15 Mistakes to Avoid When Shipping a Car Across Country

15 Mistakes to Avoid When Shipping a Car Across Country


There are many reasons why you might want to ship your car across country. You’ll also find hundreds of cross-country auto transport companies to choose from. It’s only natural to want the best service. After all, for many people, buying a car would have been a significant investment.

If you’ve never shipped a car before, you may be wondering what you should do to make the experience a good one. In this article, we’ve decided to flip things around and give some advice on the mistakes you should avoid.

Knowing the most common mistakes and how you can avoid them should make your experience of shipping a car across country a positive one you won’t be worried about repeating.

Here are fifteen common mistakes people make when using cross-country auto transport.    

Not doing enough research

If you’re looking for a reliable cross-country auto transport company, make sure you do all the necessary research. Read any number of articles relating to tips for shipping a car across country, and you’ll always find research at the top of the list.

First in any list of car shipping tips is to check that the shipping company is registered with the Department of Transportation. For any shipments that will take your car across state lines, the company must be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

You can check this out by asking for their unique registration number and then verify that number by visiting the relevant government website. 

Customer reviews also have an essential part to play in your research. Read what previous customers are saying about the company as this will be a good indication of its reliability.   

Leaving personal items in the car

It seems kind of smart to load up your car with all your belongings to save you from having to move them yourself or pay someone else to do it. However, you should keep in mind that auto transport companies are prohibited by law from shipping any vehicle that contains household items. 

Some companies do allow you to ship a certain amount, typically 100 pounds, packed in your vehicle. But, it’s likely the company will not accept responsibility if it gets damaged or goes missing.

Furthermore, the carrier’s insurance will not cover any damage caused to the car if it is full of your personal possessions. You also run the risk of your belongings being seized, should the Department of Transport inspect the carrier. 

These reasons make it a good idea to ensure your car is empty when it’s being shipped across the country. 

Not preparing the car sufficiently

As with many things in life, preparation is the key to success. So, when the auto transport driver comes to pick up your vehicle, make sure you and the vehicle are ready for the process. 

Your car should be cleaned, inside and outside, so you and the driver can inspect it and take note of any existing damage on the Bill of Lading. In addition, there are several other things you should do to get your car ready for shipping:

  • Fill your gas tank to around a quarter full.
  • Remove personal belongings
  • Perform a maintenance check. For example, check the tires are properly inflated, the car’s fluids are all topped off, breakers are operational, and there are no leaking fluids.

Not having the correct documentation

Most cross-country shipping companies require specific documentation before they will ship your car. These generally include vehicle registration and proof the car is owned by you. If the car isn’t owned by you, lienholder authorization will also be required. Before the car is shipped, there will also be a Bill of Lading to complete. Make sure you ask for a copy because you’ll need to present this when your car is delivered and check the inspection report.  

Checking insurance

Car shipping companies must have the appropriate insurance to cover any damage to the vehicles they are moving. You should ask to see a copy of the insurance certificate and ensure you understand exactly what coverage your car will have during the transportation process.

If you think the insurance coverage is insufficient, it might be possible to get additional coverage from your own insurance company. 

Paying too much

The cost of car transportation varies from company to company. Different services might cost more, for example, enclosed auto transport, guaranteed pick-up, and express auto transport.

Always make sure you know exactly how much a car shipping company will charge and what additional charges are included in the price. 

Most car shipping companies will happily provide you with a free quote, making it easy to compare the cost of different services. 

Here at SGT Auto Transport, we provide an instant quote calculator for your ultimate convenience. Alternatively, you can get an instant quote for shipping your car across country by calling (864) 546-5038 or using Live Chat.   

Choosing the cheapest

There are a lot of different costs involved in providing an auto transport service. There’s fuel, use of a trailer, the driver’s salary, toll fees, food, and lodging for the driver. 

It’s very easy to be swayed by a rock bottom price but be careful because companies that offer lower-than-average fees will be operating at the bare minimum. In addition, they might not be able to cover the cost, should your car get damaged during transport. 

Not being available when your car is picked up and delivered

One of the most common mistakes is not being present at the pick-up or delivery. You should be present when your vehicle is moved, keep in touch with the carriers, and supervise the whole process.

If for some reason, you can’t be present, you can appoint a third party to act on your behalf. They must be over 18 years of age, and you need to make them aware of the process and what they have to do concerning the inspection. 

Trusting “too good to be true” promises

Auto transport is not a predictable service, and many things can happen during a shipment. Such things include inclement weather delays, traffic delays, and road construction.

Realistically, a car shipping company can’t guarantee a specific delivery date. However, that won’t stop some companies from promising such a service.

A reputable car shipping company will give you a three-to-five-day window, depending on the overall distance of the shipment.   

Not recording any damage

Always write down any damage incurred during the shipment on the bill of lading. Once your car is delivered, you’ll need to conduct your own visual inspection, comparing your car’s current condition with the copy of the Bill of Lading.

The chance of your car being damaged is an exceedingly small one, but it has been known to happen on rare occasions. However, if it does, mark the damage down on the Bill of Lading during your delivery inspection. 

This way, you’ll be able to file a damage claim with that particular car shipping company. If you don’t do this when your car is delivered, and the driver is still there, you won’t be able to file a damage claim. 

Not communicating with the carriers

Because of the nature of the auto transport industry, shipping companies generally cannot provide an exact date for the pick-up and delivery of your car. Unexpected occurrences such as weather changes, car accidents, or heavy traffic can happen at any time and delay the delivery of your car.

It’s therefore essential to give your contact number to the carrier so that they can inform you in advance of the estimated delivery time. In addition, communicate with them regularly regarding the arrival of your vehicle to prevent further delays. 

Falling foul of a scam

It’s an unfortunate fact, but there are companies out there who only want to make a profit out of deceiving people. However, there are several things you can do to distinguish auto transport scams from legitimate operators.

Not having a Motor Carrier number or working telephone number are immediate cause for concern. Negative reviews or a lack of reviews could also be a sign of fraudulent operations. 

Using your car as a transport vessel

It’s possible to maximize your car transport costs by treating your car as a moving truck. Putting possessions such as furniture, appliances, and other valuable personal items might seem like a good idea, but in reality, it’s not. Things inside your car could get damaged, and the carrier’s insurance won’t cover them. 

Waiting too long to schedule your car shipment

Try to book your auto transport as far in advance as you can. Generally, give your car shipping company at least a month’s notice. 

There are, after all, a limited number of carriers out there who can take your car to its destination. However, wait too long, and many of the spots on these carriers will be taken, making it more difficult to find a carrier to ship your car across country. 

Selecting the wrong shipping service

Selecting the right shipping service is particularly important if you want to ship a luxury, custom, classic, vintage, sports, or modified car across country. In such cases, it’s worth paying a little extra to ensure your vehicle has the full protection of an enclosed shipping trailer.

Car shipping tips to avoid these mistakes

Don’t fall into the trap of not preparing for your car transport service. Follow these car shipping tips for preparing for your auto transport service and the process will run smoothly. 

  1. Select a car shipping company with good customer reviews.
  2. Check the company is registered with the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
  3. Decide whether open or enclosed vehicle shipping is best suited to your needs.
  4. Find out the cross country auto transport cost by inputting your requirements in the quote calculator.
  5. Clarify the details by contacting the company by telephone, Live Chat or email. 
  6. Schedule a date for the cross country transport and check on the insurance.
  7. Get your vehicle ready for transportation. 

Car transport may seem like a complicated process if you’ve never done it before. However, now you know what to ask when shipping a car and the mistakes to avoid, the shipping process will be hassle-free.

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