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When you need to move your car from point A to point B, there are a few options. 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 move 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 important 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 the many excellent auto transport services we have to offer.
Towing Your Car
We’ll start off with car towing, a process most people have experienced firsthand. The concept is simple: your car is parked atop a trailer (or platform) that is towed by (or fixed on the 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 (in)famous tow truck is a common 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 is not without its costs. After all, you need the proper equipment — the most important one 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 both in 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 stronger 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 when you call, they’ll be there on the same day. For those who do things at the last minute or don’t want to wait, car towing is the way to go.
- Similar to efficiency, flexibility is another advantage that car towing has 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 yourself, you can choose to drive at any time that fits your schedule.
- When it comes to car towing, the price is sometimes right. For broken-down cars that need to move across town, there is no better choice. 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 have to find the proper equipment to rent, which can include a trailer and/or 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 need to tow your car 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 have to 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 depends on many factors — not all of which you have control over.
- Again, car towing is always the most affordable route for short distances. If you already own a vehicle capable of towing and you’re renting only a trailer (or you already own a trailer), 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
Wondering whether you should tow your car? As a general rule, towing is a good option for traveling short distances. Towing your car yourself is an affordable option when traveling long distances, provided that 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.
Though similar to car towing, car shipping has a few important differences. For one, car shipping is designed for long distances. During most car shipping routes, cars are in transit for days or even weeks at a time. Car shipping requires appointments to be made in advance, and also 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
- Simply let the car shipping company know the first date your vehicle is available, and the next carrier going your way will likely choose yours if it is priced properly. 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 on your part.
- If you’re towing your car yourself, 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 carries 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 car 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 important.
- 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 car from point A to point B faster and more affordably.
When to Choose Car Shipping
Traveling long distances? Car shipping is the best choice for you. Because they can ship multiple cars at once, car shipping companies can keep prices relatively low. 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 Our Team
Want to learn more about car towing vs car shipping? Contact our team at Direct Express Auto Transport and we’ll be happy to 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!