14 Tips on How to Prepare a Car for Transport

by | Apr 23, 2023 | Transport Tips

You’ve decided to ship your car to its new destination, and you’ve found an auto hauler to get it transported. Now you need to get the car prepared for shipping.

Your car is a valuable asset so we understand that shipping it may be a little stressful to say the least. If you’ve chosen to work with us, however, you’re already ahead of the game as we strive to make the process smooth and stress-free. We accomplish that by providing great customer service and constant communication as shown in our reviews on sites such as Google and the BBB. You can also read why people trust J&S Transportation to ship their vehicles.

While we do most of the heavy lifting to get your vehicle transported to its destination safe and sound without hassle, the one thing we can’t do is prepare your car for transport. Only you can do that so we’ve put together 14 tips on how to prepare your car for shipping that will give you peace of mind and ensure the transport goes smoothly.

1. Wash Your Vehicle
The first thing you’ll want to do is wash the exterior of your vehicle. When the driver arrives to pick up your vehicle, he’ll do a vehicle condition report with you. This report documents the current condition of the vehicle including any existing damage there might be to the vehicle.

If your vehicle is clean, it will be easier for you and the driver to do the condition report as you’ll be able to clearly see any existing scratches, dings, dents, paint chips, or other damage to the vehicle.

Bonus Tip: Don’t wait until the driver arrives to pick up your vehicle to note existing damage to the vehicle. As soon as the car is clean, make a note of any damage you see. This will save you a lot of time at pick up and will ensure you don’t miss anything as you may feel rushed if the driver is with you.

2. Take Pictures of Your Vehicle
After the car is nice and clean, it’s a perfect time to take pictures. Make sure the photos are good quality and are dated! And don’t just take pictures of damaged areas. Take general photos of the vehicle at different angles. You can never have too many photos for your own records to protect you in the rare event damage occurs during transport.

Bonus Tip: Many drivers will also take photos as part of the vehicle condition report but don’t assume that and don’t rely solely on their photos if they do. It’s best to assume photos won’t be taken and it’s always a good idea to have your own set of photos even if the driver takes his own. Even better, do a video walk around of your vehicle in addition to taking photos!

3. Take a Photo of the Odometer
This tip is strictly for your peace of mind as customers will ask us from time-to-time, “How do I know if the driver isn’t going to take my car for a joy ride?” We’ve never had this happen before, but we understand the concern. After all, you are handing the keys of one of your most valuable assets over to a total stranger. If you’re nervous about it by all means take a photo of the odometer at pick up.

4. Clean the Interior of Your Vehicle
Car trailers are big and can bounce up and down a bit on the road causing any loose items inside your car to move around. Remove any items not secured to the interior of your car – phone holders, car chargers, GPS devices, portable DVD players, or even air fresheners, spare change, pens, etc. If there is the potential for anything inside your vehicle to bounce or move around, causing damage to the inside of your vehicle or the items themselves, remove them. Removing these items will also help to decrease the risk of theft or loss of these items during transport.

5. Secure or Remove Accessories
To prevent damage to your vehicle or the accessories themselves, you should remove them if they can be removed. We’re referring to accessories such as bike racks, luggage racks, ski racks, and custom spoilers. If you have an antenna that can be removed, you should remove it and put it in the trunk of the vehicle. If your side view mirrors can be folded in, you should fold them in.

6. Check the Radiator, Battery, and Tires
Make sure there’s antifreeze in the radiator and that the battery is fully charged and secure.

Make sure your tires are properly inflated. There is the potential for damage to the tires or wheels during transport if they are under-inflated or over-inflated.

7. Check for Fluid Leaks
Check for any fluid leaks and if possible, have them fixed before the driver picks up your vehicle, especially if it’s a bad leak as the driver may refuse to accept the vehicle. If you only have a minor leak that can’t easily be fixed before shipping, let the driver know!

He needs to know so he can place your vehicle on the bottom row of the trailer. Otherwise your car may be put on the top of the auto transport trailer, and you don’t want to drip on the cars below. Conversely, if your car is on the bottom, you don’t want someone else’s car leaking on your vehicle!

8. Address Engine & Mechanical Problems
Is your car in good working condition? Check for engine and other mechanical problems, and if you’re able to, have a mechanic tune it up before your car is picked up for transport.

If your vehicle is not running, let us know beforehand so we’re able to plan ahead and to make sure we get the proper equipment there to load your vehicle. There are additional charges if your car is inoperable so it’s best to make sure your vehicle is operable.

9. Leave the Gas 1/8 to 1/4 Full
Your vehicle only needs enough gas to drive on and off the trailer. The lighter your car is for interstate car transport, the better as it will save quite a bit of weight for the transporter. Please note, while it’s best to have a 1/4 tank of gas or less, you do not need to drain the gas if you have more than that!

10. Disable Alarms
The last thing your driver wants to deal with is a vehicle with an alarm going off that he can’t easily get to (or an alarm he doesn’t know how to shut off once he gets to the vehicle).

11. Deactivate or Remove Toll Tags
It doesn’t matter if your vehicle is passing through a toll road because you’re driving or because it’s on a trailer, the toll tag will very likely pick up the fee. Avoid any unnecessary headaches and expenses and deactivate or remove your toll tags.

12. Have Keys Ready
It’s kind of hard for the driver to get your vehicle on and off the trailer without a set of keys! If you have an older model vehicle, this may mean in addition to the ignition key, a door lock key and perhaps a glove compartment key will be needed.

It’s a good idea to have a whole set of keys for you AND the driver. If you don’t already have an extra set, it’s always a good idea to get one before your vehicle gets picked up for transport.

13. Have Insurance on Your Vehicle
If your car is already insured, then you’re ready to ship your vehicle! We highly recommend that you have insurance in place at the time your vehicle is being transported.

Your vehicle will be covered by the carrier’s cargo insurance if there is any damage caused by the transporter, but if there is damage caused by natural causes, or “Acts of God,” such as hail, flooding, lightning, tornadoes, etc., your insurance will be responsible for the repairs. Check with your auto insurance company to verify whether your car insurance applies during auto transport or not.

14. Shipping Personal Belongings
If you are planning on shipping personal belongings with your vehicle we need to be notified prior to the pick up of your vehicle. We allow up to 100 lbs. of personal belongings for free. Personal belongings exceeding that weight will incur additional charges. Please also note that personal belongings are not covered by the carrier’s cargo insurance. You ship personal items at your own risk. Please be sure to read our policy on shipping personal belongings with your vehicle.

By following these simple tips on how to prepare a car for transport, you’ll have peace of mind and a lot less stress and headaches during the transportation process!