Not all car carriers are created equal. As with any industry some are good, some are bad, and some are scammers.
Many people have little to no experience with the car shipping industry before looking for a car delivery service to move their vehicle, so how does one navigate the potentially treacherous waters of the auto transport business?
The following is a brief guide that will help you find an auto hauler you can trust and help you prepare your car for transport. Bad auto shippers are prone to tardiness, hidden charges, and shaky guarantees and insurance policies (if any are in place at all).
Auto transport companies
Steps to find good auto transport companies
- Search online
- Carriers or brokers?
- Is the carrier licensed, bonded and insured?
- Compare shipping rates
- Door-to-door or terminal-to-terminal?
- Don’t always go with the lowest quote
- Delivery times
- Do your research
- Reliability and history
- Prepare your vehicle for transport
Decide which ones you are interested in and go to their websites for a transport quote. Make sure you enter all the requested information (usually the make, model and year of the vehicle and the origin and destination cities) as accurately as possible to get a quote.
There’s a big difference between auto transport carriers and auto transport brokers.
In brief, auto transport carriers will usually haul your vehicle on their own trucks for the price they quote you. Brokers will try to find a carrier to ship your car for a percentage of the price they quote you and they usually only move the highest paying bids.
There are pros and cons to each and depending on what you are looking for in a car shipper, one or the other may be better suited to your needs.
Verify that the car transport service is USDOT licensed and properly insured.
A good and reputable company will have their licenses posted on their website and more often than not directly linked to USDOT / FMCSA. You should also make sure the carrier is an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau, and look for the BBB membership seal with an ‘A’ rating on their site.
Look for third party reviews from independent sources such as TransportReviews. The easiest way to make sure that your company is on the up and up is to check them out with the FMCSA. Simply ask for their MC# and make a phone call.
The initial quote you get may just be a ballpark estimate of how much it costs to ship a car, but many auto haulers stick to their original estimate.
If you have any modifications on your vehicle, or you drive an oversized truck, this will affect the cost of your quote. Should you not make a note of this when initially getting a quote for your transport order, the company may need to generate a new one for you.
Find out if the quote is for door-to-door car transport service or terminal-to-terminal service.
With terminal-to-terminal service you may have to pay terminal storage fees on top of the transport quote. Some companies will tell you up front how much the entire ordeal will cost, with minimal extra charges.
These rates will be higher than other initial quotes, but any kind of additional charges can severely affect the price you end up paying.
Many companies try to entice customers with a low bid.
If the company is a broker they will need to locate a carrier to physically move your vehicle. If they can’t find a carrier to move your car for the quote offered, then your vehicle will not be moved.
A lot of companies low-ball customers into using their company. When you find a company that offers you a quote significantly lower than the others, proceed with caution. Cheap auto transport quotes can potentially give you the biggest headache with hidden fees and unreliable service.
Be sure to get several quotes from reputable auto shippers before choosing. Compare rates and services. Some brokers will quote you a very low price just to get your business without being able to follow through.
More often than not if the prices you are quoted are drastically different, you’re giving up something in service. The lowest price is not always the best deal.
Most transporters will give pickup and delivery windows, not exact dates.
If an auto transport company guarantees delivery dates or times, be sure to get it in writing. Verbal agreements mean nothing without a written contract.
Use the wealth of information available on the Internet. Do a Google search of the companies by name and see what comes up.
Look for testimonials on their sites. If you have friends who have shipped their cars, ask if they have ever used a transport company.
Check to see if they are rated with agencies like the Better Business Bureau. And see what other customers are saying on third party review sites.
In addition, make sure the car transporter you are looking at has been in business at least a few years.
Less than desirable companies pop-up with new names every few years to take advantage of unsuspecting customers. Make sure they are bonded, licensed and insured.
Whichever company you decide to go with, familiarize yourself with their dispute resolution and damage claims procedures as well.
Would you trust your car to a transporter without a reliable history? Be sure that a car delivery service has both the experience and knowledge to be trusted with your car.
In some cases companies have changed their names to avoid their bad reputations.
Reputable auto shipping companies will let you know what you need to do to prepare your vehicle for transport.
We’ve made a separate guide to help you learn how to prepare a car for transport, with detailed steps for each thing you need to do.
Inspect the car upon delivery to ensure there is no new damage
When your vehicle is delivered, make sure the driver and you (or your representative) inspect the car and compare it with the Vehicle Condition Report from the pickup.
This is your only opportunity to claim damage, so please take your time. If any damage is claimed, make sure the carrier signs the condition report and make sure you retain a copy for your records. All companies should do inspection reports of the vehicle at pickup and delivery.
Be sure to document the mileage on the car before and after transport. In case of damage, it is your responsibility to make sure these reports are correctly updated to prove and ensure reimbursement for the damages.
Stress-free auto transport
The auto transport business is NOT a guaranteed industry. There are many factors that may create delays at pick up or delivery such as weather, mechanical problems, and road conditions.
However, good customer service determines how well the auto shipping company communicates with its customers, and if there is good communication between customers and the company, then it’s less likely that problems will occur during transport.
Unfortunately, scams abound in the auto transport industry. If you follow the preceding suggestions, you stand a much greater chance of finding reputable auto transport services and having a stress-free and successful transport of your vehicle.
Check the facts before choosing an auto shipping company, if something seems too good to be true, chances are it probably is!
Here at J&S Transportation, we’ve worked hard to give our customers a trustworthy and stress-free auto transport experience. If you’d like to learn more about why our customers love J&S, their words can speak for themselves.
Good luck and happy hunting!