How to Prepare for Shipping Your Car

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Did you know the average American moves eleven times during their lifetime? Whether you're a college student going away to college, a senior moving closer to family, or if you're relocating for a job, car transportation can be beneficial.

Shipping your car may be the last thing on your mind when you're trying to move. For many people, finding an affordable way to get their car to their new place is a difficult task.

If you're making the decision to ship your car, the whole process can seem downright overwhelming. To make things easier for you, we've rounded up our top tips for shipping your car.

Prepare Your Budget

Knowing how much shipping your vehicle is going to cost is critical. You don't want to be blindsided after the car transport so you'll need to know how much it's going to cost. The amount is going to be dependent on a few different factors.

The distance traveled is going to be the main price contributor. Typically the longer the distance the more expensive it will be. The size and weight of your car can also contribute to the cost. 

A car carrier has a maximum capacity. The bigger the car the less room they have for other vehicles. 

You do have the option of a closed or open carrier. However, unless you have an antique, custom, or motorsport vehicle, it's recommended to choose the open carrier as it can be 80% cheaper than a closed one. 

The condition of your car can also affect the price. If your vehicle is functioning, it'll be easier to load it, making it less expensive. If your car doesn't run properly, the towing company will have to use a forklift or other machinery to load it. 

Time can be a major price contributor, too. If you need your vehicle expedited, then you'll need to have a bigger budget. Shipping from a larger city can help decrease the cost, too. If the driver has to pick up your vehicle from a remote location it will add to the price. 

Keep the time of year in mind as well. Shipping your car during the holiday season can add to the cost. Summer is typically busy season as well.

So if you're on a tighter budget and can wait to have your car transported during the fall or spring, you'll be able to save money. Be sure to ask about discounts; some companies will run specials if you ship multiple cars or first responders and military discounts

Find a Reputable Shipper 

Your car is a big investment, and you want to be sure it's taken being taken care of properly. It's important to work with a company with the right qualifications. When you are searching for the right company, ask your friends and family if they have any recommendations. 

You should so look online at their reviews and ask as many questions as you need. You can always ask for a quote from a few businesses to compare prices. Keep in mind the most expensive company may not be the best and vice versa. 

Ask how the company handles unexpected problems. It's important that they're prepared, and you'll have peace of mind knowing they are taking care of your car. 

Clean Your Car

Before dropping off your vehicle, wash the inside and the outside. Washing the exterior will allow you to see and document any scratches and dings. You'll also want to secure all items in the car.

The drive can be bumpy, and if you have items such as phone chargers, car seats, pens, and loose change, they can cause damage to the inside of your vehicle. You don't want to leave any liquids or aerosols such as energy drinks or hairspray as they could burst and stain your car's interior. 

If you have to leave some personal items in the car, be sure to put them in the truck where no one can see them. The sun can be pretty harsh as well, so leaving items exposed to the heat can be damaging.

You may not have access to your car for a week or two, so don't forget to take out any documents you may have in there. Insurance cards, passports, and meditation should all be kept with you.

You'll also want to remove any car accessories. By taking off your bike and luggage racks, you'll decrease the chances of damage to your car and accessories. 

Fold in your side mirrors if possible and if you have an antenna, remove it as well. If your car is a convertible, you'll need to ensure the top is up. 

Items to Leave in Your Car

While we previously recommended taking items out of your car, there are a few things you should keep. It's unlikely, but accidents happen and having a spare tire and a jack for the driver to use is beneficial.

An emergency kit is great to keep in your car all the time and can be left in there for the driver as well. If your license plate isn't secured on the outside of your car, be sure to put it inside the vehicle. If the driver has to drive the car a short distance to the freight at pick up or drop off they will need to have the plate available. 

Take Photos

Similar to renting a car, you want to take photos of your vehicle. Take pictures from all angles, and be sure to document any damage. Once you get to your destination, you'll be able to compare your car to the photos and keep for any new damage. 

Many companies will do this step also, but it's important to do it yourself for your own records. If you choose a reputable company, you shouldn't have to worry about someone taking your car for a drive without your permission. However, it won't hurt to take photos of the odometer at drop-off to be sure.



If your vehicle is damaged by the towing company, they will cover all the damage. However, they won't pay for damage that happened because of the weather or road debris.

If hails stone dent your car or if lightning strikes, you will be responsible for fixing the damages. It's recommended that you have your car insured just in case, so you don't get stuck with the bill.

If you already have insurance, contact your provider to make sure any towing damage is covered. It'll save you a headache later if you do it prior to shipment. 

Regular Maintenance 

Prepare your car for shipment by checking for fluid leaks. Any type of puncture that allows drainage can do a lot of damage to other cars being towed underneath yours.

There is also a risk of gas fires if there are leaks. Check the coolant levels, the oil and brake fluids, the washer, and the steering power. 

Check the tire pressure too. All tires should be inflated to their normal level. Having full tires will help the car absorb any bumpy and protect it.

Empty Tank 

You don't need to fill up your tank before shipping your car. Having a full tank will add to the weight of the car and possibly increase the cost of shipping.

However, it shouldn't be completely empty because the tow truck driver will need to drive the car on and off the transports. You also want there to be enough gas for you to drive it to a gas station when you pick it up. It's recommended that you leave about a quarter of a tank. 

Turn Off Alarms 

It may seem odd, but it's crucial that you disable your car alarms before you ship it off. If the trailer hits a bump and the car alarm goes off, it can be dangerous for everyone.

Drivers passing by will be distracted, and the tow truck driver will have to pull over. This will not only increase the chances of your car being damaged but also delay the shipment as the driver will have to spend time figuring out how to turn it off. 

Remove Toll Stickers

If you live in a state with tolls, you'll likely have a toll sticker or tag on your front windshield. If your car is being transported in an open container, it's important to remember to take it off.

If the tow truck drives through a toll, the car towing company will pay the fee. By removing the tag, you'll avoid unnecessary fees and the stress of deputing the charge later. 

Spare Keys

Getting a spare key made is another one of our tips for car shipment. After your vehicle has been loaded on the trailer, you can lock your car for extra safety and security.

However, the driver may need a key in case the car needs to be moved during transportation. It's important that you don't give the tow company your only set of keys. 

Sign the Bill of Lading

The bill of lading, or BOL, is the contract between you and the towing company. Make sure you get a copy as a receipt before they leave with your car. You'll need to have it in case something goes wrong, and it'll legally protect you and your vehicle.

Always read the contract to ensure everything is correct. The pick-up and drop-off location should be listed along with the condition of your car and any requests that you have made.

If your car has any mechanical issues, those should be in the contract as well. You'll need to have any damage written in the bill of lading, too.

You need to have some payment ready when the company comes to pick up your car. The deposit will be due before and after delivery; you'll pay the driver for the remaining balance. 

At Delivery 

When you meet the driver or when the driver drops off the car, it's your job to inspect your vehicle for damages. If there is damage, you'll have to make a claim.

This process starts before the driver leaves. You'll need to take photos of any damage and document it on the Bill of Landing and have the driver sign it. 

You'll then need to contact the insurance company of the carrier to file a claim. After gathering information it is like they will request that you get a few quotes from repair companies. Be sure to send all the photos of damages and receipts, and if you need a rental car, you'll need to let the insurance company know. Don't forget to send before and after photos of the damage with date stamps. 

Shipping Your Car

Not every move you make can be done via airplane or by simply opting for a bus or train trip to your destination. If you don't have the luxury of relocating with your car, you're going to have to make arrangements through a company that specializes in shipping vehicles.

Shipping your car can feel a little stressful since you want to make sure the vehicle arrives at its destination without issues. By preparing your car for shipping, you can make the experience smoother for you and the company doing the shipping.

While it may seem like a lot of steps to take, you'll save yourself a lot of stress by taking the time to prepare your car. We hope you found this article helpful. Click here for a quote or if you have any questions. 

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