Long-distance car transport: Everything you need to know

Long-distance car transport: Everything you need to know

There are many reasons why you might need long-distance car transport. Have you recently bought a car online and need to get it home again? Are you heading south for the winter? Whatever the reason, finding one of the best long-distance auto transport companies is crucial.

If you think moving a vehicle long-distance will be a challenge, we’re about to show you how easy it is if you find the right partner. In this article, we’re going to cover all the bases and give you all the information you need.    

What is long-distance car transport?

Long-distance car transport is a service that helps you move your car from one location to another, typically over a long distance. It might be from one city to another, state to state, coast to coast, or any other location. An auto transport company picks up your vehicle and loads it onto a trailer. It is transported across the country and delivered to your chosen location. We’ll go into the process a little later in this article, but it doesn’t get much simpler than that.  

What are the benefits of long-distance car transport?

Many people consider long-distance car transport to be the best way to ship a car. Most long-distance car transport companies provide a door-to-door car transport service. It’s a quick and easy process to arrange and very convenient service. 

You’ll find most cross country car shipping companies provide a range of different services, depending on your needs. We’ll look at what is typically available shortly. We’ll also give you more information about the cost and timeframe, as these are both critical factors. Let’s look at some of the other advantages. 

  • There’s no wear and tear on your car or extra miles added to the odometer
  • Long-distance car shipping is stress-free
  • Saves time and money
  • You can ship more than one vehicle at a time
  • Extra protection is available for valuable vehicles
  • It’s a door-to-door service
  • Express service is available if you’re in a rush

Long-distance auto transport is not your only option, but it is by far the best. Let’s compare it with some other ways you can move a car a long distance. 

Hiring a driver

You can hire a professional to drive your car cross country. Some companies specialize in this type of service, or you can employ someone directly without using a third party. 

Pros

  • You might be able to ride along
  • It’s a personal service
  • There is the option of specialized insurance
  • You’ll be able to transport extra luggage
  • The service is quick

Cons

  • Compared with long-distance car transport, it’s costly
  • Unnecessary wear and tear on your car
  • Finding a reliable and reputable company or individual driver could be challenging

Shipping by rail

Ship a car by rail

You can ship a car by train, but currently, the routes are very limited. It can be cheaper than other options, but not when you compare it with shipping a car across country. The process is simple, but you have to get your car to the train station and then collect it at the other end. 

Pros

  • The cost can sometimes be less than other options
  • Trains are better for the environment because their carbon footprint is lower
  • Both open and enclosed transport options are available

Cons

  • You have to travel to deliver or pick-up your vehicle from a designated station
  • Shipping by rail takes much longer
  • Transportation by rail can be more expensive when you factor in additional costs
  • The service is not flexible
  • You can’t transport personal items in your vehicle

Drive it yourself

This is not necessarily the best option, although at first, it might seem like a fun idea. There are lots of additional costs involved, and driving long distances can be stressful. 

Pros

  • You can make the journey at your own pace if you’ve got the spare time
  • You can stop along the way wherever you want to
  • It’s possible to experience the countryside and visit interesting places along the way
  • A road trip with the family might be fun

Cons

  • When you factor in additional costs, it can be more expensive than long-distance car transport
  • Driving long distances is dangerous
  • Driving for long periods is stressful
  • The time frame depends on traffic conditions and the weather

Transport your vehicle using a dolly or trailer

There’s a big downside with this option, especially if you’ve never done it before. It is the cheapest way to tow a car long distance, but it’s quite an experience and takes a lot of practice and getting used to. Maneuvering and reversing while towing require a certain amount of skill and practice. 

Pros

  • Door-to-door service
  • No wear and tear on your vehicle
  • Safe option 

Cons

  • Can work out more expensive when you add in other costs such as food, accommodation, and extra gas
  • Towing a trailer takes skill and practice

Have a friend or family member drive it for you

Drive a car long distance

This is a very budget-friendly option if you know someone you can trust to drive your car. Another advantage is that you can pack extra luggage into the vehicle, saving money on removal fees. There are, however, disadvantages too. 

Pros

  • Affordable option
  • You trust the driver
  • It’s possible to transport personal belongings

Cons  

  • You amy require additional insurance to cover the driver
  • Additional mechanical bills because of the extra wear and tear
  • Do you really know how good a driver they are?      

What services do long distance car transport companies offer?

Long-distance car transport

When you book a long-distance car transport service, there are several options you can book. Depending on the company, one or more of the following services might be offered.

Open car transport

This is the most widely used car shipping service. Long-distance car transport companies are popular for the general public and car dealerships who want to transport both new and used vehicles across the country. 

Generally, long-distance auto transport companies use trailers that have one or two levels. This means they can transport several vehicles at the same time. When you ship a vehicle in an open trailer, it is exposed to the elements and the surrounding environment. This is because the trailer has no sides. This doesn’t mean your vehicle isn’t safe. Open car transport is one of the safest and most secure ways to transport a vehicle.  

Enclosed auto transport

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

If you want your car to arrive as clean as when you left it, enclosed auto shipping is the service to choose. Your vehicle is protected from the weather, dust, dirt, and traffic grime. Your pride and joy will be protected throughout its journey, and when the carrier delivers your car, it’s spotless. 

The cost of this service is around 30% - 40% more than open car transport. 

Guaranteed pick-up

If you need to make a specific arrangement to ship a car across country, or want to make a last-minute shipment, this is the service for you. With this type of service, you can make your booking with a 24-hour window, rather than the standard 5-7 business days.

A guaranteed pick-up service is more expensive. For a personalized quote, you can speak with our shipping advisors by telephone or via Live Chat.     

Express auto transport

There are times when you might need to ship a car quicker than normal. Express auto transport is a service that allows your car to be shipped quicker than the standard service time. 

The industry standard timeline for a car transport pick-up is between 5 and 7 days. You can reduce this timeline to between 1 and 2 business days with an express or expedited auto transport service. What this means is that you can arrange the pick-up of your vehicle to be within 48 hours of the first available shipping date.

On average, you can expect to pay around 30% more if you want express transport services.   

How much does long-distance car shipping cost?

The cost of shipping a car long-distance depends on several things. For example, the vehicle’s size and weight, the actual shipping distance, the route taken during transportation, and the current cost of fuel.

The type of shipping service you choose also makes a difference. Specialist shipping services such as enclosed auto transport, guaranteed pick-up, or express car shipping will cost more than the standard open car transport. Something else that can affect the price is demand. If more vehicles are shipped on a particular route, the price goes up.

Here are some examples of what it might cost. 

Distance Type of transport Avg. price per mile Sample distance Sample price
0-500 miles Open $0.80 250 miles $200
500-1000 miles Open $0.73 700 miles $511
1000-1500 miles Open $0.70 1000 miles $700
1500-2000 miles Open $0.48 1750 miles $840
2000-2500 miles Open $0.37 2400 miles $888
2500-3000 miles Open $0.35 2700 miles $945
3000+ miles Open $0.33 3200 miles $1122


The rates shown above are reflective of current market conditions as of January 2020. These rates are subject to change due to seasonal fluctuations, price of gas, pick-up, and delivery locations.   

How long does it take to ship a car across country?

It is usual for a cross country car shipping company to cover several hundred miles a day. The time it takes for them to deliver your car varies, depending on the distance they have to travel. It could be a day for short distances, a week or even longer if your car has to be transported a long distance. It could also take much longer if the pick-up or delivery locations are remote, rather than a city. 

Other factors that might affect the time frame include:

  • Number of stops
  • Traffic flow
  • Weather conditions
  • Detours
  • Road constructions
  • Heavy traffic

The Department of Transportation has also mandated that a truck driver can only be legally on the road for 70 hours each week. This is one more thing that affects the time it takes for long-distance car shipping. 

Distance Average transit time (calendar days)
0-200 miles 1-2 days
200-600 miles 2-4 days
600-1000 miles 3-5 days
1000-1500 miles 4-6 days
1500-2000 miles 5-7 days
2000-2400 miles 6-8 days
2000+ miles 7-9 days


The times shown above can be affected by weather and road conditions, traffic, etc. 

How the cross country car shipping process works

The cross country car shipping process is a straightforward one. All it takes are three easy steps. 

Get a quote and book your service

You can get a free instant quote using an online calculator. You input a few basic details, and with a few clicks, you’ll find out how much it costs to ship a car across country. The following details are required:

  • Pick-up city and state
  • Delivery city and state
  • Vehicle year, make, and model
  • Condition of the vehicle
  • Transport type
  • First available shipping date (you’ll find an explanation of this term further down the page)

If you’re happy with the price, you should be able to book your order by speaking with a representative of the long-distance car transport company, either by telephone or Live Chat

Your car is picked up

A few hours before the arranged pick-up time, your assigned carrier will contact you to confirm the pick-up information. They’ll also want to verify that the location is accessible for large commercial vehicles. If this isn’t the case, you can arrange an alternative location. This might be a wider road nearby, a parking lot, or where you work. The carrier will also want to confirm that you’ll be available to release your vehicle. You can nominate a third party to act on your behalf if you can’t be there, so don’t worry. 

Before the carrier can load your vehicle onto the trailer, you both have to inspect it for any existing damage. Record any dings, dents, or scratches on the Bill of Lading. You’ll find further information about a Bill of Lading later.  

With the paperwork complete, the driver can load your car onto the trailer. For peace of mind, it’s usual to receive regular updates by email, Live Chat, or telephone. You can also check on the progress of your vehicle by checking in regularly with the driver. 

Your car is delivered

Just before the carrier reaches their final destination, they will give you a call. This is to let you know they are not very far away and check that you’re available to receive your car. Don’t worry if you’re not, because you can nominate a third-party to act on your behalf. 

When the carrier delivers your car, you have the opportunity to inspect it closely, just to make sure everything is in order. If you’re happy, you sign the Bill of Lading to accept delivery of your car. 

Tips on how to find a reliable car transport company

Your car is possibly one of the biggest investments you’ll make. It’s only natural to want the best long-distance car transport company to transport your precious car. There are lots of companies to choose from, so what should you be looking for? Here are some fundamental factors to bear in mind. 

  • Make sure they are registered with the Department of Transport. Always ask for their DOT number and make sure you check it using the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website
  • Make sure the company you choose is bonded and insured. Should anything happen to your car, and it’s the company’s fault, you’ll be protected. 
  • Look for a company with a professional website
  • Research the company’s reputation online
  • Search online for testimonials and reviews
  • Make sure the company is open about its services
  • Find out what happens in the unlikely event that damage occurs
  • Look for a company that has 24/7 customer service
  • Always read the fine print of the auto transport contract

Questions to ask a cross country car shipping company

There are bound to be several questions you want to ask. We hope we’ve already answered some of them, but here are a few more so you can be confident all bases are covered. 

How do you pay for long-distance car shipping?

You can pay for your long-distance car transport using a debit or credit card, certified funds (certified check, cashier’s check, money order, manager’s check, or EFT wire transfer), or via PayPal. 

There are typically two methods of payment. The first is the Cash on Delivery (COD) or also known as Discounted Cash Price. The auto transport company takes a small partial payment from your credit or debit card. They do this once they’ve assigned a carrier to pick up your vehicle. You pay the balance when the carrier delivers your car. It’s possible to pay in cash, with a cashier’s check, or money order, and you pay it to the driver. No upfront payment is required when you complete your booking. 

The second payment method is the Regular Price. You pay the total cost in full when the company assigns a carrier to pick up your vehicle. No balance is due at the delivery because you’ve already paid in full. 

When you contact different car transport companies, look for one that requires $0 upfront payment as this is a huge advantage.  

Can you ship personal items in your car?

You can transport up to 100 lbs of personal items in the trunk or cargo area of your vehicle. Place these items in a single box or suitcase. Bear in mind, however, that certain items are prohibited. They include:

  • Guns and ammunition
  • Explosives
  • Flammable products
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Live plants
  • Drugs
  • Furs
  • Pets
  • Jewelry
  • Any unlawful contraband

It may be possible to load more personal items, but you’ll need to clarify that with the company. Inside your vehicle, the front seats must be empty and free of any personal items. The extra items you want to ship must be on the back seat, below the window level. 

No items are permitted outside of the vehicle. If you want to ship items such as an additional engine or transmission, they must be in a crate outside of the vehicle. This is only an option if you choose enclosed auto transport. 

When you want to ship a vehicle to or from Hawaii, bear in mind that the rules are different. You’re not allowed to ship any personal items inside the vehicle. 

Is your car fully insured during the shipping process?

Yes, your vehicle is fully insured from the time of pick-up to the time of delivery. How much your vehicle is insured depends on the type of trailer, the carrier, and your vehicle’s value. 

Generally, open car carriers have cargo insurance coverage between $50,000 and $100,000. Enclosed transport carriers offer cargo insurance coverage between $250,000 and $3,000,000. 

What does First Available Pick-up Date mean?

This is the exact date when your vehicle is ready for the carrier to pick up. It doesn’t need to be the exact pick-up date. Once a carrier has been assigned, you’ll be notified of the pick-up date. 

What is a door-to-door shipping process?

Door-to-door transport is one of the most convenient ways to ship a car long distance. You inform the transportation company of the exact address for the pick-up and delivery of your vehicle. They will then pick up and deliver as close as possible to your specified address. 

Bear in mind, however, that the locations you choose must be accessible to large commercial vehicles. There must be no parking restrictions, trees, or power lines overhanging the road. The street must also be wide enough to accommodate a large truck and trailer. 

If you’re at all worried about the suitability of a particular location, you can arrange to meet the carrier somewhere else nearby. A parking lot, a wider street with no restrictions, or where you work are all possible alternatives. 

How far in advance should you book your car shipping?

It’s best to book between 1 and 2 weeks in advance. This allows plenty of time for the auto transport provider to find and secure your booking promptly. Should you be in a hurry, express auto transport or guaranteed pick-up service is generally available. 

What is a Bill of Lading?

This document serves as a receipt for freight services. You might also hear it being called a Condition Report. This is because it details your vehicle’s condition when the carrier picks it up. 

You will get this document when the carrier comes to pick up your vehicle. You fill out the pick-up and delivery location details, the year/make/model of your vehicle, and the freight amount you’re paying for the service. You must also use it to record any damages and sign it. 

You will be given a copy of the completed form, and you can use it to compare your vehicle’s condition upon delivery. 

If you’re ever in need of long-distance car transport, get in touch with us here at SGT Auto Transport. We provide a top-quality service at the best possible price. Call (864) 546-5038 to speak directly with our shipping advisors. Alternatively, we have a Live Chat option.  

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