Tips for Finding the Cheapest Car Shipping Without Skimping on Quality

Choosing an Auto Transport Company

Your big move is coming up.

After months of searching for a new home, you’ve finally found the perfect place. Now, you’re preparing to move your belongings to that home and are almost ready to start your life’s next chapter. You even have a moving company booked to handle the bulk of your belongings.

There’s just one thing left to sort out – shipping your vehicle.

You may not want to drive the car yourself for many reasons. Perhaps you want to ensure it doesn’t get damaged, or you’d rather somebody else handle the journey if you’re moving a long distance away. Whatever the reason may be, you need to find an affordable auto transport company.

That’s where this article comes in.

We’re going to share key tips that will help you find the cheapest car transport service possible without losing out on the quality you need when shipping your vehicle over long distances.

Tip No. 1 – Choose Open Transport

There are several ways to ship a car. Most vehicle shipping companies offer a choice between open and enclosed transport. The big differences between the two include the added protection and more personalized service offered with enclosed transportation. However, those benefits come with extra costs, as an enclosed service could cost between 50% and 100% more than its open transport equivalent.

That means using an open transport option is the cheapest way to ship a car. Granted, this reduced price comes with the risk of exposing your vehicle to the elements and road debris. But even if it isn’t necessarily the best way to ship a car, open transport is the most cost-effective, and thus the most popular. This popularity helps because it means most carriers have many vehicles dedicated to open transport. As such, you don’t have to worry about paying a premium to schedule a service.

Tip No. 2 – Book Well in Advance

Scheduling plays a role in the price you pay for vehicle shipping. By booking in advance, you increase your chances of getting the lowest price. Car transport services often raise their prices for last-minute bookings.

They do this for several reasons.

First, there’s the hassle of having to fit you into their schedule on short notice. The carrier may need to make several logistical changes, some of which could affect other customers. You’re expected to account for these changes by paying more money for a last-minute booking.

Second, booking last minute leaves the carrier with no time to decide which of their vehicles provides you with the most cost-effective option. In some cases, this may mean they can’t fill a multi-car flatbed trailer with vehicles, resulting in empty spaces that effectively cost them money. Again, you may have to bear the brunt of these additional costs.

By booking well in advance, you avoid these logistical issues. The carrier has plenty of time to get you scheduled and can arrange to transport your vehicle in the cheapest way possible.

Book Well in Advance

Tip No. 3 – Get Multiple Quotes

You’re not going to find places that ship cars for cheap if you only get one quote. You have to collect quotes from many carriers to get the best idea of what you should be spending to ship your vehicle. Try to collect at least three quotes, though getting more is helpful to get a more rounded view of the costs involved.

Now, we come to a question.

Should you choose the quote that offers the cheapest way to transport a car?

Not necessarily.

Conduct some research on any company that offers super cheap car transport. Check their Google and social media reviews to confirm they offer the appropriate level of service. Having the lowest price doesn’t mean anything if there’s a cavalcade of unhappy customers talking about how the company damages cars or fails to deliver.

It’s also worth checking the quote’s small print. Some carriers provide low prices up front but have hidden or additional charges for things like toll roads or providing insurance. Always make sure that every potential cost is accounted for to see the true quote.

Tip No. 4 – Choose Terminal-to-Terminal Shipping

You know that open transport is the answer to the question what is the cheapest way to ship my car. There’s more to consider than the transportation method. You also need to think about how the carrier delivers the car.

You’ll usually have two choices.

  1. Door-to-door delivery
  2. Terminal-to-terminal delivery

With door-to-door, the carrier arrives at your location, picks up the car, drives it to your designated destination, and delivers it. You get more personalized service, but at a higher cost. Terminal-to-terminal delivery is less convenient because it requires you to drive your car to the carrier’s terminal for pick-up. You also need to collect the vehicle from a terminal at your destination after it’s shipped. This delivery method costs less, making it essential for affordable car transport.

Terminal-to-Terminal ShippingTip No. 5 – Consider Using a Vehicle Shipping Broker

Think of vehicle shipping brokers as the middlemen between customers and carriers. They’re mostly-independent professionals who specialize in finding the most affordable auto shipping prices for their clients. Brokers do this by maintaining networks of hundreds, or even thousands, of car shipping companies. You’ll give them your details and what you’re looking for from the service. The broker should then collect quotes to ensure you get the lowest price possible.

While this sounds appealing, remember that most brokers are paid on commission. While this gives them an incentive to find a good carrier, it could lead to some brokers recommending a service that costs more than it should. Always research your broker online to establish that they have a solid reputation.

Tip No. 6 – Be Flexible

The more rigid you are with your pick-up and delivery dates, the more a vehicle transport company is likely to charge for its services. Again, we see logistics affecting your ability to find the cheapest transportation. Cars that need to arrive at a very specific time and date create more logistical headaches than vehicles that give the carrier more leeway on delivery times.

Being flexible enough to allow for an extra day or two with delivery typically reduces the price you pay. The carrier gets additional time to optimize the delivery route and ensure their multi-car trailers are fully stocked, with the logistical savings that result generally being passed to customers.

The same goes for your pick-up and delivery locations. If you’re willing to drive your car to a convenient location, you’ll likely pay less than if you expect the carrier to pick it up at an address that’s difficult to reach. This is especially important if you choose a door-to-door service. Those living in remote or difficult-to-access locations can avoid paying a premium for pick-up and delivery if they’re flexible with the location.

Tip No. 7 – Ship During the Off-Season

Generally speaking, the months between April and August are the busiest in the vehicle shipping calendar. There are several reasons for this. Spring and summer bring with them less risk of inclement weather, which means safer driving conditions. Demand increases as a result. Further demand results from the fact that many big events happen during spring and summer, such as colleges reopening and summer vacations taking place.

Simple supply and demand economics apply here. If more demand exists, carriers can raise their prices.

You’re more likely to find the most affordable auto shipping services during the off-season. Booking transportation during fall or winter means you benefit from a higher labor availability as demand diminishes. The flip side is that you have to accept the increased risk that difficult weather conditions may create.

Tip No. 8 – Get a Binding Quote

Your vehicle carrier will deliver a quote before you confirm you want to use their services. Unfortunately, some carriers may change this quote at various points during the shipping process. For example, let’s say your shipping company uses a third-party carrier. If that carrier raises its prices, the shipping company may do the same, thus trying to pass the price increase on to you.

Getting a binding quote is the best way to avoid this issue. Ask the shipping company if the quote is binding or non-binding before you engage their services. If it isn’t binding, start checking their reviews. If you see any evidence that the company has a habit of changing its prices once customers have agreed to use them, look for another provider.

Tip No. 9 – Consider a Tow Trucking Company

Most people don’t think about tow trucking companies when searching for cheap ways to ship a car. But they may be a viable option if you only need to transport the car a short distance of about 200 to 300 miles.

Tow trucking companies generally cost less than professional carriers, making them one of the most affordable auto shipping options. Unfortunately, they have some issues. Most towing companies won’t transport vehicles over long distances. Furthermore, your car won’t be placed on a trailer during towing. Instead, it’s elevated using a hook and crane before being pulled over the road. In addition to creating wear on the vehicle’s tires, this method leaves it exposed to debris, weather, and collisions.

Tip No. 10 – Ensure the Vehicle Is Operable

If your car doesn’t run, expect to pay more for shipping it than you normally would. Inoperable vehicles create additional costs because the carrier has to use special equipment to load the car onto a trailer. This equipment includes harnesses and cranes to lift the vehicle. Plus, it takes a lot more time to load an inoperable vehicle than it does to simply drive a working car onto a trailer. The carrier has to bill you for that labor time, leading to you paying more.

If a minor mechanical issue is to blame for your vehicle’s issues, consider getting it fixed before using an auto transport service. Otherwise, be prepared to pay more if you absolutely have to ship an inoperable vehicle.


With the ten tips shared in this article, you’re in a good position to find the cheapest auto transport companies. Here, we cover a few general questions that may also help you in your search.

Is it possible to get car shipping under $500?

It is, assuming several factors combine to reduce the cost of the journey. Distance is the most important of these factors. Carriers tend to charge on a per-mile basis, with additional costs resulting from issues like the type of vehicle transport you choose and your car’s weight. If you’re using open transport to ship a small and light vehicle over a short distance, it’s possible to get car shipping under $500. But expect to pay more if you need to ship the vehicle across the country.

What is the cheapest way to ship a car?

The cheapest way to ship a car involves combining several choices.

  • Select open transport instead of enclosed
  • Choose terminal-to-terminal shipping while offering some flexibility
  • Book the journey during the off-season

It’s also worth keeping an eye on fuel prices because the cost of fuel affects a carrier’s per-mile price. If you anticipate that fuel prices will drop from where they are right now, consider holding back on scheduling transportation until the prices are lower.

Do car transportation companies have insurance?

All reliable car shipping companies have liability insurance. Some may offer additional insurance, especially if they transport classic or valuable vehicles. Be wary of any company that has no insurance. You may also wish to purchase your own insurance when shipping a vehicle, though this adds to your costs.

Find a Cheap and High-Quality Solution

Your budget plays a crucial role in determining which car shipping company you use. With these tips, you can now find an affordable carrier without skimping on quality. Bear in mind that the cheapest quote you receive is not always the best. If the carrier doesn’t offer the specific services you require, or hides fees away in the small print of their quotes or contracts, you may find you won’t receive the quality of service you expect.

Now that you know what to do, your next step is to start collecting quotes. At Ship Vehicles, we offer open trailer terminal-to-terminal vehicle shipping throughout the United States. We’re also committed to providing a quality service while keeping your costs as low as possible. Call us at (888) 231-0113 or contact us online to get a quote or to speak to one of our representatives.