12 Ways to Prepare Your Car for Shipping Across the Country
What to Look for When Choosing an Auto Transport Company
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
If you’re looking for an auto transport company to ship your car the most obvious starting point is to turn to Google for some inspiration. Unfortunately, a simple Google search for “Auto Transport Companies” will turn up pages of results. How do you go about picking the best one from so many?
If you’ve never used an auto transport company before you’ll be feeling completely overwhelmed. Choosing a reliable company can be challenging. You want a quality car shipping service and auto transporting companies that offer competitive rates.
If you want to increase your chance of picking a reliable and professional car shipping service that fits your needs and budget, here are some things to look out for.
How to choose a car transport company - What to look for
If you’re wondering how to pick a car transport company, the following factors are worth considering.
Make sure they are registered
It’s not something that too many people check, but it’s something that’s important. The auto transport industry is highly regulated. The organizations responsible for the regulatory side of the industry are the Department of Transport (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
As proof of their registration, auto transport companies should be able to provide a DOT number and an MC number. You can check the validity of the numbers you’re given by visiting the relevant website.
Make sure they are bonded
Company registration is not the only thing you need to check. The best car transport companies will also be bonded and insured. What this means for the customers that you’re covered should anything happen during the car shipping service.
You should also ask about the level of coverage provided by the auto transport company. The best auto transport companies will be adaptable and offer additional coverage if you want it. It might cost a little extra, but will be worth it for the peace of mind.
Choose a company that meets your needs and budget
When you’re looking for a car shipping company it’s crucial that you narrow down your search to auto transporting companies that meet your needs.
For example, if you have a classic vehicle or luxury car that needs extra care and attention, you should only choose a company that offers enclosed auto transport.
Other benefits to look for include digital tracking, door-to-door services, express delivery, and customer discounts.
Check for experience
To be successful in the auto transport industry requires lots of resources and experienced personnel. Only a company with many years experience will be able to offer these features.
When you’re doing your research, look into the experience and expertise of the auto transport providers.
Trusting an average company with no track record of successful order fulfillment and deliveries is not something you should consider doing.
What payment options are available?
Customers have different needs and it’s helpful if there are several payment options to cater to them. Ideally, a company should have options for the customer to pay through cash, credit cards, or checks. PayPal payments is another useful option.
One red flag of an untrustworthy business is that it only accepts payments through wire transfer as this is not as traceable as credit cards, debit cards, or a cashier's check.
Avoid too-good-to-be-true deals
To be able to move a vehicle from one destination to another takes resources, time, and expertise, all of which cost money. If a company is boasting that it offers the cheapest option, think very carefully before working with them. There’s a chance they might cut corners along the way that may cost you more further down the line.
If a company is offering something that’s too-good-to-be-true, chances are it is. The cheapest option might take longer, be more unreliable, have insufficient insurance coverage, and possibly not have the infrastructure.
Before you sign on the dotted line, take some time to look at an auto transport company’s online reviews. There are lots of review sites where you can read what customers think of a particular, such as BBB, Google, or Facebook. These are great places to visit if you want to check out a company’s reputation and level of service.
Don’t just read the glowing reviews. Negative and critical reviews are just as informative, especially when you look at home the company responded to the complaint.
If a company chooses not to respond to negative or critical reviews, it’s likely that they’re not worth your business. You should also be very wary of any company that has few or no negative feedback.
Want to learn more about SGT Auto Transport and why people love us? Check out our reviews here.
There are a number of other places you can look for customer reviews:
- Google It: The Google search engine is a great place to start if you want to find out about any company. Type the name of the ‘automobile transport company + reviews’ into the search bar and click enter. You’ll get thousands of hits. Now all you’ve got to do is sift through the results.
- Facebook: You might be used to checking up on your friends and family, but you can also use your social media channels to find out more about a company. A forward-thinking business is bound to have a page because it makes it easy for customers to get in touch and interact. It's also an excellent place for customers to leave their feedback on the service they received.
- Transportreviews.com: If you want to find reviews about particular auto transport carriers, pay this website a visit. There are hundreds of companies on file, and we happen to be one of them. It's a simple case of visiting the homepage and entering the name of the company in which you're interested.
- Trustpilot: Trustpilot is a consumer review website founded in Denmark more than a decade ago. It's the place where you can find reviews of thousands of businesses worldwide.
- Better Business Bureau (BBB): The BBB has a database of reports relating to a company's management, complaints, and how any complaints were resolved. There’s nothing necessarily bad about a company receiving complaints. After all, even the most successful companies are going to have a few disgruntled customers. What's more important is whether the complaints were resolved satisfactorily and promptly.
- Ask for References: You have every right to ask a company to provide references. At the very least, there should be customer reviews available for you to read. When you’re looking at reviews, look for those written by people who wanted the same or a similar service as you. For example, if you need to ship a car using enclosed transport, look for reviews written by people shipping exotic, luxury, or classic cars.
- Ask Around for Recommendations: Have you got a family member, friend, neighbor, or colleague who has used a reliable car transport service? Ask them about their experience and whether they would recommend the company they used.
Make sure you read the small print
A trusted and reliable auto transport company is one that’s also transparent. They should be open about the fact that there are no certainties in the auto transport industry and that delays can happen at any time. While they might do everything they can to prevent them, trucks still break down and bad weather still happens.
Make sure you read the small print in the contract before you sign on the dotted line. Also check whether the possibility of delays is mentioned. You don’t want to be left waiting for weeks for the delivery of your car.
Shipping personal items
Some, but not all, auto transport carriers allow you to ship personal items in your car. This can be a very useful option because it means you can pack items you want to keep safe and reduce the risk of them being damaged when being loaded and unloaded from the mover’s truck. You’ll also be able to have some items close to hand when you arrive. When you’re relocating, having a clean set of clothes, some cups and plates, knives and forks, and personal hygiene items will be helpful.
Generally, there will be a limit, for example, 100 lbs. In addition, you’ll have to pack them in a suitcase or box and lock them in the trunk.
We should mention that there is a risk of theft and damage. But you can minimize this by taking certain precautions. For example, secure your belongings in the trunk. Also, properly package fragile items, and don’t ship items of high value in your car.
Do your research
If you want to know how to choose a car transport company, you’re going to need to do some research.
Check reviews and complaints
When you’re checking company reviews and ratings, focu on customer complaints. How a company reacts to negative feedback can be very revealing. Typically, companies reply right under the negative review.
Even the biggest and the best companies are going to struggle to satisfy everyone. However, if you see lots of no-shows, price increases, and other weird stories, you could well be next.
If you can’t find a website, or anything really relevant about the company, they could be very new. Are they a fly-by-night operation or a scam? The best way to check is to ask for their MC number and check that it matches exactly to the company name on the FMCSA site.
Verify licensing, bonding, and insurance
If a company wants to transport vehicles it must meet the requirements of the operating authority. To begin with, they have to apply to become a freight broker with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Part of the application process includes a background check on the prospective owner. Evidence of a $75,000 broker bond is another requirement.
Tips on narrowing down your search
If you’ve got a number of companies that pass the checks mentioned above, you can narrow down your choices by taking the following steps.
Make a list of the best car transport companies that meet your needs
Auto transport companies are not created equal. There will be some that offer a range of services such as enclosed auto transport, door-to-door services, interstate transportation, express car shipping, and guaranteed pick ups. Some companies might be more specialized, for example, exotic and luxury auto transportation.
It makes sense to only consider those that offer the service you prefer.
Request an auto transport quote
Request a free, instant, non-committal quote from the companies in your list to see what they offer and how much it’ll cost. If a company doesn’t offer free, no-obligation quotes, cross them off your list and move on to the next company.
Don’t forget that you shouldn’t base your decision on price alone. Instead, consider the quality of the services being offered and make sure you do a comparative analysis to find which company offers the best value for money.
Speak to a representative by phone
You want to work with a company that you can reach at any time for questions and clarification. If you call a company and their representative is not friendly or well-informed, you should consider taking your business elsewhere.
How much will it cost to ship a car across the country?
There are several different factors that come into play when calculating auto transport prices. Car transport services come in a range of shapes and sizes. However, there are common factors all companies use.
Type and size of your car
The type of car you want to transport makes a big impact on your quote. The weight and dimensions of a vehicle determine how many can be shipped at the same time. Auto transport trailers are very large, but ultimately, space is limited.
It’s also in the carrier’s best interest to fit them in as economically as possible. A carrier can fit smaller vehicles onto the trailer which reduces the cost for individual owners.
Condition of your vehicle
You can expect to pay a little more for your service if your car isn’t running. The reason for this is that your vehicle has to be winched on and off the trailer, because it has no steering or brake power. The other option for vehicles that aren’t running is for the carrier to use a forklift.
Whichever the carrier uses, specialist equipment is required, which costs extra.
How quickly you need your car shipped
It’s always advisable to book your car shipping as far in advance as possible. This is to avoid disappointment and to allow the auto transport company to get you the best deal.
There are times, however, when relocation plans come out of the blue. This can often be the case when it comes to military car shipping. With no time to book in advance, it’s possible to ship your car using an express service. The cost of this type of car transport service is typically 30% extra.
Time of year
The most popular time for shipping a car is during the summer months. This makes the service more expensive. Unfavorable weather and the holidays can also increase the price.
Let’s not forget the time of year when snowbirds are heading south for the winter or back home in the north for the summer. The first few weeks of winter and the first few weeks of spring can also be expensive times to ship a car. This tends to apply for specific snowbird routers, for example, down to Florida, Arizona, California, and Texas.
What type of car shipping service you require
We’ve already mentioned the express auto transport service. If you’re not in a hurry, you get to choose between open car transport and enclosed auto transport.
Enclosed auto transport
Enclosed auto transport is the preferred option for owners of classic, custom, antique, and luxury cars. Vehicles transported in this way are housed in a covered trailer. The number of vehicles that can be carried tends to be smaller than open car transport.
Vehicles transported are completely protected from the elements and any traffic debris, which is why it’s so popular with owners of high value cars. If the vehicle is loaded in a clean condition, it’s delivered in exactly the same way.
You can expect to pay more for enclosed auto transport, usually around 30% to 40%.
It’s also worth mentioning that enclosed car transport is the better option if your vehicle has low ground clearance. If you chose open car transport, it’s likely your car will bottom out if the ground clearance is 4 inches or less. Enclosed car trailers come equipped with lift gates or racing ramps for easy and safe loading.
Open car transport
Open car transport is the type of car transporter you most often see on the highway. The trailer is open which means your car is exposed to the elements and traffic grime. That’s not necessarily a problem, because it’s still a safe and secure way to transport a car. So much so that most car dealerships use this method.
Open car transport is more affordable and still a very secure way to transport a vehicle from and to any point in the United States.
If you’re ready to make your auto transport arrangements, please give us a call at (864) 546-5038 or use our Live Chat option.