Skip to main content

How Long Does It Take To Ship A Car

How Long Does It Take To Ship A Car Mobile

How Long Does It Take To Ship A Car

Updated: May 20, 2024
Written by: Mike Rupers

In the auto transport industry, it is not who gets in line first, but rather, who is paying the most on the route with a similar sized vehicle? Like everybody else, car transport carriers are running a business and seek to maximize profit, and they cater to the bottom line. Like it or not, every customer is competing for space on a car shipping trailer. There is such a thing as cheap auto shipping, but only if there is nobody else paying more nearby. 

Key Takeaways:

  • How long it takes to ship a car has mostly to do with price. The carrier fee is paramount, with vehicles shipping faster the higher the price. 
  • The actual transit time on the road is about one day for every 500 miles distance, plus one or two days for carrier loading and unloading. 
  • The car shipping price affects how many days it takes to secure a carrier, then add a few days after assignment for the actual pick up.
In this blog article, Direct Express Auto Transport shares our expertise, honed over 20 years experience as a leading car shipping company, to inform you on what it takes to transport a car successfully.

How Long Does Car Shipping Take?

Step one is the right price to get assigned a carrier. It can make a big difference. Generally speaking, auto transport brokers do not know upon receiving an order, which of the nearly 10,000 car transport carriers will be shipping the vehicle. Broker experience and ethics are important when it comes to proper market pricing of vehicles. 

How long car shipping takes starts with the right price in order to get the customer vehicle assigned to a carrier. Priced right and carrier assignment can happen quickly, as in a day or two, or at minimum a few days. Priced too cheap and the customer may wait a week or even longer to be assigned a carrier. 

How Long Does It Take For The Car Transport Carrier Pick Up?

The good news is that once a car transport carrier has been assigned to ship your vehicle, things usually happen quickly. Expect one of the following after assignment:

  1. Most carriers pick up the vehicle one day after assignment..
  2. Sometimes carriers pick up the vehicle in two days.
  3. Sometimes carriers pick up the vehicle the same day as assigned.
  4. Occasionally, carriers pick up the vehicle in three days.
  5. Rarely do carriers pick up the vehicle in four days or more after being assigned.

How Long Does Car Shipping Transit Take?

A single auto transport driver will typically traverse about 500 miles per day. So how far is your vehicle shipment? Do the math and add one or two days for the carrier driver loading and unloading at either end. Here are a few examples, or scenarios, and see if any closely resemble your situation.





In Transit

Total Days


Chi – Det


1 day

1 day

2 days


SF – Pho


1 day

2 days

3 days


Cin – San A


2 days

3 days

5 days


Bos – Hou


2 days

4 days

6 days


Mia – LV


2 days

5 days

7 days


LA – Phil


2 days

6 days

8 days


Sea – Ft L


2 days

7 days

9 days

We are assuming, of course, that there are no hiccups. That everything goes smoothly.

The Car Shipping Carrier Fee Is The #1 Key Factor

Waiting for a carrier assignment can take as long or longer than the actual car shipment. Think of walking, jogging, or running. Here are three vehicle shipment pricing scenarios for an average 1,500 mile route.

Cheap Auto Transport / Low Pricing

  • 7 days for broker to assign a carrier
  • 2 days for carrier pick up
  • 1 day for carrier to load all his vehicles
  • 3 days in transit / on the road
  • 1 day for carrier to unload all his vehicles

Total 14 days from start to finish for Cheap Auto Transport.

Expedited Car Shipping / $100-$200 Additional

  • 3 days for broker to assign a carrier
  • 2 days for carrier pick up
  • 1 day for carrier to load all his vehicles
  • 3 days in transit / on the road
  • 1 day for carrier to unload all his vehicles

Total 10 days from start to finish for Expedited Car Shipping.

Rush Vehicle Shipping / $300-$400 Additional

  • 1 days for broker to assign a carrier
  • 2 days for carrier pick up
  • 1 day for carrier to load all his vehicles
  • 3 days in transit / on the road
  • 1 day for carrier to unload all his vehicles

Total 8 days from start to finish for Rush Vehicle Shipping.

The extra money on the carrier fee hastens the search for assignment. It shortens the wait for assignment, which is really the only part of the car shipping process that can be speeded up. Every other aspect is what it is. You can’t speed up the loading or unloading. The number of days on the road is governed by the FMCSA. The drivers cannot legally go faster in transit. 

That leaves only the time it takes for a broker to find a carrier to assign. Money has a lot to do with the speed of that.

Other Factors That Affect How Long It Takes To Ship A Car

There are other things that may affect how long it takes to ship a car. While the carrier fee, or money, is paramount, here are other considerations.

Car Shipping Route

The unpopularity of a car shipping route can affect the number of days it takes to assign a driver. Think of it this way:

  • Fast Popular Route: Detroit to Dallas
  • Medium Route: Lansing to Dallas
  • Slower Route: Lansing to Lubbock
  • Extremely Slow Route: Cadillac, MI to Lubbock

Involving a rural location on either end of the vehicle shipment will likely slow things down. The remedy is to add more money to entice a carrier. Patience becomes important.

Type of Vehicle

Sedans ship faster than SUVs, which ship faster than Pick-Up Trucks

Smaller SUVs ship faster than big SUVs. 

And smaller Pick-Up Trucks ship faster than big Pick-Up Trucks.

Carrier Driver Hours of Operation

The Department of Transportation correctly keeps drivers safer, and the public too. We share the road with truck drivers, and we all need them to get plenty of rest. No nodding off on the road. Here are the FMCSA rules.


How long it takes to ship a car is also affected by the time of year, the seasons. In the northern states and Rocky Mountains, the warmer weather months are far easier to car ship than in the winter months. In the winter, in the north, count on it taking longer regardless of the carrier fee.

Stormy Weather

Bad weather will slow car shipments down. Especially hurricanes. Icy conditions in southern states will cause havoc as they are simply not used to it. Tornadoes and arctic storms will also slow things. 

In recent years, global climate change that causes huge fires in the western states will derail car shipping schedules.

The Bottom Line On How Long It Takes To Ship a Car

Shipping a car is not like overnighting a package. It is not nearly as predictable. About the only thing a customer can do is reduce the wait time for a carrier assignment, because everything else is on autopilot. To make vehicle shipments go faster is simple, just add money.

Car Transport Cost: FAQ

Should You Ship Your Car Open or Enclosed?
About 97% of all vehicle shipments are shipped on an Open Trailer. It’s proven to be a very safe method with statistically very few problems. You may notice new cars being delivered to dealerships in an open trailer, and that’s because it’s safe. If you have a collector car or really expensive automobile, say around $75,000 or more, then we recommend shipping it in an Enclosed Trailer. Expect to pay about 33-50% more for an Enclosed transport. Our auto shipping costs calculator automatically adds the extra enclosed car transport estimate to your quote, so you can experiment with the quotes if you like.
How Long Will It Take To Pick Up My Vehicle?

Over 90% of our orders ship inside of one week. That could be anywhere from 1 to 7 days. Most of the U.S. population lives in a major metropolitan area and is shipping to another well populated area, and that makes a big difference. Cars usually ship in a very regular manner, almost half within just a few days.

If either your origination or destination locations are away from population centers, in other words, in a remote area, then you might consider meeting a driver in a nearby big city or town to increase your chances of shipping timely. Or adding money to the carrier fee may entice a carrier. Remember, anyone you choose can serve as your point of contact, which takes the stress out of shipping your vehicle.

How Do I Prepare My Vehicle For Shipment?

Clean out your vehicle of all loose items as much as possible. Leave nothing of value in the vehicle. It’s very rare that any items are stolen during transport, but we recommend extra caution to prevent loss.

Keep extra items as previously discussed to a minimum and place in the trunk or out of sight. Have only about a quarter tank of gasoline. Give the auto transport carrier a set of keys and advise them of any special instructions for your vehicle, like difficulty starting, steering, braking, etc.

Driver Consideration: Being a truck driver can be a thankless job. They work long hours and are away from their families for weeks at a time. Please be friendly and considerate to our drivers, and they will treat you in the same manner.

How Are Car Shipping Quotes Calculated?

The first factor used to calculate car shipping cost is the transport distance. Next are the length, height and weight of the vehicle, followed by running condition and type of trailer (Open or Enclosed). Finally, seasonal fluctuations may impact the overall cost.

Non-Running Vehicles Cost More

Maneuvering non-operational vehicles on and off a car transport trailer is a big challenge. Car shipping companies much prefer operational (running) vehicles because it gives them an easier option to reposition their entire load. Non-running vehicles take considerably more time to get on and off the trailer. So the car shipping quote must reflect the higher cost. Many auto transporters don’t have a winch and cannot accommodate non-running vehicles. That is one reason it takes longer on average to ship non-operational vehicles. Fewer do it. If at all possible, fixing your vehicle before trying to ship it will save on the non-running car transport cost, and make the process go faster.

How Long Does It Take To Deliver My Vehicle?

Delivering is final step in the process, and also the simplest part. Once your vehicle has been assigned and picked up, not too much can go wrong. Once the vehicle is picked up, you can estimate that it will take roughly 1 day of transit time for every 500 miles distance. Delivery Time Estimate Guide 100-500 miles takes 1 or 2 days 500-1000 miles takes 2 or 3 days 1000-1500 miles takes 3 or 4 days 1500-2000 miles takes 4 or 5 days 2000-2500 miles takes 5 or 6 days 2500-3000 miles takes 6 or 7 days Depending on the distance, weather conditions and population centers it could be a few days or weeks until a vehicle reaches its destination. The carriers usually estimate about 10 days on coast to coast trips, but they frequently arrive earlier.

Can I Put Stuff In My Car When I Ship It?

Yes and no. The strict interpretation is no, you can’t ship items inside your vehicle. The reality is that almost all carriers look the other way on items that weigh less than 100 pounds, roughly the equivalent of 2 suitcases. We recommend placing any additional items in the trunk and out of sight. The U.S. Transportation Law states that a carrier can be fined $10,000 for hauling household items in the vehicle, but it’s rarely enforced. However, the drivers do estimate the weight of each vehicle that they carry and don’t want problems at weight scales. So they must keep the personal items to a minimum. Some drivers will accept a tip ($50-$250) for hauling extra stuff, but some won’t. Rule of thumb, don’t take advantage.