Auto transporting Brokers vs. Carriers difference

Auto transporting Brokers vs. Carriers: What’s the difference?


After your home, your car is probably the second most valuable and precious asset you own. If you ever need to move your car across the country, you’re likely to need some help. Deciding which one to use isn’t a decision you should take lightly, and you must do your research. 

The most common way for people to look for auto transport services is using good old Google. You type a simple term into the search bar, for example, “car shipping”, “auto carrier brokers”, or maybe even “auto transport brokering”. With just one click, you’ll get a long list of companies. Such a long list might seem a little daunting at first, but if you look a little closer, you’ll notice the list includes auto transport carriers and vehicle transport brokers. They might look like they’re the same thing on the surface, but underneath they’re very different. 

To help you understand the difference between auto transport brokering and carriers and decide which is best for you, we’re going to look a little closer at both of these options. 

What is an auto transport carrier?

An auto transport carrier is a company with a fleet of trucks, car carriers, and truck drivers. The company uses the fleet and its drivers to transport their customers’ cars. The company is responsible for the shipping of your vehicle. They are the ones that show up to pick up your vehicle and deliver it to your chosen destination. 

Carriers are referred to by several different names. You’ll see them referred to as auto carriers, car carriers, auto transporters, and auto haulers. Basically, they are the same thing: they operate with their own truck or fleet of trucks and drivers.  

It’s also possible for a carrier to be a single owner-operator. This means they own one, maybe two, trailers and use them to transport people’s vehicles. 

If you decide you want a car carrier to transport your car, you can deal directly with the car shipping company. A reliable company will keep you informed throughout the transport process. You might get a number to call if you want an update, have a question, or want to check-in. You also have just one company to deal with should something go wrong during the car shipping process, and you need to make a claim.

It’s also possible to hire a carrier by going through a broker. We'll tell you a little more about auto transport brokering further down the page.   

The pros and cons of using a car carrier

There are two main advantages of working directly with a carrier. You may pay less because there is no middleman, but this is not always the case. The second advantage is that there is one point of contact. You can contact the carrier’s dispatcher, and you might even be able to deal directly with the driver who will be picking up and delivering your vehicle. 

When you’ve got a direct line of contact with the carrier, it allows for more specific and thorough updates. Should there be any problems, it might be easier to get a resolution if you're working directly with the carrier rather than a third-party. 

This makes it all sound very appealing. However, working directly with a carrier comes with some challenges. To begin with, you may struggle to find a carrier, especially a single operator. They tend not to have the time, money, or need to market themselves directly to the public. There might not be a website you can visit, which means it’s not going to be visible when you search on Google

Most carriers work closely with brokers or find work using national dispatch boards that the public can’t access. There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule. Carriers with large fleets of vehicles do market themselves directly to the public. This means they don’t have to rely on auto transport brokering or dispatch boards. However, even large carriers will use dispatch boards if they’ve got some spots on their trailers to fill.

Another challenge when working directly with carriers is finding one that can ship your specific type of vehicle, specific shipping route, or meet your time frame. 

Carriers typically have only a few trucks as part of their fleet, which means they can’t drive all over the country on random days and still make money. They also must decide what specific type of trailer to use, limiting the type and number of cars they can ship and how much they charge. They will likely choose routes that are the most profitable for them, which might not be the route you need.

One final disadvantage worth mentioning is that customer service is not always the best. As you can imagine, most carriers are single-driver owners. They are extremely busy and always on the road. Customer service might not be at the top of their priorities.    


  • The cost might be lower.
  • Direct line of contact with the carrier.


  • Hard to find.
  • Lack of flexibility.
  • A considerable amount of research is required to find the best carrier. 
  • Not the best customer service.

What is an auto transport broker?

A car transport broker is a company that books orders to ship people’s vehicles. The orders they take are then brokered to an auto transport carrier. The carrier owns the equipment and transports the car using their drivers. The broker makes money in the form of a commission from the carrier in exchange for providing them with the order. 

A car shipping broker will have access to an extensive network of carriers. They don’t own their fleet of trucks and therefore don’t handle the direct shipping of any vehicles. They act as a middleman between the customer and the carrier.

How do auto transport brokers work?  

The primary function of car hauling brokers is to find and vet the best carriers for each customer, depending on their specific needs. Another vital role is to manage or coordinate all car shipments on behalf of their customers. 

When you’re doing your research and type “car shipping companies” or “auto transport companies” into the search engine, most of the results will be brokers. 

What are broker-carriers? 

There is an auto transport business that you may encounter that is a hybrid of carriers and brokers. A broker-carrier is a licensed broker that also has its own fleet of trucks. 

The pros and cons of using an auto hauler broker

The main benefit of working with a broker is that they provide great flexibility. A broker isn’t tied to their own trucks or specific routes. They can help anyone, regardless of the type of vehicle that needs to be transported, where they’re shipping it to, or when they want to ship it. 

The best car transport broker will work with large and small carriers that serve routes all over the United States. They’ll always be able to find a carrier to meet their customers’ needs. 

Another advantage of working with a car shipping broker is that it saves a tremendous amount of time. If you’re looking for car carriers, not auto transport brokering, you’ve first got to find them online. It can be quite a chore because most don’t have a website. 

Once you’ve got some suitable names, you’ve then got to research each one to make sure they’re adequately insured and licensed.

You’ve then got to make sure they’re reputable and reliable. This means looking for reviews online. As you can imagine, all this research is going to take a lot of time. 

Work with a broker, and you can eliminate the need for all this research. The broker has access to hundreds of carriers and does all the vetting and research for you. They verify licenses, insurance coverage, and USDOT credentials for every carrier they choose to work with. Brokers are auto transport industry experts and should know what to look for when selecting a carrier for a particular shipment.

One of the most significant disadvantages of working with a broker is that you’re putting your trust in a go-between. Not all brokers are cut from the same cloth, and some have been known to drop the ball from time to time. If a broker fails to do their job correctly, and isn’t a good communicator or manager, the car shipping process can be a miserable experience. When this happens, you might get stuck dealing with a carrier that is also unresponsive and unreliable.   


  • Flexibility.
  • Saves time.
  • Industry experience.
  • Manage the shipping process for you.


  • Finding the best broker can be tricky.
  • Some brokers are unreliable and unresponsive. 

How to determine if an auto transport company is a car shipping broker

The easiest way to find out whether a company you found online is a car shipping broker, a carrier, or both is to ask when you get in touch. However, there is another way if you want to know the details before you make contact. 

Visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website and enter the company name. From there, you’ll be able to navigate to the company’s profile page, where the type of business it is will be given at the top.

On this website, you’ll find the license, insurance, and DOT information for any carrier or broker. 

Car hauling brokers vs. carriers: A quick comparison

Car hauling brokers vs. carriers

Knowing the difference between car shipping brokers vs. carriers can be very confusing when you’re shipping a car for the first time. It also has the potential to have the most impact. Working with a broker when you think you’re speaking with a carrier and vice versa could make or break your whole auto transport experience. 

To make things much easier for you, we’ve broken down the key differences into the following five categories. 

  • Price.
  • Availability.
  • Customer experience.
  • Insurance. 


A broker will typically offer lower prices than a carrier. They will also be able to provide multiple quotes for you to choose from. 

Auto transport brokering companies can gather several quotes from multiple carriers in a short amount of time. They have access to an extensive network of carriers, which allows them to compare prices and tell you which ones are the lowest. 

A carrier will typically only provide one quote because they’re the ones providing the shipping service. 

If you want to compare prices, you have the option of calling one broker or several different carriers. 


There are more carriers than brokers, but you’ll find the contact details for more brokers than carriers. They tend to have an online presence, so you can easily find them with a simple Google search. It’s very rare, on the other hand, for a carrier to have a website. 

Customer experience

To answer these questions, we’ve looked at online customer reviews. 

Brokers tend to be easier to get in touch with, but they don’t all stay in touch once a carrier is assigned. This can become a pain point if you want a status update on your vehicle and can’t reach someone to speak to.

Carriers are more challenging to get in touch with from the very beginning of the process, but you’re more likely to be on a first-name basis with the company representative and stay in touch the whole time. 

Vehicles can get delayed in transit for any number of reasons. The truck might break down, or the driver might fall sick, for example.  In these situations, a broker can offer an advantage that a carrier can’t. A broker can have a backup plan. 

If you hire a carrier and the truck breaks down, the process will come to a screeching halt. Many carriers only have one or two vehicles at most, so when one goes down, the only option is to make you wait while they fix it. 

This isn’t a problem if you work with a broker. They work with a network of carriers, so if your assigned carrier has a mechanical issue, many other carriers can jump in and take their place. The same applies to delays caused by bad weather or traffic accidents. A carrier might take a week to work through the issue, whereas a broker could potentially solve it the same day.  


A car shipping company isn’t allowed to transport your vehicle without having insurance. But how are you to know whether a carrier is following the rules? If you want to verify a carrier has insurance, you’ve got to do the legwork yourself. 

On the other hand, a reputable broker can save you time by verifying the license, insurance, and safety info for carriers they use.  

What auto transport brokers and car carriers have in common

Until now, we’ve looked at the pros and cons of auto transport brokering and carriers and their differences. There are, however, some similarities. They both offer the same kind of options for transport type, but we’ll look at that a little further down the page. 

Another similarity is both auto transport brokers and car carriers must register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a department within the Department of Transport (DOT) and be licensed. Strict requirements must be met for anyone who wants to operate a car shipping business, as either a carrier or broker. 

Most brokers and carriers are door-to-door shippers. This means they will pick up and deliver your vehicle from your home, business, or any other safe and legal location and ship it to another location of your choosing. Some companies use terminal yards as their pick-up and shipping destinations, but there are not so many that offer this option. 

Different types of vehicle transport trailer

Auto transport carriers and brokers use the same type of trailer. They come in various shapes and sizes, each of which is for a different transport situation. A trailer might be small to allow easy access to difficult locations. It might also be a trailer designed to carry up to nine cars at the same time. Here are some of the most common trailers you’ll see on the roads today. 

Open car trailer

This is the type of trailer that you can typically see on the highway every day. Companies use them to transport a wide variety of cars. New cars, used cars, classic, project, and salvage cars are all transported using open car trailers. 

An operable car can be driven straight onto the trailer. One that isn’t running can be loaded using a winch. Once the cars have been loaded, they are secured using chains and straps.  

Open car trailers come in a range of assorted sizes and can carry between 2 and 10 cars simultaneously. The trailer consists of two levels of dual metal treads. These are wide enough to accommodate most car wheels.

Single car trailer

A single-car trailer is better known as a tow truck. It’s a great option if you want to transport a vehicle a short distance at short notice. Because they are so small, this type of trailer is more convenient for narrow roads or to access difficult driveways.

Vehicles are loaded onto this type of transport by being attached to the truck for towing or by driving up the ramp of the trailer. Only one vehicle is transported at a time, and it is exposed to the elements. 

Enclosed trailer

Enclosed trailers are the preferred method of transportation for high-value cars. However, it’s generally only possible to ship one vehicle at a time. An enclosed trailer protects the vehicles inside from the weather and from prying eyes during transport. 

It is usual for enclosed trailers to be lower to the ground, which means the carrier can quickly load vehicles with low ground clearance.

If your car is not running or driving, you can get it loaded or unloaded safely using an equipped winch. 

One other benefit of an enclosed trailer is that you can transport spare parts, motorcycles, and pallets inside the trailer with the car if the company allows it.   

Enclosed multilevel trailer

An enclosed multilevel trailer is remarkably similar to an open car trailer but has added protection against the elements. You often see them used at collector car auctions, shows, and other car events. With an enclosed multilevel trailer, you can transport several valuable cars nationwide. 

Auto transport management companies: More than just a car shipping broker

Auto transport management companies

When you're looking at your Google results, you might notice there's a third option. They are called auto transport management companies, and we happen to be one of them. The service we provide here at SGT Auto Transport combines the best of both worlds. We’re able to manage the complete shipping process from start to finish. The services we can provide include:

  • We give the best prices.
  • Our prices are all-inclusive.
  • We have $0 upfront payment.
  • We give full insurance coverage.
  • We offer door-to-door auto transport services.
  • We can guarantee pick-up dates.
  • Take your booking.
  • Contacting top-rated and vetted for your protection car transport carriers.
  • Coordinating the whole vehicle shipping process.
  • Keep you updated throughout the transportation of your car.
  • Resolving any issues that might arise.
  • Make sure your vehicle is delivered according to the schedule.
  • We’ll guide you through the entire car shipping process and answer all your questions.
  • We provide customized and personalized services catering to your needs and problems.

An auto transport management company is more likely to work nationwide. This is critical if you want to ship a car from coast to coast. It’s going to put your mind at rest knowing that one company is handling the shipping of your car, from pick-up to delivery and every place in between. 

When you work with an auto transport management company, you enjoy all the benefits of working with both a carrier and a broker. There is one point of contact throughout your vehicle’s journey, and you get regular updates along the route.

An auto transport management company will get you the best possible price because they have access to a wider variety of routes and drivers. You can rest easy knowing your driver has been carefully vetted. It also means you’ll save time because the company will handle all the details of your shipment.   

Tips for choosing a reputable company to ship your vehicle

To finish up, we thought we’d share some things you need to remember when choosing a company to ship your car. After all, it is very important to you, and you want the best auto transport service possible. 

  • Make sure you get plenty of quotes: Getting quotes won’t take up a lot of time because most shipping companies have an online quote calculator.  
  • Don’t base your decision on cost alone: The cheapest shipping company might not be the best. Do your due diligence and make sure you’re checking out auto transport management companies, not just carriers or brokers. 
  • Read lots of reviews: Past customers can give you a good insight into how a company treats the vehicles and their customers. Look at the company’s website but also check out other review sites
  • Know what you want: Before contacting any auto transport companies to request a quote, make sure you know what you want and have all the right information available. You’ll need to know your vehicle's make and model, any modifications, where you want to ship from, and your vehicle’s destination. 

When you’re ready to make a booking, contact our experienced shipping advisors. You can call us at (864) 546-5038 or use our Live Chat option. 

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