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The Impact of Seasonality on Car Shipping Costs


If you ever need to ship your car, you’ll likely want your vehicle delivered as soon as possible. In many cases, it’s not practical to postpone the car delivery, however, if you can be flexible about car shipping times, you could save yourself some money. 

There are lots of things that influence the cost of shipping a car such as distance, type of car you want to send, pick-up and delivery locations, and type of car shipping service. Another factor is the time of year and this is what we’re going to look at in this post. 

Knowing the impact seasonality has on the cost to ship a car and delivery as a whole should allow you to plan much better.

How do seasons affect the car shipping industry?

Seasonal changes have a big impact on the auto transport industry. When you request the price of an auto transport service, the time of year is always factored into your quote.

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Prices go up and they go down, both in summer and winter, depending on demand. Car shipping services in the summer tend to involve fast service and competitive prices. During the winter, prices could be higher and the delivery time longer. 

However, seasonal fluctuations are not always as cut and dried as that. Many seasonal factors influence the cost to ship a car such as demand, traffic fluctuations, the weather, and season. How big an effect these have on your shipping car cost depends on the location you’re shipping your car from and where you’re shipping it to.

Shipping your car in the spring and summer

Shipping your car in the summer and the spring tends to be much easier. This is because the warm weather makes the whole car shipping process smoother. A high percentage of household moves take place between May and September. This is because movers prefer favorable weather conditions. This is particularly true for northern states.

One disadvantage of shipping your car during the spring or summer is that high demand drives overall car shipping rates higher.

Shipping your car in the fall and winter

Shipping your car in the fall and winter is oftentimes less expensive as demand is generally lower. Auto transport companies compete to fill their trucks which means prices tend to decrease. It’s not profitable for carriers to run their routes with half-filled trailers, so they take vehicles at a lower price. 

One big disadvantage of choosing to ship your car in the fall or winter is that the bad weather tends to slow things down. Slippery and icy roads require the maximum attention and caution from truckers. Speed needs to be carefully controlled to avoid possible accidents. 

There’s also the issue of road closures that can hamper the shipping process further. If a road is closed because of severe snowfalls, drivers must wait until the road is cleared and it’s safe to continue on their journey.

Let’s look a little closer at some of those different times of the year.

The height of the season is June, July, and August

Every year, around 40 million people move home in the US. The busiest time of the year for car shipping is the months of June, July, and August. 

These figures are important for the auto transport industry because one of the easiest options when moving a household is to ship a car at the same time rather than drive it. What this means is there are lots of moving trucks on the road and it’s also a busy time of the year for car shipping companies.   

Summertime sees a big jump in demand

During the warm months of summer, kids are out of school and families can be more flexible. Companies often choose the summer months to relocate staff. 

In addition, July is one of the busiest months for car sales and more cars need to be shipped. 

College students are also thinking about packing up and heading back to college after a few months at home. Sometimes, they’ll be shipping their vehicles too. 

Such an increase in demand across the board can lead to a slight increase in prices for all routes. However, the variations will depend on the company, the type of vehicle you want to ship, and whether you book open or enclosed auto transport. 

Another thing to consider is that increased demand can sometimes lead to an increase in wait time. If there are more vehicles to pick up and drop off, it could lead to delays.

There may also be fewer trucks available in and around the 4th of July when truckers often choose to spend time with their families. This means there are fewer trucks and trailers available and further potential delays.  

The backup from the holidays - Mid-December and January

There are lots of things that can affect the industry over the holidays. People might want to surprise a loved one with the gift of a car. Auto transport employees often want to spend the holidays with their families. 

Then there’s the weather to contend with. Icy roads, snowstorms, and frigid weather often lead to road closures and risky driving conditions. 

Something else to add to the mix is the snowbirds. These are people who choose to move to warmer climates to avoid the snow and ice back at home. Popular snowbird destinations are Texas, Alabama, Southern California, Arizona, and Florida. Many of these snowbirds want their car to meet them when they get there. 

All of this means that the last 10 days of December and the first 10 days of January can be pretty hectic. There’s often a backlog that tends not to clear until the end of January. Things also slow down in general, and prices go up. 

Snowbirds heading home in April and May

There’s a dip in demand in February and March, but when April and May come along, the industry picks up. Snowbirds are looking to return to their homes in the north which means transport is fuller which can mean longer waiting times and higher prices. 

If you want to head south, you can expect the cost of shipping your car to be cheaper because demand in that direction is lower. 

September thru November is a great time to ship your car

If you can wait and have got the time to plan, between September and the end of November is a great time to book your car shipping service. The weather is brighter and warmer and the mad rush of summer is starting to slow down. Most college students have already shipped everything they need. 

All this means you can get lower prices and faster services between September and November. There is a slight hiccup around Thanksgiving as this is when drivers want to spend time with their families. 

A dip in demand from February thru March

The demand for auto transport services dips quite considerably after the January backlog has cleared. Snowbirds have settled into their new nests and fewer people want to ship their cars. 

It’s not uncommon for auto transport companies to lower their prices by as much as 15% during this time. However, you might have to wait for your vehicle because of closed roads, weather delays, higher risks of accidents, and icy roads.  

Peak season car shipping tips 

If you have no alternative to shipping your car during the peak season, here are some tips that might help you secure a better price. 

Be flexible

You’ll find it much easier to lock in a favorable car shipping rate if you can be flexible with your pick-up and delivery times. Even during the peak car shipping season, you might find cheaper rates on some shipping dates compared to others.

If you don’t want to miss out on a great deal, don’t commit yourself to a certain day on the calendar. 

Choose the transport type carefully

The type of transport you choose comes down to your vehicle shipping needs, but generally, we’d recommend you go with open car transport.

The more expensive option is enclosed car shipping, and this is only recommended when you want to ship a luxury, classic, antique, rare, or custom car that you want to protect from bad weather conditions and road hazards. 

If available, consider terminal-to-terminal transport. Terminals are usually located in larger cities near major highways. You drop your vehicle at a nearby terminal and then collect it at a different terminal. You can save money, but not every shipping company offers this service. 

If there’s anything else you want to know about seasonal variations, speak with our shipping advisors on (864) 546-5038 or use Live Chat. They’ll also be able to offer advice on the cost of shipping a car and give you an instant quote. 


Is it cheaper to ship a car in winter?

There is less demand for car shipping services during the winter months, although many snowbirds choose to ship their vehicles when they move south in December and January. Overall, the cost of shipping a car is lower in winter. 

What time of year is best to ship a car?

In terms of lower demand and generally good weather, the fall months are the best for auto transport. Fewer people are traveling for vacations and kids are back at school making September and October good months to ship your car. 

How can I save money on car shipping?

Here are a few suggestions on how you can save money on the cost of shipping a car:

  • Timing is critical and if you want to save money, book your auto transport during off-peak months
  • If you’ve got several vehicles but only plan on shipping one, choose the smaller vehicle as it’ll cost less
  • Be flexible with exact dates as this can help the car shipping cost low
  • Select an open transport trailer and you’ll save 30% to 40% on the cost of an enclosed transport trailer 

What time of the year is it least expensive to transport a car?

It is the least expensive to ship a car in the fall and winter because demand is lower. 

Is it cheaper to ship a car in winter or summer?

Overall, shipping a car tends to be more expensive during the summer because of increased demand. 

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