Open vs Enclosed Car Shipping: Which Option is Best?

by | Transport Tips

If you’ve never transported a car before, you’ll quickly discover there are two shipping methods to consider: open and enclosed auto transport. What is the difference between open and enclosed car shipping? Which option is best for your vehicle? This article will provide answers to both questions so let’s dive in!

What is Open Car Shipping?

Open car shipping, or open auto transport, is when your vehicle is shipped on a trailer without any walls, ceiling, or solid floor. The vehicle is shipped on a trailer “in the open,” fully exposed to the elements. These types of trailers are typically long and two-tiered and can accommodate up to 10 vehicles depending on the size and weight of each vehicle. The photo at the top of this article is an example of an open transport trailer.

It is the most common shipping method for a few reasons. Car haulers like open trailers because they provide the most profit potential as they can fit more vehicles than they can in enclosed trailers. They are also far cheaper for car haulers to invest in to expand their fleet and are cheaper to operate and maintain. Finally, carriers tend to invest in trailers that are in the greatest demand. Most consumers don’t need or want enclosed transportation as they demand open transportation.

Consumers like open trailers because shipping vehicles on them is the least expensive shipping method. It is about half the cost to transport a car on an open vs enclosed trailer.

What is Enclosed Auto Transport?

Enclosed auto transport, or enclosed car shipping, is when your vehicle is shipped on a trailer that is completely enclosed and protected. It has solid walls, ceiling, and floor. These types of trailers obviously provide more security and protection than an open trailer can provide. Here is an example of what an enclosed transport trailer looks like:

Example of an enclosed transport trailer. Photo courtesy of American Auto Alliance, Inc.

There are far fewer enclosed car carriers on the road than there are open car carriers. There is a reason for that. Car hauling companies prefer open trailers over enclosed trailers because they can make more money with open trailers because they can haul more cars at a time. Most enclosed trailers fit only 1-3 cars where open trailers typically fit 7-10 cars.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car Enclosed?

Because car carriers can’t haul as many cars in an enclosed trailer, they have to charge a lot more to make a profit. In addition, enclosed carriers tend to be specialized carriers who have a lot of experience handling rare and expensive cars so they can charge more. You’ll pay approximately 50% more to ship a car in an enclosed trailer vs. an open trailer. Use our car shipping calculator and get a free instant quote for an open transport and then add 50% to the quote; that’s what you’ll likely pay for an enclosed trailer.

Should I Ship My Car Open or Enclosed?

Most consumers choose open transport because it’s the least expensive option and they don’t have vehicles that require enclosed transportation. And because there are far more open car carriers than enclosed carriers, consumers can get their vehicles shipped quicker.

The primary disadvantage of open car transport is your vehicle is exposed to the elements, both the weather and the road elements. While damage from the weather is rare it can happen. Likewise, damage from road debris is rare but can happen as well. At the very least, your car may arrive dirty upon delivery but that is easily fixed with a quick car wash.

Enclosed auto transport provides total protection from the elements. It is an ideal option if you’re shipping a car that you don’t want exposed to any weather or road debris. Most consumers that choose enclosed car shipping have restored classic cars or rare expensive cars (think Ferrari’s, Porsche’s, Lamborghini’s, etc.).

The main disadvantage to enclosed transportation is the cost. As mentioned earlier, you’ll pay approximately 50% more for enclosed vs open shipping. Another disadvantage is it usually takes longer to get a car shipped in an enclosed trailer because there aren’t as many carriers available that offer enclosed shipping.

Unless you’re shipping a restored classic car or a rare expensive car, open transport is usually the best option. You’ll get your vehicle shipped the quickest and for the least amount of money. At the end of the day, however, the choice between open vs enclosed transportation will depend on your shipping needs and budget.

J&S Transportation: Open Auto Transport Experts

J&S Transportation is a car carrier with its own fleet of trucks that hauls vehicles on open trailers. We’ve hauled over half a million vehicles over the past 20 years!

J&S is also a licensed auto transport broker. We always strive to ship your car on our own trucks, but if we can get your vehicle shipped quicker using one of our trusted partner car carriers, we will. And as a licensed broker with a vast network of open and enclosed car carriers, we can provide enclosed auto transportation if needed.

Whether you need open or enclosed auto transport, we can do it! We pride ourselves in our great customer service, constant communications, and prompt (and safe) delivery of your vehicle! And don’t take our word for it either. Read our testimonials and online reviews at, Google, and the BBB to see what our past customers say about us! You can also see

The first step in the car shipping process is to get a quote. You can get an instant quote from us below. The quote you get will be for open auto transportation. If you need enclosed transportation, you can estimate the cost by adding 50% to the instant quote you get from us. If you want an exact quote for enclosed car shipping, please contact us and we’ll get right back to you with one!

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