Shipping a car across country in winter vs. driving it yourself

Shipping a car across country in winter vs. driving it yourself

There are many reasons why you might need to ship a car across country. A cross-country move is the most obvious. But you could be relocating because of a promotion, or about to enjoy an extended vacation. Shipping a car across country might be worth considering if you’re planning to buy a car online. If you’re the proud owner of a classic or custom car, cross country car shipping might be an option.

When it comes to the best way to ship a car, the weather and the seasons make a big difference. Still undecided whether to ship a car across country or drive it yourself? This article will provide the answers. With all the relevant information at your fingertips you’ll be able to make an informed decision.

Why is shipping a car across country better than driving?

Drive in winter

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to drive in the winter, as long as you’re prepared. Icy roads, snow storms and other inclement weather conditions can make it very dangerous. You also need to make certain preparations before you head out on the highway.

Shipping a car across country is another option. There are several reasons why it’s much safer, easier, cheaper and more secure. Before we look at the process of shipping a car across country, let’s look at the reasons why it’s much better.

Distance to drive

If you need to ship a car across country, you’re looking at a distance of several thousand miles. If you like the sound of a road trip you’ve got a lot of planning ahead. The terrain is going to be very varied. The quality of the roads could change considerably. There are also traffic patterns to consider and the availability of roadside amenities.

When you’ve gathered all the information, you can decide on the best route to take. Ideally, it’ll be the one that’s the easiest, most convenient and safest. With a clear route planned, you can estimate how much fuel you’ll need. You’ll also know the cost of gas, and how long it’ll take to drive to your new location. Bear in mind that you should drive no more than eight hours in one stretch, if you want to be safe.

Choose cross country car shipping and you’ll have none of this bother. A company like SGT Auto Transport will take care of the logistics of shipping your car.  

Seasonal considerations

The time of year is a crucial factor when you want to ship a car across country. Driving in the winter is completely different from taking a road trip any other time of the year. We’re going to share some of the difficulties you might encounter a little further down the page.

Shipping a car across country is much safer and more convenient. This is particularly relevant during the winter. You avoid any potential problems caused by bad road conditions and adverse weather. Your vehicle is safe and secure. Choose enclosed auto transport and your vehicle is completely protected from the elements.


Driving across country takes a long time. A road trip across several states could take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks. Can you spare the time to spend several days or weeks on the road? The exact time frame depends:

  • The distance your vehicle needs to travel
  • The weather
  • Traffic and road conditions you encounter along the way
  • How you drive
  • Whether you have someone to share the driving or you’re driving alone

Cost efficiency

This is often the deciding factor between driving in the winter and shipping a car. The cost of shipping a car across country depends on several things:

  • Size and weight of the vehicle
  • Actual shipping distance
  • Current cost of fuel
  • Route taking during transportation
  • Type of shipping service
  • Demand for the route you’re taking

Driving across country might sound like the cheaper option. There are, however, many extra expenses you have to cover. For example:

  • Filling up your gas tank
  • Parking fees and road tolls
  • Accommodation and meals along the way
  • Vehicle servicing
  • Extra wear and tear
  • Special preparations for a drive in winter


You risk a lot if you decide to drive across country. Your car might break down in the middle of nowhere. There might be an accident. You could fall asleep at the wheel. The extra miles put a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle. The effects of the winter weather can be very harsh. Your car will be susceptible to several threats and security risks.

Shipping a car across country is a much safer way to transport a car.

Special vehicles

If you’re the proud owner of a special kind of vehicle you’re not going to want to drive it across country. Examples of special vehicles include classic, custom, antique, luxury, or modified vehicles. For this type of car, enclosed cross-country car shipping is the only sensible option. The company transports your car in a trailer. Your car is thus enclosed on all sides. This means it’s totally protected from the elements, road and traffic grime.  

Shipping a car across country in the winter

Shipping a car across country in winter

Winter is a great time for shipping your car, although it can depend on which route you’re taking. As a general rule, cross country car shipping prices are much lower than any other time of the year. As long as you’re not heading south for the winter, along with all the other snowbirds.

Ship a car in cold weather, or through a region that has frequent rain and storms, and there are things you need to consider. The timeframe, for example, can be a little less exact.  than it would be if conditions were ideal for auto transport. You also need to prepare your vehicle for winter transport.  Choosing your cross-country car shipping company carefully is also advisable.

Plan accordingly for the slightly longer process

Shipping a car across country can take a little longer. This is because the weather is not particularly co-operative.

A responsible cross-country car shipping company takes extra precautions during the  winter. Drivers also appreciate that their cargo is precious. As such, they won’t be taking any risks. Weather that’s not suitable for driving could cause delays. 

Prepare your vehicle for winter transport

A crucial decision when shipping a car across country is whether to use an open or enclosed car carrier. An enclosed car carrier is often the better choice during the winter. It costs between 30% and 40% more. But, your vehicle is completely protected from inclement weather. Choose enclosed auto transport and there’s no worry about special winter-related preparation. There are, however, things you need to do if you want the auto transport process to be a smooth one.  

If you opt for open auto transport the preparations include:

  • Making sure the windows are tightly closed
  • If your car is a convertible, make sure the top closes securely
  • Top off your antifreeze, especially if you’re moving from a warm climate to a cold one
  • Check your batter to make sure it will start after its journey

Tips on choosing a company to ship a car across country

Owning a car is a big investment. Thus, it’s important that you ship a car across country with a company that has lots of experience. The company should also have the right hauling equipment and reliable insurance. There is the smallest of chances that something could go wrong.

When you contact a car shipping company make sure you ask about the driver’s experience of driving in the snow, ice, and fog.

You should also ask about insurance coverage. Driving in the winter is riskier than in the summer.   

How the car shipping process works

All it takes is three easy steps.

Step 1: Get a quote and book your order

The process starts when you get a free quote. You can get one using our online instant quote calculator. If you’re happy with the price, you make your booking. You confirm all your details and the company makes the booking.

When it comes to paying, you have two options. The first is to pay once, in full. You can pay using a credit or debit card, as soon as a carrier has been assigned to your shipment. The second option is a discounted cash rate. The company takes a small partial payment when they dispatch your vehicle. You pay the balance when you receive your vehicle.

Step 2: Your vehicle is picked up

The carrier that is assigned to your shipment will get in touch before the pick-up date. They will schedule a convenient location and time for the pick-up. You can choose a location that is convenient for you, as long as it is safe and legal for a truck and trailer. Make sure your car is prepared for transport. 

When the carrier arrives, you inspect your vehicle with the driver. Note its condition on the bill of lading. You will get a copy of this document.

Step 3: You receive your vehicle

The carrier will contact you again a few hours before they are due to deliver your vehicle. The carrier needs to make sure you’re going to be available to receive the delivery. When your car arrives, inspect it carefully and compare the condition with the copy of the bill of lading.

If everything is in order, you sign the bill of lading to receive the car and pay any money that you owe.

Getting ready to ship a car across country in the winter

Prepare car for car shipping in winter

Shipping a car across country is a safe and secure thing to do. There are, however, a few differences that you wouldn’t have to worry about if you ship a car across country at any other time of the year. Here are a few tips to help you prepare your car for winter shipping. Cold weather can affect your vehicle in more ways than you think. 

1. Wash your car

This is the first step of the auto transport process, whatever time of the year. If you clean your car, it makes it much easier to do the vehicle condition report. Ultimately, this protects you and the auto transport company.

2. Check antifreeze

Check the weather you are shipping your car to. Make sure the antifreeze in your car meets local weather extremes.

3. Check the thermostat

If you’re changing out the antifreeze, it’s always good to check your thermostat at the same time. Check and make sure it closes all the way. If it doesn’t, your car will take a long time to heat up.

4. Check the air conditioner

A/C is just as vital in the winter as it is in the summer. Many vehicles use the compressor in the AC system to remove moisture from inside the car. It helps to stop the windows from fogging up when the defroster is on. A faulty compressor will result in excessive interior condensation in the winter.

5. Check windshield washer fluid and wiper blades

If you are shipping a car across country you might need to replace the washer fluid. It should be one that has a low freezing point. You don’t want it to be frozen when it arrives at its final destination. If you can’t buy washer fluid with a low freezing point, order it online. Alternatively, you could drain the windshield fluid reservoir so it won’t freeze. While you’re checking the washer fluid, take a close look at your wiper blades. If necessary, replace them with winter blades as they withstand cold extremes better.

6. Check all fluids and use premium fuel

Check all fluids, including oil, antifreeze, transmission, power steering, and brake fluid. At the same time, check for leaks. Run your gas tank down to no more than ¼ tank of fuel. Use premium gas before an auto transport journey. It is better suited for winter vehicle shipping. Low quality fuel poses a threat to your gas lines, as a result of being exposed to low temperatures.  

7. Check the car’s tires

Your tires should have plenty of tread if you’re moving north for the winter. Studded snow tires might be an option. You could ship these with your car so you’ll be ready to go and don’t slip and slide to the tire shop. Tire chains or cables are another option if you can’t get hold of studded snow tires.

8. Check your battery

Winter can be very tough on car batteries. More batteries die during the winter than at any other time of the year. Unless yours is brand new, consider having it tested and check the terminals. The terminals should be tight and have no signs of corrosion.

9. Lubricate door locks

To prevent the rubber seals of the doors from freezing, you can use a weather-strip r spray. Lubricate the door and trunk locks and make sure they close perfectly.

10. Check window seals

The window seals of your car should be done up tight. If your car is a convertible, make sure the top is up and secure.

Still not convinced that shipping a car across country is the best course of action? Here are some hints and tips that give you an idea of how treacherous a long road trip in the winter might be.

Driving a car long distances in the winter

Shipping a car across country in winter

Driving in the winter presents several challenges for both you and your car. Cold weather can test the limits of your car’s mechanical abilities. Treacherous road conditions test your abilities as a driver. If you’re not careful, all too quickly you can find yourself sliding across the highway. It could be towards a guard rail, or even worse, vehicles on the other side of the road.

Here are some of the challenges you might encounter when you drive in the winter:

  • Winter storms
  • Highway driving conditions
  • Road conditions
  • Signs obscured by snow
  • Snow banks
  • Snow clearing, snow removal, and salt spraying trucks

Winter storm warnings

Always keep yourself up-to-date with weather warnings during the winter. If there are winter storms, blizzards, freezing rain, sleet, or other serious weather events forecast, you’re better off staying at home. Wait until all the bad weather has passed and the highways and roads are clear again.

Highway driving

When you’re driving in the winter consider whether the speed limits are safe for the road conditions. Speed limits on the highways are set when road conditions are optimal for driving. If the roads are icy or there are snowstorms or fog, you must travel at a much lower speed.

Road conditions

During the winter, you’d expect the highway to be cleared of snow, but it doesn’t always happen. The busiest roads tend to be cleared first, such as major roads and highways. Cities, regions, and counties will try to clear the snow as quickly as possible.

Signs obscured by snow

Another very common winter driving challenge is when snow obscures road and highway signs. It makes it difficult or impossible for you to read them. This is a big problem if you’re unfamiliar with the route you’re traveling. Maps, directions, or a GPS will help, but the lack of readable road signs is bound to hamper your progress.

Snow banks

Snow banks can quickly build up along streets and roads. They limit and reduce visibility, which means you have to be even more cautious.

Snow clearing, snow removal, and salt spraying trucks

When driving across country, you might encounter both salt spraying and snow clearing trucks on roads and highways. They travel at low speeds and will hamper your progress. Salt spraying trucks are more common. They are used to inhibit snow and ice from forming. As the winter months pass, more snow accumulates. It is generally removed from the roadside by snow removal trucks. The more snow that falls, the more snow clearing there will be. It may happen several times over the winter months.

Tips for long-distance winter trips

Tips for winter driving

As well as these challenges, there are also specific preparations  when you drive in winter. It pays to be prepared and here are some tips to help you get ready.

If your car needs regular service, get it done before you travel

If you’re driving long distances in the summer it’s no big deal if you break down. It’s a completely different story if you break down in the winter. If you like the idea of driving across country in the winter check the following:

  • Hoses
  • Belts
  • Water pump
  • Spark plug wires

If they need fixing, make sure you get it done. You should also check your tire pressures as soon as winter arrives and before a long journey. When the outside temperatures drop it impacts on the pressure of your tires. For every ten degree drop in temperature you can expect to lose one pound of pressure in your tires.

Make sure your battery and charging system and working correctly

Have a mechanic check the battery, charging system, and belts. Bear in mind that an engine is harder to start in the winter, because the oil isn’t as fluid as it is when the weather is warmer. Batteries also lose power as the temperature drops.

Check your vehicle's cooling system

Make sure the antifreeze will protect your car at winter temperatures. For most areas, a 50-50 mix is sufficient. You can check the freeze rating of your car’s coolant with a little device you can pick up in an auto part store. While you’re checking the freeze rating, also check for any leaks. Antifreeze is only good when it’s in the car rather than dripping on the highway.

Make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape

Did you know there are special windshield wipers you can but for the winter? They have special rubber coverings that prevent ice from collecting on the blade. It’s also important that you remember to turn your wipers off before shutting off the engine. Water frequently freezes overnight during the winter. When you’re making a pit stop,, you don’t want to wake in the morning and find your blades have frozen to the windshield. 

Make sure your windshield washer reservoir is full

When you’re on the road in the winter, you can easily use half a gallon or more of windshield washer fluid. Make sure your reservoir is full when you head out and keep some extra fluid on the trunk for the times when you run out.

Keep your gas tank close to full

In the winter, should you get stuck or stranded, the engine in your car will be your only source of heat. At that moment, your concern will be to keep yourself warm. You can only run the engine indefinitely at idle if there is gas in the tank.

It might be useful to carry a bag of sand in the back of your car

If your car is rear-wheel drive it might need some help in the snow. A bag or two of sand behind the rear axle will increase the traction of the rear wheels.

Know your car

It’s important that you know what your car can and can’t do in the snow. Does it have front, rear, part-time or full-time four-wheel drive, anti-clock brakes, traction control, and stability control? It’s also crucial that you know what tires you have on the car, how all things work, and how they help or don’t help when you drive in winter conditions.

Pack some basic supplies in your car in case you get stuck

In case you get stuck, there are some basic supplies you should carry in your car. They include a snowbrush and an ice scraper, a shovel and a bag of sand. Extra windshield washer fluid is essential, and a blanket is a good idea, just in case.

When driving in winter conditions, do everything slower than usual

Remember that driving in snow, sleet, and ice is very treacherous. Even if you keep good control of your car you can’t rely on everyone else to do the same. Do everything slowly and gently and remember that in the snow, tires are always just barely grabbing the road. The AAA Exchange has published a very useful guide to driving on ice and snow.  

Now you appreciate the dangers of driving in the winter compared with the safety, reliability, ease, and value for money price of shipping a car across country. If you’re ready to make your auto transport plans, get in touch with our shipping advisors. They’ll be happy to make the arrangements for you. Call (864) 546-5038 or use our Live Chat option.

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