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Snowbird Car Shipping Guide

For the snowbird car shipping folks, spending the winter someplace warm and heading home in spring or summer has much appeal. But it also creates some logistical challenges. As all experienced snowbirds know (and all new snowbirds learn), moving your life across the country twice a year has hurdles. One that almost all snowbirds contend with is the issue of transportation.

Here’s the dilemma: If you’re going to spend months someplace, you will want to have a vehicle at your disposal, mainly when that destination has picturesque places and must-see events or attractions. However, driving your vehicle to your winter home (and back again) may not be feasible or desirable, and renting a car for months doesn’t look any better.

Your best option is to have your car, something you know and like, to drive during the winter, but how do you get it there? We will answer that question in this comprehensive guide. If you’re a snowbird (or planning to become one) and need options for travel and transport, they’re more abundant than you may realize. Discover how easy it is to live the snowbird lifestyle from the driver’s seat of your car.

An older couple sitting on a beach under a striped umbrella

Quick Basics About Snowbird Car Shipping

We will be using the term snowbird a lot in this guide, so it helps to establish some basic definitions. A snowbird spends the warmer months someplace north and then heads south for the winter. When do snowbirds go south? The migration typically starts the day after Thanksgiving, but some people opt to go earlier, and the trend continues until as late as the third week in January. 

The period of snowbirds going back north begins around the beginning of April and continues through the end of May. Keep in mind that these are broad generalizations. Anyone who splits their time between two homes (or more) qualifies as a snowbird.

Most people escaping the winters head to a state that enjoys year-round summer: Florida. Destinations throughout the state – from the panhandle through Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and to the Keys – attract tens of thousands of snowbirds seeking what the Sunshine State is famous for. Florida may be the most popular destination by a wide margin, but California, Arizona, and Texas also attract people seeking a respite from winter.

Regardless of your destination or schedule, the challenges of being a snowbird are essentially the same. Transportation tops that list – but the solution is far simpler than people realize. One particular option makes it easy to get your car, truck, van, or SUV anywhere in the country at any time of year without you driving.

Car Shipping for Snowbirds

Every year, thousands of snowbirds rely on auto transport companies and vehicle haulers to get their car from north to south and then do the reverse a few months later. People have many different reasons for choosing this option which we will outline soon, but the core value of auto shipping is the same for all: getting a vehicle from point A to point B without being the driver. Here’s why so many snowbirds ship instead of drive:

  • Travel Flexibility – With a vehicle hauler getting your car where it needs to go, you’re free to travel however you wish. Fly to your destination, take a train, or rent a larger vehicle to handle luggage: it’s entirely up to you because you’re no longer bound to your vehicle.
  •  Time Savings – Depending on where you’re coming from, it can take days to get someplace like Southern Florida. Most people don’t want to spend that much time on the road and would instead reach their destination ASAP. Car transport makes that possible – spend a few hours in an airplane compared to a few days on the highway.
  •  Cost Savings – An extended road trip can cost more than you expect, factoring in gas, food, lodging, mileage, and any unexpected expenses along the road. In addition to saving on time (the most important currency for many snowbirds), auto transport can also save on travel expenses in some cases. In all cases, the cost of shipping is comparable to the cost of driving yourself.
  •  Safety and Equity – A road is dangerous, and every mile you put on your odometer reduces the vehicle’s value slightly. Car transport solves both problems. Your vehicle is well protected on the back of a secure trailer driven by a professional who spends his life on the road. You can also get that vehicle from one side of the country to another without any of the wear and tear that would typically entail. Compared to the alternatives, auto shipping is what’s best for whatever your drive.
An empty truck ready to ship cars to Florida

Tips for Successful Auto Transport

Snowbirds needing Florida car transport or some other vehicle hauling can do themselves major favors by following some insider advice. Make sure you have the most hassle-free experience possible with these tips:

  • Be Realistic – It’s important to realize that the snowbird season is also the busiest time of year for vehicle haulers. Tens of thousands of travelers need help from a limited number of auto haulers, all within that same small window. Not surprisingly, competition can be fierce, and setbacks are common. These outcomes aren’t inevitable, but they’re possible and something all snowbirds need to be realistic about.
  •  Act Early – With so much competition for auto shipping in early winter and late spring, it pays to make arrangements early. As a general rule of thumb, you should put a backup plan (contact) in place before you need your car to arrive at your destination. Be flexible, too. Unless you’re willing to pay a premium price, you can’t guarantee your auto will have a spot on an auto trailer headed precisely where you want when you want. Arrange for shipping no more than ten days before you are due to depart.
  •  Comparison Shop – The first auto hauler willing to take your shipment isn’t necessarily the best vehicle hauler willing to take it. Only work with haulers who are appropriately licensed and insured and have a clean track record. Beyond that, compare their rates and availability. You can’t be too selective during snowbird season, but you shouldn’t rush to book something. Rely on Direct Express Auto Transport to quickly connect you with multiple appealing options.
  •  Avoid Holidays- Like most people, car haulers take holidays off and may spend a prolonged period off the road around Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, or other seasonal holidays. Around these holidays also tends to be the most popular time to travel, meaning that demand is exceptionally high when supply is meager. Pick when auto shipping is a week or more away from major holidays.

How Much Does Auto Transport Cost?

The cost depends on a number of factors:

  1. When you decide to ship, when people first migrate south, and when snowbirds go back north, the cost of auto shipping is higher than at any point in the year because of simple supply and demand.
  2. The make and model of your vehicle affect the cost. In general, the bigger and more valuable the automobile you want to transport, the more it will cost.
  3. Your schedule affects the cost.

As with most types of shipping, the sooner you want a car picked up or dropped off, the more it will cost. With all those caveats out, the cost of snowbirds wanting Florida car transport or a similar service could be less than $1,000, much less in some cases. Compared to the amount of time you save plus the expenses you get to avoid by not driving, the cost of auto transport looks like money well spent on most snowbirds.

Should You Prepare Your Vehicle Before Shipping?

Even though your car will ride on the back of an auto trailer (or inside of an enclosed trailer if you’re willing to pay more for the added security), you need to get it ready for the journey. Spend an hour working through these steps a day or two before you meet your vehicle hauler to hand over the keys.

  1. Wash the Outside – Starting with a thorough exterior wash helps with the next few steps. It also means your car arrives at your winter home looking its best.
  2.  Inspect the Exterior – Walk around the car’s exterior looking for dents, scratches, dings, or other damage. Identifying this damage early is essential so that you don’t blame the car hauler for it later.
  3.  Take a Few Pictures – Photographing any damage on the vehicle’s exterior gives you something to reference if you feel your car was damaged in transport. Take quality photos from multiple angles.
  4.  Look for Leaks – Is your car leaking oil or any other fluids? If so, try to correct the problem before shipping. You will also want to record your odometer reading to confirm that your car hasn’t been driven more than necessary.
  5.  Get On Top of Maintenance – You want your vehicle in perfect running order when it arrives at its destination. Before handing it over to the hauler, top off all fluids, and ensure the battery has a full charge and the tires are properly inflated. Finally, leave only about a quarter gas tank in the car because excessive gas adds extra weight.
  6.  Secure the Exterior – Remove anything from the exterior, like bike and luggage racks or decorative flags. If possible, fold in the side mirrors, close the sunroof, and secure anything else on the exterior that could damage the car or something around the vehicle.
  7.  Empty the Interior – Similar to the surface, you don’t need to get the car interior spotless, but you should remove any personal objects, particularly anything electronic or valuable. These personal items could move around in transport and cause damage, or they could attract thieves. Get the interior as clean and empty as you want it to be upon arrival.
  8.  Deactivate Auto Subscriptions – If you pay for toll access or parking that you won’t need while living in another state, make arrangements to cancel/suspend the subscription while you’re gone. Remove toll tags, so you don’t accidentally accrue fees along the way.
  9.  Keep the Essentials – The less clutter, the better inside your vehicle, but don’t remove anything essential: the spare tire, the tire changing tools, the license plate, etc.
  10.  Note Anything Unusual – The auto hauler will briefly drive your car on and off the trailer. Write down any mechanical problems the vehicle has or other quirks the driver may need to be aware of.

Where Do I Go for Snowbird Car Shipping?

A large truck on a highway with a desert landscape

Snowbirds understand better than most how beneficial car shipping compares to the alternatives. How to find experienced, trustworthy car haulers to work with may need to be clarified. Arranging auto shipping used to mean calling every company in the area until, hours later, you had enough info to compare options. Thanks to Direct Express Auto Transport, that process takes about a minute.

As far back as 2004, we invented the Internet’s very first online car shipping quote calculator. You enter a few basic details about your pickup and drop-off location, what you want to ship, and when. 

Direct Express Auto Transport has been an innovator and leader in auto transport ever since. We’ve also become a partner to snowbirds across the country who rely on us to broker transport every year at the start and end of the season. 

The Original Car Shipping Quote Calculator

Direct Express Auto Transport originated the instant car shipping quote calculator in 2004. It is still the best, most sophisticated, reliable tool available anywhere online. We offer three options that we call tiers of car shipping estimates. The standard rate is the cheapest car shipping quote, but it may take longer. Use it if you are patient. We recommend the expedited car shipping rate and have countless satisfied customers because the shipping process tends to go quicker. The rush rate is our highest level of car shipping service, and many customers are glad they went with that method.

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