3 Important Tips When Shipping a Car with Personal Items

by | Feb 2, 2021 | Transport Tips

We’re often asked about shipping a car with personal items in it. Specifically we’re asked, can I put stuff in my car when I ship it? The short answer is yes, but there are important caveats.

First, personal items are not covered by the carrier’s cargo insurance. You ship them at your own risk! Second, damage that occurs to your vehicle because of your personal belongings is not covered either. For example, if your car has household goods bouncing around in the inside that causes damage to the interior, that damage isn’t covered. Likewise, if a thief smashes in your window to get to your belongings, that damage isn’t covered either.

We strongly recommend that you have your own auto insurance coverage on your vehicle when shipping a car and belongings together if you want your personal items covered.

We allow up to 100 lbs. of personal belongings for free. Personal belongings that weigh more than 100 lbs. will incur additional charges. We also have several criteria when shipping personal belongings in vehicles. See our policy at the bottom of this page.

Here are 3 tips to consider if you are shipping your vehicle with personal belongings.

1. Secure and “hide” your personal items.

You’ll need to secure your personal belongings so they aren’t moving around the vehicle during the transport, potentially damaging the vehicle. Remember, as I mentioned earlier, damage done to the vehicle as a result of your personal belongings is not covered by the carrier’s cargo insurance. We recommend you put your stuff in suitcases, duffle bags, or boxes and then make sure they are secured and aren’t going to move around easily.

This is a perfect example of how to properly ship personal items in a vehicle.
(the belongings are safely stored in a tote and the totes are secured to the vehicle)

shipping a car with personal belongings

The other thing we ask is that you keep your personal belongings “out of sight” as best as you can. You might hear the phrase, “below the window line.” This simply means to keep your personal belongings below the window line of your vehicle so they aren’t easily seen. While your vehicle will be safely secured on the trailer and in the driver’s sight most of the time, the driver will have to take bathroom breaks and may need to grab a bite to eat or fuel up. And if it’s more than a day’s transport, he’ll be sleeping overnight.

You don’t want to tempt a thief with personal belongings that are easily seen through the windows. We highly recommend you put your personal items and household goods in the trunk of your vehicle if possible for optimum security.

The other reason you want to keep your personal belongings below the window line is so the driver can safely drive your vehicle on and off the trailer. He needs to be able to clearly see through the windows and he needs to be able to use the rear view mirror.

This is an example of how NOT to ship personal belongings in a vehicle!
(the personal items are filled to the roof of the car and are not packed or secured properly)

shipping a car with stuff in it

Word of WARNING: If a driver shows up to pick up your vehicle with personal items packed like that, he may refuse to take your vehicle for liability and safety reasons! At the very least, you will incur additional charges. Typically if a driver shows up and your car is filled to the roof like that, you’ll pay anywhere from $200 – $500 extra. You want to keep personal belongings to a minimum and you want them packed securely in the vehicle.

I hate to beat a dead horse, but I can’t emphasize it enough, anything that happens to your personal belongings, or any damage to the vehicle that occurs because of the personal belongings, are not covered by the carrier’s cargo insurance. If a thief smashes in your window to get to your personal belongings, repairing that window will not be covered, nor will the stolen belongings be covered.

2. Shipping a car with personal items isn’t without risk.

Many of our transports are for people moving from one state to another, or are snowbirds making a temporary move down south, so customers often ship their vehicles with some personal belongings. While it is rarely an issue, it’s not 100% without risk.

We had a customer who had $2,000 worth of tools locked in the toolbox that was attached to the bed of his truck. He wanted us to pick up his truck from a parking lot he thought was secure. Before the driver arrived, a thief picked the lock on the toolbox and stole all his tools! Fortunately, his personal auto insurance covered his loss, but it was a major headache for him to deal with. We provide this example not to scare you but to demonstrate the real risk of shipping personal belongings with your vehicle.

3. Use common sense when shipping stuff with your car.

When shipping stuff with your car, we always tell our customers to use common sense. If the personal belongings are highly valuable or sentimental and as a result not easily replaced, then don’t ship them with your vehicle!

Our policy on shipping vehicles with personal belongings

We generally don’t encourage shipping a car with personal belongings but if it can’t be avoided, please be aware of the following:

  • We allow up to 100 lbs. of personal belongings for free. Personal belongings exceeding that weight will incur additional charges.
  • You must notify us prior to the pick up of your vehicle how many pounds of personal belongings you will have in your vehicle. We may request a photo of the personal belongings in your vehicle.
  • If at the time of pick up the personal belongings in your vehicle weigh more than what you told us, or if they are not stored properly as described below, additional charges will be incurred. If you don’t agree to those charges the driver will not load your vehicle and you will be charged a dry run fee of 30% of your total transport order.
  • Personal belongings must be in boxes, totes with secured lids, suitcases, or duffle bags.
  • Personal belongings that are damaged, lost, or stolen are not covered by insurance. You ship them at your own risk.
  • Any damage done to the interior of the vehicle due to any personal belongings in the vehicle is not covered by insurance.
  • Personal belongings must be stored in the trunk or back seats (and below the seat tops so the driver can see out of every window and use the mirrors).
  • There can be no personal belongings in the front seats.
  • Shipping firearms, ammunition, flammable/hazardous materials, or illegal substances with your vehicle are strictly prohibited.

It may not seem like a big deal to ship your vehicle with personal belongings but in the auto transport industry it’s a big deal because of the strict weight limits that car carriers must adhere to. If the total weight of their load exceeds their limits, they will be fined or they may potentially need to lessen their load by hauling one less vehicle. In either scenario, it costs the car carrier money, which ultimately is passed on to the customer.

Exceptions to our personal belongings policy for Alaska auto transports

The same policies listed above apply to Alaska auto transports with two major exceptions.

When we ship cars to and from Alaska we don’t own the ships that travel to and from Alaska and they have strict weight controls and charges for personal belongings in vehicles. The charge to ship personal belongings with your vehicle from Tacoma, WA to Anchorage, AK is $95 per 100 pounds. The charge to ship personal belongings with your vehicle from Anchorage, AK to Tacoma, WA is $85 per 100 pounds. We simply pass these costs along to our customers.

Because of the strict weight controls the ships have, we are also required to provide weight slips if you’re shipping any personal belongings with your vehicle. To get us the weight slips we need, you have to drive your vehicle to a truck stop or a truck weigh station and have the vehicle weighed with and without the personal belongings in your vehicle. You’ll take photos of those weight slips and either text or email them to us. We then attach these weight slips to the other paperwork we need to provide to the shipping port prior to your vehicle arriving. They use those slips to determine the exact weight of the personal belongings and how much it will be to ship them based on the fees above. All vehicles are weighed before they are loaded on to the ship so if the weight doesn’t match the weight slips because additional personal belongings were added to the vehicle after the weight slips were submitted, additional charges will be incurred.

We understand the convenience and desire to want to ship your vehicle with personal belongings, but hopefully after reading this article you understand why it’s generally frowned on in the auto transport industry. They say real estate is all about location, location, location. In the auto transport industry it’s all about weight, weight, weight! Any weight beyond the vehicle and the gas in the vehicle has to be accounted for. Otherwise, car carriers can be fined or forced to load fewer cars, which costs carriers money that has to be passed on to the customer. It’s best to ship your vehicles with us and to ship your personal belongings with U-Haul!