Difference between open car transport and enclosed auto transport

What is the difference between open and enclosed auto transport


If you ever need to ship a car across the country, you’re bound to have lots of questions. How long does it take and how much will it cost are probably the first ones. One thing that will influence the answers is the type of auto transport trailer that gets used. In this guide we’ll look at the various trailers used for both long and short distances.   

Open vs. enclosed auto transport

There are two general types of trailer used for car shipping services: open and enclosed. Each has its pros and cons. 

Open car transport

This is the most widely used car shipping service. When you’re driving on the highway, you’ll see this type of trailer more than any other. They’re popular for the general public and for car dealerships who want to transport both new and used vehicles across the country.

Generally, the trailer has one or two levels and several vehicles can be transported at the same time. There are different types, but they all have one thing in common. When shipping a vehicle using an open trailer the cargo is exposed to the elements and the surrounding environment, because the trailer has no sides. Don’t think, however, your vehicle is no less safe. It’s one of the safest and most secure ways to transport it. 

Different types of open car transport

Single vehicle hotshot trailer

Car shipping truck companies tend to offer this type of service for short distances. For this service, a dually truck with a tow trailer behind is what’s used. A dually is a pickup with dual rear wheels on both sides. Behind is a goose-neck trailer that’s just big enough to haul one vehicle. 

Another occasion that might call for a single vehicle hotshot trailer is when an expedited service is necessary. On this particular occasion, it’s used for long-distance deliveries.

Single level multi-car carrier

If more than one car needs to be transported, car shipping truck companies often offer this service. Goose-neck trailers are again used for these car transport services, but in this case they’re big enough to carry between two to six vehicles. These might be cars, trucks, small RV’s or a combination of all three. 

Car haulers might also use a semi rather than a dually, if the trailer is a little larger. Ninety-foot car shipping trucks will struggle to make deliveries in narrow city streets. A much smaller car transport carrier, on the other hand, won’t have such a problem.

Multi-level multi-car carrier

If you encounter an auto hauler when you’re out on the road, it’s more likely to be this type. It is the standard method for transporting your car. For most situations, shipping truck companies use this type because it’s economical, cost-effective, swift and reliable.  

The benefits of open car transport

Open car transport is the standard shipping method for car transport services. They transport more cars using open car trailers than anything else. Why do so many people prefer to use an open trailer?

Fast and efficient

Open car transport is one of the fastest ways to ship a vehicle. The reason for this is that 90% of trucking companies use an open trailer, so there’s a better chance of finding the right carrier when you need one. 

Insurance is often included

Throughout the shipping process, your vehicle is covered by the carriers insurance and in many cases you don’t have to pay extra. 

Popular with car dealerships

Almost all car dealerships use an open carrier service for moving new and used vehicles around the country. 

Affordable option

If you’re looking for the best value option for shipping a car open car transport is the service for you. Your vehicle is exposed to the elements, but that’s no different than driving it on the highway every day.

If you want to know how affordable our car transport services are we’ve got a handy instant online quote calculator. You can also speak with our shipping advisors at (864) 546-5038, or use our Live Chat option.  

An open carrier service is a very safe method for transporting a car and there’s virtually no chance of it being damaged. Let’s face it, car dealerships wouldn’t choose open car transport for delivering and receiving new vehicles if it wasn’t a safe option.  

Topload placement

It’s often possible to request topload placement. The benefit of this option is that no vehicles will be loaded above yours. Therefore, there’s no risk of fluids leaking onto your car and it’s also a little further away from the road surface.  

Suits many types of vehicle

Open car transport is suitable for many types of vehicle. Size, height, weight, or model don’t matter when it comes to booking an open car transport service.

Better for the environment

One final benefit, that’s very important in our environmentally conscious age, is that hauling your car by truck in this way is better for the environment. They use less fuel and can haul more vehicles at the same time.

Enclosed auto transport

Enclosed auto transport services are different in that the vehicles being moved are completely enclosed and protected from the weather and any traffic grime. It’s a popular choice, and is usually recommended, for owners of custom, antique, classic, luxury, and high-end vehicles. 

When you transport a car using an enclosed trailer there are several options to choose from. 

Different types of enclosed auto transport

Single-level, single-vehicle enclosed trailer

If you’ve got a particularly valuable or precious motor, you might choose to use car shipping companies that offer this service. Both bumper pull and goose-neck trailers are used to provide this service. A dually truck is used for pulling. As with the open version, it’s used mostly for short distance or expedited deliveries.

Single-level, multi-vehicle enclosed trailer

Enclosed car trailers aren’t limited to transporting just one vehicle. There are versions that can carry up to three. When more than one vehicle is being hauled, however, it’s usually done by a semi.

Multi-level, multi-vehicle enclosed trailer

When a car transport company needs to haul more than three motors in an enclosed trailer it uses a multi-level, multi-vehicle enclosed trailer. Enclosed car transport loading takes place using adjustable deck ramps.

Hard vs. soft sided trailers

You might also be interested to learn that car shipping companies can offer a variety of different types of enclosed carrier. They can be hard or soft-sided. A soft-sided car transport trailer, also known as curtain-sided, will have vinyl side curtains that are PVC-coated. Because these curtains can be lifted up when a vehicle is loaded and unloaded, it makes securing the cargo much easier. That being said, enclosed car shipping trucks tend to be hard-sided. 

The benefits of enclosed auto transport

For the majority of people, shipping your car by truck in the standard way is more than suitable. There are, however, certain types that require a certain level of care and attention.

Owners of rare, specialty, custom, classic or antique motors tend to choose enclosed car services. This is because the transported vehicles are completely protected, not just from the weather but from traffic grime and debris, throughout the length of the journey. The vehicle being hauled will arrive at its chosen destination looking shiny and new.

There are several other benefits that come with enclosed auto transport.

Peace of mind protection

If you want your car to arrive as clean as when you left it enclosed auto shipping is the service to choose. Not only is it fully protected from the weather, it’s also protected from dust, dirt, and other traffic grime. An enclosed auto carrier keeps your pride and joy protected throughout its journey. When they deliver your car it’s spotless.  

Low ground clearance

Hydraulic lift gates and extended racing ramps are necessary when loading and unloading cars with low ground clearance. These are only available with enclosed auto transport. 

Multiple-vehicle shipping

Choosing enclosed auto transport doesn’t mean you’re limited to one. Multiple-vehicle enclosed auto transport is also available. 

Increased insurance coverage

Vehicles being shipped using an enclosed auto transport trailer are usually of a higher value than your standard car. If your car is worth more than $50,000, it’s recommended you choose covered vehicle transport because the insurance coverage is much higher. 

The cost of shipping a vehicle

An important factor for anyone looking to ship their car is the cost. Any self-respecting car transport company would be more than happy to provide you with a free and instant quote. You’re probably wondering how car transport rates are calculated. Let’s explain.

Several factors impact the cost of any auto transport service. They include:

  • Whether you choose open car transport or enclosed auto transport (enclosed is a little more expensive).
  • If your final destination is in a metropolitan or rural area.
  • The make, model, and year of the vehicle being transported.
  • Whether or not the car is running. 
  • Distance traveled.

The time of year also affects car shipping rates. As you might expect, around the Christmas and New Year periods are bound to be costly. The fourth of July and Thanksgiving can also be more expensive times to ship a car.

Let’s not forget ‘snowbirds’ season. You might not have heard of it, but it’s a time of the year when many people choose to move south to enjoy the warmer weather. In the fall, for example, prices from the Midwest and North to the South tend to increase. In the spring, when the snowbirds are going back home, prices in the other direction tend to cost more. 

Finding the best car shipping rates

It’s only natural to want the best bang for your buck, but how do you go about finding the best door-to-door car transport rates?

Auto shipping rates often differ from company to company, even when you take all the factors mentioned above into consideration. To ensure you get the best possible price requires a certain amount of research. Google will be very helpful in finding auto transport companies. Once you’ve got a few companies to choose from, get in touch with each of them and request a quote. 

When comparing auto transport companies check what’s included in the price. Will you have to pay extra for insurance coverage, for example? Also check whether any discounts are being offered. Military car shipping is one service that’s often available at a discounted rate. 

What other car shipping services might be available?

Open and enclosed auto transport aren’t the only options available if you want to ship a car from state to state, city to city, or coast to coast. Let’s give you a few examples. 

Express auto transport

If you’re on a tight schedule and can’t wait for the standard 5 to 8 days for a pick-up, express auto transport is an option, although it will cost a little extra. With express auto transport, a pick-up can be arranged with a window of between 24 and 48 hours, after the reservation has been made.   

Guaranteed pick-up service

So many variables come into play when organizing auto transport. Making guarantees is a challenge to say the least. It is, however, possible with a guaranteed pick-up service. Not all companies offer this service, but those that do, guarantee to make your booking with a 24-hour pick-up window.   

Door-to-door car transport       

Not so very long ago, terminal to terminal transport was the only option if you needed to transport a vehicle. Nowadays, companies offer a door-to-door auto transport service. Pick-ups and deliveries are made as close to your chosen location as is safe and legal to do so. It might be outside your home, place of work, in a shopping mall, a parking lot around the corner, or anywhere else of your choosing. 

Cross country car shipping

If you’re the kind of person who likes to do their shopping online you might be wondering whether buying a car online is an option. After all, how would you go about getting it home? Using a cross country car shipping service it’s possible, and it’s not as complicated or expensive as you might think. 

If you want to know anything else about auto transport services don’t hesitate to get in touch with our shipping advisors at (864) 546-5038 or use our Live Chat option. For the latest prices use our online instant quote calculator.

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