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When Do You Need Auto Transport Services

Towing vs. Shipping a Car

There are a few options when you need to move your car from point A to point B. Simply driving your vehicle may top the list, but sometimes this isn’t practical or possible. Maybe you’re moving to another state, or your car needs maintenance. In these cases and more, you will need help to drive your vehicle. Two of the most common options are car towing and car shipping. While they may sound similar, these two car transport options differ in several ways. 

In this guide, our experts at Direct Express Auto Transport discuss the differences and outline whether towing or shipping will work best for you. Read on to learn the best way to move your car, and check out our many excellent auto transport services.

Towing Your Car

We’ll start with car towing, a process most people have experienced firsthand. The concept is simple: your car is placed atop a trailer (or platform), which is towed by (or fixed on top of) a tow truck. While this is simple, understanding whether car towing is right for you requires extra explanation. In the following sections, we cover the specifics of two types of car towing: towing with a tow company and towing yourself with rented or purchased equipment.

Towing Your Car with a Towing Company 

The tow truck is a standard fixture in modern society. Whether you have parked in a “No Parking” zone or your car stalls during your commute, the tow truck is sometimes a grim reaper and sometimes your savior. Most tow trucks don’t have trailers and instead use built-in platforms capable of pulling in a car and carrying it to its new destination. These trucks are great for quick pickups, but they’re rarely available to rent or purchase by the general public. To use a tow truck, you’ll have to call a tow company and ask for their services. Though not always inexpensive, towing companies are almost always responsive — meaning they’ll come to get your car within hours (even minutes) after your call.

Towing Your Car Yourself

Depending on how far you need to tow your car, doing it yourself can be the most affordable option. However, this method has its costs. After all, having the proper equipment would help — the most important being a trailer. Your towing trailer securely carries your car and is hitched to the back of the vehicle you’re driving. Both covered and uncovered trailers are available for rent in most major cities. The latter is more affordable for both rental price and gas mileage, while the former is more protective. 

In addition to a trailer, you also need a vehicle capable of towing another car. A sedan isn’t going to be able to tow an SUV, and sometimes the opposite won’t even work. Check the combined weight of your car and your trailer, and then check your vehicle’s towing capacity. If the first number is greater than or equal to the second number, you need a more robust towing vehicle. Trucks are also available for rent, but you may be better off considering other transport options at that point.

Car Towing Pros

  • Many car towing companies offer 24/7 service. That means they’ll be there on the same day when you call. For those who do things at the last minute or don’t want to wait, car towing is the way to go.
  •  Like efficiency, flexibility is another advantage of car towing over car shipping. Car shipping requires scheduling days, weeks, or even months in advance. Car towing is typically same-day scheduling. If you plan on towing your car, you can choose to drive at any time that fits your schedule.
  •  When it comes to car towing, the price is sometimes right. There is no better choice for broken-down cars that need to move across town. For cars that need to move states? There are often better options.

Car Towing Cons

  • While using a towing company can be as simple as a phone call, towing your car yourself is different. First, you must find the proper rental equipment, including a trailer and towing vehicle. Then you have to set up your rig, which means locking your car into place on a trailer. Once that is done, you must tow your vehicle from point A to point B. This extra time and effort can dissuade many drivers from towing.
  •  Several risks come with towing your car. First are the risks associated with hitching your trailer, connecting your car, and towing it long distances. In a perfect world, nothing would go wrong, but there is always the risk of user error. If you’re going the DIY route, you must assume the risk and its ramifications. Another risk is the wear and tear that towing puts on your engine. In all cases, towing will wear down a towing vehicle. Just how much wear and tear depending on many factors — not all of which you have control over.
  •  Again, car towing is always the most affordable route for short distances. Suppose you already own a vehicle capable of towing and you’re renting only a trailer (or you already own a trailer). In that case, that configuration may be the most affordable cross-country travel price — at the added expense of time and energy. In every other case, car shipping is the way to go.

When to Tow Your Car

Should you tow your car? As a general rule, towing is a good option for traveling short distances. Towing your vehicle yourself is affordable when traveling long distances, provided you only need to rent a trailer (or nothing at all). If you need to rent both a towing vehicle and a trailer, then car shipping is often the more affordable option — as well as being safer and more efficient.

Car Shipping

Though similar to car towing, car shipping has a few essential differences. For one, car shipping is designed for long distances. During most car shipping routes, cars are in transit for days or weeks. Car shipping requires appointments to be made in advance and offers uncovered or covered car shipping options. Get an overview of how car shipping works in this video, or by exploring this FAQ.

Car Shipping: Pros

  • Let the car shipping company know the first date your vehicle is available, and the subsequent carrier going your way will likely choose yours if it is appropriately priced. You may have to drive your car a few miles to the nearest pickup or drop-off location, but other than that, car shipping requires no physical effort.
  •  If you’re towing your car, you can expect to drive for hours or even days. With car shipping, the driving is done by someone else. If you’re moving states, shipping your car will allow you to fly to your new home or drive there faster without hauling another vehicle. Most carriers go to all 48 states in the continental US.
  •  Shipping your car is often more affordable than towing it. Renting a trailer (and sometimes a vehicle) can be expensive, to say nothing of the cost of gas mileage and vehicle maintenance at the end of a trip. Hiring a towing company to move your car across states is almost unheard of and will likely cost considerably more than having your vehicle shipped.

Car Shipping: Cons

  • Car shipping is a process that often involves several cars in addition to your own. Other cars need to be picked up and dropped off, which means sometimes there are delays.
  •  There are fewer car shipping companies than car towing or rental companies. Fewer options can make finding the right fit more difficult, especially if you have special requests or a demanding timetable. That is why choosing a reputable broker, such as Direct Express Auto Transport, is essential.
  •  For short drives within 50 miles, car shipping mostly isn’t worth the scheduling or the cost. In these cases, a car towing company will get your vehicle from point A to point B faster and more affordably.

When to Choose Car Shipping

Are you traveling long distances? Car shipping is the best choice for you. Because they can ship multiple cars simultaneously, car shipping companies can keep prices relatively low. Are you moving an expensive car? Car shipping offers covered options in addition to standard covered trailers. Covered transport options are ideal for collector’s items, brand-new cars, and other high-end vehicles. Want to keep things simple? Schedule with a reputable car shipping company like Direct Express Auto Transport, and shipping your car will be as easy as dropping off a package.

Learn More and Ship with Direct Express Auto Transport

Want to learn more about car towing vs. car shipping? Contact our team at Direct Express Auto Transport, and we’ll happily answer your questions and offer expert advice. Ready to ship with our highly-rated car shipping service? Use our Online Quote Calculator to secure an affordable, 100%-transparent quote in seconds, and schedule your pickup with us today!

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