9 Factors that Affect the Cost of Cross Country Car Transport

9 Factors that Affect the Cost of Cross Country Car Transport


If you want to ship a car across country, one of the most important things to consider has to be the cost. Whether you’re moving to a new state, buying a car online, or just taking a long trip, finding an affordable way to do it has to be a priority. 

Before you make any firm commitments, you’re going to be researching affordable car transport, for which Google search can be a helpful tool. You’ll find yourself filling out online quote forms and then be inundated with emails from all those shipping companies vying for your business.

This article will help you understand how much it costs to ship a car across country and what to be aware of when choosing a car shipping company. When it comes to the cost of cross-country car transport, there are several common factors auto transport companies use to calculate the cost of their service. 

9 factors that affect the cost of shipping a car across country

1. Location and distance

The first factors on the list have to be location and distance. The distance your car needs to be transported will be a significant factor. However, where you want your vehicle to be picked up from and delivered to also plays a part when it comes to answering the question “How much does it cost to ship a vehicle across country?”

Do you live off the beaten path or in a booming metropolis? A lack of traffic or an abundance of traffic can affect pricing. If you’re shipping to a metropolitan area, there’s also the convenience of direct routes and wider roads that make it easier for car transport companies to move your vehicle. For deliveries to and from more remote locations, the auto transport provider may add additional fees for the more costly rural routes. 

 2. Time of year

Like many other industries, auto shipping has its peaks and troughs. In the peak season, auto transport is in demand, while out-of-season demand is significantly lower. Such differences impact the cost of cross-country car transport.

Summer or peak season rates tend to be higher because 60% of households move during that time. Snowbirds moving to warmer climates as winter approaches also increase rates along southern routes as well. 

Winter rates are generally lower. However, rates near holidays always increase. As well as taking such things into account, an auto transport carrier will also factor in inclement weather and typical severe road conditions before letting you know how much to ship a car across the country. 

3. Flexibility of time frame

Second to the cost of shipping a car cross country, customers are most concerned with the time it will take for the carrier to deliver the car.

Typically, the most expedited car transport service will cost more than a standard auto transport service. This is because a quick pick-up and delivery require fast yet proper route planning, which ultimately will cost you more.

If you’re very flexible with your car shipping arrangements, it allows the car shipping companies to organize the delivery according to the most efficient transportation practices. 

4. Type of auto transport service

There are a range of cross country car shipping services to choose from. Generally, there are the following options:

Open vs. enclosed

Open auto transport is the standard option. Cars are loaded onto an open-air trailer that usually has a top and a bottom deck. This means the car shipping company can fit as many cars as possible onto the trailer. 

Your vehicle may be exposed to weather conditions and road debris, and the cost tends to be lower. 

Enclosed transport, on the other hand, involves cars being transported in an enclosed trailer. This is a popular car shipping option for luxury, classic, custom, antique, and modified vehicles because the vehicles are completely protected from the weather and road debris. 

Fewer cars can be shipped across the country in this type of trailer, plus the loading and unloading require expert and trained handling. The cost of this type of auto transport service is usually 30% to 40% more than the standard option.  

Guaranteed pick up

Guaranteed pick up is an auto transport service you can rely on if you’re pushed for time and need to make specific arrangements for transporting your car. You make your booking with a 24-hour window, rather than the typical 1-4 business days from the first available shipping date. You can expect to pay slightly more for this auto transport service. 

Express auto transport

If time is of the essence, you can get your vehicle shipped super quick. Last-minute car transport is available, with your car being picked up in 1-2 business days. This service is slightly more expensive than standard open car transport.  

Top loading

Top loading means the carrier places your vehicle on the upper deck of an open trailer. This is an excellent way to avoid dust, dirt, and other debris coming into contact with your car. Vehicles loaded at the bottom tend to be more susceptible to such elements.

The top level also offers an added layer of protection from other vehicles. If your car is on the bottom, a car from the top may leak oil. 

5. Size and weight of the vehicle

Vehicles come in a range of shapes, sizes, and weights, each of which can influence the cost of shipping a car across country. The larger the vehicle, the more space is required. Similarly, because of weight limits on shipping freight, if your car is heavier, it will cost you more.

Extra-large vehicles, both in size and weight, require special shipping arrangements leading to additional costs added to the average cost of shipping a car across country.

6. Vehicle modifications

If your car has been modified, it will need special handling and shipping. This will ultimately affect the cost of shipping the vehicle. Lifting or lowering a car changes its height, which means the auto transport company will have to adjust the transport trailer levels to accommodate your non-standard vehicle height. 

7. Vehicle condition

The condition of a car depends on whether it’s operable or inoperable. An inoperable vehicle will require more equipment when it comes to loading and unloading. This means the auto transport company may charge more for the service. 

8. Auto transport discounts

You may be eligible for one of several discounts that are generally offered by auto transport companies. Here at SGT Auto Transport, for example, discounts are available for members of the military, police, EMS and first responders, college students, and snowbirds. If you want to ship more than one vehicle, you may also be eligible for a reduction in the cost of cross country transport.  

9. Personal items

It’s not uncommon for people to want to take advantage of the space inside their vehicles for loading personal items. For example, if you’re moving, this could be a good option if you want to transport some of your personal goods. 

There are, however, a few things to bear in mind. It will increase the overall weight of the car, which could affect the car shipping cost. Any items you want to transport must be contained in a single box or suitcase and must not exceed 100lbs. You must also secure the items in the trunk or cargo area of the vehicle. 

If you want to ship a car from the mainland to Hawaii., no personal items are allowed inside the vehicle.

Another important consideration is that, in general, auto transport companies are not licensed to transport household goods. This means any personal items loaded are not covered by the carrier’s cargo insurance. Any damage caused by personal items is also not covered. You ship personal items at your own risk.     

Shipping a car across country - average cost

The average cost to ship a car per mile by truck depends on the distance traveled. If the trip will be 500 miles or less, the per-mile average is $1. As the distance increases, so the figure per mile decreases. For example, a trip of up to 1,000 miles is $0.75 per mile. 

Below is a table you can use for reference to get a general idea of the average vehicle shipping cost per mile. 

DistanceAverage cost to ship a car per mileExample shipping distanceExample total cost
1-500 miles$1.00400 miles$400
500+ miles$0.75900 miles$675
1,000+ miles$0.601,200 miles$720
2,000+ miles$0.502,300 miles$1,150
2,500+ miles$0.403,600 miles$1,440

The average price per miles rates shown above are reflective of current market conditions as of January 2021. The rates are subject to change due to seasonal fluctuations, price of gas, pick-up/delivery locations, etc. 

Tips for reducing auto shipping rates per mile

For those of you who might be interested in shaving a few bucks off the average cost of shipping a car across country, here are some tips you might find helpful.

Book in advance

If possible, it’s a good idea to book in advance because it gives the auto transport company plenty of time to find and secure the best deal for you. A couple of weeks in advance should be more than enough time.

Check whether there are any discounts

As we’ve already mentioned, many car transport companies offer a range of discounts, so it’s worth finding out what they are. You could shave a reasonable percentage off the cost of cross country car transport.

Choose the right type of auto transport

If you want budget-friendly auto transport, open car transport is the best choice. Your car will be exposed to the elements, but it’s the most popular and affordable cross country car transport option. Plus, it’s a very safe and secure way to ship a car. 

Pick the right time of the year to ship your car

The cost of shipping a car tends to increase during the summer months because services are in more demand. One of the cheapest times to ship a car is in the fall.

Make sure your car is running

If your car is running, the carrier will need no special equipment to load and unload your car.

Ship more than one car

If you own more than one car, you could save money if you ship them all simultaneously.

Getting a quote

The first step in getting your car shipped from A to B is to get a quote. Unfortunately, you’ll find that auto transport companies often handle car shipping quotes differently, which can be confusing. 

One option is to contact the car shipping company directly and request a quote. You can usually do this by email, instant chat, or telephone.

Another option is to use a shipping marketplace such as uShip. You’re able to compare the rates from many different car carriers at once. If you don’t like any of the auto shipping rates per mile that are provided, you have the option of taking your shipment listing to uShip’s marketplace by starting an auction. You simply provide a few shipping details, and uShip’s car shipping experts will send you shipping quotes for review.

At SGT Auto Transport, we make the process super easy by providing an online instant quote calculator. All you have to do is give the necessary details to see the different price options instantly.

Things to be aware of when getting auto transport quotes online

While the process of getting a quote may be very straightforward, there are a few things to be mindful of. 

Check whether the price is all-inclusive

You must understand exactly what’s included in the total cost when you compare prices. Ask whether the price is all-inclusive because you don’t want to be caught out by any surprises. You might also be able to check what’s included in the price by reading the offer’s small print. 

We give out all-inclusive quotes. There will be nothing extra to pay, and that’s a guarantee. 

Is full insurance included in the quote?

Standard motor insurance doesn’t usually cover your vehicle when it’s being transported. However, your vehicle will be covered by the carrier’s insurance coverage. You can check the level of cover by asking for insurance documentation. 

How long is the quote valid for?

A quote you get from us is good for seven days. If you make your booking within that time frame, the quote will remain the same. Wait longer than a week to make your booking, and your quote will have to be recalculated.

Get your instant quote right now, or speak with our shipping advisors directly by calling (864) 546-5038.   

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