Cheap car shipping isn’t just about finding the least expensive auto transport company. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for, and hiring auto transport services is no different.
Our goal is to arm you with enough information so that no matter what your situation and budget, you can find ways to save money when having your vehicle shipped. Whether you have to ship a car cross country or just a state or two over, we have put together 12 tips to help you find the cheapest way to ship a car.
You may also want to check out another article we wrote outlining the common factors that impacts the cost to ship a car. Understanding these factors, combined with the tips provided here, will make you a smarter shopper so you can keep your auto shipping costs to a minimum!
Is it Cheaper to Drive or Ship a Car?
If your shipping route is 500 miles or less, driving your car is always cheaper than shipping it. You can cover 500 miles in about 8 hours, or one full day. Your food expenses will be minimal and you’ll have zero costs for lodging. And most cars today get around 30 miles to the gallon so you can drive 500 miles on one full tank of gas. Even with the high gas prices today, a full tank of gas is “only” going to cost about $50. At most you’re looking at $100 in food and gas to drive a car yourself 500 miles. You will never be able to ship a car for less than that!
Once you get over 500 miles the math gets trickier. There are so many variables that can affect the cost of driving a car yourself at that point. There are costs such as food, gas, and lodging, but there are also wear-and-tear and convenience costs to consider. Do you really want that new car you purchased to rack up 500+ miles right out of the gate and be at increased risk of damage from road debris? And do you really want to be on the road for 8+ hours? For most people, hiring an auto transport company is a no-brainer as soon as you get over the 500 mile mark.
What is the Cheapest Way to Ship a Car?
Working with a carrier directly and opting for open transport is the cheapest way to ship a car. When you are looking for cheap car transport, you have two general options: hire a company to do it for you, or do it yourself. We put together 12 tips on how to find cheap car shipping and we divided them into two categories. The first category has general tips to consider when hiring a car shipping company. The second category includes tips for people that want to go the DIY route.
How to Find Cheap Car Shipping When Hiring an Auto Transportation Company
1. Get Multiple Quotes
Shopping around is the name of the game. Whether you call auto transport brokers, or carriers directly to get their rates, you should get at least 2-3 quotes. You can get started now by getting an instant quote from us!
Getting multiple quotes is an easy method to help you get an idea of the fair market shipping price and to help you find a cheap car shipping company if you are working with a tight budget.
2. Choose an Open Transport Carrier Over an Enclosed Transport Carrier
The vast majority of the carriers on the road today have open trailers. Our own fleet of trucks have open trailers. We do not have enclosed trailers, but as a licensed auto transport broker, we can find an enclosed transport carrier if you need one.
Because there are far fewer enclosed transport carriers, you pay a premium for them. The shipping rate, on average, for an enclosed transport is 40-50% more than an open transport carrier. Enclosed transportation is the best option if you have a highly valuable luxury vehicle or restored classic car. Otherwise, if you want to ship a car cheap, always go with an open transport carrier.
3. Have Flexible Pick Up and Delivery Locations
If the pick up and delivery locations are in remote locations far from major cities or interstates, you’ll pay more to ship your car. The cheapest way to ship a car in this scenario is to be flexible and be willing to drive the car to a more convenient location to meet the driver. If you’re 30 minutes away from a main interstate or bigger city, you can usually save money by driving the car the 30-minute distance to meet the driver instead of making him come to you.
4. Ship in the Off Season
The busiest months of the year in the auto transport industry are June-August. The slowest months are December-February. If you want cheap car shipping, do it during the slow months of the year. The shipping rate you pay in January will be much lower than the rate you pay in July.
5. Be Flexible with Your Pick Up and Delivery Times
If you tell a broker or carrier that your car must be picked up or delivered by a specific date, you’ll almost always pay a premium to meet your specific deadlines. The cheapest way to ship a car is to be flexible. In fact, you can save even more money if you give the broker or carrier the flexibility to fit your transport into their schedule when it works best for them (while still meeting your general shipping timeframes).
Bonus Tip: Most brokers and carriers won’t be able to meet specific pick up dates or delivery dates no matter how much you’re willing to pay. If you have a tight shipping window because you’re moving on a certain day or whatever may be the reason, the easiest way to be flexible is to have someone that can be the pick up or delivery person for you. Usually that is a friend, family member, neighbor, or even a local mechanic, car dealer, or Realtor you trust.
6. Look for Terminal to Terminal Carriers
Some carriers have terminal yards throughout the country where cars can be shipped to or from. These are called terminal-to-terminal carriers. These terminal yards are usually off main interstates or near bigger cities. Because these carriers don’t have to ship the car to you directly and they can just ship them to their conveniently located terminal yards, their rates are usually less than door-to-door transport carriers.
There are far fewer terminal to terminal carriers, however, so the process of finding one can take longer. Their terminal yards may not be close to you either so you may have to travel several miles to get to them to drop off or pick up your car from them. There may also be daily storage fees if you have to leave your vehicle in the terminal for any length of time. You’ll want to consider these things when trying to determine if terminal shipping is the cheapest way to ship a car.
7. Hire an Auto Transport Broker
Auto transport brokers have access to hundreds of carriers throughout the country so they can network with them to get you the best prices. Working with a broker can be the cheapest way to ship a car but you have to be careful if the quote is too good to be true.
To get your business, some brokers may quote you a great deal but then may scramble to find a carrier to ship your car for the shipping price they quoted you. In that situation they will typically come back to you for more money, or they may sit on your order for weeks before a carrier can be found to ship your car at that price. And even if a carrier can be found for such a low price, you may end up working with a less-than reputable carrier.
Like everything in life, you get what you pay for. The car shipping industry is no different. A cheap price usually means slower delivery. Also keep in mind that you usually don’t get great customer service either if you’re working with a cheap car shipping transporter.
8. Be Your Own Broker and Hire a Car Carrier
This isn’t the most convenient option, but it can save you a bundle if you have the time and energy to do it. Being your own broker means you get rid of the middleman, the auto transport broker, and you contact individual carriers yourself to get multiple quotes. You can do this by Googling car carriers or by using marketplaces such as uShip.com.
You’ll have to do more than just get quotes, however. You’ll also have to research them to make sure they are reputable, have proper licensing, and have adequate auto insurance coverage by reviewing their insurance policy documents. Often the minimal cost savings of removing a traditional broker isn’t worth the time and headache of vetting carriers out yourself but it will save you money if you’re up for it.
Bonus Tip: When calling trucking companies directly you’ll want to confirm you’re dealing with a carrier and not a broker. The first question to ask is: “Are you a broker or a carrier?” You’ll be surprised how many trucking companies are brokers. There is nothing wrong working with a broker but just know if you do, then you’re not really cutting out the middleman.
9. Hire a Tow Trucking Company
This option will typically only work if you’re shipping a vehicle within a few hundred miles as most towing companies won’t go any further than that. We had a customer who traded in his car for another vehicle at a dealership that was about 300 miles away from his house. He was on a tight schedule and he wanted his car shipped to the dealership and then he wanted the new vehicle he was buying brought right back to him.
Given his tight time frame and specific shipping needs, he was going to pay a premium working with an auto transporter. He called around and he was able to find a local tow trucking company that was willing to transport the cars for him much cheaper than a traditional transporter could do it.
DIY Tips for Cheap Car Transport
10. DIY Transport
This option isn’t for the faint of heart and will rarely save you money but for some people it can be a cheap car shipping option. This method will require renting a car dolly or trailer and having access to a truck that can tow a vehicle such as a moving truck or a heavy-duty pickup.
You’ll have to factor in the costs of renting the car dolly or trailer and possibly the truck too if you don’t have one. You’ll have to pay for gas and possibly lodging and food as well depending on the distance of your shipping route.
11. Drive the Car Yourself
You just got a sweet deal on a car a few states away but now what’s the cheapest way to ship the car to you? Shipping services aren’t going to be the best option. However, if the stars align, getting a one-way plane ticket to where the vehicle is and driving the car home can be the least expensive option.
I say “if the stars align” because a lot of things need to line up just right to save money over hiring auto shipping services. The cost of the flight, the time you may have to take off from work to make the trip, lodging, gas, food, etc. may negate any cost savings. And don’t forget to factor in the wear and tear on your car as well. But if “the stars align,” you may be able to save a lot of money bypassing shipping all together and just drive the car yourself.
12. Have a Family Member or Friend Drive the Car
Like the option I just outlined above, if you have a trusted friend or family member that can drive the car you may be able to save money. Of course you may have to pay for their return flight home and you’ll have gas expenses too, and there is wear and tear on the car, but this could be a cheap way to ship a car.
Bonus Tip: If driving the car to its destination by you, a family member, or a friend isn’t an option, there is another possibility. There are professional drivers you can hire to drive your car and there are marketplaces that connect vehicle owners with people willing to drive their vehicles to their destination.
Why Consider J&S Transportation When You’re Looking for Cheap Car Shipping
We believe in being honest and upfront about everything we do. We are not the cheapest way to ship a car if all you care about is the total price to ship a car. The truth is our rates tend to be slightly higher than most auto transport brokers and carriers in the industry. That isn’t the case for every type of vehicle and route but as a whole, we are a little higher than most.
There is a good reason for that – we price our transports to get vehicles delivered safely and promptly, while providing our customers with unparalleled customer service. When you hire us, we don’t take weeks to ship your car and we don’t disappear either. We get vehicles moved quickly and we provide our customers with regular communications and updates throughout the shipping process.
We’ve been in the auto transportation business for over 20 years and we’ve shipped over 1,000,000 vehicles and counting. Talking to our thousands of customers over the years we’ve heard many of them try to save money on shipping a car by implementing the tips in this article and yet in the end they turn to us. Why?
Because for most people these tips won’t save them a lot of money after the time and effort (and risks in some cases) are factored in. And some of the tips just aren’t practical for most people. If you’re moving in July, you can’t really wait to ship your car in February can you?
We’re a little bias, but we believe hiring J&S Transportation is your best option if you want your car shipped safe and sound with very little time and effort on your part. We have experience, a long and successful track record, and an unbeatable reputation!
Don’t take our word for it either. Browse our reviews on various third-party sites such as Google, BBB, and TransportReviews.com. You’ll notice a common theme among our reviews – we provide convenient door-to-door shipping, constant communication throughout the process, and prompt delivery of vehicles at a fair price (not necessarily the cheapest price)!