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10 Most Common Auto Transport Scams


Are you thinking about shipping your car across the country? Shipping your car across the country is a very practical and affordable way to move it, however, you should be aware of the dangers of car shipping scams. 

If you’re careful, you can easily spot car transport scams, but you have to know what to look for. 

In this post, we’ll highlight some of the most common auto shipping scams and share some tips on how to avoid them. 

What is an auto transport scam?

An auto transport scam is a dishonest scheme in which a company or person falsely represents itself as offering auto transport services. The company or person then fails to provide the service or does it in such a poor way that it’s considered a car shipping scam.

Auto-shipping scams take many different forms but tend to have one thing in common. They generally involve a con artist who demands advance payment for shipping services. These services are never provided or the con artist charges an outrageous price for a very poor service.

On the whole, car shipping companies are reputable, but there are enough scams around to warrant extra caution when selecting a car shipping provider. Before you book any type of auto transport service, make sure to do your in-depth research on the business and check plenty of customer testimonials.

If you book your car shipping service with SGT Auto Transport, you can be confident you’re getting a bona fide service. We have many years of experience and lots of customer feedback that highlights the quality of our service.

For the best auto transport prices, get your instant quote today. 

What are the different types of auto transport scams?

There are many different types of car shipping scams. Be aware of the following when looking for a car shipping service.

1. Unrealistic shipping prices

You must have heard the old adage “If the price is too good to be true, it probably is”. Nothing could be more accurate when it comes to the cost of car shipping services. 

It’s only natural to want a standard-grade service at a reasonable price. But not understanding the costs associated with providing a car shipping service could catch you out. 

When a car shipping company calculates the cost of shipping, it takes into account several different criteria. No matter what, auto transport services can’t go below a particular price. 

To avoid getting caught out, compare several car shipping quotes to gauge the current market prices for a specific area or distance. Most importantly, don’t be persuaded by a ridiculously cheap car transport price

2. Phishing scam

A phishing scam is when a scammer sends an email or text message that appears to be from a legitimate shipping car shipping company. The email or message asks the recipient to click on a link or enter their personal information to track the delivery of their car or make a payment.

On the surface, the website or link may look legitimate, but it’s a fake site that’s been designed to look real and steal your personal information. 

3. Insufficient insurance

This scam is a fraudulent scheme whereby a car shipping company claims to have insurance coverage for the vehicles it transports. However, the coverage is either inadequate or non-existent. 

Where does this leave the customer? Vulnerable to financial losses should the vehicle being shipped be damaged or lost during transport. 

Rest assured, the carriers we use here at SGT Auto Transport all have the right insurance coverage. When you make your booking, we don’t mind if you want to check and will happily share the details with you. 

4. Fake seller

A fake seller is someone who advertises a car for sale online or using classified ads. When an interested buyer contacts them, they ask the buyer to make a payment for the car in advance. 

The scammer might ask the buyer to wire the funds or send a cashier’s check. They may also provide fake documents or other false information to make the deal appear more legitimate. 

Once the payment is made, the fake seller disappears and the buyer is left without a car and robbed of their money. 

5. Fly-by-night companies

A reputable car transport company must register with a government agency called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. To get that registration, they must meet certain requirements such as minimum levels of insurance coverage. 

Some outfits take the easy way out and operate illegally. It’s not always easy for the authorities to catch these companies, so you could potentially encounter one. 

You should do everything you can to avoid them. The best way to do that is to ask for their motor carrier number. If they don’t have one, they’re not a legitimate car shipping company. 

If you ask for the number and are given one, you can double-check its validity by inputting the number into the FMCSA’s website. It will tell you whether an auto transport company is properly registered and verify that it has the required level of insurance.  

6. Unknown drivers

Some auto transport companies aren’t direct carriers. Rather than shipping your car, they are brokers who find other companies to do the transportation. They make money by taking the difference between what you pay them and what they pay the transporter. 

While this isn’t a scam, it’s possible that the way they go about securing a driver for the job could become a scam. 

If a broker asks for a deposit before informing you of the carrier company, take this as a red flag. 

Some companies state if you cancel within a certain number of days of the job, you won’t get your deposit back. A disreputable company will use that language to give you a lowball price. Once the cancellation period ends, they spring the news on you that they can’t find a carrier to work for such a low price. 

You’re then left with a choice. Pay extra to get your car shipped or cancel and lose your deposit. 

We guarantee we won’t pull such a stunt. We only ask for a small deposit once we’ve secured a carrier for your service.  

7. Hidden language in the contract

This is another one that’s not a scam, but will certainly feel like one if you find yourself on the wrong side.

Car shipping contracts are legally binding documents. When you sign one, you’re agreeing to everything it says, even if you haven’t read it carefully. There is an exception if a clause isn’t legal, but you’re probably going to have to go to court and get a judge to agree that a clause is invalid. This can be very time-consuming and costly. 

The problem is that sometimes contracts can be stacked in favor of the company. A common example is allowing the company to keep your deposit even if they cancel too close to the shipping date. This type of clause is ripe for abuse, so be careful and look closely at any contract before you sign. 

This isn’t the only thing to look for. A contract can be stacked against you in any number of ways. This is why you must read the contract very carefully before you sign on the dotted line.

If there’s anything in an SGT Auto Transport contract you don’t understand, our shipping advisors will be happy to explain it in detail. 

8. Hide the damage

This is a scam that can happen at the end of a job. On very rare occasions, cars get damaged during the transportation process. Loading and unloading a car involves driving it in very narrow spaces. Cars occasionally get scraped or dented in the process.

A reputable company will accept responsibility for the damage and will have insurance to cover it. Lesser companies might try to hide the damage until it’s too late. This is why you should closely examine your car when it’s delivered. Finding it a few hours later is much too late. A disreputable company will edge the odds in their favor and make it hard for you to find the damage. 

If a carrier wants to deliver your car at night, be very suspicious because the dark is a great way to hide the damage. You should also be suspicious if your car is dirty. Before your car is picked up, you should wash it and if it’s covered in dirt at the delivery, it could be an attempt to hide the damage. 

9. Add on fees

A suspiciously low-ball price is a sign that there may be hidden costs demanded from you once you’ve agreed to the service. When comparing car shipping companies make sure all costs are disclosed to you before you agree to anything. 

Get a quote from SGT Auto Transport and our prices are all inclusive of taxes, fees, service charges, and more. You pay nothing extra, we guarantee.

10. Bad reviews

Poor customer reviews are an easy way to spot potential vehicle shipping scams. If you read reviews that mention any of the scams in our list, feel confident to walk away. 

It’s recommended you look for a company with an average customer review rating of at least the industry standard. This is 4.6 out of 5 stars. In addition, look for praiseworthy reviews mentioning low prices, professional drivers, and excellent customer service.

Something else to consider concerning reviews is to be on the lookout for missing or fake reviews. Every business has its ups and downs, which means that even the best auto transport company will have a few bad reviews. If you only find entirely positive reviews that are poorly worded or generic, these reviews may have been paid for, indicating a scam.    

Tips on how to avoid car shipping scams

Unfortunately, car shipping scams are an occurrence you need to watch for. With so many businesses out there, it can be challenging to discover the one company you can rely on. To avoid falling victim to a car shipping scam, follow these easy procedures.

Look for registered service providers

In general, it’s a good idea to look for registered service providers. These are companies that are licensed and registered with the appropriate regulatory agency. They are subject to certain rules and regulations which protect consumers. 

If you choose a registered service provider, you’re increasing your chances of enjoying a positive experience and reducing the risk of being scammed. 

That being said, you should still research a company thoroughly and read reviews from previous customers. 

Verify address

If you check a car shipping company’s business address, it might help confirm you’re working with a legitimate company and lower your risk of being scammed. 

Check online car transport reviews

It’s often easier to find a trustworthy auto transport company and avoid an auto transport scam by reading online reviews. They give you an insight into the experiences of previous clients and give you a feel for a company’s dependability and level of customer service. 

You should read a range of reviews and use your judgment when assessing them. Keep in mind that not all reviews may be authentic. 

Look for untraceable payment methods

Untraceable payment methods include wire transfers and cashier’s checks. Think of these as a warning sign because scammers may use them to avoid detection. They are also payment methods that make it very difficult to get your money back. 

Only use traceable payment methods such as a credit card or secure online payment provider. Using such methods helps you avoid fraudulent charges, allows you to contest any unlawful charges, and communicate more effectively with the business. 

Read the contract carefully

To help prevent auto transport scams, make yourself aware of the terms and conditions of the auto transport services you’re receiving. Read the entire contract carefully to understand what is covered by the services, any fees or charges, and the procedure should there be any damage or delays. 

Trust your instincts

Ultimately, it’s important to trust your instincts. No matter how good a deal might seem, pick up your phone and give the company a call. Speak directly with a company representative and ask some questions. Find out:

  • How long have they been in business?
  • Do they charge a deposit?
  • What kind of insurance do they offer?
  • How many cars do they transport every month?
  • Do they have a DOT number?  

If you want to speak with our shipping advisors, you can reach them at (864) 546-5038. Alternatively, we have a Live Chat option you can use if you prefer.

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