends to cost slightly more than terminal-to-terminal shipping.

      Keep in mind that some home or work locations are inaccessible for carriers who cannot navigate narrow roads with their equipment, so you may need to compromise and set up a delivery point close to your final destination.
  2. Choose the type of car transport truck you need
    When it comes to choosing an auto transport carrier, you have the choice between open car transport and enclosed car transport. Both options have benefits and drawbacks, but the choice becomes more clear depending on the value of the car you’re shipping
    • Open car transport services: Most consumers choose open car transport carriers to take advantage of cheaper rates and more flexible shipping dates due to an overall higher volume of car shipments. Open car shipping exposes your car to damage from debris or other natural elements, but the risk of damage during transport is very low, and any paint chips or dings that occur are usually insured.
    • Enclosed car transport services: If your car is highly valuable, like if you’re shipping a classic car, enclosed car shipping is a better option because your car will be protected from the elements. However, enclosed car transport trucks can usually carry only a few vehicles at a time, which can raise the overall cost to ship a vehicle up to 50 percent more than open car transport.
  3. Gather multiple car shipping quotes
    Pricing is a crucial part of the car shipping equation, so securing a written car shipping estimate is critical. Here are some considerations when looking at quotes:
    • Insurance: A reputable shipping company will include insurance in their quote. Make sure you know whether their insurance is primary or secondary to yours, and check with your personal insurance company to see if they will cover any damages that shipping might incur. Keep personal items and valuables out of your vehicle as these will not be covered under car insurance policies in the event of damage or theft. Finally, find out if the shipping company’s insurance comes with a damage deductible, and keep written copies of everything related to insurance in the event of an accident.
    • Shipping rates and fees: Many people ship cars very long distances, so it is important to know how rates and fees are determined. Some companies charge by the mile. However, if there are multiple cars going to and from the same cities, the rate is lower.
    • Delay policy: If the automobile is delivered late, find out if there is a refund on some or all of the shipping costs.
  4. Schedule your car transport pick up and delivery
    The earlier ahead you schedule your car transport service, the more flexible you can be, which can allow you to wait for the right car transport carrier at the best price for your budget. When you do set a schedule, there are a few factors that will affect the price:
    • Distance: It shouldn’t be a surprise that the further your vehicle needs to travel, the more it’s going to cost you. Shipping rates might fluctuate depending on the company you choose, so research several companies to find out how much they will charge you based on distance. Here’s a general guideline for how long it will take your vehicle to ship across the country:
      • 5–14 days from the East Coast to the West Coast
      • 3–8 days from the Midwest to the East Coast
      • 3–8 days from the Midwest to the West Coast
      • 3–8 days from the South to the North
    • Time of year: Expect to pay more during peak months. Prices to ship a vehicle in the summer months can increase as much as $200–$300 per trip. If you’re in the early stages of planning for vehicle transportation, ask about peak rates and find out if the carrier or broker offers discounts during the offseason that will lower the average vehicle shipping cost. Shop around for one that does, since this can add up to significant overall savings.
    • Delivery time: Expect to pay more if you need your vehicle a day or two after it leaves and less if you are flexible about when your vehicle will show up at its final destination. Generally, you will be given a three-day window for pick-up, followed by a reasonably accurate date for delivery. If you need your vehicle picked up by a certain date, most companies will be able to store your vehicle in their facility for an additional fee. Expect to pay anywhere from $200–$500 more for rushed shipping than for flexible shipping.
  5. Prepare the car for transport
    There are a few things you need to do before your car is ready to get shipped.
    • Clean out the car: Auto transport carriers aren’t licensed to transport household goods from state to state. In fact, the Department of Transportation will fine a carrier if they see a car full of personal items on their truck. That fine will usually be passed along to the consumer. Shipping additional items in your car is not only prohibited by law, but the added weight will also raise your costs for shipping. Some car transport companies even recommend getting your gas tank down to a quarter or an eighth of a tank to reduce shipping costs while keeping enough gas in your car to make it home after pickup.
    • Inspect your car for damage: Take a few photos before and after your car is shipped in case you need to file a claim for any damages that occur during transport. In the unlikely event that your car is damaged, it’s important to note it on your final bill of lading report. Failing to do so could leave you responsible for covering the cost of any repairs if you need to submit a damage claim.
    • Remove personal belongings: Remove all personal belongings from the vehicle. This protects your information from getting into the wrong hands along the way.

Cheapest way to ship a car

Open auto transport with terminal-to-terminal service is the cheapest way to ship a car. Open auto transporters can accommodate up to 10 vehicles, which allows operators to save on fuel, oil and transport costs. If you want to save even more money, ship your vehicle during the offseason (late fall-late spring), since the most popular time to ship a car is during the summer and early fall. Generally, terminal-to-terminal service is cheaper than door-to-door service, as it requires less time from the driver and more inconvenience on your part. Occasionally though, due to storage fees stored by the terminal to the trucking company, door-to-door service might be the cheaper option.

Find out if you are approved for discounts
Most auto transport companies offer a wide array of discounts. If you’re looking for cheap car shipping, be sure to check beforehand to see if you qualify for any. These auto transport company discounts include:

  • Military discounts: To help you with frequent moves and to recognize your service, many auto transport companies will offer discounts to military members.
  • Student discounts: Many auto transport companies offer discounts in the summer and fall if you are student making the move to college.
  • Senior discounts: Because seniors live on a fixed income and often have to abide by a strict budget, many auto transport companies will offer a sizable discount to seniors.
  • First-time shippers: Some auto transport companies will offer you a discount for your first time shipping a vehicle with them.
  • Return customers: In contrast to the first-time shipping discount, some auto transport companies will offer you a discount for shipping a car with them a second or third time.
  • Multi-car shipments: If you are shipping multiple vehicles at once, most companies will offer you a discount.
  • First responders: Many auto transport companies offer first responders a discount as a tribute to their service.
  • Early bird: Some companies will reward you with a discount for signing up with them within 48 hours of receiving a quote.
  • Vehicle fleets: If you are a cab company or any other business that needs to ship a fleet of vehicles, you might be able to get a discount from your shipping company for shipping in bulk. Be sure to ask your broker or carrier about a bulk discount for shipping cars as it might not be openly advertised online or in their brochures.

Check payment method fees
Be aware that while most shipping companies should accept all forms of payment including cash, check and credit cards, some will charge a two to three percent surcharge when you use a credit card. Be sure to find out what payment method your shipping carrier takes and if you will be charged extra to pay with a credit card. Most transport companies will charge a deposit before they pick up your vehicle that will be applied to your total upon delivery. Many carriers offer a 100 percent refundable deposit, while brokers tend to deny refunds. If you are concerned about getting a refund for any reason, this might make going with a carrier a better option for you.

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Bottom line: What is the cheapest way to ship a car? 

Car shipping prices domestically range between $500–$1,500. Terminal-to-terminal transport with open-air shipping will be the cheapest option. It is natural to be wary of the cheapest car shipping company quote you find if it seems too good to be true. Companies that do this often have hidden fees or do business with the cheapest trucking companies available, who often lack in quality care. Make sure to ask each company about any deals they offer so you can take advantage of any potential price drops. With the right mindset, affordable car shipping is a real possibility.

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    Profile picture of Kate Williams, Ph.D.
    by Kate Williams, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Kate Williams, Ph.D. believes everyone deserves easy access to accurate and comprehensive information on products and businesses before they make a purchase. She spends countless hours researching companies and industries before writing buyers guides to make sure consumers have all the information they need to make smart, informed buying decisions.