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Open vs. Enclosed: Which is the Best Way to Ship a Car to Another State?


Get in touch with an auto transport company because you want to ship a car to another state, and you’re usually given a couple of options. “Do you want open car transport or enclosed auto transport?” the booking agent is bound to ask. 

If you’re not sure which is best for you or what the difference is between the two, this post will provide the answers. By the time you get to the end, you’ll understand the pros and cons of each option, how much they both cost and what you can expect from such auto transport services.   

Enclosed vs. open car shipping: What’s the difference?

If you’ve never shipped a car before you’re probably wondering what is the cheapest way to ship a car to another state? Cost is just one of the differences between enclosed and open car shipping. 

What is open car shipping?

Open car shipping, also known as open auto transport, is when your car is transported on a trailer without any walls, ceiling, or solid floor. Your car is shipped on a trailer “in the open” and fully exposed to the elements. 

You often see this type of trailer out on the highway. They are instantly recognizable as they are long, have two tiers, and can transport up to 10 vehicles at the same time. How much the trailer transports depends on the size and weight of each vehicle. 

Open car shipping is the most common way for you to ship your car to another state. Why is it so common? Car haulers much prefer open trailers because they have the biggest potential for making a profit. It’s possible to fit far more vehicles on an open trailer than an enclosed one. An open trailer is also much cheaper for a carrier to purchase if they want to expand their fleet. Open trailers are also cheaper to operate and maintain. The final reason is that carriers tend to invest in trailers that are in the greatest demand. The majority of people shipping a car to another state don’t need or want enclosed transportation. 

The consumer prefers open car shipping because it’s the cheapest way to ship a car to another state. On average, enclosed auto transport is between 30% to 40% more than open car shipping. 

Types of open-air carriers you can choose from

The three main types of open car shipping carriers are:

  • Two-level, multi-car carrier: This is the most popular choice.
  • Single-level, multi-car carrier: This type of carrier is often used for moving sports or luxury autos, or for expedited deliveries.
  • Dually truck with a single-level tow trailer: This transport type is often used for short-distance or local deliveries.

What is enclosed auto transport?

Enclosed car shipping or enclosed auto transport is when your car is transported on a trailer that’s completely enclosed and protected. The trailer has solid walls, ceiling, and floor. As you can imagine, this type of trailer provides more security and protection than an open trailer. 

The number of enclosed car carriers is much lower than open car carriers. You’re less likely to see an enclosed car trailer on the highway. Most enclosed trailers fit only 1-3 cars, whereas open trailers can fit between 7 and 10 cars.

Types of enclosed carriers you can choose from

As far as the structure of the trailer is concerned, there are soft-sided and hard-sided trailers. Enclosed trailer options include multi-car trailers, two-car trailers, and one-car trailers.

  • Multi-car enclosed trailers can hold up to seven cars. This is usually the most inexpensive choice if you are considering an enclosed trailer.
  • Two- or one-car trailers are understandably more expensive. They are often used for high-dollar, antique, or rare vehicles, or express deliveries.  

Pros and cons of enclosed car shipping

Enclosed car shipping is the recommended auto transport service for valuable cars that need that extra layer of protection. However, it is more expensive and usually takes longer than open car shipping.


  • Provides 100% security and protection during transportation.
  • opens up access to carriers that are more experienced with high-end vehicles.
  • Removes the risk of damage due to flying road debris or bad weather.
  • Increased insurance coverage.
  • Extended racing ramps and hydraulic lift gates tend to be used which are perfect for cars with low ground clearance. 
  • It’s possible to ship more than one vehicle at a time.  


  • Costs between 30% and 40% more than open car shipping.
  • Carriers are less fuel-efficient.
  • Car transport can take longer. 

Pros and cons of open car shipping

Open car shipping is the standard method for shipping a car to another state. It’s less expensive, but you might be worried that your car is exposed to the elements. Your car might also be dirty when it arrives at the final destination because the open trailer provides minimal protection from dirt or debris. 


  • Faster and more affordable.
  • More fuel efficient.
  • More open transport options which makes it easier to book your preferred shipping date and time.
  • Top load placement is an option that will provide more protection. The carrier loads your vehicle on the top deck of the trailer. Your car is a little further away from the road surface and the dust and grime. Also, no vehicles are loaded above yours, so there’s no risk of fluids leaking onto your car.
  • Suits all kinds of vehicles.
  • More eco-friendly option. 


  • No protection against debris or bad weather conditions
  • Less security and protection for expensive vehicles

How much does shipping a car to another state cost?

For many people, cost is the deciding factor when it comes to choosing auto transport. SGT Auto Transport is more than happy to provide you with a free and instant quote. 

Get an instant quote for shipping your car to another state!

But how is that quote calculated? Several factors are considered when the cost of shipping a car to another state is calculated. They include:

  • Distance traveled: It costs less per mile the longer the distance. 
  • Whether you choose open car transport or enclosed auto transport (enclosed is 30% to 40% more expensive)
  • Whether the pick-up and delivery locations are in a metropolitan or rural area. If you live in a rural area, shipping your car can be a complicated or challenging process for the company or driver. A limited number of auto carriers are willing to travel to remote areas. This can lead to long wait times, plus a higher cost. 
  • The make, model, and year of the vehicle you want to transport. Smaller, lighter cars are easier and cheaper to ship than large, heavier ones. 
  • Whether or not the car is running. If your vehicle is in good working order, no additional equipment will be needed to load and unload your car. 

The time of year can also be a contributing factor in how much shipping a car to another state costs. For example, holidays such as Christmas, New Year, and Thanksgiving are very expensive times of the year. The Fourth of July can also be an expensive time to ship a car to another state. 

Let’s not forget the snowbirds season as well. Snowbirds season is the time of year when many people choose to head south to make the most of the warmer weather. What this means is that in the fall, prices from the Midwest and North to the South tend to increase. Conversely, in spring, when all the snowbirds are heading back home, prices in the other direction tend to be higher. 

Enclosed vs. open: which is best for shipping a car to another state?

For most vehicle owners, open car transport is by far the best option. It’s the least expensive and the average vehicle owner tends not to own a vehicle that warrants the expense of enclosed transportation. In addition, because there are many more open car carriers than enclosed car carriers, you are also more likely to get your vehicle shipped quickly. 

The only disadvantage, and it’s a small one, is that your vehicle is exposed to the elements, weather, and road debris. However, let’s be honest, it’s no worse than driving your car on the highway, and damage from these things is extremely rare. The worst that could happen is that you’ll have to wash your car when it arrives. 

Enclosed auto transport, on the other hand, provides total protection from the elements. Therefore, if you don’t want to expose your car because it’s rare, valuable, old, or very precious, you should choose enclosed auto transport.

If your car was built before 1970, was driven by 007 in a James Bond movie, or does zero to sixty in under three seconds, you’re likely going to want enclosed car shipping. Enclosed trailers help ensure your vehicle makes it to your new home or the latest car show without a scratch.

Enclosed auto transport is also the better option if your car has low ground clearance. Some enclosed car carriers have special equipment that safely lifts cars with four inches or less of clearance.

The biggest disadvantage of this option is the cost. For many people, this is a significant downside to the service. As we’ve already mentioned, you can pay between 30% and 40% extra. One other disadvantage that might be a deciding factor is that it could take a little longer because there aren’t as many enclosed carriers available. 

Whether you’re shipping a car in an enclosed or open trailer, knowing you’re working with a reliable, trustworthy, and experienced auto transport company like SGT Auto Transport is worth its weight in gold. 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.  

Get an instant quote for shipping your car to another state, by telephone, Live Chat, or use our instant quote calculator. 


How are cars shipped to other states?

You can ship a car using a range of different methods. For example, you can ship it by air or train. There’s also the option of hiring someone to drive it or drive it yourself. However, by far one of the safest, most secure, and most affordable ways to ship a car is using an auto transport service.

What is the best way to ship a vehicle?

The best way to ship a vehicle to another state depends on your circumstances and requirements. If you want to ship it safely and securely without breaking the bank, car shipping with an auto transport company like SGT Auto Transport is one of the best. 

What is the safest way to ship a car?

The safest way to ship a car is in an enclosed trailer. However, the cost tends to put most people off as well as the realization that open car shipping is also a safe and secure option. 

How much does it cost to ship a car from California to Texas?

The distance between California and Texas is more than 1,400 miles. The average price per mile, as of April 2022, is $0.70. Therefore, it could cost almost $1,000. 

How long does it take to transport a car from California to Texas?

When a car is shipped between 1500 and 2000 miles, it will take between 4 and 6 days.  

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