How much does it cost to ship a car? 10 factors to consider MAY 31, 202110 MIN READ
How much does it cost to ship a car? 10 factors to consider

Car shipping involves transporting a vehicle from one location to another. As a business owner, transporting cars for clients can be challenging, especially if you are new to the world of car shipping. You may be surprised by the number of factors that can affect your shipping, the cost to ship a car, and the shipping method options you have.

When in need of a car shipping service, the first step is to find a car transport company that can safely ship your car within a price you can afford. This article is here to help you start your car shipping process on the right foot.

Here, you’ll learn how to ship your car across the country, how to choose the best shipping company, what it will cost you, and how to reduce the shipping cost.

What’s involved in shipping a car?

Shipping your vehicle is just like shipping anything else except that the size of a car is bulkier, making it a more technical process. Nevertheless, there are some companies that specialise in shipping cars cross-country, coast to coast, to any part of the world. As expected, this process costs way more money when compared to other shipping items. Many shipping companies use trailer trucks for their shipping services; however, there are additional shipping options available, including ocean freight and trains.

Whenever you want to ship a car cross-country, it’s best to go through a professional shipment to save you a lot of time and stress.

Car shipping average price

There are two main car shipping methods, and the cost may depend on the one you choose. There is the Open Air Carrier and the Enclosed Carrier. Before we get into how much both options cost, let’s look at the difference between the two.

Open carriers are the most popular mode of shipment, 75% of customers use it, and it’s easy on the wallet. However, this shipping method may expose your cars to different weather elements like dust, rain, and snow. Also, an open carrier may be transporting up to 6 other vehicles with your car.

Enclosed car carriers are more expensive than open air carriers. This form of shipping is an enclosed transport that protects your vehicle from different harsh elements and weather. Enclosed transport is generally the best option for high-end and luxurious vehicles. It has four walls, carries fewer cars and shields your car from damages.

The average shipping cost of a car cross-country (2750 miles) ranges between $1200 if you use the open carrier option and up to $2000 if you use the enclosed transport option.

How to calculate the rough estimate of shipping a car

Determining the cost to ship a car is not easy because there are so many factors influencing the price. However, you can calculate the rough estimate of the cost to transport a car.

The average cost of shipping a car is $1 per mile for up to 500 miles. So if you are shipping to a distance of 600 miles, it will cost $600. However, the price per mile can drop from $1 to $0.75 after the first 500 miles. At the same time,it costs $0.6 after 1000 miles and $0.40 for 2500 miles. When going a longer distance, we see the average price per mile drops.

Below is a rough estimate of what it will cost to ship a car:

DistanceAverage Price per MileSample DistanceSample Price
1-500 Miles$1400 miles$400
>500- 1000 Miles$0.75900 miles$675
>1000 Miles$0.601,500 miles$900
>2000 Miles$0.502,400 miles$1,200
>2500 Miles$0.404,000 miles$1,600

If you want to know the rough estimate of what it will cost you to ship a car, just find a calculator and multiply the distance your car will travel by the average price per mile. For example, if your car is travelling cross-country for 3000 miles. Then your rough estimate is 3000 x 0.40 =$1,200.

Note: Cross-country transport may cost more, especially if shipped through a route less travelled.

Why car shipping cost varies

As you may have guessed already, car shipping prices vary from company to company. Even a car shipping company may charge different fees from different clients based on some factors we shall soon discuss.

There are two major reasons shipping prices fluctuate. The first is that many car shipping services involve a bidding process where different car companies bid on your job. Business owners need to get through transport brokers to connect with the car shipping carriers. The brokers will reach out to different car shipping companies, and the companies will bid. Afterwards, the broker will come back to you with the car company that offers the best deal or lowest price.

The auto transport bidding works by finding an auto transport broker who then asks carriers to bid on your shipment. A car carrier may decide to bid for $1000 while another may want to ship for $500. This bidding continues until the broker finds someone with the lowest price.

Other major reasons car shipping costs fluctuate are factors like the size of the car, the season you are shipping, and the location.

Factors that determine car shipping cost

Here are some of the factors that determine the cost of shipping a car?

Open or enclosed carrier

Enclosed carriers are more expensive than open carriers. This is because enclosed carriers completely shield your car from elements, and since they carry luxurious vehicles, they pay extra attention.

Delivery preference

Like other items, your delivery preference will influence the cost of shipping. For instance, pick-up or terminal shipping generally costs less than home delivery.

Terminal to terminal shipping involves delivering your car to a designated location where you will come pick it up. At the same time, door-to-door delivery will bring the car right to your place of business or home. So if you choose terminal shipping, you will pay less than someone who wants it delivered to their home.

Types of vehicles

Another factor that will determine your car shipping quote is the type of vehicle you are shipping. For instance, sedans cost less than SUVs and vans when transporting. This is because of size; sedans are smaller, and they will take up smaller space compared to larger vehicles like a van.

Weight is another factor determining cost; larger weight increases fuel consumption rate, and since large cars weigh more than small ones, you will pay extra money. Also, luxurious cars may cost more because they require special attention during shipping.

Vehicle condition

The condition of a car depends on whether your vehicle is operable or inoperable. An operable car will demand less stress to load into a shipping truck, while a broken car will require more effort and equipment. So if your car isn't running, the car shipping company may charge more. When requesting a car shipping quote from a company, remember to include the working condition of your automobile. The average extra charge for an inoperable car is about $150.


Location is a prominent factor that affects shipping costs. The farther the location you wish to ship your car, the higher the fuel consumption, and of course, the more it will cost. So basically, more miles means more money.

Also, widely travelled routes cost less than unpopular routes. Popular locations, countries, and cities where cars are regularly transported will cost less than rural areas or unpopular countries.

Time frame

It’s best to hire the services of auto transport companies weeks before the actual shipment. If you are shipping within a few days or short notice, you will pay more for the car shipping service than an individual booked a month prior.

Speed of delivery

Fast delivery may cost about 30% more than standard car delivery. When you want your car delivered at speed, you may have to pay for express auto shipping, which costs way more than a standard car delivery.

Time of the year

Seasons affect many things, including car shipping. For instance, summer is the most popular time for car shipping, and prices may hike up this season.

Furthermore, shipping during celebrations or holiday periods like Labour Day, Christmas, Memorial, New Year will affect the cost and availability of car transport services.


Bigger cars cost more to ship. Shipping a truck will cost you more than shipping an SUV, which will cost more than shipping a vehicle. Generally, shipping a bigger-sized vehicle costs about $80 more than the price tag for both enclosed and open transport. The number of cars you’re shipping will also determine the cost. If you are shipping more than one car, then expect to pay more.


Since shipping cars may come with risks, some companies offer the option to purchase insurance packages to cover damages. Insurance costs will increase shipping money.

The bottom line is the quote you get today may not be the same as what you will get in 2 months or even in 2 days. However, there are a few steps you can take to get a cheaper deal.

How to reduce car shipping cost

Affordable shipping is possible if you understand how to avoid extra costs. Here are some tips for you to reduce your shipping cost:

Compare car shipping quotes

Since price tends to fluctuate from company to company, it’s best to request a quote from different car shipping companies to compare and weigh the option.

However, as you look out for low prices, it’s also essential to research the company to confirm they offer good quality services. A good rule of thumb is to toss out the highest and the lowest quote because with shipping and everything else, what you pay for is what you get. Also, read online reviews, check FMCSA recommendations1, and confirm that a company’s licence is available on their website before booking their services. You should also check the insurance policy, delay policy, and accident claim rates.

Try open shipping:

Open shipping is about 60%2 cheaper than enclosed shipping, so consider open car carriers to save money. Meanwhile, enclosed carriers are the best if you are transporting a classic or luxury car.

Pick open transports over-scheduled pickup:

Open transport means you are not in a hurry to ship your car, and the auto transport company will let you know whenever they have an open slot going towards your destination. This costs less than if you have a specific pickup date.

Also, many trucks are fully loaded when going to one location but less loaded when returning. Let’s say company A is transporting cars from the US to China; then there’s a likelihood the truck will be empty when returning to the US. So if you’re in China and want to ship to the US, it will be better to book with company A for more affordable pricing.

If you are considering open transports, let the company know beforehand, so they will inform you when dropping goods off in your country or city and then pick up your car when returning.

Book a few weeks before shipment

When you reserve early, there are better chances you will get a cheaper deal compared to booking a day before you need the shipping services. Also, the Conference Board of Canada3 revealed that there’s a higher demand than supply for transport services, so it’s best to secure a spot for your car as soon as you can.

Consider multi-car shipping

If you want just your car shipped, you will pay more than when the company ships it with other vehicles. Therefore, go with multi-car shipping to save money and if it’s a classic car and you are afraid of exposure to elements, go with enclosed shipping.

Ship by train

The cheapest way to ship anything, including a car, is by freight. While this is cheaper, it can be a lot slower and not a great idea if you want your vehicle transported fast.

Look out for discounts

Some auto transport companies offer discounts to a range of customers like military members, students, first-timer shippers, seniors, early birds, etc. Make sure to ask the car shipping company for any deals they may be offering and check to see if you qualify for any discount.

Frequently Asked Question on Shipping Costs

We have covered some of the questions our readers ask often:

What’s the cheapest way to ship my car?

The train is the cheapest way to ship your car. However, it has its disadvantages. It is less secure and less flexible with location and pick-up dates. When it comes to shipping by truck, open carriers are cheaper.

How much does it cost to ship a car across the ocean?

Ocean freight is a good option for cross-country shipping, and the price ranges between $1000 and $5000.

What’s the average cost to ship a car per mile?

The average cost for many companies is $1 per mile for up to 500 miles. However, some companies may charge higher than that depending on different factors that can cause fluctuations in pricing.

Can I put things in my car when I ship them?

You may need to pay extra if you add load to your car because it will increase the car’s weight. Some companies even advise reducing your gas tank to reduce shipping costs.

Also, many auto transport companies aren’t licensed to ship cars full of personal belongings. If caught, such companies will be fined, and you would have to pay for it.

What is the best company to ship your car with?

There are so many shipping companies; however, the best company may depend on your delivery location and destination.

Are there other alternatives to ship my car outside the country?

You can hire a driver who would drive it across the country, but it’s often expensive. Also, you can use a train or drive it yourself. Driving yourself may be the cheapest option, but it’s an inconvenient and stressful process.

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Final Thoughts

Thousands of cars are shipped every day, and they arrive at their destination without any incident or fault. If you want to ship your car safely, ensure you choose a reliable broker or car shipping company. Also, the cost of shipping a car varies greatly, so do your research and select an option that can get you an affordable shipping price. Lastly, to avoid any surprises, make sure you thoroughly inspect your car before shipping.