Car Shipping 101

Car Shipping 101

So you have decided to move your car using an auto transport company, but you are completely clueless about the whole process. You would like to know what this car shipping fuss is all about.

1. Who are the car shippers? What do they do?

There are two types of agents:

a) Auto transporters (let’s call them car carriers).  They are the one’s who actually own the big double deck trucks that you see every now and then loaded with vehicles rushing down the highway. They are the ones that actually move your car from place to place. You can hire them directly or through an intermediary.

b) Auto transport brokers.  They do not own trucks, but intermediate the car move for you and hire the auto transporters. Most people choose to use the services of a broker, because they do the job that otherwise the customer has to do: taking the frustration out of your carrier search and filter the safest and most reliable carriers.

2. What do you have to do?

Moving a car is easy.  Perhaps the more difficult part is to become educated on the process in order to avoid unpleasant circumstances.  Here are the two things you should do:

Make sure that you choose the right car shipping company

You should only work with licensed, bonded and insured car transport companies. You should obtain their MC number and/or USDOT number and check them against the FMCSA official site and Better Business Bureau. You should look closely into their terms and conditions, and not overlook the details related to their insurance policies (cargo insurance, valuation coverage etc.).  You should read some objective, third-party reviews before using the services of any company.

Most of all, before doing any of the above, you should take the time to educate yourself on the transport process. This section offers you plenty of information that will assist you in choosing the right company. It will not take you long and you’ll be happy you did it.

Play an active part in the process.

Request a contract before you are bound by any obligations.  Ask questions.  Read the fine print.  Study the Bill of Lading.  Know your contact person, and make sure he/she is prepared and willing to answer your questions.

Carefully inspect your car before it is picked-up and make sure that its condition has been accurately described by the driver on the Bill of Lading. Take pictures.  Do the same when your car is delivered.

3. What are your options?

If you choose a car carrier, you will have to do your best to work with their schedule. Most of them have a certain number of trucks covering a specific area over a period of time and they may already be filled, especially in the heavy summer season. If you are working with an auto transport broker, they will choose the carrier for you, according to their own evaluation of the car carrier’s previous performance.  Because the broker works with more than just one carrier, it’s more likely the broker will be able to accomodate your specific requirements.  They will contact and deal with the carriers or car terminals .

Before hiring anybody you should ask for a free quote.  Every respectable company should offer this.  While doing this, you’ll encounter some new terms that you’ll have to understand.

You may come across some “door-to-door” and “terminal-to-terminal” discussions.  They obviously refer to the location of pick-up or delivery, and their particular advantages depend on your specific situation.  As you may guess, the terminal-to-terminal option requires more involvement from you, since you’ll have to travel to these terminals, or hire someone to do it.

You will also have to choose between an open or an enclosed carrier.  The difference is a matter of vehicle safety and cost.

When you decide on the company you want to use and after some paperwork is done, the car carrier will pick up the car from your house, or from a car terminal where you dropped it, they will load it onto their truck and will start the cross-state journey.