Open vs. enclosed car shipping
Open is cheaper, but enclosed adds protection
More than 90% of auto transport customers opt for open shipping because it’s cheaper and faster. But enclosed shipping provides special protection for valuable cars. We explain the differences and help you decide which option is right for you.
What is enclosed auto transport?
Enclosed transport costs about 50% more
than open transport.
Enclosed auto transport, also known as closed or covered auto transport, is a specialty shipping option that provides additional protection for your car. Enclosed shipping trailers have a roof and siding that protect vehicles in the trailer from environmental elements like hail, snow, debris and insects. If your car is being shipped overseas, it might get its own shipping container to protect it from damage.
Shipping companies that specialize in enclosed transport have experience taking care of valuable or classic vehicles. Auto transport companies that offer enclosed transport might also provide white-glove service that includes regular communication, tracking and better insurance. For expedited service, you can even reserve your own trailer. Although only 3% to 10% of trailers are dedicated to enclosed transport, most auto transport companies can find enclosed options. However, because enclosed auto transports have less demand and are harder to fill up, this option typically requires a longer shipping time.
- Additional protection
- Peace of mind for classic and valuable cars
- White-glove service
- Longer transport time
- More difficult to reserve a driver
- Uses more fuel
What is open transport?
Open transport, sometimes known as open-air transport, is when a vehicle is moved on a trailer and exposed to the elements. A typical open transport truck has a two-level trailer that is up to 80 feet long. The trailer doesn’t have a roof or walls. The vast majority of auto transports — up to 97% — use open trailers, and these car carriers are often seen on interstate highways.
Although open transport isn’t as protected as enclosed shipping, it's still a secure option. Cars are strapped in, and the drivers ensure vehicles are treated as carefully as possible.
- Less hassle to reserve
- Works for most cars
- Easier for driver to inspect
- Open to the elements
- Less secure
- Dirties car
Open vs. enclosed car transport costs
Open transport for the same route is always cheaper than enclosed transport. Open transport is less expensive because it’s much more common and requires less expertise. Enclosed transport is a specialty service for vehicles that require premium protection. Enclosed transports have fewer cars on them as well, meaning companies charge more to make up for having fewer vehicles to haul.
Estimated costs for an operational mid-2010s four-door sedan
|Route||Distance||Open cost||Enclosed cost|
|Kansas City to Dallas||506 miles||$400||$550|
|Chicago to Atlanta||717 miles||$500||$745|
|Los Angeles to Kansas City||1,618 miles||$770||$1,145|
|Seattle to Miami||3,297 miles||$995||$1,520|
You’re signed up
We’ll start sending you the news you need delivered straight to you. We value your privacy. Unsubscribe easily.