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A Guide to First-Time Car Shipping

Whether you are prepping for a big cross-country move, finally letting go of your old reliable car so that you can get a newer model, or just heading south for the winter, one thing is for sure: you are about to ship your car. If this is your first time doing it, this guide to first-time car shipping is for you.

Shipping Your Car for the First Time

Hopefully, you’ve started reading this weeks or months before your shipping date because car shipping takes time. But if you need more time for standard car shipping, don’t fret too much. You will still be able to ship your car, but you will have to pay extra for expedited shipping.

Once you learn the ropes of first-time car shipping, you will see how simple the process is. There is a checklist of things you need to know about car shipping to ensure you make the right choice for your needs. In the sections below, our car shipping professionals here at Direct Express Auto Transport give you a comprehensive car shipping guide covering everything you need to know. Read on to learn how to ship a car the right way, and schedule a shipment with our award-winning team today!

What Factors Affect Car Shipping Costs?

Convenience aside, one of the main reasons that people ship their cars is cost. However, not all car shipments cost the same. There are a wide variety of different factors that are going to affect how much your car shipment is going to cost. Answering the following car shipping questions will help you determine the cost of shipping your vehicle.

Should You Ship Enclosed or Open-Air Transport?

As you learn about first-time car shipping, you will encounter the phrases “enclosed transport” and “open-air transport.” These phrases sound a lot more complicated than they are. Open-air transport means that cars are shipped on an “open trailer” or exposed to the outside. Roughly 97% of cars ship via an open-air carrier. Yours probably will too. Generally, the only cars shipped via enclosed transport are rare and expensive cars that need a fortified shipping method.

Open-air transport is very safe but less secure than having four walls, a floor, and a ceiling to protect the vehicle. Open-air transport is also far cheaper and more readily available than enclosed transportation. You have probably noticed on the highway a load of ten new cars delivered to an automobile dealership in Open transport. That’s because the car manufacturers know it’s very safe.

Do you need door-to-door shipping?

Most probably, yes! After Direct Express Auto Transport assigns your vehicle to a carrier, we instruct the driver to pick up and deliver as close as possible to both addresses. That is in the spirit of door-to-door. Very few times, a big car carrier can pull up to your door. Everybody gets that.

The carrier will first locate your address on Google Maps or something similar. He will search for a large area nearby where he can safely park his transport truck to unload your vehicle. Typical meeting places are grocery store parking lots, malls, extra wide roads, or rest areas. You get the idea. Then the driver calls your origination contact and agrees on a nearby location to meet. Most people understand why the car transporter is selecting someplace other than the actual address. The parties agree on a time, and things usually go smoothly. The whole scenario repeats at the destination. Door-to-Door shipping is the fastest and best way to ship your car!

Do Large City Or Small Rural Places Affect Car Shipping?

Where’s the car coming from, and where’s it going? Which state or town you need car shipping will affect the price. Some significant metropolitan areas (such as Los Angeles or New York) have tons of shipping options, leading to shipping companies trying to undercut each other’s prices — which means great deals for you at the end of the day. Other parts of the country (such as the northern tip of Maine or many of the nation’s smaller towns, for example) are totally out of the way for many of the more trodden shipping routes. As you would expect, shipping your car to or from one of these out-of-the-way destinations will cost more.

How To Choose Among Standard, Expedited & Rush Shipping

The ideal scheduling scenario for first-time car shipping involves booking well ahead of your shipping date. Sometimes, however, the ideal just isn’t possible. If you’re booking on a short timeline, Direct Express Auto Transport uniquely offers an Expedited and Rush shipping option to accommodate your schedule. Here’s how it works. You pay a bit more upfront, which means that the trucker will make more by delivering your car, which causes a higher demand for your vehicle, which leads to it getting on a trailer much quicker than if you ship the Standard. Compared to enclosed shipping, expedited shipping costs a reasonable amount. Many car shipping customers choose our expedited shipping and are glad they did!

How to Prepare Your Vehicle for Shipping

Just like you’d prepare for a cross-country trip, you’ll need to prepare your vehicle for its journey. Here are a few essential steps to prepare your car for cross-country shipping.

Clean Your Car Before Shipping

Thoroughly clean your car and take photographs. Before shipping your vehicle, you will want to wash its exterior and clean its interior deeply. Though it may seem counterintuitive to clean and wash your car before spending hundreds of miles on American highways and freeways, it’s the best way to ensure any damages incurred during the shipping process get documented. Once you’ve washed and cleaned your car, you will want to take extensive interior and exterior photographs.

Document The Vehicle Condition

Document pre-existing damages and remove valuables from the inside of your car. Hopefully, you are shipping with a company that isn’t going to try to shuck any responsibility on dents, dings, and minor windshield cracks. As far as cleaning and documenting the inside of your vehicle, this is more of a precautionary measure in case someone climbs into the cab of your car and messes with things. That is also an excellent time to take any valuables from the vehicle, be it paperwork or essential items you’re keeping in the glovebox.

Reduce Your Gas Tank To 1/4 Full

Get your gas tank about a quarter full. In the final days leading up to handing your car off to the shippers, you will want to get your gas tank down to about a quarter. That will be enough gas for the inevitable shuffling around of cars on and off of the truck at each stop, but also not too full, as the added weight of a full tank of gas (especially if every car has one) would weigh down the load and cause the truck to have worse gas mileage.

Give An Extra Set Of Keys To The Truck Driver

Hand over a set of keys to the driver. Finally, when you present your car to the transporter, you will need to hand over a set of keys. Ideally, you have multiple key sets and can give the driver your spare. Regardless of whether it’s an extra or the only key you own, you’ll have to hand over a key so that the driver can do the inevitable shuffling around cars with each pick-up and drop-off.

Do I Need To Provide A Title or Car Registration?

That is a natural question for first-time car shipping customers. Amazingly, you do not need to show proof of ownership when you hand the car over to the truck driver, so don’t worry about your title or registration. Anybody standing there with the keys and willing to sign the Bill of Lading can ship it.

Double Check Insurance Coverage

If you’re shipping your car for the first time, one of your primary concerns is your vehicle’s safety. Even if you choose open-air shipping, your car will be very safe. There is statistically less than one claim for every two hundred shipments. And those are usually innocuous, like a small scratch or dent on the bumper. Since your vehicle will be sitting in the middle or back of the car transport truck — at least, behind the freight truck itself — there is little chance that a pebble or other piece of debris will put a dent in your windshield or puncture the undercarriage of your vehicle.

Even so, it would help if you had your vehicle insured. Car shipping companies will insure your car while it is in their possession. One of the best ways to tell a good shipping company from a mediocre one is by checking their shipping policies. Steer clear of any company that does not have at least a six-figure insurance policy. If you’re looking for the best, you may want to find a company that insures your car for at least $100,000 or more.

It’s better to be over-insured rather than under-insured. For this reason, your car shipping company doesn’t have to be your only source of insurance. Check with your car insurance company to see what your coverage is for shipping. Your vehicle insurance should be one of many coverages you have during shipping.

Do Delivery ETA’s Change Very Often?

Shipping cars can be a complicated process. Think of it this way: any auto transport trailer will be loading and unloading, picking up and dropping off at least a half dozen, sometimes even a dozen or more, before and after picking up your vehicle. That’s a big logistical task. Knowing how to transport a car means knowing as many variables as possible and planning for them on the open road. As we’ll cover in the next section, you will want to ship with a company with a solid logistical team so that the best, most logical, and most efficient routes get chosen from the get-go. That will help your car ship quickly and on time.

Schedule changes can still happen no matter how good a car shipping company is. Inclement weather, accidents on the road, and other unforeseeable factors that are totally out of a shipping company’s control can influence shipping times. Often, delays occur due to customers needing to arrive on time when either dropping off or picking up their vehicles.

And once one delay happens, chances are that the delays are going to compound because typically, once the first drop-off or pick-up runs late, then the next one runs later, then the driver needs to sleep before the next round of pick-ups, which may push one or two back until the next day. And so on. That is why you will always get a range of dates for when your car will be delivered rather than an exact day/time.

Generally speaking, the longer the distance between the drop-off and pick-up spot, the more likely your vehicle will be delayed. That is the reason to get on top of shipping your car early. If your vehicle needs to be at its final destination at a particular time, you will want to go with the expedited shipping route. Remember, shipping a car is different than sending a FedEx package. It’s four thousand pounds or more of mettle. A first-time car shipping customer needs to be more understanding.

How Do You Select the Best Auto Transport Company?

The most crucial factor to consider is the auto transport company itself. After all, this organization will get your car from point A to point B. You want the team you work with to be fast, safe, and affordable, with service you can trust.

Look for car transport reviews highlighting quality and professional drivers on time. Usually, with great drivers comes great dispatchers. Likewise, reputable car shipping companies with the best drivers and dispatchers typically have the best service. A great customer service team will make shipping your car much easier than a non-responsive, non-accommodating one.

Ship with a company with a proven track record. Don’t take the company’s word for their service. Consult vetted car review sites to see what customers say about the shipping company. Trustpilot is an excellent place to start. So are the BBB and Google Reviews. Look for keywords about timeliness, professionalism, and ease for the person shipping the car. Try to discern the helpful reviews from the vindictive ones. If you are searching on a trusted review site like Trustpilot, the site will do much of the vetting for you.

Get the best bang for your buck without skimping on quality. Deals on car shipping do exist — you have to find them. Another reason to start your search early is so that you can shop around to find the perfect price.

Ship with the Best Auto Transport Company

Now that you know much more about how to ship a car, it’s finally time to start finding a shipping company. Look no further than right here at Direct Express Auto Transport. Founded in 2003, our reputable car shipping team forged new paths through the complicated road of car shipping to make things easier, safer, and saner for customers. In 2004, we pioneered the Original Auto Transport Quote Calculator — the first-ever online car shipping quote calculator — nearly four years before our competitors implemented one.

Our Original Auto Transport Quote Calculator asks you seven simple questions, none of which require personal information, and gives you an affordable, transparent quote in seconds.

Our Online Quote Calculator has earned us a spot as one of the nation’s most reputable car shipping companies combined with our excellent service, fast shipping times, and uncovered and covered shipping options.

Please don’t take our word for it: listen to our thousands of happy customers, many of whom are first-time car shipping. With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and a 5-star rating on Trustpilot, we deliver on our promise of fair rates, great coverage, and excellent customer satisfaction. Want to learn more about how to ship a car? Visit our Blog for excellent car transport tips, or contact our team for direct assistance at 800-600-3750.

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